Designed with ease and order at its core, shirting can deliver a reprieve from the demands of dressing now, whilst offering us a fresh perspective on what’s to come.
Around this time of year, the fashion world often speaks of “palate cleansing”. Primed to begin shedding the heavy layers that have kept us warm all winter but not quite ready to embrace the full-on floral optimism of spring just yet, this in-between phase can be likened to the bland crackers consumed between sips of different wines at a tasting to remove any lingering aftertastes or the pickled ginger served with sushi to prepare the palate for the subtle flavours to follow.
It goes without saying that, ahead of this season, a resetting of sensory perception is especially required and designers seem to have collectively decided that shirting is to be our sartorial sorbet. Given the garment’s roots as a comfy workwear staple embraced by women since they entered the workforce in the early 20th century, it’s easy to see the relevance of a classic button-up right now. Far from evoking an offduty spirit yet still feeling somewhat effortless to wear, a shirt is soft, roomy, and most refreshingly, Lycra-free.
Regardless of what our WFH future holds, shirting is a common denominator in most well-serving wardrobes. Depending on the fabric and cut, it can say both everything and nothing. Its magic perhaps lies in the fact that very few (but stringent) design intricacies separate a formal officewear piece (modest necklines, darted waists) from one more associated with pyjama-wear (highlow hemlines, side slits to avoid bunching at the hips), and contemporary shirting tends to lean towards the latter, having a certain oversized ease; a kicker that’s important when perpetuating the idea that comfort and style are no longer mutually exclusive.
Even if much of this season had shades of the rehashing of items and ideas that are proven to work and – perhaps most importantly – sell, the spring-summer ’21 collections illustrated that there’s a versatility about shirting that can’t be matched. At Valentino, generously cut button-ups were imbued with new energy when rendered in vibrant pink or delicate white lace. The billowing proportions shown at Schiaparelli made even more of a statement when contrasted against the slightly sacerdotal tunics at Jil Sander and Wales Bonner. Nanushka served up shirt dresses twisted through the centre that are worthy of wearing come our long-awaited reemergence and JW Anderson’s Loewe presented a polo-inspired shirt in sumptuous black styled with loose-fitting black trousers and trainers. The Row’s rarely straying palette of neutrals was stretched to include two flashes of colour in the form of expertly draped shirts in teal and rust, while Cuban collars softened fitted silhouettes at Chloé and Saint Laurent.
If we’re starting to accept that clothing should not be disposable, maybe we can also come around to the idea that silhouettes can too be revisited. Shirting, while nothing overtly or groundbreakingly new, feels very right for the moment, because it does not scream “fashion”, nor does it dictate how it should be worn. There’s something of a blank canvas about an immaculate optic white or luxurious clotted cream cotton-twill shirt that can see the wearer through a working day at home or in the office and into an evening spent either on the sofa or out and about.
A fashion neutraliser, after the froth and frills (or in our case, leggings and loungewear), so the next course may be enjoyed with a fresh perspective.
This article was taken from the March issue of Irish Tatler, which accompanies the Business Post on the second Sunday of the month. Follow the link below to subscribe for €1 for your first month.