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The Quintessential White Button Down Shirt

The Quintessential White Button Down Shirt
An Evergreen Classic
By Barbara Ross

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Time and time again we have seen and heard about wardrobe must-haves for women. From top wear to bottom wear, to shoes and accessories, there are always some pieces that are considered versatile, that as women, we all must have in our wardrobe for frequent use.


Some of those include a denim jacket, a black leather jacket, a little black dress, a pair of suede boots and so on. One such must-have piece, which has been etched in our hearts ever since we discovered the art of fashion, has been the white button down shirt.


If you look closely, even today, the age-old classic silhouette still forms a part of even the latest collections of high fashion designer brands, as seen on the runway. Value addition, if any, comes only in the form of embellishments and paraphernalia. The basic style or the white canvas still remains untouched.


And from the times of Marilyn Monroe or Katherine Hepburn to now, where Gigi Hadid and Ashley Graham are stealing the show, the white button down shirt has been a favourite go-to element no matter what the occasion is.


Clearly, there鈥檚 something about this not-so-unique piece that people are not ready to give away just yet.


So let鈥檚 take a walk down memory lane and find out what it is about the quintessential white button shirt that makes it a cult classic.

TP 201904 fashion 03History and evolution

White button down shirts or dress shirts have been a part of the fashion scenario since the 19th century. It came to be popularized as an essential part of every man鈥檚 wardrobe, where it became a status symbol of a man鈥檚 social class and wealth. It was later on, due to its unbeatable sophisticated appeal that it soon became a popular piece in the women鈥檚 wardrobe as well.


Before the 1800s, it was widely worn by worker men and not accepted in women鈥檚 fashion as such. For the same reason, it was often considered as a symbol of masculinity and power. And the color white was often associated with morality, reliability and respectability as a part of the society.


While this trend indeed faded further ahead, the power and the morals that the dress shirt stood for were always remembered. Thus, later on, when it became a part of women鈥檚 fashion, it was soon accepted as one of the most flattering, yet purposeful pieces in the wardrobe. The likes of iconic actresses, like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, were some of the first few women to experiment with the piece. Naturally, as the biggest influencers of the era, they became trendsetters and were followed by many more powerful women, who went on to make statements with the white shirt.

TP 201904 fashion 05For example, in the film 鈥淎nnie Hall鈥, Diane Keaton sported the white shirt and left the character instilled in the minds of many followers. And who can forget the famous rendition of the shirt by Julia Roberts in 鈥淧retty Woman鈥?


All of these went down in history as milestones in women鈥檚 fashion in the respective years that they were released in. Needless to say, thanks to these trendsetters the versatility and the power of the silhouette began to be evident. Along with that, a certain sensual side of the shirt was also brought about; one that was surprisingly pleasant and acceptable by the masses.


Thus, the white dress shirt became one piece that had many dimensions and many facets of style. It was able to symbolize more than one emotion on its own. And when paired with other pieces, it brought about new and refreshing emotions with each piece introduced. Evidently, the fashion world came to realize that it was one outfit that had many layers, unlike any other single outfit in the men鈥檚 or women鈥檚 wardrobe.
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Color symbolism

Other than the social impact of the silhouette, the color white also played an important role in making the dress shirt an evergreen classic. From a scientific perspective, the color white is considered as achromatic; one which has an equal balance of all the colors on the spectrum. In terms of emotions, white is seen as a symbol of purity, innocence and peace. It is also associated with balance, equilibrium and wholeness.


With all these associations, it is no wonder that the white dress shirt is still such a power outfit in our wardrobe.

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