Simple Staple

Anjali Jhangiani
Friday, 23 March 2018

How the classic white shirt is an essential piece of apparel for everyone’s wardrobe

Fashion is constantly changing — as soon as you’ve understood ‘what’s in vogue this season’, it has probably changed to something else. But there are a few things that have stood the test of time — like the basic, unpretentious, versatile and iconic white shirt. “The white shirt made its very first appearance during the Victorian Era, where it was viewed as a symbol of wealth and class. During this time period, the white shirt was worn under all garments with only the collar and the cuffs visible from the outside. Even these tiny portions of the white shirt were enough to claim a higher social ranking. Arrow launched the very first white shirt during the early 1900s. And over the years, it has always been at the forefront of innovating the classic white shirt, be it in the form of collars, cuffs or fabric quality,” says Sumit Dhingra, VP and chief operating officer — Arrow, Aéropostale & Izod (India), Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited.

Unlike other pieces of apparel, the white shirt does not belong to a specific gender, age group or body-type. “A white shirt is a timeless classic, found in everyone’s closet. It is one of the most reliable and easiest choices to make from among a plethora of options. It can be viewed as a foundation piece of anyone’s wardrobe. It is one garment that can be worn for any occasion. By wearing a white shirt, one can transcend from a formal setting to a casual one with ease,” says Dhingra.

The white shirt is one of those garments which allows one to easily shift from a formal setting to a casual setting. “For a formal setting, the white shirt can be dressed up with a pair of cufflinks with a classy suit. For a semi-casual setting, it can be paired with an indigo denim. The white shirt can also be paired with a pastel chino for a more fun setting,” suggests Dhingra.

Delhi-based fashion designer Jattinn Kochhar believes that a white shirt is like a blank canvas. “The colour white itself is so pure. You know how the almighty blesses everyone, without picking and choosing whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy; in the same way the white shirt goes with everything, it looks fantastic on everyone — young, old, tall, short, dark or fair. You can style the white shirt in so many ways,” says Kochhar, adding, “You can go to work wearing a white shirt and depending on the work environment, you can add a tie and/or a blazer. After work hours, if you’re heading out for a meal with family or a party with friends, you can lose the tie, open the first two buttons, roll up your sleeves and you’ll nail the casual look. But the real trick is all about getting your hands on the right white shirt.”

He shares that during his college days, female classmates used to wear their brothers’ or fathers’ white shirts with coloured salwars and that was quite a trend. 

Mumbai-based fashion designer Nishka Lulla shares that the white shirt transcends from season to season, not just on the streets but also on the ramps. “International designers are using white shirt for spring summer 2018. From asymmetric cuts to ruffles, layers to collars, white shirts now come in a wide variety of styles to choose from. And the way women wear it has also changed,” says Lulla, adding that whether it is for men or women, the white shirt is fundamental to every person’s wardrobe. It can look corporate or understated, depending on how you style it. It can be dressed up or down according to where and when you’re wearing it.

“Women can wear it with a pencil skirt for office or a mini skirt for a night out. Replace the choli of the ghagra/sharara pants, or the blouse of a saree with a white shirt for a wedding. You can mix and match it with anything really!” she says.

The white shirt is an unfussy piece of apparel, and once you have the right white shirt, you’re sorted for pretty much any event. But how do you buy the right white shirt? “I’ve seen people complain about how plain white shirts are so expensive. I’ve heard them say that they don’t want to pay so much for something with no embroidery or similar work. I educate them on the fact that because it’s a plain white shirt, there is absolutely no scope to hide any flaws. A white shirt needs to be perfect in every sense — it is even more difficult to make than a wedding lehenga,” says the designer who believes that the right white shirt must have impeccable finish and should fit like a dream.

“To be more specific, every inch needs to have a specific number of stitches, it’s not just random. It’s not about buying an expensive shirt, it’s about how you value yourself. A white shirt can make you feel like a million bucks. Once you invest in a good white shirt, you must take care of it. I hand wash them personally. Never fling it into the washing machine. Ideally, you should get it dry cleaned, but make sure you don’t get duped because some dry cleaners tend to just hand wash the clothes because it’s easier and cheaper. It’s safest to wash it yourself at home and dry it in the shade. Lastly, invest in a good iron for a crisp look,” says Kochhar.

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