Taking a break from leisurewear for the classic white shirt

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white shirt

At a time when we’re all starting to struggle to recall our pre-lockdown wardrobes, Nancy Buckland Kirk falls back in love with the ultimate wardrobe staple, the classic white shirt…

During such unsettling times, many of us rely on tried and trusted ways of life. I love routine and find it comforting. I have also been taking a long, hard look at my reflection and giving myself a literal dressing down on preaching, and not practising, what I talk about here. I’m all for comfies. But when it comes to finally re-entering the world, even in small doses and for a trip to a garden centre, it’s time to get out of everyday t-shirts. I’m not quite at the standard where I require Balenciaga for a visit to Bents, but I feel that for my own sanity, whatever is suitable to sloth in, it’s time to take a break from.

To me, there is only one answer: the white shirt. Please, do not yawn. I don’t mean a school uniform standard-issue garment. I’m talking about something far more iconic. The white shirt has already earned its place in fashion history. Marilyn Monroe surprised with her version on the set of the Misfits in 1961. Uma Thurman created an iconic look in Pulp Fiction in 1994. Sharon Stone broke style etiquette by wearing hers with a ball skirt to the Oscars in 1998.

When it comes to my favourite piece of clothing, one designer’s name springs to mind: Gianfranco Ferre. The Italian genius whose designs were like pieces of architecture sadly passed away in 2007, but his influence remains. Both for his own lines and for Christian Dior, where he took over the reins in 1989, his angular and streamlined pieces were much admired. One exhibition of his work named simply “The White Shirt According To Me” showed off his finest pieces as modern, sculptural works of art.

white shirt 1

In real life, I’m not quite ready to rock around the bedding plants in anything quite so grand, but I have been lusting after some far more accessible white shirts. These are my favourites.

Pleated High Neck Shirt (£62.30 on sale at Uterque)

white shirt, Uterque

I am a huge fan of Zara’s big sister label, as the quality is spectacular, and the sale periods are perfect for picking up on luxury staples. This beautifully cut, oversized shirt is precision pleated and perfect to wear with new season jeans.

Broadcloth Peplum Shirt (£175 at Ralph Lauren)

white shirt, Ralph Lauren

I love a peplum. Whatever your body type, that nipped in waist is a tiny nod to Ferre. This one is superbly detailed with detailed pleats and a ruffled hem. This is so elegant it feels like something that would be great for evening. I’m not sure when evening will involve anything more than waiting for a green light to eat out, but we live in hope. Until then, Dress Up Friday beckons!

Modern Rarity Bib Front Poplin Shirt (£90 at John Lewis)

white shirt, Modern Rarity

I am obsessed with any type of white shirt you can team with a tuxedo. Again, it’s not exactly time to fill your diary with occasions to wear them, but this one by Modern Rarity has a casual touch as it is oversized, and considering the amount of cakes I have been consuming, this season’s favourite silhouette suits me just fine.

Mother of Pearl Tencel Shirt (£99 at John Lewis)

white shirt, Mother of Pearl

John Lewis are absolutely hitting it out of the ballpark with their 2020 collaborations and their Mother of Pearl one is expertly curated. I’m already in love with the whole shirt collection, but this simple version is just gorgeous. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with back details at the moment, but with more easy pieces, it’s great to see that some thought has been put into the whole design, and not just the first impression.

Cotton Shirt Dress With Draped Layers (£79 at COS)

white shirt dress, COS

I’m aware this is not strictly a shirt, but I could not resist this one. COS is a go-to place for staples that are serious upgrades. The quality and cut is always first-rate. This piece is obviously shorter at the front but the back length means you can wear it with ease. This is crying out for new season flatform espadrilles and a huge hat. If you want to make sure people keep their distance, go for a massive brim. Stay safe and stay chic.

I’m still at that stage where I’m trying to be more mindful of what is going on in the world and being as flexible as we are all trying to be with the changing landscape when we leave our front doors. However, fashion is my enduring passion. Researching it, browsing it online and dreaming about it feed my soul. I’m not sure you will catch me in a ballgown to take my bins out. I’m just not a ballgown kind of person.

However, I’m considering wearing something pin-tucked to bang my saucepan this coming Thursday at 8pm. That’s not a social occasion I would ever have predicted if you’d asked me last Spring, but one thing fashion always does is adapts.

I’m currently trying to turn a black canvas Chanel shoe bag into a face mask to complete my look. Monochrome never fails, especially in an emergency.






About the author: Nancy Buckland Kirk is a writer with a keen interest in fashion and beauty and a career which has spanned modelling, teaching and spreading the word about leading beauty brands.

Related read: Nancy Buckland Kirk on why we’ve not yet reached the point in a lock-down at which it’s acceptable for your other half to raid the skincare goodies on the posh shelf

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