Monday, February 20, 2012

Layer a Button-Front Shirt Under a Dress

I love dresses. They are so simple. Just pull one on and go!

But they can also be boring. How do you remix a dress in new ways? Add a jacket or cardigan. Try swapping out accessories – jewelry, shoes, scarf, or belt. These are all common strategies. Consider, though, an unexpected way to create new looks with an old dress: layer a button-front shirt underneath. A crisp, collared shirt sharpens up a frock and adds interest.

When choosing a dress and a button-front to wear under it, keep the following in mind:


A lightweight blouse under a lightweight dress is always a win. But I’ve also tried a flannel shirt under a thin jersey wrap dress (heavy under light) and a summery cotton shirt under a wool dress (light under heavy). I don't recommend layering a thick shirt under a heavy dress.

Light under light, heavy under light, and light under heavy


Generally, button-front shirts have a traditional collar. These add a crisp element to v-neck or scoop-neck dresses. Don’t be afraid to layer under a collared dress, though. As long as you respect the weight guidelines, two collars can play nicely.

A collared shirt and collared dress CAN be friends


Almost any sleeve combination will work. If you like some contrast, try longer sleeves under shorter sleeves. If you prefer the sleeve difference to be minimal, try matching sleeve lengths or cuffing or rolling the longer sleeve to the shorter sleeve’s length. If you wear short sleeves under long, just be sure that the shirt sleeve is thin enough not to give you odd lumps under the longer dress sleeve.

Longer under shorter, cuffed to match shorter dress sleeves, rolled to match shorter dress sleeves, and shorter under longer

Dress Type

My favorite dress to pair with a button-front is a wrap dress, but other styles work, too. I also recommend an empire waist dress, a tie-neck dress, a sleeveless dress or a strapless dress

A button-front under a sleeveless and a strapless dress

Just about the only type of dress I don’t like a collared, button-front underneath is a strappy sundress. For that pairing, I like the shirt over the dress.

Button-front shirts go OVER strappy sundresses.

Color and Pattern

My philosophy is: Anything goes! But if you aren’t an avid print mixer or color clasher, play it safe with neutrals and solids. Mix it up a little with one patterned or colored piece. Or, hell, go whole hog with a visual cacophony.

I’ll take any opportunity to mix patterns!

I’ve doubled or tripled my buttonfront shirt collection in the past few months. Now, I have endless shirts-under-dresses looks to try! Is it something you’d wear?


Anonymous said...

I've been trying to make this look work lately, but I think I need a couple of new button up shirts for layering. Your guide is perfect!

Sheila said...

This is definitely a look that I like to do. I've done the button-up shirt under strapless dress tons of times.

You are rocking the pattern-mixing!

Kezzie said...

This is a lovely post Kashmira! I have been recently trying to wear blouses under dresses and I have invariably got it wrong! I will definitely take your advice on this with the pairing! Love your combos!

Cel said...

This is definitely something I do! It lets me to wear my dresses more often in winter, and allows me to wear my more revealing ones modestly at work.

My Own Fairytale said...

You look very nice with all those dresses.
I don`t wear dresses a lot.
I became a tom-boy i think :-)
And i ride on my bicycle every day.

Megan G said...

I've recently started layering collared shirts under other shirts/sweaters. I can only stand the lightest sheer blouses but I live in a warm area.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. This is one of the first ideas I "reapplied" from reading your blog! The other day, my 20-something daughter said in a curious voice "Are you wearing two collars?" I proudly said "Yes, I am!"

Amber Lena said...

How funny! Just this past weekend, I was pulling out some dresses and trying to figure out how to re-style them. Great ideas! Thanks!

Ruth, journo said...

I can't imagine why I never thought to do this, but I didn't. It is unseasonably mild today in London, and I was inspired to wear a grey jersey dress with cap sleeves over a shirt with pale blue and white stripes, grey tights, flat grey brogues.It feels back to school but in a good way (I'm in my 50s).

CatherineMarie said...

(Long-time reader)

I don't have a lot of button-front shirts, but I do wear t-shirts/turtlenecks under dresses.

Gracey the Giant said...

Oh, this is great! I love dresses, but agree that there are definitely limits on how you can wear them. But this post has given me some great ideas. Just fabulous!