GOACA classics: the button-down shirt

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I probably own more button-downs than any other single item in my wardrobe, and wear them most every day—this time of year layered under sweaters and hoodies, and when it’s warmer, on their own with chinos. I might be deluding myself, but I continue to think that these are among the most subtly sexy of garments, depending on how you wear them and what you wear them with.  This blue striped number from J. Crew has an excellent slouch factor, and it looks just like Xirena, but costs about half as much as one of their shirts.

I dig the slightly loud lattice floral here. I might wear it under a cardigan or blazer, however, to quiet it down a bit.

This embroidered top has an ever-so-slightly hippie girl vibe that I appreciate.

I’d wear this sheer ruffle-neck shirt with a black silk camisole.

And here’s another good ruffle neck shirt from Alex Mill, in a great army green.

The blue and black color combo here is just aces.

A sweet floral that will carry you right into spring.

And here’s a green floral that has an appeallingly vintage-y feel.

My red striped shirt is one of the most-worn articles of clothing I own—I love how bright, graphic, and frankly preppy it is.

 

This plaid band collar shirt looks like Isabel Marant to me, but it rings in under $40.

A pretty reasonably-priced silk blouse in a very rich brown.

I like the contrasting double pockets on this one; here it is in extended sizes.


This paisley-ish print is just so bright and happy.

The barely-there stripes on this one are rather spiff.

Here’s a nicely marked-down Nili Lotan shirt with a boxy—but not too boxy—cut.

The lace and pretty pink hue make this an  appealingly feminine choice.

The aforementioned brand Xirena makes some of my favorite button-downs, like this classic white one

The grey plaid here feels a touch more sophisticated than your typical plaid shirt.

A silky top with three-quarter sleeves that hangs really nicely.

And finally: I can never resist a good star print.

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33 Thoughts on GOACA classics: the button-down shirt
    MaryAlice
    11 Feb 2021
    12:54pm

    Late to the party here but….I love the look but have a heck of a time getting a shirt to fit, as I have a narrow back and big boobs. So shirts either pull at the buttons, or hang like a sack. Years ago, Banana Republic came up with a genius solution, I believe it was called tailored fit. It had standard sizing but added 2″ across the bust. I wore them until they fell apart.

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    Jax
    10 Feb 2021
    4:45pm

    I know I commented similarly on a recent Anthro-heavy blouses/tops post here, but just want to say that I’ve had the best success with button-downs from Anthro and then sometimes Madewell (if they’re not too boxy) for my petite, yet long-waisted self. The Maeve and Cloth & Stone brands in particular have good quality shirts that are not overly trendy, but also still interesting. I’ve also noticed that their in-house brand, Pilcro, usually known for jeans, is also offering a lot more shirts too.

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    Kathleen
    10 Feb 2021
    5:45pm

    Another brand I LOVE for button downs is Grayson- I own four of their shirts and they are high quality and super flattering. I saw them first on Anthropologie’s site but ended buying directly from them. Reasonably priced and great quality- check them out!

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    Dina
    10 Feb 2021
    4:08pm

    Hi! I was wondering if anyone has bought the Everlane Silky Relaxed Cotton Shirt? The price is very reasonable…

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      Mamavalveeta03
      11 Feb 2021
      1:45pm

      I’ve been eyeing that one, but I hate to iron and I feel like it would require pressing.

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    rachel in berkeley
    10 Feb 2021
    12:21pm

    Any suggestions for one that’s slightly fitted. I have a 7 year old max mara weekend linen that it just sublime in the fit: not too loose, not too tight. Would love to find the slightest taper ….

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      Mamavalveeta03
      11 Feb 2021
      1:46pm

      Frank & Eileen’s Barry fit. It’s expensive, but you can find them on-sale quite often.

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    D.Morgendorffer
    10 Feb 2021
    12:46pm

    With the perfect timing of coincidence, after admiring the button-downs, I witnessed a button-down shirt with its potential of coolness fully realized, i.e. worn by a bass player. Has anyone else seen Meshell Nedegeocello’s Tiny Desk concert? She is just superb, managing to be global and intimate at the same time. Also, she and her guitar player have shirts and jackets that manage to be slim-fitting without constricting movements for playing their instruments. Just last week, I was wearing a super billowy button-down that was a hand-me-down J. Jill from my mother. When I started to do my daily stretches, I had to unbutton my shirt to allow my hands to touch my toes. So, the engineering of button-downs is clearly more complex than one would think.

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      Viajera
      10 Feb 2021
      12:51pm

      No, but it sounds lovely, thank you!

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    Ann
    10 Feb 2021
    1:53pm

    I love the look of pattern on others but when I purchase ( something besides strips or plaids) I never wear. I ❤️ plain white blouse. My difficulty is finding ones that are long enough as I am tall. Mid bearing not a good look for me😑

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    Pia
    10 Feb 2021
    10:58am

    I’ve gravitated away from stiff woven cotton and now almost all my button downs have some sort of movement. The older I get the less skin I want to show, but unbuttoning the shirt a little allows me to show my chest, which I’m still comfortable revealing. Plus, many of my button downs are lightweight so they can be worn in warmer months.

    Excellent selection Kim!

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    Betsy Palmer
    10 Feb 2021
    11:06am

    Why oh why can I never pass up a white button down. I have many but I am always on the prowl for more. Current fav is Frank and Eileen for the cotton and the fit.

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    Mamavalveeta03
    10 Feb 2021
    11:27am

    I love button downs for the same reason, Kim: Subtly sexy tomboy chic.

    But….Step. Away. From. The. Ruffles.

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    Michele
    10 Feb 2021
    11:29am

    I must be one of the few but I never wear button down woven shirts. They’re still and harder to get the fit right.

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    LMM
    10 Feb 2021
    11:54am

    Anyone have any idea how Treasure and Bond (the Nordstrom band-collar shirt) runs, sizing-wise? I’m tall and have really long arms, and if I’m wearing button-downs usually need either a men’s shirt or a tall size. Just wondering if these sleeves maybe run a bit long, or if I’m out of luck…

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      Viajera
      10 Feb 2021
      1:00pm

      Lately I sometimes buy men’s shirts because there are more choices (odd as it sounds) if you are looking for something very simple. I haven’t figured out how or whether to tailor them yet. I might just decide not to worry about it. I don’t like wovens to be too tight – I only think of wearing one if it is hot out – or maybe I’d try these Frank and Eileen people.

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      Eloise
      10 Feb 2021
      12:02pm

      “Chat” with a rep – pretty darn they will find out for you as Nordstrom customer service is top notch.

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        LMM
        11 Feb 2021
        2:34pm

        Great call – thanks!

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    kimbersam
    10 Feb 2021
    11:57am

    Button downs suit a specific situation for me. I like them for in-the-office casual Friday wear, but for WFH I am solidly a knit/tee/sweater person. My favorite button-down was an oversized Current Eliot chambray, that (of course) went missing during my last move (RIP most awesome, perfect shirt.)

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    Lululemonade
    10 Feb 2021
    12:04pm

    Any reason why we can’t have “girls of a certain age” as models? I’m guessing it’s because you take the images straight from the brands’ sites?

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      Viajera
      10 Feb 2021
      1:04pm

      Kim seems to use them here and there, as available. I agree it is nice to spread the work around amongst the models. The move away from what used to be called “aspirational” doesn’t seem to have hurt buying habits, which is good. (Whereas, I am sure covid did.)

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      Kim France
      10 Feb 2021
      1:54pm

      Yes, that is correct. When I see older models—which Anthro, Madewell. 6397, Rachel Comey and a few other brands are getting better about employing—I try to include them.

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        Kim France
        10 Feb 2021
        2:19pm

        Also, I used to be in the habit of cropping out most of the models’ faces, so that you wouldn’t all be bothered by how young the models were, but I stopped doing that. Should I start again?

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    Eloise
    10 Feb 2021
    7:25am

    I am very much NOT a button down fan (much of which has to do with the iron or dry clean factor) but that last one has me almost swooning.

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    CC
    10 Feb 2021
    7:58am

    I love the blue-black one by Rails. I found two of their other plaids on super-sale and find the drape is really nice on.

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    cw
    10 Feb 2021
    9:49am

    The one thing that never gets the heave ho during a closet purge are my button downs. I have a white button down from the clothing company, Tweeds, that I’ve had since 1980 something. And, yes, I do still wear it. That said, in recent years my go to brand is Frank and Eileen because they fit my body so well. However, the Treasure and Bond contrasting stripe pockets would be so perfect for Spring in Austin because of the cotton/linen blend. Love it!

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      Mamavalveeta03
      10 Feb 2021
      11:42am

      Oh man! I loved Tweeds! I even used to save their catalogs for the styling. You must have some supernatural secret though, CW, for keeping a white shirt white for so long! Fess up?

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        cw
        10 Feb 2021
        2:08pm

        Val, I only wear it on “safe” occasions meaning no eating or drinking can be planned nor anything to do with dogs. It is, indeed, a miracle that it is still white. Also it is loose fitting so no chance for underarm stains.

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        Jeanne
        10 Feb 2021
        11:49am

        Out brand “White Brite”, plus I add Borax (1Tablespoon for front loader and maybe 1/2 cup for top loader) and your fave detergent.

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      Heather
      10 Feb 2021
      10:31am

      RIP Tweeds.

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        Jax
        10 Feb 2021
        4:43pm

        Indeed!
        One of the most exciting events of my teens — my sis and I traveled from the burbs to a Tweeds sample sale in San Francisco. Woohoo!

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    Ellie
    11 Feb 2021
    8:09am

    Ixnay on the utton-down shirt bays. There lies nothing but sorrow and disillusionment for the long-wasted and/or larger-breasted.

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About

Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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