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How did the white shirt become an essential fashion basic?

Today it is an essential part of the women's wardrobe and yet the white shirt has come a long way. Back on the route of a basic piece of clothing that has defied the traces of time and that can be found in all wardrobes.

Whether we are aware of it or not, our cupboards are full of pieces imprinted with particular symbols. For good reason, the clothes are privileged witnesses of the history in particular of the emancipation of women, and their wardrobe.

Today we are interested in an inseparable part of our professional and casual wardrobe: the white shirt .

The white shirt, the story of an essential piece

Contrary to appearances, the shirt white has long been considered an undergarment. In the 19th century, she had to stay out of sight, under jackets and coats of man. 

In reality, only the collar and the cuffs counted, so they were at the time detachable elements which one chose according to the occasion, the season, or the fashion of the time.

Gradually, these collars are also becoming social markers, particularly in a Western society in full industrialization: on the one hand , white collars reserved for office workers occupying higher hierarchical positions and on the other the blue collar workers, in reference to the work overalls of workers confined to manual tasks.

Boyish fashion obliges, the 20s and 30s see women seize the male white shirt, a sartorial symbol of their struggle for gender equality.

Marlène Dietrich wears the white shirt

Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich Where Katharine Hepburn will thus be noticed for their attire androgynous, not failing to shake a conservative American society but also to inspire thousands of women who will imitate them to the point of making the white shirt a part of the female wardrobe like the others.

A timeless piece

But it is undeniably the actresses of the following generations who gave a new dimension to this garment. We can mention Marilyn Monroe, who will give the white shirt its glamorous guarantee, as well as Grace Kelly, who will affirm her elegance with her model with cuffs. 

Audrey Hepburn will exploit her potential as a "good girl " by buttoning her up almost to the top and tucking her into a mini skirt trapeze.

Later, the white shirt will be worn as casual with denim jeans by a personality from a completely different register: Lady Diana.

The white shirt

Today, the white shirt has entered the category of fashion basics. It adapts to all styles, it is seen every season on the streetstyle of Fashion Weeks, and we wear it with a shorts, slipped into a midi skirt, or a trousers right.

This multiple reinterpretation of the white shirt, some fashion designers will make an art of it, all will offer their ideal vision of this old work uniform, transforming it in turn into evening clothing or daytime essentials, but always with a view to female emancipation.

Because in the end, regardless of the cut, the material or the purity of its white, the perfect white shirt is simply the one that we have known how to appropriate.

By Alexandra Pizzuto for Marie-Claire