WOMEN’S DRESS SHIRTS: THE ULTIMATE BUYING GUIDE

Women’s dress shirts are no stranger to the wardrobe of any classy lady. We rely on the shirt to look smart and dashing and effortlessly elegant. I mean, the right shirt truly does have the power to take one’s style from “meh” to “yeah”, but the question is…

How to recognize “The Right Shirt”? 

How to choose The Shirt that ends your wardrobe woes and brings you joy each time you wear it?

We are here to help. This guide covers everything you need to know about women’s dress shirts and learn how to find a perfect one for YOU.

I What Exactly is a DRESS SHIRT?

Traditionally worn by men and boys, dress shirts became an item of women’s clothing in the mid-1800s. Despite having been around for quite some years, they still regularly get mixed up with blouses.

To put an end to this confusion, here is a list of defining features of women’s dress shirts:

  • Fully buttoned vertical opening.
  • Correct length – the hem should be long enough to comfortably wear the shirt tucked or untucked.
  • Made of cotton weaves.
  • Long sleeves with cuffs at the wrist.
  • Proper collar

Why is this important? Because in order to benefit from owning and wearing a dress shirt, it’s good to be able to recognize one when shopping.

II The FIT is King

In fashion today one can get away with a lot of things, but wearing ill-fitting clothes isn’t one of them. Even an expensive dress shirt that doesn’t fit works against you and makes you look awkward.

When choosing a dress shirt, always pay attention to (1) the fit of the shirt AND (2) how it fits YOUR body.

1. Fit of the shirt: Look for a fitted fit

Best women’s dress shirts are tailored as in they are designed to follow the contours of a female figure. A tailored shirt that fits well flatters your body and makes you feel confident regardless of your shape or size. You are guaranteed to always look sleek and smart.

Excess material and large folds in the shirt only amplify the figure.

valge mustaga triiksärk; mustade detailidega triiksärgid

2. Make sure the fit (and size) are right for YOU

The shirt fit is right for YOU if it:

✅ Makes you look good, generally outlining your body without emphasizing every bump and curve;

✅ Makes you feel good, ensuring comfort and freedom of movement.

Beware of these 5 signs of a BAD fit (and avoid them!):

❌ You can’t give someone a hug in your shirt. Though the shirt may look like a perfect fit, if you find yourself unable to reach forward with total mobility, there’s a good chance it’s actually too tight along the width of your back. Try giving someone a hug. If your arms are restrained from doing so, it’s time to opt for a bigger size.

❌ There’s a gap in your shirt buttons. If you notice a gaping space between your buttons, this means your bust is stretching the fabric apart and you have to find a better fit.

❌ You have to constantly suck in your stomach. If your shirt is so form-fitting that you have to suck in your gut the entire time you have it on, it’s safer to consider it too tight. If you can’t comfortably breathe out and relax your body, you’ll end up looking far more tense than sexy. You’ll be better off in a looser-fitting shirt.

❌ Your shirt won’t stay tucked in. A shirt coming untucked when you’re running around is totally understandable. But how does it look while you’re seated? Does it rise and show your lower back? If your shirt is clearly too short when you sit, it’s time to exchange it for one with a longer fit. 

❌ Your wrists are exposed. A shirt that awkwardly exposes your wrists is not the right choice.

III FABRIC defines the shirt

There can be no great fashion without great fabrics,” Nino Cerruti once said.

All fabrics are not created equal, especially when it comes to those used to produce women’s dress shirts. Quality, durability, and price vary widely and along with that also how the shirt is going to look and feel.

In order to end up with a beautiful shirt, you need to choose one that is made of high quality fabric.

Go For 100% Cotton

Cotton is the most popular clothing material by far and for good reasons, too. It is breathable, strong, soft and comfortable. In fact, cotton is regarded as the standard in the clothing and garments industry. Other fabrics are usually compared to cotton and they always come up short.

A shirt made from high quality 100% cotton is soft to the touch and extremely comfortable on the wearer. There are certain metrics that help define whether the fabric is going to meet these expectations.

Ply

One of the most important characteristics is ply or, in other words, how many yarns are twisted together to make a single thread. Fabrics are mostly single ply or two-ply. Two-ply means that two yarns are twisted together to make a single thread that is then woven into the fabric.

Two ply fabrics are generally superior to single ply fabrics.

Thread count

The higher the thread count, the silkier and smoother the fabric usually is. Even if the same cotton is used for the fabric, the thread count makes a huge difference and results in a finer, softer, smoother and more luxurious fabric.

Thread count is expressed as a number (e.g. 50s, 70s, 120s, 180s etc.) and indicates the size of the yarns in fabric. At dress shirt retailers who pride themselves on quality, the thread count will normally start at 100-120.

IV The COLLAR

The collar is the pride of a dress shirt and its most standout feature. No matter what type of outfit you will be wearing with your shirt, your collar will always be noticeable. It can either make a look or kill it entirely.

Shirt collar borders your face, so this is the first thing people see when looking at you since our natural tendency is to look at the face and move down. Also, it informs the viewer, often unconsciously, what the rest of your outfit is likely to be and how to perceive you.

If well made, the collar helps make a great first impression and signals professionalism and competence. Therefore, to get most out of your dress shirt, always pick one with a crisp and firm collar.

High quality shirt collar is kept stiff by using a different type of material know as interlining between the top and bottom pieces of a collar. This forms a sort of skeleton providing rigidity and shape. Higher quality shirts normally use better quality interlinings that will not bubble after a few washes and will help your collar stay sharper longer.

Men’s shirts have a wide variety of collar types and picking the right one to match the occasion, the rest of the outfit and face shape is almost a science. Women do not have a comparable choice and available options fall under one of the three broad categories: point collar, cut away collar and button-down collar.

Point or classic collar

Point collar is one of the most traditional styles, likely having been around since the development of the modern dress shirt collar itself. It is cut using straight lines, which end in a point, and is distinguished by the narrow space between the points.

This collar is always stylish, attractive and a good conservative choice.

Spread or Italian collar

Spread collar is one of the essentials of modern shirt design, characterized by a wider spread between the collar points. 

The medium spread collar is considered versatile because it:
* works for everybody (regardless of age, face shape or body type)
* works in all scenarios
* will never go out of style.

Button-Down Collar

Button-down collar was first invented to keep the collar points in place during horse polo games. This collar is connected directly to the shirt fabric via two small buttons.

Button Down collar is a variant of the point collar and is stylistically suitable for dressing down.

The Take-Away from all this?

Don’t concentrate too much on the actual type or shape of the collar, just make sure that it is nice looking and crisp (having said that, button-down collar doesn’t even need to be that crisp). While men have different style considerations to take into account when choosing their collar style, women hardly have any. Traditional men’s collar rules do not apply to women – the latter could always leave the collar open and complement it with accessories.

V The CUFFS

When it comes to appearance, it is always the tiny details that attract attention. So, when you wear a shirt, the most visible details are your shirt collar and cuffs. If these communicate style and taste, you’ll instantly generate a positive first impression.

To ensure a sharp aesthetic, you should always look for crisp cuffs. High quality cuffs show exquisite tailoring and have no needless lines. They add style and allow you to express your inner fashionista, especially when you opt for French cuffs.

Typically, cuffs come in two varieties: button cuffs and French cuffs.

Button cuffs are single cuffs that wrap around the wrist and are buttoned into place. They might feature a single button or be adjustable with two buttons side-by-side. These cuffs are easy to wear and always suitable.

Sometimes the button cuff may have an extra buttonhole between the buttons where a cufflink can be threaded through. This unique configuration means one can wear it buttoned or with cufflinks. Two styles, one cuff

French cuffs are double cuffs, folded back and fastened with cufflinks. In men’s style, double cuffs and cufflinks are often associated with fancy dinners and formal events. There are no similar styling rules for women and a French cuff shirt is a wonderful option for everyday wear since it gives even something as laid back as jeans a more classy look.

VI Color and Pattern

Dress shirt is a great addition to any woman’s wardrobe. It gets you elegantly through your weekdays and can serve as a great base for casual wear for weekend brunches and late night dinners.

When it comes to color and pattern, the choice is largely up to you and your style. But here are two general tips:

  • White is still the most popular color for dress shirts. It’s extremely versatile and getting a high quality white dress shirt (or two) would definitely be a good investment for your wardrobe.
  • Don’t limit yourself to white! Blue shirt is also a great staple for your wardrobe and if you want to show a little more personality, consider going with colors like pink or black.
  • Pattern is another great way to show some personal style in your dress shirts. Popular patterns include stripes and checks, but patterns like floral really help you stand out.

Find Your Perfect Shirt

If you are looking for a dress shirt that ticks all of the boxes mentioned above, take a look at Ella Hopfeldt shirt selection. Our shirts don’t just fit well. They also feel amazing, as they’re made from luxurious European fabrics and look impeccable.

In order to find a shirt that is perfect for you, take our short fit test and go with just a few clicks to your personal choice of shirts.

For an ultimate guide to buying men’s dress shirts, see the Real Men Real Style blog.

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