Clueless in the Closet: How To Pick a Crisp Button Down

You know it’s an important part of your wardrobe but do you know the things to look for when buying a crisp white button down shirt? Probably not. The inspiration for this post came to me at work while discussing bright pants. I told a coworker that the best thing to pair with colored pants is a white collared shirt. When I heard that she didn’t own one, I knew her closet was incomplete.

Shopping for a button down dress shirt is a lot like how men have to shop for suits. Everything is fit, fit, fit! It takes some time (and more than one trip to the dressing room) but you need to make sure the shirt you choose fits you properly in every aspect or it will look sloppy. Worse, it will make you look bigger than you are.


Your shoulders should be hugged by the shirt instead of slouched off. Most people think that if a shirt is a bit snug on the shoulders that it’s a size too small. When you put on the shirt, there should be an almost snapping of the fabric. It should make you stand up a little straighter and push your shoulders back a bit.


Sleeves are usually a no-brainer. You can tell when they’re too loose on your arms but be advised not to go too slim either. You’ll still want to be able to bend your elbows comfortably without worrying about popping a stitch. Cuffs should stop at the very base of your thumb. Any longer an you’ll look like you’re wearing mommy’s blouse. Any shorter and people will think you swiped the shirt from your little sister. Make sure the cuffs aren’t too tight around your wrists. If you ever want to roll them up for a relaxed look you’ll need to be able to roll them at least three times.


Here it’s all about tapering. Unless you’re in the market for a boyfriend-style button up, your shirt should taper to your body. A lot of shirts have stitching down the from of the blouse that outlines the natural curve of a body. This are great as they enhance and direct people to look at the hourglass figure this type of shirt cuts. If the shirt doesn’t have it or you’ve lost weight and your otherwise perfect fitting top looks baggy, this is a simple procedure for a tailor to fix.


Please, whatever you do, make sure you do not need to inhale in order to button your shirt. Not only will this loosen the threads and possibly cause you to lose a button but you’ll be in constant fear of exhaling too deeply and shooting a sniper-like button at someone. Of course the shirt should pull over your assets in order to give you the tapered look but buttons need to be done up easily. Otherwise you’re left with gaping holes between buttons that might give an easy look into your shirt.


Again, unless you’re deliberately trying for an oversized look, your button down should end mid-butt cheek. Anything shorter and you run the risk of sitting down and having your shirt creep up to expose your lower back. Also, ensuring your shirt doesn’t stop exactly at your hips makes it easier when you want to tuck it into a pencil skirt or casual jeans.