Follow College Fashion on Twitter!

Fashion Challenge: Wear a Classic White Shirt in a New Way


Girl wearing a white dress shirt
Photo Credit

Everyone has (or should have) a basic white button-down shirt. This item is the ultimate chameleon piece–it can be worn with almost anything in your closet, from dress pants to jeans to any kind of skirt.

Although there are dozens of ways to wear a white button-down shirt, many people (me, especially!) get stuck in the habit of wearing it in conventional ways–tucked in to a pencil skirt or trousers, or untucked with a pair or jeans. This week’s Fashion Challenge encourages you to take your trusty white button down and wear it in a completely new way! Are you ready to take on this week’s challenge??

Tom Cruise in risky business
Tom Cruise rocking a white button down in the iconic scene from “Risky Business” (Credit)

Get Your Creativity Flowing

Here are some tips to get you started on this challenge.

1. First, pull some items from your closet that you usually would never wear a white button down shirt with–dresses, shorts, leggings, another blouse, a t-shirt, maxi skirts, a fancy cocktail dress, even yoga pants!

2. Try each item or combination of items on with your white button down. Even if you have the feeling a combination might look atrocious, try it anyway–you never know what will inspire you!

3. Play around in front of a mirror, adjust the shirt, and see what you come up with. Try rolling the sleeves, buttoning, unbuttoning, or tying the bottoms in a knot in the front or the back. Try your white button down on top of or underneath different tops. Try it tucked in and untucked.

4. Whip out your favorite accessories and experiment! Try belting your white button down, cinching extra fabric with a brooch or clip, pinning it to drape a certain way, tying a light scarf into a sash, or stacking on an unexpected combination of jewelry.

5. Take note of the combinations that worked best. Modify these looks slightly to adapt them to other items in your closet. If it helps, write down or take pictures of your new creations so you don’t forget!


Outfit #1: White Shirt Under a Dress

White button down shirt worn under a dress

Outfit: Shirt, Dress, Shoes, Bracelet, Earrings

Have a great dress that you can’t wear to work because it’s too revealing on top? Wear it over your white button down to turn a nighttime look business casual! This look also works at church, in cooler weather, or just if you want some variety. Try wearing your shirt under a strapless dress, or a low cut dress like the one pictured. This outfit would look super chic with the sleeves rolled up, nude strappy sandals, some fun feather earrings and a blingy silver bracelet!

Outfit #2: Over a Dress

Sharon stone in a white button down shirt

Outfit: Shirt, Dress, Shoes, Earrings, Brooch

Jaws dropped and paparazzi squirmed to capture Sharon Stone’s look at the 1998 Oscars. Not many of us have floor-length Vera Wang formal skirts lying around, so mimic this look by wearing your white dress shirt over a semi-formal dress. Tie the ends of your white button down behind you, and cinch any bagginess with a jeweled brooch. Leave the front buttoned at the length of your choice, roll up the sleeves, and pair your look with fancy shoes and classy earrings.

Outfit #3: As a Tunic

Uma Thurman in a white button down for Pulp Fiction

Outfit: Shirt, Pants, Shoes, Hair Cream, Mascara

Everyone remembers the iconic scene in “Pulp Fiction” where Uma Thurman challenged John Travolta to enter a dance contest with her. Channel Mrs. Mia Wallace by throwing on your white button down untucked with some cropped black pants and black flats. If the untucked shirt is too baggy for your taste, define your shape with a skinny belt around your waist. Mimic Uma’s look by using some smoothing cream in your hair and loading on the black mascara.

CF Reader Looks

Here are some looks sent in by CF readers who took the Classic White Shirt Challenge! If you want to see your own look here, read our instructions for sending in your looks below!

Ellen – Dickinson College

College Fashionista from Dickinson College

“I paired a white button-down shirt with cream ballon shorts and tights underneath. Since it’s an over-sized shirt, I wear it with a high waist belt to avoid a little-girl-wearing-her-daddy’s-shirt look. I think this look is great for both going to class and hanging out with friends on weekends!”

Share Your Style Creation!

Ready to take the challenge? Send us your looks to be featured here on CF!

Send photos of how you’re wearing your basic white button-down to fashionchallenge AT !! Include your name, what school you go to, and a description of what you’re wearing and how you came up with it! We’ll then post your outfits here for everyone to check out!

What do you think?

Are you going to try this Fashion Challenge? What are some of your favorite methods to create new outfits? What is the most creative way you’ve worn a white button down? Do you have any ideas for future Fashion Challenges? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and see your new creations!

Posted on on July 15, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , ,

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

23 Responses to “Fashion Challenge: Wear a Classic White Shirt in a New Way”

  1. 1
    July 15th, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Ahhh I love this!!! I’ll definitely be trying the shirt under a dress this fall–it as a back-to-school feel.

    And, p.s, I love your take on the Fashion Challenge series!

  2. 2
    July 15th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I’m so awful with white shirts because I hate ironing! Right now I’m sporting a short sleeved white eyelet shirt though that feels perfectly summery; paired with a bright green patterned skirt & brown wedges!

  3. 3
    July 15th, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I love the look, but I don’t think they’re super comfortable… Don’t know why…

  4. 4
    July 15th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    LOVE the Under a Dress outfit, but I think the others lack sophistication.

  5. 5
    July 15th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Yes, the shirt with a dress is an absolute WIN! The way Tania did is adorable:

  6. 6
    July 15th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    i love the pulp fiction reference

    quentin tarantino ftw.

  7. 7
    July 16th, 2010 at 3:20 am

    Ah, love the classic white button down. One simple piece – so many ways to wear it.

  8. 8
    July 16th, 2010 at 7:23 am

    great post!

    btw, can you please do one article on how to dress for an orientation? I’m new coming freshmen and really want to know how to look stylish yet comfortable to run around

    please! please!!

  9. 9
    July 16th, 2010 at 9:36 am

    i love this- especially the first outfit.
    although, i actually don’t own a white shirt!! my mum has an abundance though- this might require a wardrobe raid!!

    Charlotte xxx

  10. 10
    July 16th, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I love the first look! It is so classic. I think it would look awesome with a LV scribble bag instead to give it a modern twist.

  11. 11
    July 16th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Hey …thanks for featuring my photo! …but you know the rules: if you don’t link to my blog I’m gonna hafta ask you to take it down :) If you did link and I missed it, apologies. Thanks!

  12. 12
    July 16th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I apologize–I found your image on Flickr and I thought it was creative common licensed! I’ll be sure to correct this ASAP.

  13. 13
    July 16th, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I love the look. I don’t own a white shirt like that, but if I did, I’d wear it over leggings or tucked into shorts or jeans. However, I probably wouldn’t wear it under a dress.

  14. 14
    July 20th, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I’m not in college anymore, but I am still wearing my college wardrobe! This is how I did the white shirt under dress look.

  15. 15
    August 24th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    I go to a (high) school with a uniform :( and we have to wear a white oxford shirt, black pants or skirt and black or brown shoes. Oh and we can wear red black or white sweaters. These are basics and I really need some new ideas on how to wear them (it’s hard to be fashionable w a uniform) but if u cld do a post featuring some of these items I would really appreciate it :) thanks

    Love the outfits by the way ;)

  16. 16
    August 6th, 2011 at 12:15 am

    This is very helpful! I just realized that I need to buy a classic white button down to update my fall wardrobe. Its so versatile!

Links to This Article

Leave a Reply


* Comment Rules: CF is a positive place and our comments section is no different. Constructive criticism is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your comment. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name and do not put your website in the comment text, as both come off like spam. For more info, see our Comment Policy. Have fun & thanks for adding to the conversation!


* Want a custom avatar to show up next to your comments? Sign up for a free Gravatar.