The term "effortlessly chic" gets thrown around a lot in fashion. In reality, these two words are rarely applicable. But when it comes to the white shirt? Absolutely. No matter what sort of budget you have or what kind of sense of style, the white shirt is the ultimate wardrobe staple. Is there anything so simple yet so chic? It's so easy to wear at the weekend and for the office. Perfect for a night out but also a night in watching Netflix. It's the ultimate classic to have in one's arsenal, and whether it's oversized or fitted, linen or poplin, there are endless ways this classic piece appeals and can be rendered.
The white shirt even has its own icons. Old Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly wore them loose with capri trousers or tucked into pencil skirts. Another recognisable look comes from Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, in which she wore a white shirt tied at the waist and a miniskirt.
Modern-day white-shirt muses, however, include the likes of Jenna Lyons, former creative director of J.Crew (after all, she reconfigured how we view this humble item). But perhaps our favourite go-to celebrity for white-shirt styling inspiration is Victoria Beckham, whose insouciant way of rolling up her sleeves has us wanting to do the same.
But whatever your preference, one thing's for certain: Finding the one that fits you is like finding the fashion holy grail. It needs to fit just right, and not gape at the chest or be so huge you look pregnant (unless you actually are, of course). It needs to weather a coffee spill (because it will happen), and it needs to be long-lasting because when you find the ultimate one, you'll never get rid of it.
To get the definitive guide to the best white shirts for women, I put the question to our 2000-member Facebook group, So... Should I Should Buy This?, asking them where they've found their best-ever white shirts. I also asked all the editors at Who What Wear which brands they rated. I had plenty of responses, and some labels clearly stood out, but what was evident was that no matter the price, people were willing to pay for more if a genuinely perfect fit was on offer.
Of all the brands that came out on top, there were two winners: COS was the most popular in general, as well as Gap. But there were so many more that were recommended. Marks and Spencer is ideal for those with bigger chests, as it offers an ingenious solution of hidden buttons on the inside to reduce the risk of gaping. Then we have M.i.h, which was preferred for more oversized styles. Ready to discover your favourite white shirt? Keep scrolling for our edit, and then see how to style yours.
How to Style Yours
Style Notes: You seriously can't go wrong with a white shirt tucked into blue jeans. Pair with all-black accessories.
Style Notes: If you're a skirt person or just want to wear something a bit more oversized, take a tip from Brittany Bathgate and wear yours loose in an A-line skirt.
Style Notes: Another jeans-and–white shirt combination, but this time with white heels. It's a small difference, but it really makes an impact.
Style Notes: Up the sass factor by wearing your loose white shirt tucked into a miniskirt and metallic heels.
Shop the Best White Shirts
H&M wasn't mentioned in the group discussion, but I've had a white shirt from the brand for about five years, and it hasn't let me down. Great for a cover-up on the beach, but also smart enough for work.
While this is one of the more expensive brands, this jeans brand was cited a couple of times as a great place to find oversized shirts.
Deputy editor Emma Spedding loves linen shirts from Boden. Obviously a decent iron is needed before wearing, but still a great find.
Plenty of the members of the Who What Wear Facebook group love COS. This is because it offers white shirts with a twist.
For a real investment piece, you can't go wrong with Theory's classic white shirts.
The genius inside button to stop gaping makes this M&S shirt ideal for those with bigger busts.
Arket is one of our favourite places to go for basics that look expensive but are very affordable.
Another brand that was mentioned a few times was Gap. Not only are they apparently easy to iron, but they also last a long time.
The Duchess of Cambridge's favourite T-shirt brand, Me+Em, also offers chic white shirts.
French brand Sézane does a great line in shirts, but you'll have to be quick, as they sell out very quickly.
Another great place to find basics is Uniqlo.
Weekday was another recommendation by deputy editor Emma Spedding.
Editor in Chief Hannah Almassi recommends white Gant shirts in an oversized style, as these are good for those with a bigger bust.
However, if you want something a little looser that still fits well, you can't go wrong with Equipment's silk shirts.
While this is originally from a men's tailoring brand, Hawes & Curtis offer great women's shirts too.
Another recommendation from our Facebook group was Ralph Lauren. I own a striped shirt from the brand, and can attest that these wear well and look great on.