Spring Wardrobe Essential: The White Button-Down Shirt

Read any list of the “must-have” pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe and you’ll always find the white button-down shirt near the top.

But until recently, I never owned one.

The reason for this is two-fold.

First, I have young children. Wearing a crisp, white shirt is akin to wearing a sandwich board that screams, “Please, use me as your human hand towel for the day.”

Secondly, I’ve always considered buying a white shirt (and wearing one, for that matter), well…kind of boring. It’s so much more fun to buy a trendy peasant top or a spring sweater in a candy-colored hue. White shirt? Dull in comparison.

But a couple weeks ago, I finally picked one up.

At first I thought I’d just pair it with khakis or jeans. But, this simple white shirt has injected some much-needed life into my spring wardrobe and is on the fast-track to becoming the workhorse of my closet. It works with pretty-much-darn-near anything. It adds a little more polish than a t-shirt, but is just as comfortable and easy to wear.

Don’t believe me?

I looked through my closet and came up with a handful of different ways you can style the oh-so-versatile white button-down.

Now, a model I’m not. And I’m having a horrible hair day in these pictures (this was the day my son puked in the minivan during morning carpool, so there wasn’t much time to “glam it up”). But, the idea is to get your mind thinking about style options. Take an idea you see here and then give it your own twist.

For example, the white button-down pairs perfectly with walking shorts for mild spring weather:


You can team it up with casual skirts (or even a under a plain sheath dress) for a look that’s a little more polished than capris and a tee:


One of the most stylish people I know is my blogging pal Jane, who has made a commitment to not buy new clothes for an entire year. She’s agreed to “guest model” today. Look at how Jane rocks the vest/jacket combo with a button-down shirt:


How cool is that?

And, if you pretend the blouse below is a white one, you can see how chic it would look with just the vest:


The white button-down is also great for spring layering, under a v-neck sweater:


Or, pair it with a cardigan and belt a la Michele Obama:


(photo courtesy of Reuters)

For a kind of “trendy” look, throw a t-shirt on top:


Or, throw on a shawl and pair it with jeans:


White shirts are also great for showcasing vibrant jewelery. I love wearing mine with some of the “statement” necklaces in my wardrobe that are hard to pair with just anything — like this one.


When you’re looking for a white shirt, make your life easy and look for one that is a cotton/spandex blend. This means you’ll be able to wash it, throw it in the dryer and — if you remove it promptly— you can skip the iron. I also prefer a slightly tailored shape to the shirt — it’s more flattering than a staight cut. Good options are this, this and this.

Really — if you add only one thing to your wardrobe this spring, add a white button-down shirt.

And for those with young children, don’t think you have to pass on this fashion option. Good ol’ fashioned bleach can handle anything that sticky little fingers manage to leave behind.

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About Melissa

Written by Melissa Angert, editor of this fashion blog and author of Girlymama. You can also find her on Twitter as Melissa Angert. She is a mom of 3 living in Providence.


  1. real style real people says:

    Yeah Michelle (and Jane) great job and ideas!!!!!!

  2. I have never had a white button down. I always figured it was uncomfortable. I LOVE ALL THE PHOTOS!! Great post. Now to find a white blouse…. 😉

  3. Great post, Michele. I have a white shirt that I now feel compelled to rescue from the darkest corner of my closet. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Great post Michelle and thanks for including me.

  5. I love white for that exact reason – BLEACH. Even our bath mats and towels are white.

    My favorite is your last look, with the brown shawl. (But they’re all super cute) – great job!!

  6. Janel {Dandelion Dayz} says:

    Oh very good post!!
    I love having a couple white shirts as staples in my closet. Thanks for the pictures!

  7. I agree! I used to have a great white button-down, but I guess I outgrew it. Need to look into getting another one. Love all the pics!