It’s the wardrobe staple that never really gets the attention it deserves. Here’s why Stylist’s Polly Knight loves white T-shirts so much.
There is no item of clothing I love more than a classic white T-shirt. I probably own about 10, maybe more. You might think that’s excessive, but I don’t think so. Reason being, they are the ultimate wardrobe staple. Everyone talks about the classic white shirt being the ultimate staple – and it’s true that the shirt certainly has an important place in your capsule wardrobe – but you wear a T-shirt on far more occasions than you do it’s formal counterpart, right? And, with a T-shirt you don’t have to tackle the ironing like you would with a shirt: it’s the small wins.
I’ve spent many years seeking out the best white T-shirts: a feat that’s actually harder than you’d think. I’ve had styles that after one wash look like a redundant pyjama top. I’ve had styles where the neckline immediately sags so that it transitions from crew neck to scoop neck in one wear. And other styles where the neckline turns ‘frilly’ and, no matter how many times I iron it, the frill remains. I’ve had T-shirts that after one wash turn a dingy shade of grey (and no, I didn’t wash them with dark items, I’ve learnt that lesson the hard way).
I’ve had styles that are not long enough in the body and ride up like an unwanted crop top. I’ve had T-shirts that are so long you can’t tuck them into anything without a bizarre bulbous ring appearing around your waist. I’ve had styles that were so tight under my armpits I had to all but cut myself out of them, and ones that were too short in the sleeve.
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Second to the weight of the fabric, the fit is essential. I don’t want a tee that’s too tight and fitted (that’s what a tank top is for), but equally I don’t want it so loose it looks like a sheet hung over my body.
I know what you’re thinking - “Wow, this girl has bought a lot of T-shirts and I’m not sure how much more drivel about a T-shirt I can take” (I get it), but it’s all part of my job as a fashion editor. To take in the intricacies of an item so that I know what will work and what won’t. And right now, I’m offering to take the leg work out of it for you. In fact, it would be my pleasure so that you don’t have to spend years of your life on the same search that I did.
I take pride in the fact that I get compliments on my white T-shirts having got it so wrong in the past, and I’ve learned that seeking out the best white T-shirts is a fine art. And better still, all of mine are from the high street – I don’t believe in paying a month’s rent on a T-shirt as it seems like an unjustifiable purchase when the affordable offering is so great - you just need to know where to look.
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The main reason I love the humble white tee is because I truly think they work for all occasions. My wardrobe is made up of simple pared-back classics - straight leg jeans, trench coats, black crew neck jumpers and slouchy tailoring. These are items that I feel good in, are comfortable and totally timeless. I’ve learnt to lean on these staples so heavily after lots of, let’s call it ‘experimenting’, in my teenage years and early twenties. Sticking to these classics seems to take that drama of not feeling yourself away. You feel confident and comfortable as they’re classic, inoffensive, simple palette cleansers, chic and elevated. And those are the adjectives I have always wanted to dress by.
Now that I have found the right ones, I will happily wear a T-shirt to every occasion. Underneath a suit with strappy heels for a slick and fuss-free occasion look. Or with a silky slip skirt, barely-there sandals and layers of fine jewellery for an evening out. For work, I pair my T-shirt with slouchy tailored trousers and sandals, or loafers when it’s cooler, with a knit or blazer thrown over my shoulders. For drinks with pals: try it with leather trousers for an effortless cool look.
From my old faithfuls, to curve options, with tips on what you should be looking for, be ready to welcome your new wardrobe saviour with open arms.
Shop my edit of the best white t-shirts
ArketThis Arket style is my go-to; the perfect fit. The crew neck is finished well (no frilly necklines round here) they also do styles with a higher cotton count called the ‘Heavy-Weight T-shirt’ which is perfect for winter.
EverlaneIf you haven’t already checked out Everlane now is the time. Their sustainability credentials are on point and this relaxed fit T-shirt is pretty good too.
Universal StandardUniversal Standard is great for all of your basics and has a fabulously inclusive size range.
& Other Stories
This boxy style T-shirt from & Other Stories is another of my favourite styles on the high street. It has wider cut sleeves which is a plus as you don’t want anything too tight on the arm.
Lead image courtesy of Cos
All other images courtesy of brands