Crisp, cool, classic. The white shirt: the most worn, most beloved, most un-fashion of fashion items in one’s closet. It is the uniform not just of the workingwoman with her power bag and power suit, but also of the full-time mother, the cool waitress, the schoolgirl. It is as buttoned up or unbuttoned as one wishes. Sharon Stone wore hers with a Vera Wang ball skirt to the 70th Academy Awards and made the Gap oxford a ’90s icon. Earlier, Patti Smith called attention to its androgyny and punk potential, while Lauren Bacall donned one in Key Largo and morphed into Humphrey Bogart’s hyper-feminine mirror image.
Audrey Hepburn wore a white men’s shirt to accentuate her womanliness, swearing that cinching the oversized top made her waist looked twice as small (not that she needed any help). A challenge for designers arises, however, from the white shirt’s most-worn status: how to refresh it season after season? This fall, a number of the garments were drawn to meet that challenge with elegant, re-cut revamps, both at home—see Markoo and Zoran Dobric, at right—and abroad. Origami folds and cap-sleeve wings from Prabal Gurung, precise pleats from Theory and ballooning sleeves at Alexander McQueen are turning a basic into an attention-getter. But, wonderfully, the power of plain white ensures that these new classicsare as sexy and wearable as the menswear-inspired original.
From Left: Theory Cotton Blend, $255, Hudson’s Bay. Viktor & Rolf Cotton, $207, Hudson’s Bay. Markoo Cotton, $269, fawnboutique.ca.