What is the single most important piece of clothing in a woman's wardrobe? According to Chicago-based fashion editor Stacy Wallace-Albert, it's an old standard—the crisp, white button-down shirt. "It has to be fitted, and it must be crisp and perfect at all times," she says.
All too often, white shirts get worn once and linger in the ironing pile. So Stacy embarked on a wash-and-wear quest for the best white shirt. Brooks Brothers' No-Iron Fitted White Shirt emerged as the winner ($89 at Brooks Brothers locations). In fact, Stacy wore hers to the show un-ironed and un-steamed! "This one came out of the dryer last night like this," she says.
Stacy says there are many great ways to incorporate a white shirt into your wardrobe. First up is a crisp way to incorporate color. "We have a great J. Crew cashmere sweater over that," she says. "The reason we can do it over is the shirt is [that it's] fitted, so there's no bulk."
Paired with a dark trouser jean and colorful accessories, the white shirt sheds its buttoned-up, serious stereotype. "It's young, but it's not too young," Stacy says. "It's more energetic."
The next look is a tunic-style paired with a classic black pant. Since the shirt is fitted, Stacy says it will look great over a wide-leg pant.
"You can belt this at the waist if you're a curvy girl or down at the hip, which I love," she says. "A nice wide belt, by the way, really holds in that little tummy."
Combined with a Calypso cardigan, yoga pants and a funky scarf, this tunic look could be worn almost anywhere! "She [looks like] she is maybe just out of yoga class," Stacy says.
Stylist Lloyd Boston says the classic button-down is also a perfect look for men. "I have a bunch that I love," he says. "They're great for travel because you look just as good getting off the plane as you do getting on."
White shirts can also transform dramatic pieces into more everyday looks. "This is a nice, laser-cut leather skirt. It is divine," Stacy says. "This shirt kind of calms it down a little bit."
Paired with a red belt, the shirt can make the skirt work-appropriate. "She's a little bit younger, but in the office this is a very authoritarian look," Stacy says
The white shirt can even be worn to black-tie events. "This is the only case where we did put a black bra because we unbuttoned it a little bit more," Stacy says. "All the other ladies are wearing nude, which you need to do with a white shirt. But here a little black, a little peekaboo, and just lovely."