One of my favorite items of clothing is also, unfortunately, one of the hardest to wear as a professional. The classic plain white tee-shirt is a staple for any person’s wardrobe, yet it can be difficult to incorporate it into any outfit Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. By its very nature, lends itself to weekend fun, lazy Sundays, the beach, and the gym. Though shouldn’t something as classic, as simple, and as timeless as a white tee be more versatile than any other item in your closet? Shouldn’t you be able to pair anything with it as you head to the office, or to happy hour, or to wherever, looking simply fabulous? Shouldn’t the plain white tee, in all its wonderful, humble, underrated glory have its day in the sun?
The key to successfully throwing that white tee into your outfit rotation is playing everything else up. Given the plain nature of the shirt, you can’t pair it with jeans and flats and call it a day. No, you need accessories and fashion statement pieces galore to offset the simplicity of the tee, thus creating a balance in your look. The great thing about a shirt as plain as a white tee is that you have complete liberty to wear those pants, those shoes, that skirt, or that scarf that never seem to go with anything else!
Here are a few ideas I like best, and be sure to check out the examples I’ve included below for more options.
- When pairing with pants, forget standard denim. Choose a trouser or a colored denim to give your bottom half some pizazz. Better yet, consider tucking in the shirt and adding a belt. This gives your outfit a put together appearance, a splash of color, and a trendy vibe. Voila!
- Layer on a scarf and add a pair of dangly earrings. You’d be surprised how these two little additions can make quite the difference. The more colorful or intricately patterned the scarf, the better. The same goes for scarves made of unique materials, or incorporate detailed trims. Think pretty, not plain.
- Skirts. By virtue, a white tee is casual. Pair it with a skirt and heels to class it up. Whatever look you’re going for, you’ll achieve it with a skirt. Maxi skirts give a fun, bohemian air to the outfit, while fitted, pencil, and a-line cuts offer a more professional silhouette. Opt for more structured skirts for the office, and finish off with a necklace and a bracelet, or two.
- Running late and only have black pants or your go-to pair of jeans available? Throw on a colorful or patterned blazer to quickly finish off your look and polish it up. Bonus points if you cuff the pants and slip into an adorable pair of flats. Comfy, easy, breezy, and cute!
- If you’re going more casual but want to give off some semblance of being fashion-forward, throw on a button up and either leave it open, tie it at the bottom, or tuck it in loosely. My favorites for this season are chambray or other lightweight materials in bright colors.
- Speaking of colors: Colorblock! Who says white’s not a color? Pair with a bright skirt or pair of shorts, a brightly colored flat, and an even a different colored purse. Look at you, mastering this season’s hottest trend.
Do have ideas for spicing up that old standard white tee? Let me know in the comments section below, I want to hear ‘em!
After graduating from college in ’09, Allyson Barkan flew off to Greece to teach English Literature at a private high school and explore Greek and European culture for a year. Since returning stateside, she now works in Entertainment Public Relations in New York City. For travel advice, stray observations as a 20-something in the big city, and the occasional hilarious misadventure, follow Allyson atwww.allysonbarkan.com and on twitter at @aebarkan.