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In Style with Coco: Rebirth of The White Shirt


I don’t think I need to tell you how essential it is to your wardrobe to have at least one white button-up shirt in your closet. Assuming you do have one, I guess it’s safe to say you’ve probably run out of ideas on how to wear it (if you had any at all). Many fail to realize you can do more than just pairing your white shirt with dress pants or jeans.

Your white shirt is one of the most effortless and versatile items you can incorporate into your wardrobe, and we’re here to discover more ways to get some wear out of it.      

1. Cardigan Or Sweater

Step away from the usual black, navy, and gray, and try adding a splash of color to your wardrobe. This is where guys really get to color-block. Because you’re working with a white shirt, you can choose colors that grab attention like bright blue, or pastels, or even yellow. Remember to pick a color that complements your skin tone (darker people can get away with brighter colors). If you’re not too sure about bright colors, you can try neutral colors like camel and tan.

You can rock a red cardigan like Beckham

Undoubtedly, this is a low maintenance look that requires no stress at all. Some would argue that a dress shirt shouldn’t be tucked in, but the tail might show at the back, just under the cardigan, and make your appearance sloppy.

Females can consider a classic V-neck sweater to get the sleek, sophisticated look, or a rounded sweater. If it makes you look too bulky, you can always slim it down with jewelry. Then, there’s the cardigan sweater, which I love, that you can either leave open or button up. I would suggest the V-neck because they tend to be slimming and elegant. Wearing your cardigan open allows you show off your silk scarf or cute statement necklace.


You can wear your cardigan in place of a blazer, and you can invest in a variety of colors because they are a lot cheaper. Just make sure they fit.

2. A Striped Blazer

Another fresh look to try is the striped blazer and white shirt combo. A patterned blazer will shake up your look a little, and the stripes are conservative so it still fits in with your wardrobe. Consider one in grey and white, as it’ll be easier to pair with other clothes in your closet as well.

3. Vests

Vests are a cozy alternative to blazers. To achieve a sophisticated look, you should invest in solid neutrals like black, beige, brown, or gray. For an extra-polished look, pair your vests with dress pants.

Ladies can add an extra touch to this look with colorful silk scarves, or statement jewelry. Some of you can even try wrap vests, or colors and prints to make your outfit less boring (avoid this if your body shape happens to be apple or rectangle i.e. round with a full waist and/chest)

Also consider the sweater vests (afore-mentioned shapes, take note). Guys should try to stick with neutral colors on this one to avoid appearing childish, while females can experiment with colors and patterns (with sensibility). Throw in a bow tie for good measure :)

4. White Pants

Yes, white pants. Before you start sighing and rolling your eyes, just read on a little more. It may seem basic, but pairing your white shirt with matching pants gives you an instantaneously refined look. To really pull this off, you’ll need the material of your pants to be lightweight, but not transparent, and the cut has to be right for your frame. My advice is to invest in easy-to-clean cotton pants so you don’t constantly have to worry about getting stained and ruining them “forever”.

 5. Pants (Ladies)

You’re already wearing dress pants with your shirt. I know. But have you tried something other than plain, black straight dress pants? There are so many styles and colors to choose from – dark brown, cream, beige, high-waist, flare, or even pinstriped dress pants.

Jeans are for more a more casual-corporate look. Always be sure your jeans are black or dark blue as these colors are more appropriate for a business wardrobe. You can throw a blazer into this look as well, if you wish. And, like with dress pants, experiment with styles – high-waist et al. 

6. Shorts

The time will come when you have a smart-casual occasion to attend. This will be your opportunity to rock the shorts and shirt combo. Pairing your white shirt with shorts can have the same effect as wearing pants, except shorts attract more attention and help you feel more relaxed.

A benefit you’ll enjoy: shorts are cheap and you can pair them with several other items in your closet. When shopping for a pair of shorts, it’s important to avoid the ones with patterns or drawstrings. Opt for a pair with a hook and bar closure, and try to keep the look as it would be if you were wearing dress pants. Skip the sneakers as well. Sandals are a more suitable option.

Ladies: Mini shorts will definitely draw the wrong type of attention, so go for bermudas (city shorts that fall right above your knees) and pair your outfits with blazers and black pumps.

7. The Navy Suit

rock it like the prince and princess

This effective combo is most like the most underrated. Pair your white shirt with a navy suit and matching tie to get that fresh-pressed, Monday morning look. If you feel too dressed up, you can always drop the tie and undo the top button.

8. The Herringbone / Tweed Sport coat

This look isn’t just for teachers anymore. Pair your white shirt with tweed or herringbone blazer and leave the shirt open for a less conservative look. You can even prep it up by adding a bow tie into the mix.

Complete this look with jeans to attain a certain level of formality.

9. Skirt Outfits

Here are some white-dress-shirt-and-skirt combos the ladies might find worth looking into:

  • Pair your shirt with a black pencil skirt and black pumps for that “office” look. You can spice it up by wearing some statement jewelry and carrying a trendy tote in a bold color (as discussed in ‘A Spot of Color‘)
  •  A knee-length, A-line circle skirt paired with your white shirt is a playful, yet work-appropriate outfit. Want longer legs? Simply rock this look with a pair of nude pumps.
  •  Match your white dress shirt up with a dark blue denim skirt and complete the look with boots and a cardigan. If the weather is cold, you can wear tights as well.
  •  Color blocking enthusiasts will love this one. You can pair your white shirt with a pencil skirt in a bold color to pique some interest and turn heads. A clutch purse, black pumps and simple gold jewelry will increase the sleekness of your outfit. Like we’ve discussed (in ‘A Spot of Color‘) you’ll want to make your skirt the focal point of your outfit and use accessories in accent colors (seeing as your shirt is already a neutral color).

Hopefully, I’ve shown you how ubiquitous your white shirt is and you don’t see it as just another fashion-less relic set aside for church anymore. It wouldn’t hurt to invest in more than one, because paired in any of the illustrated ways, or worn on its own; your white shirt has several statements to make.

Written by Coco Anetor-Sokei (@CeceNoStockings) 

Drop by tomorrow morning for poems in the Aphro-Create column and don’t forget to rock that white shirt!

Photo credits: tmroady, boarding area, College Fashion, Gap, ioffer, Aliexpress, e-tailor, Pet Clothing, oldnavy, neimanmarcus, eBay, zigoti, Tierra trading

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