Wardrobe Staple: The White T-Shirt

I receive requests for t-shirt recommendations every so often, and as I’m constantly restocking my white tees each season, I thought I’d do a wardrobe post on this very deserving staple in my closet.

Everybody has their own version of what cut of white t-shirt works best for them, and I’ll share mine. It’s a short sleeve (never cap sleeve) cut, with a deep v-neck or scoop neck. I have wider shoulders, and often times I feel that cut off sleeves, or high crew necklines, only make me look broader. So I gravitate to this style, over and over. My current favorites are Splendid (pricier at $50), and J.Crew.

Here are some of my favorite white t-shirt outfit inspirations – and yup, they’re all in my favorite cut (of course!).

A super old (but still good) photo of Mary Kate Olsen.


Of course, Kate Moss, in all white.

kate moss white tshirt

Gwyneth. I’m actually usually lukewarm about Gwyneth’s style (excluding movies), but I loved this look enough to save it years back.


And finally, going back full circle to another oldie but goodie of the lovely Ashley Olsen. This is perfection and enough reason in my head to justify an Alaia belt, any day!


What are your favorite go to brands and styles for white tees (I know I’ve asked this before, but this time I’m asking for styles too!). And if you have any photos that you love for inspiration on how to wear a white tee, please share – I’m always looking for ways to wear this very comfortable staple.



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  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Good morning! I’ve actually been on a hunt for the last month for a very specific white t-shirt – has to be loose, has to be a boat neck, has to have dropped sleeve and has to be less than $20. SO thank you so much for pointing me into J.Crew direction again, I’ve been ignoring them since my last fiasco.
    I’m not sure what exactly I’m doing wrong but any white t-shirt does not live past maximum 3 washes in my house – they become greyish, piled, sad, and unwearable even at home.. I tried different price ranges and always have the same result. This is exactly the reason why I would never want to pay more than $20 for a white t-shirt and why I never understand the advice to invest into basics like t-shirt. In my experience, it’s wasted money after 1 month, forget even 1 season. How do you treat your t-shirt so they survive for a full season?:)
    Have a great day,

    • Reply
      May 7, 2014 at 11:20 am

      You know mine generally yhave a decent shelf life – the only thing I do is put them in a “whites” cycle in the wash which I’ll usually do on delicate. Have you tried that? ANd yes I have been really liking J.Crew’s white tees! They are perfect for me!

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 10:12 am

    As a “woman of a certain age” (64 to be exact), I require t-shirts with sleeves that extend to just above the elbows. If I find any with ballet or boatneck necklines, I feel like I have hit the Mother Lode. I buy them anywhere I can find them. and in multiples in any colors I like to wear. This year, I struck gold in Banana Republic with one of their basics. This is a link to the tee in stripes: They were not expensive (about $34.) and I bought three in each of the colors/stripes I liked. I know I have veered off the white T, but I apply these shopping specifics to every T I buy. When I was your age, I never thought about the clothing challenges I would face at this age!

    • Reply
      May 7, 2014 at 11:18 am

      That’s a nice tee. I always buy my tees in multiples as well, especially if it’s a reasonable price! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I uses to buy tees from Forever 21, but since I’m now grown (and have to be seen in polite society) I figured I should upgrade my tees to something better. I’m still experimenting, but I bought tees from St. John (really nice, really pricey, but dry clean or hand wash only), James Perse (it’s alright, but I doubt I’d be buying again), Vince (quality is below expectation for the price), and Anthony Thomas Melillo (just ordered from Barney’s and waiting for arrival). J. Crew has been nothing but miserable for me (tiny holes in my tees after just one season? Really!?) I’ve resigned to pay good money for tee shirts, but I at least expect them to last for years. I have a single tee from Armani exchange from 8 years ago that hasn’t pilled, hasn’t fuzzed over, and hasn’t developed a single hole. I wish they’d make them like that again…

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Have you ever tried Everlane?

    thehoustongirl blog

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Solid white tops such as t-shirts and blouses are the elusive Holy Grails of my wardrobe. After eyeing them for years, I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that they’re all translucent. Now I’m hunting for these basics in merino jersey (which is usually machine-washable) and/or washable silk. Nature has engineered these moisture-wicking fibers to be warm in winter and cool in summer. Merino is also naturally anti-stink. It’s like the odor magically vanishes, which I like because I got tired of washing my cotton t-shirts all the time. I’ve been stalking reputable merino brands such as Icebreaker, Ibex, SmartWool, and Patagonia. I can vouch for Icebreaker quality because of the t-shirt I wore all winter, but I haven’t thoroughly tested other brands yet.

    My ideal style for any top is crew-necked and long-sleeved because I’m always aiming for maximum skin coverage. In winter, I’m constantly cold. In summer, I’m covering up from the sun because I passionately hate the feel and smell of sunscreen.

    To disguise my bra while wearing sheer white tops in summer, I plan on layering vests in dressy crochet or casual lace. Layering openwork shirts or shrugs/boleros is another idea.

    @Irina: I find that the tumble dryer ages my clothing significantly so I hang dry any items that I care about.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Great post, I’m still on the hunt for a white t-shirt that will look good on me. I like the GAP bowery line, but for summertime I want something looser. Sadly their looser styles are too big on me (even the XS).
    I like crew or boatneck. I can’t pull off the scoop neck or V neck as much as I like the look.
    Opinions on American Apparel? They seem to have all kinds of shapes of basics but I’ve never owned anything from them.

  • Reply
    Pret A Porter P
    May 7, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    the best tees for me are Target or Gap. I do black tees for work, and white tees for jeans.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 7:44 pm


    I like J Crew too, but my old favorite is Petit Bateau, a brand from France. They have beautifully-fit white cotton tees. Check it out:

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    This is more of a tunic. The material is very soft and silk-like, a blend of modal and other materials. It has a sheen, sensual to touch.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    I’ve also seen the Zarita dress at least 50% discount on certain colors and sizes.

    • Reply
      May 8, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Really! That’s a fantastic deal! In black/white or the seasonal colors? Thanks for sharing!

      • Reply
        May 8, 2014 at 8:57 am

        Hi Katherine,

        Usually seasonal colors go on big sales. I think the one I saw was an aqua. I don’t think the classic colors such as black would go on sale.

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Alexander Wang pocket T’s. Super pricey, comfy and lasts for a looong time…

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 7:05 am

    I prefer tees in other colours, rather than white, and usually get silk-blend scoop-neck tees from Kain. I like boat neck Breton tees too, with 3/4 length sleeves.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

    After spending too much money on James Perse white scoop neck tees (they are great, though,) I discovered the Mossimo tees from Target! They are now even copying the linen-like weave that James Perse does. Size up one size and the v-neck gives you that perfect, loose shape that’s just right under a little jacket or “tummy tucked” into the waistband of your jeans. At only $9.00, I buy a handful and wear them until they look shopworn and then donate or toss.

    • Reply
      May 8, 2014 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Laura, those sound great! I’ll have to keep an eye out for them next time.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Kathrine thanks for addressing a very basic piece of clothing. You and everyone who has respond have made great suggestions, will be working through hem this summer. Good reliable suggestions are most welcome as I’m sure a lot of your followers are like me and just don’t get out to shop often.

    I keep my tees forever, the older the better and they gradually move down from best under suits and business jackets to gardening, For the last five years I’ve worn LillaP tanks, my oldies are still going strong under cashmere in the winter. Here is my long time fave their Layering Tee

    The white is solid so underwear will not show for a few years until the fabric get older and thinner. Every season there are one or two current seasonal colours. All styles I’ve tried so far have worked. Love their long sleeve tees in the winter.

    Would be totally lost without Bio-Vert Stain Remover, an Active oxygen based powder which does not harm the environment. Can’t recommend this product enough, .

    Thanks again Kathrine! You cover such interesting topics here. I’ve been following you for a few years but it’s taken a while to come out of lurk mode and make a contributution.

    • Reply
      May 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Lucetta, thanks for recommending both these brands! I’ve never heard of either and they both look great. I’m very interested in that Bio-Vert powder 🙂 Thanks also for coming out of “lurkdom”!

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Everlane! My favorite so far. And i’ve tried a lot!!!

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    A friend of mine recommended lands end tees and I love them! I wear black and white ones and there is a great deal on 3 or more save $5 which makes them $14.50 ea! They are the cotton modal scoop neck and I bought petite medium- am busty (34dd) and they are wonderful!!

    • Reply
      May 8, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      I love modal blends! Thanks for recommending!

  • Reply
    May 8, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    I love a white T with the white blazer. I have tons of white T’s and wear them often my favorites are j crew, rag & bone and James Perse. Kate Moss looks so beautiful head to toe white. I am copying that look. Who knew Ashley Olsen had such cute sexy legs. Mary Kate and Ashley have incredible style but usually wear matronly clothing. They dress like adorable little grandmas!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Hi Katherine,
    Could you please do a post on all of your handbags showing them all together and then post what bags you want to get next thanks

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    The t-shirt that flatters my body-shape the best–and I’ve been on what seemed like an eternal search before I found these–are the “shaped t-shirts” from Lands End. Here’s a short-sleeve version:×1-rib-crew-t-shirt/id_182283?sku_0=::WHI#

    They also make these in long-sleeves. Just do a search on their site for “women’s shaped t-shirts”. Also, the fabric has a lovely hand, which just gets better and softer with age. I have a boat-neck Ralph Lauren tee that I’ve had for quite a while (and I can’t find that he makes that particular cut any more, boo-hoo…), and the Lands End tees have the same shape as well as what looks and feels like the same wonderful fabric.

    I launder all my white fabrics in warm water with an organic laundry detergent and also use an organic non-chlorine bleach–I’m not too particular about the brands. My white laundry stays white and lasts long.

    • Reply
      May 11, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you for sharing about the organic detergent Glenda – that’s a great point! I will look out for it when it’s time for us to stock up next!

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