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

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Girl wearing a white dress shirt

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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!

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