The White Shirt

{Proenza Schouler white shirt, via La Garconne}

When I started making a list of classic fashion pieces to sew, I had mostly coats and blazers at the top of the list. A trench was at the very top, and I even looked into various trench patterns in hopes of trying it out. But then I tried on a few Burberry coats. Yes, the $1200 kind. I definitely don’t have a problem trying on luxury clothes even if I can’t afford them. I just love seeing the details and touching the fabric. I could live at Dries van Noten if only they’d set up a sofa bed in their sweet, lofty store in Antwerp. But trying on the “real” trench just ruined the idea of sewing one–I knew from then on out any trench-sewing expedition would get far too perfectionistic. The fit and details were too much to live up to.

I needed to thin out my coat ideas anyway; I live in Texas and wear coats maybe, oh, two months a year? Don’t be jealous–I wish I could layer a lot more than I do. Instead, I decided to start with something simpler and easy to wear year-round. A White Shirt!

The white shirt needs little explanation, but I don’t own a single white top at the moment–not even a t-shirt. And more than once I wished I had just a simple white shirt to put on with my black pants or jeans or whatever, when nothing else was working. I did a lot of shop-research a couple months ago and found my favorite stores awash in all kinds of white shirt interpretations. Some were prim and crisp like the Proenza Schouler shirt above, others were more artfully oversized and hanging crumply about the body as if raided from a man’s closet. I tend toward the latter, in an Annie Hall kind of way.

In my opinion Diane Keaton did it best, although Ms. Hepburn usually gets the most love on the “raided shirt” look:

I’ve decided to tackle making my husband a shirt this year, but since I’m a total newbie at shirtmaking thought I should do a practice run by making one for myself. Ha, well, I just really want my own shirt and I fell in love with this whole ensemble from Burda magazine:

I even bought fabric and supplies for the skirt as well, although it might be a bit too thick for a Texas summer. I just love this whole safari/camel/military/aviator thing–capturing so many trends at once, including the very current below-knee skirt length that often goes out as soon as it comes in but I actually dig it in a 40s kind of way.

I like that this shirt is big and drapey and can either tuck in or hang out over leggings. I’m especially in love with the pockets although they could overwhelm someone with a larger bust, which I most definitely do not have. I’ve never sewn a shirt collar before so I’m guessing it won’t be super smooth-looking, but after all this is just a trial run for another shirt, right?

So stay tuned for more details on Project White Shirt!


  1. Sherry says:

    I love the shirt too, and the oversize pockets. Even though it is oversized it still has a feminine shoulder so is very sassy – it will look awesome in some luxe silk satin!

    • Amy says:

      Hi Sherry, my first comment–yay! I’m almost finished with the shirt and used your cuff tutorial. Wow, they came out like a dream. Now I’ve got to work on my collar-making. I’m making it up in a drapey rayon but I really want to do it again in a crepe de chine. I’m all for the luxe. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Francesca says:

    Amy–This is amazing. I have just been drooling all over this whole Burda ensemble myself. I realize that you first posted this a few years ago, but… I, too, am embarking on teaching myself how to sew a list of classic pieces. Only they were bookmarked in my mind’s eye. I had yet to even write them down as I began to read your blog. Freaking fantastic. I have also literally spent all morning reading David Coffin’s Shirtmaking book and looking at a Craftsy Tailored Shirtmaking class as a way to divert myself from studying Beverly Johnson’s Bra-maker’s Manual. Now to delve into your treasure trove of blog posts. Thank you ever so much for documenting your explorations!! Best always–Francesca

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