Why I Hate White Oxford Shirts – Here’s What To Wear Instead

I’m sorry but someone has to say it – white oxford shirts look terrible on most women.  Yet right next to a little black dress, a striped tee and a good pair of jeans, a classic white button-up shirt seems to be included in every capsule wardrobe I can find!

I understand this in theory.  When I look online for style inspiration, they seem pretty versatile. 

There’s just one problem – unless you are tall and thin with a small chest, chances are you are going to look more like a cater-waiter than effortlessly chic.

Thankfully, there are frump free options out there that can take you from looking like you should be asking, “Baked potato or fries?” to an effortless French look.

Defining A Staple

An item of clothing only counts as a staple if you can feel GOOD about wearing it with a lot of different things! 

It should beg to be pulled off the hanger and paired with any bottom you can think of! If you find yourself thinking, “Will people notice if I wear this again so soon?” Congrats. You’ve found a staple.

If you don’t feel fabulous in it, don’t own it. 

The good news is that unless you get so behind on laundry that you are forced to raid your husbands closet (no judgment), there’s really no reason you need to own a white button-up. 

If you love it?  Great!  Buy five!  Go to town!  But if, like me, you secretly despise them, consider this permission to skip it. 

It’s not you, it’s me…

white button downs make you look like a waitress
No I can’t get you more wine. I don’t work here.

Let’s get down to it – white oxford shirts were designed for men and do absolutely nothing for the female form. 

They sound so appealing when editors refer to them as a “Crisp White Oxford Shirts”. It makes it sound like they will always be clean and I won’t have to iron them. Neither is true. Toast should be crisp. Not clothes.

They have no flow to them and make most women look boxy.  That’s because they stick out awkwardly from the widest point they hit and don’t flow back in towards the body.

If you attempt to fix this by tucking it in, you had better plan on staying in one position all day, otherwise, it will bunch up as you move, making you look like a wrinkly marshmallow.

Great food. Bad outfit.

The only thing feminine about these shirts is the unintentional game of peek-a-boob you end up playing between the second and third buttons, which inevitably gape wide open because these things aren’t made for boobs people!

Even those made for women still aren’t much better because to fit a woman’s bust, shoulders, ribcage, and waist in such an unforgiving fabric would require exact measurements.

Our bodies do not come off a factory line, and that’s a good thing. 

What To Wear Instead

All right, enough shirt-shaming.  So let’s say you see an outfit containing the dreaded white button-down.  Should you just skip it?  Not necessarily!  Thankfully there are plenty of flattering options out there starting with…

The Roll Tab Sleeve Tunic

Roll tab shirt

This is quite often my favorite option because it’s still white, and it still has buttons, so it suggests the same look as an oxford shirt, but drapes beautifully without clinging, which makes it feminine and slimming, doing great favors for those of us dealing with the post-partum pooch.

roll tab sleeve outfit
Laid back French Vibe

Shirt, $25| Jeans, $99| Earrings, $58|Necklace, $58|Bag, $228|Shoes, $100

It looks equally great with jeans for a polished but casual vibe and transforms easily into something you can wear out to dinner or to an office if paired with a straight black skirt.

Shirt, $25| Skirt, $54|Earrings, $58|Necklace, $58|Bag, $228|Shoes, $150

It’s also great if you are pregnant in the first and second trimesters!  I have this in a couple of colors for versatility and you’d be surprised how often a black or olive version can be paired with just about anything!

Rayon button up shirt

Drapey Rayon button down

This gives the conservative/office feel of white oxford shirts but can be dressed up or down depending on what you pair with it. The drape is silky, feminine, and flattering to all body types.

This works well with just the front tucked into cuffed boyfriend jeans.

Feel free to add color with one accessory like colored shoes, a bright bag or statement necklace.

Shirt, $49| Jeans, $80|Necklace, $30|Belt, $68 |Bag, $358|Shoes, $90

Gauzy button up

Gauzy white Oxford shirt

Similar to the above, but this gives you the option of buttons which is always nice, because you can decide just how much you want to unbutton. It can be a v-neck or a crew neck, or it can be a completer piece!

Wear unbuttoned as a flowy completer piece

Shirt, $158 | Dress, $89 |Hat, $49| Sunglasses, $48|Earrings, $48|Bag, $130 |Shoes, $90

I appreciate a shirt in this material because it’s supposed to look a bit crinkly, so if your laundry just happened to sit for a few days before getting folded (or just put in the corner you know as the “clean pile”) you can throw it on and go without getting any side eye for the wrinkles.

Perfect for over a swimsuit. Just knot or tuck the front.

Shirt, $ 158| Shorts, $149|Earrings, $48|Bag, $90|Shoes, $135

Linen button front top

White linen button front

This is a great alternative to wear with a midi skirt, shorts or khakis. Linen is the perfect light summer material and screams “beach day”. It looks adorable with anything gingham or straw (like bags that are having a moment right now) or a good old floppy hat to keep the sun off your face. If that feels a bit much then you could try a straw panama hat. Because yes, you can totally pull it off. It’s jaunty.

Shirt, $80 | Skirt, $45|Hat, $44|Sunglasses, $48|Bag, $198|Shoes, $90

The White Party

Ok, so maybe I convinced you that there are actually white shirts out there that will look great on you… but what about stains?

I have never met a cup of coffee I haven’t spilled on myself, and I still wear white. I just learned how to use bleach. You don’t need to be scared of it.

Clorox has an awesome how-to page for how to remove any stain, as well as instructions on how to keep your whites bright. That said, when I’m on the go I keep a Tide Pen in every purse.

Holy shirt

If you’re looking to get dressed in a hurry, a white button-down is a classic you can throw on with practically anything. Try a couple of these on and see what works best for your body. Try it half tucked, untucked or tied in front, or open as an extra layer over your favorite outfit.

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