The Great White Shirt
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
For the New Yorker, it may be a black blazer. In Los Angeles, an Armani pants suit. The chic San Francisco woman may have three or four black suits or leather jackets.
So what's the "uniform" for the well-dressed Island woman? Our vote is for the Great White Shirt.
It's a staple that can go anywhere and be anything paired with jeans on a shopping excursion, or with a skirt for an evening out. It might be a basic T-shirt or shell; it might be a ruffled tuxedo shirt, depending on her taste and body type.
And for career dressing, nothing beats the perfect white shirt. Worn with khakis for a casual workday or under a suit for a presentation, "It's one of the best basic pieces anyone could have. It will match with just about any color, except other shades of white or cream," said Lisa George, Liberty House personal shopping manager. George has six white blouses and 10 white shirts in her wardrobe.
George cautioned that the appropriate undergarments are critical with a white shirt. "If the fabric is thin, you'll be able to see every lump and bump." Susan Fusuma, manager of personal shopping at Neiman Marcus, suggests wearing nude-colored undergarments under white, especially if you're dark-skinned.
Kanoe Miller, a lecturer in Honolulu Community College's Fashion Department, also considers the white shirt a staple. "To me, it's great with a black wool gab(ardine) pant, flat loafers and a scarf for a business look or with jeans and tennies. You can wear it all over the world," Miller said.
Miller's three favorite white shirts are pure cotton or blends:
1. A big shirt from the Gap that she wears as an over-shirt, usually tied at the waist.
2. A sleeveless shirt with a great pocket made of 98 percent cotton, 2 percent lycra from Ann Taylor.
3. A fitted shirt with princess seams, also from Ann Taylor, that has "simple, clean lines and is not at all blousy."
Miller prefers a crisp, not clingy shirt. Her personal style also dictates a sporty look.
She puts her white shirts in the washing machine and dryer. However, she said, "The only drawback to the crisp white shirt is that, unfortunately, it must be ironed to look good."
Miller has some white shirts she has worn for years and years. But, she cautioned, you have to make sure they don't look dated.
Sometimes all it takes is changing the way you wear it. For example when the white shirt morphed into the Big Shirt, Kanoe wore it as a jacket over a tank top. She now ties it at the waist for a more contemporary look.
Right now, the fashionable look is fitted, rather than boxy. An uneven hemline is also current.
|Fashion instructor's choices
Kanoe Miller, a lecturer in Honolulu Community College's Fashion Department, considers the white shirt a staple. Miller three favorite white shirts are pure cotton or blends:
A big shirt from Gap that she wears as an overshirt, usually tied at the waist.
A sleeveless shirt with a great pocket made of 98 percent cotton, 2 percent Lycra from Ann Taylor.
A fitted shirt with princess seams, also from Ann Taylor, that has "simple, clean lines and is not at all blousy."
That's one reason we asked three fashion forum members (a group of young fashion-forward folks who act as trend spotters for Island Style) to strike out in search of their ideal white shirt.
Another: the Great White Shirt is such a classic, and white is in this year (especially paired with black, navy or an eye-popping print).
This is what they found:
Brooke Berrington, marketing coordinator, PacRim Marketing Group:
Brooke headed first for Banana Republic. "I spent hours and hours there. I must have tried on at least 20 shirts." But after trying everything from knits to cottons to linens to silks, Berrington couldn't find one that fit perfectly.
She found that some shirts were too sheer. "I'm not gonna wear a camisole under a white shirt. It's just too hot," she said.
Walking through Sears on her way to her car, Berrington spotted a white shirt that looked promising. She tried it on and "lo and behold! I found IT!"
What does she like about her acquisition? The eyehook closures at the front and cuffs, though she has a little difficulty fastening the cuffs sometimes. She also likes the length of the sleeves and the body shape. There are darts from bust to hem, making the fit flattering but not snug. Sleeves are long, with a deep cuff. The fabric is a blend of cotton and Lycra. The collar is a narrow notch. She has already washed her shirt several times and there was no shrinkage.
The downside: "It needs ironing, and I don't like to iron," she moaned.
The cost for this fashion find? $20, beamed Berrington.
She said her all-time favorite white shirt is one her mother made her when she was in the seventh grade. It's a linen crop top, sleeveless and cut in at the shoulders, with three or four buttons down the front. She still wears it.
Willow Chang, singer and belly dancer, University of Hawai'i student:
Chang traversed Ala Moana Shopping Center in search of her new white shirt. In the Liberty House junior section, she found a little cap-sleeved, rolled-hem cotton T-shirt that's "not too tight and doesn't cling."
But she still needed a dressier white shirt. Next stop: Ann Taylor. (Both Berrington and Chang find lots of things among Ann Taylor's petite racks.) She was hoping to find a shirt like an old fave with a wrap top that she bought there several years ago. No luck.
At Banana Republic, she was "discouraged by the prices, and they're cut very large."
The Gap, she reported, "Has lots of colors but no white shirts that were of interest. So many lines don't have a white shirt available all the time."
At Guess, she found only "muscle tees, rhinestones and loud colors."
She found a shirt with a perfect fit at Forever 21, but "I was afraid it would shrink after washing, so I didn't buy it. I went back the next day and it was already sold."
She finally found her white shirt in the Victoria's Secret catalog. It's cropped at the waist and the fiber content is 95 percent cotton and 5 percent Spandex. It crosses in front with the wrap fastening in a buckle. Cost: $40.
Chang reported later that she found another white shirt she liked. "It's a skinny '70s kind of shirt with a placket hiding the buttons, a notched collar and princess seams."
She found it at arden b. in Ala Moana for $78. Her favorite feature: "The sleeves they're flirty and funky and extra-long, in a bell shape with ruffles."
Nicole Votano, Hawaii Pacific University student:
Votano went first to Ralph Lauren, where she tried five shirts and none fit. This is a common complaint among curvy women the line is cut for a straighter figure. Although one fit in the bust, it was too big and boxy everywhere else.
At Banana Republic, she found a v-neck pullover she liked, but it was also too small in the bust.
She tried a cotton, button-down collar BCBG shirt at Neiman Marcus that she loved, but they didn't have her size, much to her chagrin.
At the Gap she found a similar style but she was in between sizes, with one too small and the next size too large.
She tried the Internet and finally found her perfect white shirt on the Bloomingdale's Web site. It's a pullover with no buttons, a slight v-neck with "a big '70s-style collar." She especially likes the length, almost a tunic, so she can wear it over black stretch pants. The body is a bell shape with side slits. (We were unable to get a photograph of Votano's find.)