Wednesday 28th October 2020
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The classics

supermodels in white

Today I bring you one of my favorite fashion images from the 90s, because I mentioned, did I not, that Princess Week would be about indulging my nostalgic side? Consider for a moment Linda and Christy and friends in their white button-down shirts: do they not look like a million bucks? I miss the original supermodels, with their abundant joy and vim, and do not accept the current procession of desiccated, sullen specimens slouching down the runways as their worthy successors.

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But back to those white button-downs, which have been on my mind since I spied this perfectly classic version a few weeks back. The chicest women I know live in white shirts, and use them as a foundation around which they build outfits that get interesting in the details. You should think of them that way, too: as a perfect foil for your most standout pieces.

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I’ve been wanting to pull the trigger on this pintuck-style top for ages now. Nili Lotan pieces are pricey, but I always end up wearing the hell out of them, so I might just do it.

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My Princess Week dream ensemble: a tuxedo shirt,  leather jeans, an armful of bracelets and a slightly smaller ass.

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Posted on February 26th, 2014 33 Comments

33 Responses

  1. Jen says:

    Don’t forget Sharon Stone at the Oscars in her white Gap shirt as another nostalgic white shirt moment, and a prime example of stunning but simple style.

  2. Hannah says:

    I love white shirts. Alas, I’m far too clumsy to keep them white.

    • Bex says:

      Ditto that! I live in dark colors because anything light or pastel gets ruined within one or two wearings. It’s very frustrating.

  3. Dianne says:

    My favorite source for pin tuck tux white shirts is thrift shops. I have had a tux style white shirts ( pin tuck and ruffled) in my wardrobe since college when I discovered a bunch in a vintage store, paired them with tux vests, my black stove pipe jeans, my black moto jacket and winklepicker boots. It was my attempt to be Chrissie Hynde. Sadly I think a denim vest over the moto jacket was also involved on some occasions.

    White shirts are always perfect! But since they easy get ruined, or yellowed I don’t like to splurge on them.

  4. Julie says:

    Love the pic of the supermodels of the past-i think they look so good because they were allowed to eat some food once in a while back then 🙂

  5. c.w. says:

    I have a Pas De Calais that is almost identical to the Nili Lotan and I do wear the hell out of it. I also sometimes wear my father’s white button down that I saved from his closet after he passed away. And, I have a white crushed silk Eileen Fisher that drapes so beautifully I always feel very Katherine Hepburn when I wear it AND it doesn’t have the ubiquitous breast pockets which makes me love it even more. (I have two more long-sleeved white button shirts, but I’ll spare y’all the details because I’m beginning to sound a little white-shirt obsessed––Oy and Egad!)

    So buy it, Kim––it’s friggin Princess Week!!

  6. Anjali says:

    “I miss the original supermodels, with their abundant joy and vim, and do not accept the current procession of desiccated, sullen specimens slouching down the runways as their worthy successors.” Amen.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Button down shirts for me are all about the open neck – and one that stays open. Frank and Elieen makes the best – and you don’t have to iron them!

  8. Tamara says:

    Love love love the originals…no joy in today’s crop of models…I always think I would be pretty happy if I got to wear those clothes, shoes and bags! How can one look so miserable in such gorgeous clothes?!?!

  9. Mavjen says:

    Total wardrobe staple for me. My current white button-down is from J.Crew Factory, not sheer but thin enough to layer.

  10. Maggie says:

    Wait–what? Elastic waist leather jeans in the last photo? THOSE ARE LEATHER SWEATPANTS, PEOPLE. What have we come to?

    • jhops says:

      Maybe Kanye knows?

      Also: what Anjali said above. She beat me to it.

    • Turner says:

      Even worse, I think they might be shorts.

      • Caroline says:

        Wow!Holy smokes… I was so busy looking at pretty shirts I totally missed that business going on below.
        There is no explanation good enough..

        It’s been said before but Happy Birthday Kim!
        Please keep sharing the joy!

  11. Julie says:

    Happy happy birthday!

    I choked on 50 for a bit but “turning 50” is far more difficult than being 50. I think. I wish you more joy than you can dream of…

  12. Viajera says:

    Hmm. Truth is, I don’t miss them at all. Plus, they are technically still alive and even in photos here and there.

    I see what you’re talking about — it’s true they did look healthier, at least in photos — but to me that whole scene is and was mostly oppressive and very majoritarian, even with a Naomi thrown in here and there. And even today, mostly what we get is just lip service.

    I saw two photos of models in the current InStyle that were so hideously underfed looking that I briefly considered actually emailing them. But why? If they don’t know by now, it’s because they don’t want to know. And, they don’t. And, they blame it on you and me, the audience. So, what is there to say? It’s legislation or it’s nothing. Social pressure did not work.

    Otoh, there is *nothing* wrong with a nice white blouse. On other people!!! And, it’s Princess Week. And, it helps the economy.

    • Deborah says:

      Years ago, I did write a travel magazine to complain about the freakishly thin model on their cover. Received the “blah, blah, blah ” expected reply. I never saw another model that thin on their cover again, though. Starvation as the epitome of beauty pushes all my buttons…not in a good way.

  13. Viajera says:

    Ooooh! I forgot to say, I too have a hankering for the leather pants/legging look. I almost pulled the trigger on some of those faux leather front legging things, but in the end I decided just the front might not work (maybe just for me).

    So, if anyone knows a maker of nicelooking faux leather (I am not against leather but not for it either, in terms of clothing) pants or leggings, please do tell.

  14. Jean says:

    White button downs never look right on me, in part because I am very fair and I don’t wear much make up. I love the look on others though – that whole Carolyn bessette style. But somehow I need to wear clothes with a little more jazz.

  15. Mae says:

    White button downs are listed on every “Top 10 Must Haves” list and I kept buying them and then wondering why, during the occasional closet purge, they always remain hanging in my closet with the tags still on them. Well, it’s because I’m busty and they always gap and look bad on me, no matter what size I get. I have one hanging in my closet right now that I’ve kept to remind me not to buy them. (I’m more of a black t-shirt kinda girl.)

    Happy Birthday, Kim! The best part of being 50 is accepting what doesn’t work for you.

    • Suz says:

      I wish I had a “like” button. 🙂

      I am busty with a short waist – in my life I have found exactly one white shirt that fit me well …and that was back in the 90s. Most make me look somewhat burly. This is one of those “classics” that are hard on a womanly figure rather than the straight up and down types. I too have donated white shirts with the tags on.

      • Mockingbird says:

        I do not understand why it seems to be impossible for mass made women’s shirts to get the button spacing correct. I used to sew and any pattern with buttons up the front tells you to place the first button at the fullest point of the bust and figure out spacing for the others from there. This is gospel and basic, yet no company seems to do it, it looks like they space the buttons to look good folded in stores.

        I can’t wear long sleeve button downs because I have freakishly long arms and can rarely find any with sleeves that don’t hit an awful too long for bracelet length but too short for long sleeve spot an above my wrist which just makes my arms look longer.

      • Maggie says:

        I am right there with you. No white shirts for me because: boobs. Sizing up to fix the gapping button problem is an express train to Frumptown (where I have purchased my vacation home).

    • Debra says:

      I keep hoping someone will finally make a white shirt for us busty girls that didn’t gap in the front and was tailored slim in the back and sides to keep from looking like maternity wear. I have a big chest but a small frame and the only button up shirt that works for me is the stretch denim western style shirts sold in H&M men’s department – the buttons are in the right place, the cut is slim and the shirt tails are rounded, not boxy.

    • Viajera says:

      I have this issue too. The only thing I’ve ever come up with vis-a-vis white shirts is to go sleeveless style, because at least that way, I don’t look like a fridge. My shoulders are there and it’s clear that there is a person under all the fabric. But really, I just don’t wear them.

      Having said that … I think softer fabrics would also help a lot. Maybe some kind of silk blend or a gauzier cotton. That, and a choice of cuts might do the trick. It is okay that we all have different shapes. And I think there is a company that specializes in busty blouses, but I forget the name.

      Being that I am sometimes cranky (sorry! really!!!) … what is the appeal of the actual “button down” part of the shirt? I don’t get it. Why not just a normal collar?

  16. Charlotte says:

    I am also trying to find the perfect white shirts right now – I need the plain one and the tuxedo. I have decided i am going to be Carolina Herrara in my work look….she sure does a white shirt well.
    I am interested in what you find, its very hard getting the right fit.

  17. Mockingbird says:

    Kim, I just want to thank you for introducing the “Princess Week” concept to us. My 41st birthday is in a couple weeks and for some reason it’s hitting me harder than 40 did. I found something on eBay I had been wanting for nearly a decade, a promo item for a beloved cancelled too soon tv show, and had written it off as frivolous and not something I needed to be spending money on. It was still there when I went to check on a whim Monday, and I bought it, because you’re right, sometimes you do need to spoil yourself with the things you really want rather than be prudent and just get what you need.

    • cedar says:

      That’s brilliant, and should be obvious, and the neglect of that button spacing explains a lot. I suppose part of the problem is that unless you are custom making the shirt, exactly how high the “fullest point” is would vary considerably.

      The only success I’ve had at getting white button downs that don’t gap horribly is to buy petite shirts in at least a 10 (which would be two sizes too large for me in a normal shirt) and roll up the sleeves.

  18. Deborah says:

    Love the classic chic(ness) of a white button down. There are endless ways to style one. Yet, a white button down, alone, with jeans or a very straight leg pant looks effortlessly “put together” and sexy.

  19. Charlotte says:

    After a day trying atleast 50 white shirts I found the perfect fit in Gap, the one pocket Oxford in real cotton, highly recommend it.

  20. Meg says:

    This is great, and your blog is addictive. Can you also please sometime recommend good white or black tees? Banana Republic used to make these great v-neck and crew-neck silk tees that were cute and great with suits or jeans, but they stopped making them and I’ve been on a quest for years to find a similar tee that does not have a pocket, is not see-through, and not scruffy. It seems like such a simple thing but so hard to get right. Thanks!