The white shirt is, most fashion commentators will tell you, a fashion classic. Every woman needs one in her wardrobe so she can look like Sharon Stone at the Oscars that time (Gap white shirt and long skirt), or Paloma Picasso (high collar turned up, big earrings) or Diane Keaton (collar up over a black polo neck).
Not me. I know from experience you have to live up to a white shirt or it will make you look as flat and mousey as your husband’s grey sports T-shirt. But a white blouse, a blouse with enough extra oomph to put it in a separate league — that’s a different matter.
And currently the Big White Blouse is looking like the ultimate wardrobe refresher.
The details of this blouse may vary, but my rule of thumb is that if it’s starchy and white, (sorry, you will require an iron for this trend) not fitted (it doesn’t have to be voluminous, but some puffiness helps) and has a ruffle or a scallop trim — some flourish that sets it apart from a masculine tailored shirt — then you’re in business.
Lace: Rosamund Pike in YSL. Shane Watson says the Big White Blouse is looking like the ultimate wardrobe refresher
At first glance you might reject this blouse on the grounds it looks too much like something Princess Di might have worn and you’re concerned you’ll end up looking like an aged pageboy.
No need to worry — that’s never going to happen because now we’re wearing these blouses in a completely different spirit: with straight, blue jeans and sandals; with wide leg silky trousers and a wrap; under a khaki shacket over a midi skirt.
Come autumn the Big White Blouse is sticking around and will look chic underneath your cropped collarless jacket — but you’re still wearing it smart casually, not Di-style with a skirt suit and pumps.
It’s the foppish, slightly fancy addition that peps up everyday work trousers, a short cut to making denim look fresh.
Crisp: Gwyneth Paltrow. ‘Come autumn the Big White Blouse is sticking around and will look chic underneath your cropped collarless jacket,’ Shane advises
I would say Peter Pan collars are too schoolgirl prim, and big collars are tricky because a fraction out and you’ll look like you’re wearing fancy dress, not to mention limit what you can wear over it.
Fuller sleeves look great now, when you’re not wearing a jacket or sweater, and in cooler weather, they’re the making of tank tops and waistcoats.
But the most versatile option is a blouse with semi-full sleeves which lends itself to being worn under jackets and sweaters. A great instant trouser smartener for now — summery and dramatic — is the poet/peasant blouse hybrid which comes with a ruffle collar, dangling neck ties and balloon sleeves with openwork lace inserts (£30, laredoute.co.uk).
Too much going on? Whistles does a collarless, balloon-sleeved with ruffled yoke blouse (£89, whistles.com) which is romantic and minimal at the same time or Hush has a more pared-back style with an open V-neck and an extra-frilly collar (£40, hush-uk.com).
RULES FOR THE WHITE BLOUSE
- Go for a stand up ruffle collar.
- Look for some volume.
- Stick with crisp cotton.
- Wear in winter under a cropped jacket.
All the above would look good half-tucked in to high- waisted trousers or loose over off-white trousers or jeans.
Fancier, but more suitable for wearing under knits and jackets down the line, Me+Em’s voile layering blouse (£47.50, meandem.com) has a broderie, stand-up collar, broderie frills down the button placket and broderie cuffs — which might all sound a bit much, but poking out under a sweater is just the lemon twist of preppy femininity that makes sporty styles sing.
Alternatively, if you feel your broderie years are behind you (and I hear you), then & Other Stories does a shirt with a high collar (£65, stories.com) and a hint of a frill on the double cuff which has all the neck enhancement with none of the fuss.
Should you happen to have a long neck and a smallish bosom, I’d be tempted to go the whole hog and pick a blouse with a piecrust collar, plus a ruffle V-shaped trim (£55, frenchconnection.com).
I’m not going to pretend the full fandango is easy to carry off, but if you suit power shoulders and like a dramatic top, it’s worth a try. Bear in mind you have to commit to the look and wear it buttoned all the way up.
The key with the Big White Blouse is to wear it whenever you want to add romance and prettiness to your everyday clothes — an A-line denim skirt, cropped trousers, straight jeans. Keep the bottom half neat and tailored and you can’t go wrong.