White shirts: a smart choice for summer

After stars wore them to the Oscars, former Vogue editor ALEXANDRA SHULMAN celebrates a classic… White shirts: a smart choice for summer

  • White shirts have been seen on the red carpet on Zendaya and Uma Thurman 
  • Alexandra Shulman says it brings together chic with desirable understatement
  • The former editor of Vogue says a white shirt can be anything you want it to be 

The white shirt is a fabulous chameleon, cleverly adapting to its surroundings. Long, short, billowing or tailored, it’s a wardrobe staple for dress-down weekend cool — and lends an unshowy, professional competence to the wearer. 

And this season, white shirts have added another string to their bow as a red carpet favourite. 

Shirt, £139, The White Company; waistcoat, £59.99, and trousers, £45.99, Zara; shoes, £165, Rogue Matilda; earrings, £28, Orelia

At the Oscars, young actress Zendaya wore her cropped Valentino white shirt with silver floor length sequins. Uma Thurman appeared in buttoned-up governess mode from Bottega Veneta, Kristen Stewart went for monochrome, pairing hers with Chanel shorts, while comedian Wanda Sykes went the whole hog with another red carpet go-to, the white trouser suit. 

Shirt, £225, Daiwear; trousers, £129, Mint Velvet; shoes, £225, Russell & Bromley; earrings, £225, Monica Vinader; bracelet, £38, Butler & Wilson

Why have the stars fallen for the white shirt? Well, it combines pulled-together chic with desirable understatement — making the wearer look both serious and chic. Which is why many designers, such as Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior and London favourite Erdem, sent them down the catwalk for their Autumn/Winter 2022 shows. 

And why creatives from Victoria Beckham to Stella McCartney often wear them to take their bows on the catwalk, standing out as the worker bees among the flamboyant models they dress. 

Left: Shirt, £79, Hobbs; trousers, £476, filiarmi; shoes, £229, and bag, £199; LK Bennett; earrings, £195, Laurence Coste; necklace, £450, Monica Vinader; shorter necklace, £32, Accessorize. Right: Shirt, £89, The White Company; skirt, £295, Lisou; shoes, £35.99, Mango; necklace, £32, Accessorize; earrings, £225, Laurence Coste

For leaders like Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde and Ursula von der Leyen, a white shirt is an essential piece of kit. And, of course, when Meghan Markle first appeared with Prince Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games, she was wearing a defiantly casual oversized white shirt, torn jeans and artfully tousled hair. 

Shirt, £220, Essentiel Antwerp; trousers, £385, Serena Bute London; shoes, £195, Russell & Bromley; bangles, £115 each, Aspinal of London

A white shirt can be whatever you want it to be. Indeed there are women, many of them, who have whole white-shirt wardrobes, a style for every occasion. And the truth is, there’s always room for another one of these basic items, that, in their versatility, are anything but basic. Not least because they don’t last for ever. 

Shirt, £299, Winser London; jacket, £375, and trousers, £235, The Fold London; shoes, £259, LK Bennett; earrings, £220, Monica Vinader

White shirts are not an investment piece. The whiteness that is key — that immaculate perfection — just doesn’t survive endless laundering. 

A new white shirt though, now that is a wondrous thing.

Shirt, £95, With Nothing Underneath; skirt, £75, Leem at Next; shoes, £279, LK Bennett; earrings, £30, Orelia

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