A white button-down shirt is the epitome of sophistication. It’s harder to think of a place where you can’t wear a white button-down shirt than to mention all of the places you can, making it the perfect choice for sweltering July days, official financial interviews, a weeks-long holiday to Crete, or a 3 a.m. bodega excursion. There are other variations available, much like with other seemingly straightforward staples like white or black t-shirts and an essential pair of trousers. We gathered a group of experts to decide so that you may find the best. See their selections and a few noteworthy ones from our archives below.
What we are seeking?
Sizes: As with any clothing, we’re focusing on showcasing button-downs that come in larger sizes instead of the frustratingly constrained (but all-too-common) small-to-large range. Most of the button-down shirts on this list are made of cotton because it is traditionally the material of choice for button-down shirts (think of the classic oxford shirt). It wears well and is less expensive (than materials like silk), especially when preventing wrinkles (unlike linen).
Design: In contemporary womenswear, the requirement that a button-down collar has buttons on each end is less strictly enforced. In reality, “button-down” and “button-up” are interchangeable to describe any shirt with a collar and a row of buttons.
Except for that, anything—pockets, ruffle pleats, curved hems, or puffy sleeves—is open game. For your convenience, we have listed all of these specifics below. Recall that Carrie Bradshaw’s post-pond appearance was preferred by our panel over Carolina Herrera’s runway-ready clothes. However, we have recognised when a button-down is more fitted.
Price: Since a button-down is practically dressing code-proof, it makes sense to invest in one according to the cost-per-wear principle. However, we tried to offer a less expensive alternative whenever one was more expensive because our goal was to locate worthwhile shirts. The items on this list are divided into three categories: under $100 ($), under $200 ($), and over $200 ($$$).
1. Ayr The Deep End Shirt
The fact that no one readily claimed the title of most mentioned made choosing the best of the best a difficult task. Because it is the Platonic ideal of a button-down, the Ayr’s Deep End shirt ultimately prevailed because you can picture wearing it anyplace and in any way.
It’s precisely what Richer Poorer founder Iva Pawling had in mind when she started her obsession with button-down shirts. Ayr’s works so well because it has the “appearance of a starched oxford shirt” that betrays how soft fabric is, creating a boxy but not-too-big silhouette, similar to the oversized men’s shirts Pawling relied on on before she found this one.
She explains, “I feel polished but not preppy, put together but not trying too hard.” Because it is so trustworthy, Pawling dresses it down with cutoffs or more formal jeans and rolls up the sleeves.
I have heard about the benefits of the Deep End before as well. When I started looking for button-down shirts that would fit huge busts, Kate Sokolov, the co-founder of Social Goods, gushed about it. When Sokolov tried it on, she said right away, “Oh, this is amazing!” in contrast to other shirts that don’t even close all the way. She scaled down, as the company advises if you want something that isn’t quite as loose.
2. Equipment Slim Signature Silk Shirt
This is one of the most suitable alternatives on our list if you’re big. Grace Lee, the founder of Birdy Grey, and stylist Jasmine Caccamo both praised Equipment’s silk shirt. In her search for the perfect white button-down, Caccamo had “scour[ed] every inch of the internet,” which brought her to this slimmer-cut shirt that is particularly attractive across the bodice.
Both Lee and Doll, who have more great busts, agree with that statement. Lee claims, “I live in slouchy silk button-downs by Equipment.” She buttons it low enough to show a touch of the collarbone, and it is neither too tailored nor too fitting on her (and bra).
Doll describes the buttons as “a blessing” because they “don’t pull awkwardly across the chest.” On each breast, there are pockets, but unlike other brands I’ve worn (J.Crew, Uniqlo, Banana Republic), they don’t seem thick or affect the cleavage strangely. Both purchase it in large quantities even though it is more expensive.
3. Everlane The Relaxed Oxford Shirt
The most often named brand was Everlane, with a number of our panellists stating that the quality of its button-down shirts is excellent for the price. Due to its somewhat square shape than Ayr’s and less drapey movement, this shirt comes in second.
But because of the menswear influence, it also has a traditional, borrowed-from-the-boys fit. Owner of Bum-Cake Vintage Christiana Greene says she loves it because of its oversized silhouette, which isn’t too overbearing. (She advises selecting your typical size.)
Greene sports it in practically every situation, including over underwear and high-waisted pants. The garment has also received accolades from lifestyle blogger Kristina Zias. She has retained this button-down even after purging her closet of older ones because of how boxy it is, which makes it versatile enough to look good tucked in or left open.
4. Baserange Ole Shirt
With material that is thinner than their previous favourite from Brooks Brothers but is nevertheless “so crisp you could crack an egg on it,” the Ole has a pyjama-like feel (the brand is mainly recognised for its undergarments and loungewear). According to Schwartz, they prefer it to all collared shirts in their closet.
5. Mango Oversize Cotton Shirt
The inventor of Common Era jewellery, Torie de Jong-Tilley, holds her button-downs to the same quality as Jane Birkin’s. With its carefree attitude, this Mango tee lets her feel just like the French movie star. She continues, “it’s loose through the waist and [with] enough volume in the sleeves to make rolling them [up] look fantastic. It’s more like wearing your boyfriend’s shirt, but without the extreme length of men’s shirts.
De Jong-Tilley purchased the shirt in her typical size for a slightly more figure-flattering fit, even though it is intended to be slouchy. She claims that the shirt’s quality is comparable to her more expensive Everlane shirts, and it is lightweight enough to wear all year round over a swimsuit or jeans. With each use and washing, it also becomes softer.
6. J.Crew Classic-Fit Cozy Gauze Shirt
Our button-downs-for-bigger-busts story, featured in our archives, includes this J.Crew shirt. The button-downs from J.Crew were mentioned as being especially good for larger sizes, especially the classic fit, which is a little longer and has a little more room.
This one, in particular, a little less conventional than the shirts above, is recommended by brand and blogger Rachel Richardson because of its crinkled, airier fabric. Richardson occasionally has problems locating something a little more customised. She can tie the ends for a cropped shirt or do a half-tuck because of the lengthier length.
7. Aritzia Wilfred Free Boyfriend Linen Shirt
The owner of Sips By, Staci Brinkman, had been expressly hunting for a linen shirt when she came upon this one. Unlike others that are starchy and stiff, this button-down is light and breezy and has a “strolling-in-the-park attitude,” according to Brinkman.
Despite its tendency toward casualness, dressing up is not difficult. Brinkman says the fit is “the ideal blend of big but not too oversize,” but if you prefer it to be a little closer to the body, she advises going down.
Sara Jane Emmons, senior brand manager at Fur, recommends Everlane’s Linen Workwear Shirt (now discontinued) if you’re searching for something with short sleeves. The Workwear Shirt still has the same “cool camp counselor, chill cult-leader” aesthetic that Emmons loved so much, with the main difference being that it now has two patch pockets on the front.
8. Cubavera Short-Sleeved 100% Linen Guayabera Shirt
This Cubavera guayabera is a looser choice that may also be worn as a beach shirt on a hot summer day. My Dominican father intends to wear guayaberas exclusively once he retires, a staple of Caribbean menswear distinguished by its characteristic pleating on the front and back. (This one can be identified as a guayabera because of its more conventional lines.)
Coming of Age designer Amanda Lurie has purchased numerous brand-new guayaberas over the years to wear over swimming suits because of their decorative qualities (picture the breathable, laid-back linen billowing around). The shirts are typically looser, as Lurie notes; your best bet will likely be to size down but check Cubavera’s (large) chart to be sure.