From corsets to full-circle skirts, and shoulder pads to leg warmers, women’s fashion through the decades has been marked by distinctive trends uniquely characterized by current events and cultural leanings. Despite these shifting trends in women’s wardrobes, certain pieces have stood the test of time, including the button-up shirt. A fashion staple, this style of blouse has evolved with each decade, making it a classic garment for all occasions. The simplicity and versatility of the button-up shirt have appealed to women of all ages and backgrounds, from factory workers to Hollywood royalty.
Button-Up Shirts Through the Decades
Dating back to the early 1940s, the Westinghouse “We can do it!” poster became a symbol of feminism – an iconic image of the women working during World War II. For the first time, women wore button-up shirts, pants, and boots to work in factories and shipyards. Rosie the Riveter was a symbol of this era, donning blue-collar, military-style garb previously only worn by men. This style was more functional than fashionable but reflected the realities of daily life for women at that time.
Only a few years later, after World War II had ended, the button-up shirt transitioned to look of luxury instead of labor. In the 1948 film “Key Largo,” Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, one of Hollywood’s most beloved couples, dazzled in stylish white button-up shirts. Jumping ahead to the early 1950s, starlet Grace Kelly (who later became Princess of Monaco) was photographed in a short-sleeve button-up shirt paired with a pencil skirt strolling through New York, as well as in several scenes of the movie “High Noon.”
This classic look continued to evolve, with fashion icons tailoring the tops to introduce new styles. In the late 1950s, actress Katharine Hepburn stepped out in a sophisticated menswear-inspired ensemble. She chose an oversize button-up shirt and popped the collar, pairing it with creased trousers. This bold design inspired a popular trend of feminine menswear that would also resurface decades down the road. A common look for women to wear around the house was a pair of black capri pants and ballet flats, with a men’s button-up shirt.
Academy Award-nominated actress and singer Ava Gardner carried the popularity of this type of shirt into 1960, posing for a photo on a boat at sea, wearing a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, tucked into stylish high-waisted shorts. This playful, chic look served as a reminder that sometimes in fashion, less is more. Before her more risqué trendsetting style, Madonna donned a simple white button-up shirt with a dark necktie for a photo shoot in 1978 – the look was surprisingly modest yet sensual and ushered in another wave of menswear-inspired apparel for women. Diane Keaton was another celebrity who led the charge with this look.
With the rise of dual-income households, the power suit rose in popularity in the 1980s. Women took the workplace by storm in boxy-cut matching skirts and blazers, complete with shoulder pads. These suits were always worn with solid-color or pinstripe button-up shirts, revealing yet another way to flaunt these timeless tops.
A few years later, the 1990s saw some variety in the way women integrated this style. For a fun, festive look, denim button-up Western shirts were all the rage, paired with brightly-colored jeans in varying shades of green, purple and red. Taking a more elegant approach, women took their cues from celebrities like Isabella Rossellini who looked stunning in a white button up top with tailored black trousers and black flats. Another fashion icon who credentialed this style was Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy when she dazzled next to husband John F. Kennedy, Jr. in a black floor-length ball skirt to complement her top.
How to Wear a Button-Up Shirt Today
You will never have to ask yourself how to accessorize or how to wear a button-up shirt again. Clearly, while fashion through the decades has changed, the timeless appeal of button up shirts has not. If you are wondering how to wear one in 2016, you’re in luck – the versatility of this style is limitless. At P. Taylor, we feature luxurious, oversized button up shirts designed to easily flatter a woman’s body.
Here are some of our favorite ideas for all types of occasions, whether it be formal or casual:
- For the working woman needing a professional look, choose a sleek black suit, and fold the shirt cuffs over the blazer. If you opt for a white button-up, find a way to add a pop of color, either with your heels or jewelry.
- Enjoy a preppy, classic look by wearing a solid-colored or plaid button-up underneath a complementary sweater. Tuck the shirt in for a cleaner look, or let it peek out under the sweater for more casual occasions. This is a perfect fall ensemble.
- Turn heads with a stunning business casual outfit by choosing a silk button-up top paired with slim trousers. Tuck the top in and find a sophisticated blazer that adds some texture to your overall look.
- For an easy, breezy outfit, tuck a button-up shirt into either a maxi or high-waisted skirt, and cinch it with a trendy belt. The finished look is a perfect blend of retro style with modern flair.
- When you are headed to a casual get-together, don’t sacrifice style for comfort – embrace both by wearing a crisp button-up with dark denim pants. Choose a button up appropriate for the occasion, whether it be simple and solid or a festive print (gingham is a great seasonal choice).
- As you head out for a night on the town, relax in a flowing, upscale ensemble with a button up and skirt that move with ease. A blouse with a little slouch adds a touch of elegance to your look and is comfortable to wear all evening.
TIP: While the best part of button up shirts is the versatility and simplicity they offer, get creative with accessorizing your look, and adding your own personality to the style. Scarves, statement necklaces, and shoes are ways to add color and pizazz to your favorite button-up outfit.
Start Filling Your Wardrobe with Button-Ups
With a vast selection of style and colors, P. Taylor is the leader in quality, classic button up shirts. If you desire a timeless piece, consider the Classic Shirt. Avaliable in many colors, the Classic Shirt can be transformed to fit every lifestyle and flatter every figure.
Discover fresh looks today with our Fall 2016 Collection at a boutique near you and shop our online boutique for more shirts like the Classic: