Fashion Philosophy: The White Tee Shirt

To quote Jane Austen and Linda Grant at the same time: “It is a truth universally acknowledged,” that no matter how serious my mood or how bleak life may seem in any given week, I will soon shake it off and be once again happily “thinking aloud about clothes.” That’s how I roll my friends, or perhaps it’s more appropriate to say, that’s how I bounce. So let’s talk fashion philosophy, shall we? More specifically, let’s talk about spring fashion and white tee shirts.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.

As I’m sure you are tired of hearing, I have a fashion philosophy. I like to be organized, to make lists, cull my closet, and try to shop wisely, and consciously. Sometimes that doesn’t work as well as it should, and I end up with a hard-to-style cream crochet sweater. Ha. But most of the time, I buy pieces that work well with the rest of my seasonal wardrobe. I shop for the long haul, usually going for quality over quantity. Of course, that depends on one’s budget; not everyone can afford to shop this way because quality garments almost always cost more.

But I believe that when you buy quality, you are making an investment in next year, and the year after, and, with some pieces, even ten or twenty years after. If you have room to store your really good pieces that still fit, you might be rewarded years down the road. Like I was with my Max Mara linen safari-style blazer bought in the late nineties, and dug out, and worn again last year. Or my Max Mara navy pantsuit from 2002. Or that Cerruti jacket I unearthed last week for the first time in over a decade.

Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re also getting tired of hearing about my closet archaeology. It’s fine for me to preach this, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have any treasures to dig out. One day I must have a good rummage around on second-hand sites to see if I can find any choice vintage treasures that might interest you.

But of course, not everything in our closets will last for years and years. Like white tee shirts. Unlike good jackets, white tees don’t last for many seasons. Each year I inspect my white tees to see if they are good for one more year. Or if they are stained and yellowed beyond redemption and must be relegated to camping wear.

Part of my fashion philosophy is that most of us need a white top for summer. A crisp white shirt, perhaps a white silky tanktop, and a white tee shirt. Maybe even several white tee shirts. White tees have long been a spring and summer staple for me. I’ve worn them for years under summer suits, with skirts, with jeans, or with pretty much any pants I own.

There is no such thing as “just a white tee” in my opinion. Every brand has a different cut, different length, different weight of fabric. And each of us has our favourite, in the style that looks best on our body, whether we prefer a crew-neck, boat-neck, v-neck, whatever. I’m a fan of the classic crew-neck. Mostly because I don’t like my neck. And even though the fashion experts advise apple-shaped women like me that a V-neck will lengthen their upper body, that doesn’t work so well for me.

So all four of my white tee shirts are crew-neck. But that’s where the similarity ends. At the moment, I own three short-sleeved white tees. One is a basic Vince tee, below. This is my favourite white tee. I have it in black as well. The short sleeves, the length, the Pima cotton fabric, and the way the shirt falls a bit away from my body all suit me. I buy it in a size large so it’s not too snug. I wear this with jeans, with dress pants and even with skirts. Today, I’m wearing it with my new Frame straight-leg jeans, my white Theory blazer (similar) from last year, and my Stan Smith sneakers.

I also own a white graphic tee from Zara, below. It has “some heartfelt words” printed on the front, literally. I don’t normally shop at Zara. But a couple of years ago, I wanted to participate in the graphic tee shirt trend, and find something a bit different to wear with my navy Veronica Beard suit and my red loafers. I wanted a graphic tee, either with flowers in shades of red and blue, or plain white with red printing on it. The quality of the Zara tees surprised me. This one in particular is quite heavy, looks tidy under a jacket, and has washed up well in the years since I bought it. I’m liking it here with my new high-waist Frame straight-leg jeans (similar), my Earth loafers, and my Moncler baseball jacket.

My other short-sleeved white tee is a loose-fit, elbow-length sleeve Eileen Fisher tee with a shirt-tail hem, below. This tee is made from soft cotton, and works well with a jacket or without. It’s loose enough that I’ve even worn it alone with skinny jeans and sneakers. I still prefer it under a jacket though. Then again, I generally prefer everything with a jacket or blazer. I should title my autobiography: Jacket Required. Ha. I’m wearing my EF tee with my Rag and Bone Simone pants, my Stan Smith sneakers, and my old Max Mara suit jacket.

Max Mara jacket, Eileen Fisher tee, Rag and Bone Simone pants, Stan Smith Adidas.
EF tee, Max Mara blazer, Rag & Bone pants, Stan Smith Adidas.

The last white tee I own is a loose-fitting, linen, sleeveless “muscle shirt” from Vince. Photo below is from 2018. Can I just say that, on its own, this so-called “muscle” shirt looks like nothing much. But pull on a jacket over it and it is perfection… in my books. One of the best tees I have ever owned. I wear it a lot with my Max Mara pants suit or with my old Burberry denim skirt, sneakers and my Veronica Beard jacket. It’s slubby texture and loose style takes a structured jacket or suit from business-wear to casual-chic. It has disappeared from the Vince website, but you can still find it on sale here.

Max Mara suit, Vince linen "muscle" tee Stan Smith Adidas.
Max Mara suit, Vince “muscle” tee, Stan Smith Adidas.

There are certain items in my wardrobe that I always keep an eye out for when I’m shopping. Sandals, for one, because my foot is so hard to fit. The perfect summer dress. And tee shirts or casual tops that fit loosely but aren’t too flowy. I may have a specific shopping list, but these are things I will pick up if I find them, because I so rarely do find them.

Recently I’ve been on-line shopping for tee shirts, not because I need a new white tee. At least not yet. But because I want to experiment with other brands, and I’d also like to have one or two tees in other colours. So many of the tee shirt brands I’ve worn over the years have let me down. I no longer wear Gap tees. I used to rely on their basic crew tees, but now I find them too slouchy, too easily wrinkled, with a baggy crew neck. Luckily, Vince filled that gap in my wardrobe a few years ago. Pun intended.

Lately I’ve been looking at Everlane tee shirts. I’ve ordered this one. It’s part of Everlane’s new organic cotton line, is short-sleeved and has a boxy cut. I measured my Vince tees and compared the numbers to the measurements on the Everlane site. I have great hopes that it will fit. Fingers crossed. It’s much less expensive than the Vince tees, and Everlane has a good record as an ethical company. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’m excited.

I know, I know, it’s just a tee shirt. But, really, a tee shirt is never just a tee shirt. Not if it’s the perfect one for you and your body: perfect weight, perfect length, flattering cut, right style for the outfit you’ve chosen. You know.

Max Mara jacket, Eileen Fisher tee, Rag and Bone Simone pants, Stan Smith Adidas.
This is such a ME outfit: tee shirt, pants, sneakers, jacket.

It seems I am happiest these past couple of years in a tee shirt, quite often a white one, pants or jeans, sneakers or loafers, and a good jacket. It’s an outfit formula that always works for me. Easy to haul out of the closet, throw on, and feel good. Makes me feel like me.

But an outfit formula only works if I’ve done my homework, shopped wisely, and chosen my pieces carefully. Especially with closet basics like a white tee shirt, which goes with so many different outfits. My fashion philosophy tells me that it’s important to be diligent, and patient enough to shop around, in order to find the perfect tee. Or the perfect pair of jeans. Or whatever. Perfect for me, I mean.

If I’ve been lulled into complacency by a fetching cream crochet, or shopped too quickly like with a certain Eileen Fisher tunic a couple of years ago, I end up with something that only causes me grief. Okay… maybe not grief. But certainly annoyance. Big time.

Now if I just had somewhere to go to wear my perfect tee (plus jeans, jacket and sneakers) … I think I could be perfectly happy.

How about you, my friends? What is your fashion philosophy when it comes to summer closet staples?

P.S. There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.

P.P.S. Apologies for the audio in that video. Because of the noisy wind… and my unruly hair… I almost deleted it. But I decided to leave it. I tried to use my sunglasses to hold my hair, to no avail. You can see them starting to slip sideways off my head. I’m trying not to be too vain when I take these videos. But one day we’ll have to talk again about bad hair. And chins. Oh, don’t get me started on chins. 🙂


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28 thoughts on “Fashion Philosophy: The White Tee Shirt”

  1. I’ve become smitten with the T-Rex and V-Rex tees from Universal Standard. They are silky, the white is opaque, and they come in petite sizing! Speaking of sizing, be sure to check their size charts. I wear a large (Size 12) in most shirts but an XS at Universal Standard!

    1. I must have a look at those. Thanks, Barb. I never order on-line unless the brand has good size charts. Vince charts are not good enough. If I hadn’t known what size I was already, I’d never have ordered from them on-line. And I hate it when brands say only “size up or down.” That’s no help at all.

  2. Yes, indeed. I love a white t-shirt but can find them tricky to fit. However, I bought two tops (I suppose they quality as tees) from La Redoute recently, one black, one white, both low-backed and love them. Crucially they have three-quarter length sleeves, which is what I prefer. I think they will be big hits this year and may, as a matter of fact, wear one today if it turns out to be sunny and warm. And I do love that black suit, white tee combination. So much better than a white shirt which would probably ruck up or the collar would rise up or get stuck sideways…

    1. I’m finding a shirt with a suit is often too dressy or too business-y for me these days. Wearing Hubby’s pink shirt with my suit to our fantasy tea party was the exception to that rule.

  3. Hi Sue, so glad you didn’t delete the video. Good to have some female company for a “chat” when I woke this morning 😂 Good to see you!
    All your outfits look great … your way of planning and shopping works well for you … and for me! I’ve certainly made less disastrous purchases since knowing you.
    I totally agree with you regarding white t shirts. It’s not always easy to find the “right” one so important to buy them when you do ( maybe buy two! 😊)
    When they do fit well, I always feel good in one … especially with jeans. Such a classic. They do need to be white and fresh though.
    I also like navy ones and the occasional black. Like you I tend to go for crew necks lately, although I do have a scoop neck. I struggle with V necks!
    My other Spring and Summer staples, are espadrilles , flat or wedge. I wore a pair of the wedge ones when we met in Ottawa. They generally work with everything, trousers, jeans, dresses and skirts. So great when travelling.
    I’m trying hard to focus on the little things that make me smile at the moment ( sounds a little corny, I know! )
    Take care, Rosie xxx

  4. Apsolutely one of the most important basics in my wardrobe as well,usually crew neck,one v-neck…they go with everything,even (a silk one) with silk pants for theatre- and,naturally,more than a one is a must
    Love your video!
    Well,it seems that I’ve always had a fashion philosophy,I only didn’t know the terminology till now 🙂

    1. Oh… terminology is perhaps too grand word for my invented fashion language. I am so enjoying doing the videos. Even though I tend to ramble. 🙂

  5. Wendy in York

    Yes to white T shirts . I also have a couple of the palest dove grey which I reach for often . Looking at the pics , I like the look of the EF best . We do have an EF stockist locally ( in normal times ) but I balk at the inflated prices here compared to over there . Which means I won’t buy unless there are vast sale reductions .
    Can’t wait to get my hands on ‘Jacket Required’ – so get busy 😁

    1. Pale dove grey sounds lovely. EF pieces aren’t cheap over here either. Her tees usually don’t suit me because they are often boat-neck or too off the shoulder-ish for me. I like a high neat neckline. I’m a bit of a neat freak about necklines.

  6. I enjoyed each outfit you styled and you do work wonders with a white tee! However, I’m more interested now in your facial skin care products ! Your complexion is flawless, and I know your lifestyle keeps you in the sun often. Please share your beautiful skin care secrets! Continue the videos. They a
    offer such a nice personal approach .

  7. Loved the video, keep them coming. When I was young I always had a white tee. Not so much in recent years mainly because I am fair and thought I needed color. But I have been thinking about adding them back lately. I like the cut of the EF tee. When I was working and nearly always wearing a jacket I noticed some tee’s do not lay well at the collar line. I think the fabric has a lot to do with this. I need to pull out all my tee’s and cull. Thanks for the incentive.

  8. What size are you wearing in the muscle tee? I think that we are about the same size. Love your style!

    1. I’m wearing a size large. I wear size large in every Vince top I’ve ever owned, except one over-sized sweater. I normally wear a US size 10 in jackets. At least good jackets. And 44 in Max Mara, if that helps.

  9. Your outfits are an inspiration. I especially like the suit with trainers.
    I just did the summer/winter clothes migration between the closet and attic. I tend to keep sentimental items, and this time it paid off. A pair of crazy pants I bought in Africa now fit again.
    As for quality and budget, I’m facing total shutdown of my business for who knows how long, so I’ll be shopping my closet only, and when/if things pick up again, I think I’ll go for vintage/second-hand in order to avoid fast fashion yet not break the bank.

  10. I agree with you, Sue, the white T is an essential through spring and summer. I tend to buy one most years because I love the thrill of a pristine white T and without fail my T of choice is a modal (no ironing!).
    Loved your little chat on the steps BTW.
    Hugs, Mary x.

  11. White tee shirts do not agree with me as pure white do not fit with my complexion.
    Same with button down. Cream, Ivory on the other hand …
    Thing is with white tee shirts that nowadays, most of them are quite flimsy, transparent.
    Best to find something thick enough is to shop to the men section, if one can, or the boys ‘ section.
    Most of my tee shirt are orange (my favourite colour) but I do prefer some blouse or top less casual: again, it all depends on the quality of the tee shirt.
    But I do have other colours as well in my closet

    1. I agree, it all depends on the quality of the tee shirt. I bought a much cheaper one to take to Italy in 2018, and was not sad that it became spotted by oil from a splashy pasta dish and I had to relegate it to camping wear and replace it with a better quality tee.

  12. I love wearing short sleeved tshirts under blazers, and under cardigans. I have been lucky in the past, as here in Australia we have a brand called Bonds. However in recent years their quality has deteriorated badly and their tshirts are now really thin. I will check out the online brands that others have mentioned.

  13. I love these themed fashion posts with what’s in your closet, Sue. I spent so many years being frustrated by unisex t-shirts, I’m still delighted with t-shirts actually made for a woman’s body! I’m in love with one I got from Madewell, and looking forward to going back to their shop for more, and trying on their HUGE variety of jeans. Your philosophy is spot-on!

    1. I agree. Tee shirts for many years were too tight, and if I sized up the neck was too sloppy, and the body too long for me with my short waist. It’s lovely to have a bigger choice of styles that suit.

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