Q&A: How to Dress Up a Plain Button Down Shirt

November 13th, 2008

Q: How do you dress up a plain black or white button-down shirt?


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Clemence Poesyby Colleen Geary, fashion stylist and image consultant

A: While I appreciate the idea of dressing up a plain button-down shirt, the expression "you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear" comes to mind.  A plain cotton button down shirt is a workhouse garment; it’s not really meant for dressing up for going out at night.

For casual wear, however, I recommend emphasizing the sleek simplicity of the shirt by pairing it with a dark rinse jean and a pair of heeled boots.  Layer on a great looking jacket to keep the look long, lean, and simple.  Bonus points for topping off the outfit with a long scarf, like Clemence Poesy (pictured, left).

To make a plain button down shirt a little more dressed up for daytime, here’s a few ideas for standout accessories:
Necklace: Layer on a bold necklace—or two, or three.  Don’t hold back.  The bigger and bolder, the better!
Scarf: It’s amazing how a scarf can turn a simple outfit into one that’s simply stunning.  Give your plain shirt some personality with a patterned scarf.
Belt: To jazz up a plain shirt, take your belt to the extremes.  Either wear a belt that’s wide or one that’s super narrow.  If you go for the narrow option, consider wearing a two or three belts for a very downtown cool look.
Necktie: Do as men do and don a necktie.  Wear it loosely knotted for a casual menswear-as-womenswear look.

Last words?  However you choose to wear your shirt, do as Clemence Poesy does, and let your own individual beauty shine through.

Have a great tip about how to dress up a plain button down shirt? Share it with us in the comments!

Entry Filed under: Q&A, Women, Women's

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Gary  |  November 13th, 2008 at 5:47 am

    I love the simple elegance of a plain white or black shirt on women. And usually all it takes to make it “pop” is one or two of the “right” accessories.

    I think this approach could work for men, too (different accessories, of course).

    Thanks for the article.

  • 2. Trisha  |  November 14th, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Hi Gary,

    I’m a big fan of simple elegance myself–and you’re completely right: this approach works as well for men as it does for women, given the right accessories.

    Thanks for speaking up!
    Trisha

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