The white shirt... A simple piece of clothing with "a twisted elegance" as Helmut Lang once put it. What does yours mean to you?
Perhaps, as a hopeless romantic you will think of Marie Antoinette wearing chemise a la Riene and her portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun that created a scandal but soon started a trend. The historian in you may also think of Camicia Rossa or Garibaldi shirt that was first adopted by Empress Eugenie of France and became somewhat of a must-have for any woman who wanted to be style-forward.
Classic movie aficionados are likely to mention the imitable wardrobes of Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. Fashion lovers will definitely dip into the 1920s and thank Chanel for introducing the white shirt as we know it.
My story of discovering the white shirt began with an article about Carolina Herrera. I'll never forget her style tips on wearing a white shirt, rolling up the sleeves, lifting and shaping a collar, and then choosing sets of bracelets for both wrists in order to create a balance of proportions. For a teen, such an attention to details sounded incredible and, as you can see, became an unforgettable mantra!
Then there was Gianfranco Ferre who made the white shirt his signature piece and turned it from a humble daily essential into a masterpiece of fashion and fantasy. Everything else - Lauren Bacall in Key Largo, Marilyn in The Misfits and Audrey Hepburn in Roman holiday, Bridgitte Bardot in The Private Affair, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing, Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 weeks and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and Sharon Stone wearing Gap for the Oscars - happened later, in a series of events that often felt like layers of inspiration. Consciously or not, my mind also registered that every style icon, movie star or supermodel wore a white shirt in a manner of uniform...
The lesson was simple: wear a white shirt to feel chic, sexy, to solve pretty much any outfit-related dilemma and remain true to your own self. Even better, it won't cost a fortune to look this good.
When it comes to adding a white shirt to my wardrobe, I tend to choose several options: a fitted one, with a touch of lycra, a silk classic shirt and a men's style oversized version (more often than not it actually is a men's shirt). In addition, I have a couple of extras - one spotting tiny white polka dots, a striped design and the last one - somewhat Edwardian-inspired for the moments when I feel like injecting a bit of classic England into my look (and, honestly, because that particular shirt was so beautiful and so wonderfully made, I had to have it regardless of agenda or style rules)
Photo source: Anne-Marie Van Dijk in Una Camicia Bianca / Elle Italia November 2013 (photography: Drew Jarrett, styling: Sofia Odero), Emily Didonato in La Couleur de L'Or / Vogue Paris Bijoux September 2013 (photography: Lachlan Bailey, styling: Claire Dhelens), Elle France February 1987, Mode seduction / Elle France January 1990 (photography: Pamela Hanson, styling: Carine Roitfeld, model: Dana Patrick), Helena Christensen in Allure October 1994 (photography: Mario Testino), Linda Evangelista photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia, Daniela Pestova in Chemises Blanches / Elle France February 1992 (photography: Andre Rau, styling: Lena Kordic), Gisele Bundchen photographed by Mario Testino for Stuart Weitzman Spring/Summer 2015 campaign, Elle France July 1994, Rachel Holland in Portrait de Femme En Chemise Blanche / Elle France March 1989 (photography: Walter Chin, styling: Douce De Andia), Emma Sjoberg in Jean Chic / Elle France May 1990 (photography: Friedemann Hauss, styling: Corinne Nocelia), Yasmin Le Bon wearing Gianfranco Ferre white shirt in Marie Claire Italia September 1993 (photography: Tiziano Magni, styling: Christina Bernezzo), Gianfranco Ferre Spring/Summer 2006 campaign, Gisele Bundchen in Vogue US July 1999 (photography: Steven Meisel, styling: Grace Coddington), Linda Evangelista photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue UK November 1988, Yasmin Le Bon in Sotto il sole dei tropici / Marie Claire Italia march 1993 (photography: Robert Erdmann, styling: Emanuela Testori, hair: Guido Palau, makeup: Lisa Eldridge), Suzanne Lanza in Bianco e Niro Jeans / Vogue Italia 1987 (photography: Sante D'Orazio), Vogue Paris August 2009 (photography: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, styling: Carine Roitfeld, Emmanuelle Alt & Joe McKenna), Linda Evangelista photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia December 1989, Caroline Eggert in Portrait report / Vogue Italia May 1997 (photography: Peter Lindbergh, styling: Anna Dello Russo), Eva Herzigova in La Chemise / Glamour France April 1992 (photography: Tiziano Magni, styling: Carine Roitfeld), Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz, Linda Evangelista photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue US April 1992, Natalia Vodianova in White Russian / Vogue US March 2007 (photography: Mario Testino, styling: Tonne Goodman), Malgosia Bela in Chic Ultimate / Vogue Paris August 2012 (photography: Lachland Bailey, styling: Geraldine Saglio), Tatjana Patitz photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Harper's Bazaar September 2009, Daria Werbowy, Stephanie Seymour & Lauren Hutton in Vogue Paris November 2012 (photography: Inez Van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin), Linda Evangelista photographed by Pascal Chevallier for Vogue Australia October 1993, Adriana Lima photographed by Russel James for Donna Karan Spring/Summer 2012 campaign, Camilla Nicherson photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia February 1993, Anne-Marie Van Dijk in Una Camicia Bianca / Elle Italia November 2013 (photography: Drew Jarrett, styling: Sofia Odero), Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, Kristen McMenamy, Nadja Auermann, Tatiana von Furstenberg and Lucie de la Falaise photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia May 1993, Edita Vilkeviciute in Vogue Paris June-July 2015 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Geraldine Saglio), Linda Evangelista in Gianfranco Ferre Spring/Summer 1992 campaign, Linda Evangelista & Christy Turlington photographed by Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia march 1994, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Tatjana Patitz, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Yasmeen Ghauri, Niki Taylor, Karen Mulder & Elaine Irwin photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue US April 1992, Natalia Vodianova Vogue Italia May 2003 (photography: Peter Lindbergh, styling: Alice Gentilucci), Edita Vilkeviciute in Vogue Paris May 2013 (photography: Gilles Bensimon, styling: Geraldine Saglio), Malgosia Bela in Vogue Paris August 2009 (photography: Cedric Buchet), Natalia Semanova photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue Italia May 1997, Crista Cober in Into the Woods / Vogue Australia May 2014 (photography: Will Davidson, styling: Christine Centenera), Andrea Diaconu WJS Magazine February 2014 (photography: Josh Olins)