Is it just me or is anyone else slightly obsessed with finding the perfect white T-SHIRT?
Forgive the shouty caps, but there are few wardrobe staples that are more abiding than a white T-shirt — and few quite as tricky to get right.
Surely a simple T-shirt should be just that — fabric in the shape of a T with the neck cut out? Oh, if only it was that simple.
I have always believed that the simpler the piece, the more complicated it is to perfect.
Everybody seems to be obsessed with finding the perfect white T-shirt. Amanda Wakeley says that a simple white T-shirt should be exactly that
In fact, it is nothing short of a science, starting with the design which leads to the choice of fabric, the weight, the level of stretch, the look and feel. How will it fall? Will it cling or gently hug the body just so?
Then the cut needs to be perfected — and with such a minimalist design, every detail needs to be sweated over.
The fit details I am particularly conscious of are the armholes and sleeves, the fit over the bust, and, of course, the necklines.
Finally, the all-important make — T-shirts by their very nature are generally mass-produced — however, this should not necessarily be the precursor to poor make.
My passion for white T-shirts started in the 1980s — living in America I bought three packs of Hanes men’s white undershirts — I wore them with everything, with the oversized short sleeves rolled up, Miami-Vice style.
Now, I wear my white T-shirts neater, but never tight (and definitely no unkind Lycra) and I particularly love wearing them to dress down a trouser suit. It just looks cooler and somehow more youthful than a blouse.
For the past couple of years, my go-to white T-shirts have been by Rag & Bone and James Perse, both eye-wateringly expensive I must admit, especially when you consider that white T-shirts sadly don’t last as long as we would like them to.
No matter how much Vanish you add, they either become annoyingly greyed in the wash, or in the case of James Perse, develop miniscule holes in the fabric as it’s just so fine.
So on a mission to find some better priced alternatives, I undertook to try on more than 30 different styles from a variety of brands and price points. All in the name of finding the perfect white T-shirt to suit any shape, age or size…
If buying British is important to you then think of heritage British brand Sunspel
If this is important to you, then the heritage British brand Sunspel is your answer. It’s not the cheapest option but the quality of this £65 top is delicious and this brand definitely understands my passion for the devil in the detail. Cost: £65, sunspel.com
THE KIND SLEEVE
For those who want to cover up the arms then opt for this Jigsaw Linen short sleeved top with a layered effect kimono sleeve
For those of us who want to cover a little more of our arms, I have fallen in love with this Jigsaw Linen shortsleeved top with a layered-effect kimono sleeve (£32, was £65). It is slightly sheer so my preference is to wear a bright pop of a coloured bra or bralette instead of trying to disguise your underwear (that all feels a bit safe and dull, surely?). £32, jigsawonline.com
A CURVIER SOLUTION
Think of the The White Company if you like a V-neck. They can be more flattering on a fuller bust
If you prefer a V-neck, which can definitely be more flattering on a fuller bust, The White Company’s Super Soft Lyocell V-Neck T-shirt (£45) is gorgeous. First, Tencel/Lyocell fibres are generated from renewable rawwood materials and harvested from certified, controlled sources. They’re also compostable and are biodegradable. Secondly, the fabric has the most luxurious drape to it, elevating it beyond the basic. It looks and feels way beyond its price tag. £45, white company.com
SAVE YOUR SHIRT!
Unfortunately, white T-shirts can end up being a highly disposable item of clothing — to look good it’s got to be crisp white (not great for its sustainable credentials and cotton isn’t known to be that eco-friendly). So why not do what I do and when your favourite one is past its best — buy a machine dye and throw it in. I have done this with old white bikinis too. It works a treat and gives a whole new life to that slightly tired-looking piece that is too good to be thrown away.
FITTED TO A TEE
A high-waisted jean or pant can look great with a T-shirt body. Ninety Percent has a lovely one (£45)
A high-waisted jean or pant can look great with a T-shirt body. Ninety Percent has a lovely one (£45) and there is a wonderful story behind the brand — 90 per cent of its distributed profits are shared between charitable causes and those who make the collection happen. Looking good with a feelgood factor thrown in. £45, ninety percent.com
HIGH STREET HEROES
Other wellpriced T-shirts of note are Gap (pictured), whose heavier weight, neat style is a great wardrobe staple (£9.99) and Uniqlo
Other wellpriced T-shirts of note are Gap (pictured), whose heavier weight, neat style is a great wardrobe staple (£9.99) and Uniqlo, which has a wide selection of styles available (from £5.90). M&S should take note. Please, please improve your cut! Why am I unable to find a good white T-shirt from you? £9.99, gap. co.uk
…OR FREE FLOWING
If an easier fit through the body feels kinder, then American Vintage’s Jacksonville Jersey shortsleeved top (£50) is a great option
If an easier fit through the body feels kinder, then American Vintage’s Jacksonville Jersey shortsleeved top (£50) is a great option. I love the slight swing of this style, the modern rawedge finish of the sleeves and hem and the pretty curved V-neck. The viscose blended with the cotton adds a luxury and a drape found in more expensive items. £50, american vintage-store.com
Get a white T-shirt you can feel good about such as Baukjen, a circular, carbon negative and zero-waste business
Get a white T-shirt you can feel good about — here are some sustainable options. Baukjen, a circular, carbon negative and zero-waste business, has a classic longsleeved option (£39), while sustainable brand Lavender Hill has an extensive selection of necklines. H&M does this lovely one in a silk and organic cotton blend. £24.99, hm.com