The Curious Case Of The Button Up

August 8, 2009 • Magazine

The Curious Case Of The Button Up

The Curious Case Of The Button Up

Sat, 2009-08-08 08:00

The Traditional White Shirt… Reinvented Again and Again

Andra Naylor

I have long toiled with making button up shirts work for me. It even took me hours just to figure out what to call them. (Is it button up or button down? Is a button up always a blouse? Is a blouse always a button up?). I don’t know if it’s the gapping at the bust issue or the fact that sometimes I feel downright manly in them, but it’s a basic piece I’ve always struggled with.

Button ups come in many forms – the classic work shirt, edgy lumberjack or girly ruffles – and they can play equally in both day and night dressing. Come fall, I’m determined to make them work for me. Whether or not you share the same phobias as I do, hopefully you can pick up a tip about the many faces of a button up shirt.

One of my favorite trends is the button front shirt’s many takes on pleating. Banana Republic incorporates mini pleats to create a unique texture on a flutter-sleeve blouse ($60 at, while contemporary label Generra created a pleating made of pintucking and rouching that has an updated hippy chic vibe ($165. at

Shopbop carries a pintucked silk version that incorporates a few trends into one ultimate dressy work shirt – it’s slightly sheer and also a nod to a man’s tuxedo shirt. And I don’t think it’s an accident that the model resembles Katie Holmes – Mrs. Cruise has pulled off the menswear look multiple times! (Alice + Olivia for $242 at Silk-chiffon is a lovely blend for a button up blouse and I especially like Elizabeth and James’ interpretation, a sweetheart shirt in off-white. My favorite details are the ruffles at the wrists ($265 at

I love the idea of combining a basic button up with feminine ruffle details. Armani Exchange has a literal take with its mini ruffle bow tie shirt that is both serious yet sweet. I love the short sleeves and would pair it with a pencil skirt ($78 at Malene Birger went modern with a cotton-blend shirt with ruffle motif on the shoulder ($130 at that would be equally stylish with skinny black pants or a dark pair of denim.

Sometimes you just want to take it easy in a simple cotton shirt. J.Crew is known for their button ups and are so confident they’ve named them the “perfect shirt”. Two of my favorites are the cotton-contrast stitch and the and cotton tuxedo ($78 and $69.59 at Note the rolled sleeves are key to keeping it casual.

One final note – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Anne Fontaine, who has built a button front empire, consistently updating this classic look with new materials and beautiful details. If you don’t mind paying designer prices, her boutiques are a one-stop shop for shirting.

1. Banana Republic Pleated Blouse $60
2. Generra Pleated Front Blouse $165
3. Alice+Olivia Pintuck Tunic Blouse $242
4. Elizabeth & James Sweetheart Shirt In Off White $265
5. Armani Exchange Mini Ruffle Bow Tie Shirt $78
6. Malene Birger Ruffle Motif Shirt $130
7. J. Crew Cotton Contrast-Stitch Perfect Shirt $78
8. J. Crew Cotton Tuxedo Shirt $69.50
Image Layout: Khyra Cooper

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