When wrestling the Business Casual devil to the ground, one is highly likely to require the aggressive assistance of some button front shirts. As my friend Maxminimus has pointed out, the correct term is button front, because button down means not the collar but the placket. Nit-picking, but that’s what we High WASPs do to compensate for our declining economic clout.
Women’s business casual button fronts work best when classic with subtle tweaks but good for your particular coloring and silhouette. Shirts should always play well with others.
In terms of silhouette, I am working with very broad shoulders, average bustline, and a waistline indelibly marked by two children who persisted in clambering up into my ribcage. Knock, knock Mom, anybody home?
Masculine/feminine balance warrants a little deconstruction. As a young woman, with long natively blond hair, uniformly pigmented skin, and an indicative hip to waist ratio, I could have dressed in longshoreman coveralls and still maintained the masculine/feminine percentage I prefer. Nowadays I need my shirts to suggest the outline of my former waistline, and offer both snug and flow. In other words, as dimorphic gender characteristics recede, the wardrobe compensates. Sympathetically and with dignity.
If one must compensate for deficiencies, do so carefully, and without causing harm to others.
Behold the resultant button front success criteria:
- A smidgen of female to the shape.
- No collar bow, epaulets, or puffed sleeves. I already have shoulders.
- No large or irregular patterns, because they make me fidget.
- Washable. Adding dry-cleaning to the workweek can lead nowhere pleasant.
- No cheap tricks, as in “I know, we will make the collar a different color!” Nor, “I know, let’s just leave off the whole back and pretend it’s an homage to 1980s Japanese designers!”
I hunted all across the Internets, from Barney’s to J. Crew. From Australia to Great Britain. Here then are a few button front options.
This is from the UK. I like the broad stripe, the sophistication of gray and white, the apparent fit. In the world of Quiet Dressing, we wear this with a gray v-neck cashmere sweater. In the snappy world of High Contrast, I suppose one might sport a red cardigan and black pants. Shirtcuffs showing, of course. On sale at 4/£100.
Returning to the USA, we find ourselves inevitably at J. Crew. We gather ourselves at the doorway, shake our heads ruefully at being brand-tagged, and admit that they don’t call these The Perfect Shirt for nothing. The “suckered” fabric evokes stories untold by the usual blue and white stripers. We imagine cold air on a mountain lake, and weathered gray rowboats. $72.
I don’t, at the moment, feel the need for more white shirts. But if I did, I’d want some interest. This Tahari gathered number, for $89, and the Evelyne de Clerc crochet detailed placket, $710 both qualify, one more realistically than the other.
Of course, there are always those shirts That Got Away. For one reason or another. Sturdy Gals often let fashion escape, knowing that the Artsy Cousin will understand what Sturdies cannot, that Grande Dames will conquer what Sturdies cannot. Some Sturdy sorts, those with vivid coloring, might attempt the Boden shirt at left $68. Both Grandes Dames and Artsy Cousins could pull off Vivienne Westwood, $500. I believe my sister wore Vivienne Westwood to our mother’s wedding. But I digress.
See that blue number, looking so harmless? Click here. Yes. OK then. In my next life as a gallery owner in Chicago, or New York, I will play with the concept of Button Front that directly.
This search traversed Oak, Farfetch, Net-a-porter, Barney’s, Acne, Opening Ceremony, NaracamicieSF, Bluefly, Brora and Boden. (Edited to add, at the reminding of our readers, Brooks Brothers and Thomas Pink.) The full set of results can be seen here, on Pinterest. And yes, I did notice the focus on gray, blue, and white. In this case, the eye wants what the skin wants. If you wear earth tones, substitute buff for gray, yellow for blue, and something else, I know not what, for purple. Onwards.
Stretch gray stripe via Charles Tyrwhitt
Liberty of London via Brora
Perfect Shirt in Suckered Stripe via J. Crew
Tahari Gathered Stretch Shirt via Bluefly
Evelyne De Clerc Crocheted Placket via Barneys
Gray and Red Crinkle Jersey via Boden
Vivienne Westwood Plaid via Farfetch
Paloma Blouse via Farfetch
J. Crew Button Fronts For 2016
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