The term "effortlessly chic" gets thrown around a lot in fashion. In reality, these two words are rarely applicable. What about 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 else so simple yet so chic? It's so easy to wear on the weekend and while working from home. It's perfect for a night out (when we have them) 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, 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 posed 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 and Gap were the most popular in general. 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. Ready to discover your favourite white shirt? Keep scrolling to see how to style yours and then our edit.
How to Style Yours
Style Notes: I love a white shirt with white jeans. Sure, you might find yourself avoiding the red wine, but it looks so chic, so it's probably worth it.
Style Notes: Here's another combination of jeans and a white shirt—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 with metallic heels.
Shop the Best White Shirts
1. H&M Cotton Poplin Shirt
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. It's great for a cover-up on the beach but is also smart enough for work.
2. Boden Agnes Oversized Shirt
Deputy editor Emma Spedding loves linen shirts from Boden. Obviously, a decent iron is needed before wearing, but it's still a great find.
3. COS Oversized. Tailored Shirt
Plenty of the members of the Who What Wear Facebook group love COS. This is because it offers white shirts with a twist.
4. Theory Fitted Shirt in Good Cotton
For a real investment piece, you can't go wrong with Theory's classic white shirts.
5. Marks and Spencer Cotton Collared Long Sleeve Shirt
The genius inside button to stop gaping makes this Marks and Spencer shirt ideal for those with bigger busts.
6. Arket Relaxed Poplin Shirt
Arket is one of our favourite places to go for basics that look expensive but are very affordable.
7. Gap Boyfriend Shirt
Another brand that was mentioned a few times was Gap. Not only are its shirts apparently easy to iron, but they also last a long time.
8. Sézane Florence Shirt
French brand Sézane does a great line in shirts, but you'll have to be quick, as they sell out very quickly.
9. Uniqlo +J Supima Loose Fit Shirt
Another great place to find basics is Uniqlo.
10. Weekday Edyn Shirt
Weekday was another recommendation from Emma.
11. Gant Pinpoint Oxford Shirt
Editor in Chief Hannah Almassi recommends white Gant shirts in an oversized style, as these are good for those with a bigger bust.
12. Equipment Slim Signature White Silk Shirt
However, if you want something a little looser that still fits well, you can't go wrong with Equipment's silk shirts.
13. Hawes and Curtis White Fitted Cotton Stretch Shirt Single Cuff
While this is originally from a men's tailoring brand, Hawes and Curtis offers great women's shirts, too.
14. Lauren Ralph Lauren Classic Fit Stretch Shirt
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.