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The Best Women’s Button-Down Shirts, From J.Crew To The Row, For A Chic Return To Work – Forbes

No wardrobe is complete without a crisp, tailored button-down, like Jenni Kayne’s Classic Shirt.
There’s good reason the classic women’s button-down shirt, with its subtle nod to menswear, is at the top of any fashion-essentials list. This simple, effortless wardrobe staple is a foundational piece that helps you pull off a polished look in a matter of minutes and easily transitions from on- to off-duty: You can layer it under a blazer with the best women’s suits, for example, or wear it as a dressier alternative to white tees with jeans on the weekend, or throw it over your swimsuit for a chic vacation vibe.
Having an arsenal of options at the ready in varying fabrics, silhouettes and colors will see you through every season, according to the experts we spoke to. Here, they share advice for choosing the best women’s button-down shirts, including their can’t-live-without staples, from classic oxfords to relaxed boyfriend fits to all the other styles on heavy rotation in their wardrobe.

Jenni Kayne
Sizes: XXS – XXL | Colors: French Blue, White, Navy Stripe, Vintage Blue Stripe | Materials: Cotton
Jenni Kayne is known for simple, elevated staples with a touch of California cool. The brand is coveted for its cult-favorite cashmere sweaters but Kayne’s impeccable shirting ranks equally among her bestsellers. The Classic Button-Down is made from 100% Italian cotton, with button sleeve cuffs, a back pleat and shirttail hem.
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Other options to consider: If simplicity is your style mantra, you can also make a case for Jenni Kayne’s unfussy collarless shirt and slim-fit shirt. Or cozy up in her classic flannel on a weekend.
Everlane
Sizes: 00 – 16 | Colors: White, Light Blue | Materials: Organic cotton
As an affordable, sustainable, everyday staple, Everlane’s Relaxed Oxford has a borrowed-from-the-boys vibe. It’s made from the same organic cotton used in the brand’s men’s oxford, in fact, only it’s been re-imagined in a fit that flatters a woman’s body. Wear it tucked in or out, buttoned up or open.
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J.Crew
Sizes: 00-16| Colors: White | Materials: Cotton
A tuxedo shirt offers a dressier take on the classic button-down. Wear it to elevate jeans or with tailored trousers—finding a sleek and slim-line fit is key for a polished look. To that end, J.Crew’s design tucks in easily without bunching and is crafted from sustainably-grown cotton from Thomas Mason, one of Europe’s oldest mills.
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Other styles to consider: J.Crew really nails affordable, quality shirting so you also won’t go wrong in their classic fit shirt.
Madewell
Sizes: XXS – XXL | Colors: Eyelet White | Materials: Cotton
Madewell’s Ex-Boyfriend shirt if for those who prefer a longer, oversized, button-down. With its low-key vibe, it’s the perfect weekender, worn untucked with jeans or as a shirt thrown over your swimsuit, thanks to the longer length. It’s cut from airy cotton fabric and breezy side-slits.
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Totême
This shirt is also available for $300 at Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Sizes: 32 – 42| Colors: Riviera Stripe, Orange Stripe| Materials: Cotton
New York-based fashion consultant Sarah Meikle considers button-downs part of her uniform. “I wear them everyday as a chic alternative to t-shirts,” she says. “A button-down looks put-together and is so easy to throw on and go. Meikle is especially partial to Totême’s Riviera Stripe. “It’s a crisp cotton-poplin fabric with a slightly oversized fit so I wear it untucked,” she says. “I also love the monogrammed detail on the front, mother of pearl buttons and the curved hem that hangs slightly longer at the back.”
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Zara
Sizes: XS-XXL| Colors: Oyster White, Stone, Bluish, Green| Materials: Linen
A perfect blend of dressy yet casual, a linen shirt is breathable and versatile whether you pair it with shorts in summer or jeans in fall. Go for it in crisp white or a softer beige, which is great year-round. Linen is also known for its ability to crumple— though many of our stylists believe its lived-in look is all part of the charm.
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Net-A-Porter
Sizes: UK4 – 16 | Colors: Light blue | Materials: Cotton
If you’re more of a traditionalist when it comes to classic tailoring or work in a corporate environment, consider this slim blue and white pinstripe button-down. Made from crisp cotton-poplin, it’s mid-weight with a non-stretch fit so it will keep its structure and has an elegant, contrasting white collar and cuffs. Layer it under suiting with dressy jeans or trousers.
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Net-A-Porter
Sizes: XS-L | Colors: White | Materials: 100% silk
The Row is sought out by discerning fashion shoppers for their luxurious yet laid-back style essentials. If you want to invest in silk shirt that’s extremely well-made and will last you season after season, New York-based stylist Sarah Easley swears by The Row’s Carla silk shirts. “It’s an unexpected fabric for this wardrobe basic,” she says. “I adore the fun drama of the generous side slits and dainty mother of pearl buttons—this shirt can be worn for day but is so special for evening over a back lace bodysuit.”
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It’s an everyday staple with timeless appeal, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a good button-down. There is an endless selection of high-quality, affordable shirts in classic and on-trend styles in cotton and organic cotton available at Everlane, J.Crew and Madewell. If you do find something you love that’s more expensive, make sure it has a unique detail like a puff sleeve, ruffle or luxurious fabric that makes it a statement piece. And consider the cost-per-wear factor. If you’re truly going to live in this button-down and take good care of it, it should last and that justifies the cost.
“You can never have enough button-downs so instead of splurging on one investment piece, it’s better to create a shirt wardrobe, “ says New York-based fashion consultant Sarah Meikle, adding that everyone needs a white, blue, and striped button-down at a minimum. “Make sure you have a more classic tailored fit for work or dressy occasions and a relaxed boyfriend style for weekends. And if you see something you love, buy two of the same so you have back-up or buy it in a few in different colorways.” Meikle, for her part, is all about white tuxedo shirts right now, plans to invest in a few variations of the white button-down. “Because trust me, you will always have something to wear.”
“Keep in mind that the simplest pieces can sometimes be the hardest to find,” says wardrobe stylist Alison Bruhn. “Tailoring is very important with white button-downs, so pay attention to the fabric, the stitching and how it fits at the shoulder, across the back, and the bust.” Watch out for gaping of the buttons at the chest and on the wrist, both of which indicate you need a larger size. And if you plan to wear your shirt untucked, make sure it doesn’t consume you. “For example, if you have wider hips, the hem of the shirt should hit above or below your hips, advises Bruhn. If you like more of a boy-meets-girl fit, New York-based stylist Tracy Taylor recommends wearing a slim cut that’s fitted at the shoulder, and leaving a few buttons unbuttoned to loosen things up. “I’ve got narrow shoulders and I’m not super curvy, so keeping the cut as close to tailored as possible prevents me from feeling overwhelmed,” she says.

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