The classic white tee is one of our great fashion love affairs. We round up expert shopping tips on how to find it and how to wear it this summer.
The thing about objects of our affection is that while deep-seated and true, they are, in most cases, fleeting. And the hunt for a classic white T-shirt fits the definition of true if temporary love to a tee. “There’s so many different shapes and styles out there when it comes to the T-shirt in general,” explains Michelle Paiano, a Toronto-based fashion and wardrobe stylist with Judy Inc. Which makes the search that much more important—just ask celebs like Kate Moss, Nicole Richie, Jessica Alba, who can rock a classic white tee both on and off the red carpet.
We asked Paiano to share her expert shopping tips on what to look for when hunting for a white tee (or several) and how to inevitably let go when the time comes.
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How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #1: Figure out what you’re looking for
Decide on what’s most important for you, then seek out options that meet this criteria. “I think it depends on how much of a fashionista you are, but I think finding the right fit for yourself is probably the best way to start,” Paiano advises. “It depends on the body type because not everything is going to look good on you. I’m a big sucker for a good fabric—what feels good on your skin, what’s going to suit your body shape.”
Classic white tee: James Perse cotton T-shirt ($50), at net-a-porter.com.
How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #2: Know where to look
You’ve created a mental checklist for your ideal white tee, but just don’t know where to find this perfect specimen. “For brands, I tend to go for James Perse, Splendid, and Vince at Holts,” says Paiano. “I love Wilfred for T-shirts, and J. Crew makes good ones too.” For great quality at a lower price point, Paiano suggests hitting up the Gap, Banana Republic and H&M. “Zara has great fits, plus Over the Rainbow, Topshop, Joe Fresh— American apparel, everyone knows that!” For a more playful look, she loves British retailer All Saints. “[They carry] a more embellished look, which puts a cooler spin on a classic tee.”
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How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #3: Go for quality
Everyone has their personal preferences. “My thing is fabric—a more closely woven, thicker fabric will most likely retain its shape more so than something light weight,” Paiano says. “Sheer is really trendy right now, but its not very forgiving when it comes to lumps and bumps that you might want to hide, so you might want to wear a cami underneath.”
Classic white tee: Rag & Bone Aberdeen T-shirt ($170), at mytheresa.com.
How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #4: …but quantity counts too
Don’t be afraid to play the field. “I would say that everybody should have more than one type,” says Paiano. “You should probably have a fitted one, a very slouchy one and a medium fit where it’s a bit looser.” And the beauty of a white tee is its versatility: the more styles you have on hand, the greater options available for throwing together various looks on a whim.
“You can do anything with it.” Seriously: “Wear it with a sequined skirt if you’re going out, which looks really cool.” Or pair with skinny jeans and throw a blazer over it and studded belt—the classic off-duty model look. “You can also wear it with suspenders, which is pretty cute,” she says, or with the recent comeback trend of overalls. Try it with flowing pants or a tutu and leggings. Or belt it or wrap a scarf overtop. For a perfect summery look, tuck into a maxi skirt with a thick belt.
Classic white tee: J. Crew Vintage Cotton Cap-Sleeve Tee ($34.50), at jcrew.com.
How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #5: Don’t compromise on what best suits you
A white tee should mold to fit your body type best—not the other way around. Consider sleeve length: “If you want to hide more of your arm, go for a cut that’s in between the shoulder and elbow,” she says. Plus then you have to option to roll it up. “I always find a cap sleeve pretty flattering and feminine.”
As for neckline, opt for a V-neck if you’re large busted. “It creates more of a vertical line, not horizontal, so it slims you out,” she says, wheras a high nick broadens the chest. “And it’s a bit sexier if you want to show cleavage.” It can also work wonders to change up your shape. “If you have sloping shoulders, you might want to go for a wider neck, like a relaxed or boat neck. Or sailor neck, which is more rounded than a boat neck.”
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How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #6: Have fun with it
With true love, there are some things you can change. “If you’re in a work environment where you can wear a T-shirt, you just have to find a cut that has more detail, like a cuff on the sleeve or a white on white pattern, called marled look. It’s a little bit more fancy,” she says.
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As for accessorizing, go with what suits your mood. ”With a crew neck you can do a cool bib necklace.” Opt for a gold intial pendant that falls either above or below the cut in a V neck. “Stick with longer necklace with a boat neck so that it’s not competing with the neckline of the shirt.
Classic white tee: Topshop Burnout T-shirt (approx. $25), at topshop.com.
How to find the perfect white T-shirt fashion tip #7: Accept its flaws
What we love most about a white tee—a crisp, uncluttered look— is also what leaves it vulnerable. “That’s the only downfall of the white tee—staining it,” says Paiano. “I find that I always buy new ones. If you wear deodorant and you get yellow marks, those aren’t easy to get out.” Plus with wash and wear overtime, the shirt gradually becomes more sheer. “Which could be a good or bad thing, depends on what you feel comfortable wearing.”
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Classic white tee: Victoria Beckham Cropped Jersey T-shirt (approx. $268), at harveynichols.com.
How to fall in love with the classic white T-shirt tip #8: Be ready to let go and move on
We all want to hang on to the things we love forever, but some affairs just aren’t meant to last. “I think a T-shirt is something that you would consider buying seasonally to keep up with the trends,” she says. “There’s different takes on the white tee, which might be good for one season but you might not be able to carry onto the next.” The good news? “You probably are not going to pay that much for one T-shirt so I don’t see it as an investment. It’s something you wash a lot too so it might be done by the end of the season.” Which gives us the chance to search for new love all over again.
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