Ways to work a crisp cotton shirt


SS16 Fashion - Crisp cotton fabrics

Among the SS16 trends we mentioned in our blog earlier this month was the crisp cotton shirt. We’ve pulled together a selection of ways to wear your cotton shirt this season. If you’re tempted to create a spring classic for yourself, then feel free to riffle through our crisp cotton shirt fabric offerings.

What we love about this trend isn’t just the classic simplicity it evokes. It’s the ability of a trend that sounds as staid as could be, to inspire such a wide variety of stylings. In its purest form, the crisp cotton shirt would be made from a traditional masculine shirting fabric, probably with a stripe, equipped with collar, cuffs and buttons down the front. What we’ve seen on the street, the fashion press and the catwalks however, are riffs on that most restrained of garments. The fashion press is alive with shirting experiments, the apparent result of a bunch of fashion students let loose in a branch of Tyrwhitts.  Granted, wearing your shirt backwards as spotted (apparently) in Milan last autumn and then in this month’s Vogue with a UniQlo classic, isn’t a look that everyone could work.

Crisp cotton shirt reversed
Reversed shirt as styled by Camille over the Rainbow

However we rather like that high front/deep back look (and no – not just because it’s reminiscent of all those backwards-facing 50s twinsets we remember rocking in the early 1980s). Other approaches in the press have seen oversized men’s shorts being twisted, re-buttoned diagonally and generally being mucked about with.

The new M&S ‘Archive by Alexa’ collection has its share of cotton shirts. We probably share Jess Cartner-Morley’s misgivings about actually wearing the early-80s-styled pie-crust blouse that has popped up in the headlines.

Alexa Chung models the M&S 'Harry' Crisp cotton shirt
Alexa Chung models the M&S ‘Harry’ shirt

We’ve been hearing a lot about the resurgence of the ruffle this season but that piecrust collar isn’t convincing us yet – and that yoke is uncomfortably close to one we remember from an ‘O’ Level needlework dressing gown. We think we’re with Hadley Freeman when she says you probably have to look like Alexa Chung to make that blouse look good – and it won’t work in reverse. Feel free to persuade us otherwise.

Tunic shirts

Alexa has thankfully come up with styles which we think are simpler and more versatile such as the M&S collection’s ‘Edna’ tunic.

M&S 'Edna' crisp cotton shirt
M&S ‘Edna’ crisp cotton shirt

We confess we’d be inclined to find something other than just pants and boots to wear with it – but that being said, we’re considering the following two patterns as ones with which we might achieve a similar look:

Burdastyle crisp cotton shirt pattern
Burdastyle Button-down blouse 01/2010 #122
Grainline pattern for crisp cotton shirt
Grainline Studio’s Archer Popover Variation pattern

You’d need to play with cuffs, pockets and length to suit your heart’s desire but we don’t think they’ll be too much of an obstacle.

Classic simplicity

Elsewhere we love the simplicity of Adam Lippes shirts and tops – and you’ll not run short of classic shirting ideas at J Crew – we spotted these details in our SS16 preview last month.

SS16 Fashion - Crisp cotton shirts
J Crew’s cotton shirts and Adam Lippes’ classic detailing

If you’re aiming to emulate these classic stylings then we suggest you might want to take a look at these patterns. The first is a basic long-sleeved shirt in a more relaxed cut…

Burdastyle Crisp cotton shirt pattern
BurdaStyle Basic Blouse 09/2013 #120

…whilst the ‘Emily’ blouse below is a more fitted design.

BurdaStyle Crisp cotton shirt
BurdaStyle’s ‘Emily’ blouse #8153

We haven’t tested these but we think they look like good basic designs that will bring a classic look to your wardrobe.

Vintage styling

Of course you could decide to take your shirt-making down a vintage route – this image of Elizabeth Taylor from 1950 shows just how striking a simple, semi-fitted shirt can be.

Elizabeth Taylor in a crisp cotton shirt
Elizabeth Taylor in the simplest of shirts, 1950.

We used New Look pattern 6598 for the blouse in our trouser blog earlier this year. We found the sizing and styling were spot on (although on that occasion our choice of fabric couldn’t have been further from a traditional shirting)

Vintage pattern for crisp cotton shirt
New Look Pattern 6598

We also have designs on Simplicity Pattern 1590 although it’s still in our making queue. If you’ve used it then do let us know how you got on.

Simplicity Pattern for vintage crisp cotton shirt
Simplicity Pattern 1590

 ‘Non-shirt’ shirting options

Another option would be to use a classic shirting fabric for a much simpler top, as we did with the ‘Sleeveless shell top’ pattern from the 2015 GBSB book.

Crisp cotton shirt idea
The ‘Sleeveless Shell Top’ from the 2015 GBSB

We thought it was just the thing for spring – and we liked the old-school simplicity of the design, especially the facings.

Crisp cotton shirt
Our version with a wider neckline
Crisp cotton shirt
Detail of the back fastening

Inevitably we couldn’t resist a bit of a fiddle with the design. Aiming for a less ‘boxy’ look, we lengthened it and rotated the darts to a more angled French dart position. We also raised and widened the neckline to a more boat-neck design. That’s the beauty of a classic, simple design like this shell top – you can fiddle to your heart’s content without risking too much in terms of time or fabric (just a metre, in case you were wondering).

You could also try other variations on the shell top such as the ‘Orla’ shift top from Tilly and the Buttons…

Tilly's 'Orla' shift top for crisp cotton shirt
‘Orla’ shift top by Tilly and the Buttons

…or the simple, fresh and airy look of BurdaStyle’s wrapped blouse.

BurdaStyle pattern for crisp cotton shirt
BurdaStyle’s Wrap Blouse 04/2014 #115

Over to you!

We’d love to hear about any shirty aspirations that you might have – please do keep your pictures coming so we can see what you’re up to! Meanwhile we’ll be adding more ideas to our Pinterest boards as the season progresses. Stay cool…








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