Shopping: When women get shirty

It doesn't take a man to buy a good shirt, says Rhiannon Batten

Spending money on a well-cut shirt needs no excuses this season - particularly if it's white and tailored and enhances a well-toned torso. "There's nothing quite as nice as a crisp white shirt," agrees Danielle Smalberger of specialist shirtmakers Hilditch & Key. After years of exile, the shirt is slipping jubilantly back into women's wardrobes.

Beneath the long grey coats and cutesy cardigans everyone, from city executives to would-be rock chicks, is wearing shirts this winter. Pauline Burrows started producing women's shirts 18 months ago, after female customers wandered into her menswear outlet and pestered her to design shirts for them too. Based in London's Oxo Tower, Burrow's collection of ready-to-wear and made-to-order shirts in Italian fabrics range from pounds 110 to pounds 140, and she puts the popularity of the women's shirts down to the fact that "they're so versatile - you can dress it up with a suit or down with jeans and it will look good".

Finding a decent man's shirt is not difficult. Walk down Jermyn Street in the capital and, among the rows of neat and sparkly shirts behind gleaming windows, something is sure to catch the eye. But until recently, finding the perfect women's shirt was not so straightforward. It has always been seen as a fashion item rather than a necessity and is often poorly made, badly fitting and too uncomfortable to bear a second wearing. Because these shirts are rarely worn buttoned up to the neck - let alone with a tie - manufacturers have got by, producing a sloppy product.

However, the current high profile of the woman's shirt means that manufacturers are taking note. For a classic white shirt, the high street is not a bad place to start. Marks & Spencer's women's shirt range has been designed to team with the popular mix-and-match suit collection. Shirts are available in various fabrics, colours and necklines, but this season's best-seller is a feminine take on the classic white shirt - a 100 per cent stretch cotton, plunge neckline shirt, smart enough to be worn under a suit, costing pounds 30 and available in white or black.

For something a bit different, GAP does a funky winter range of iridescent stretch shirts in silver grey, burgundy, dark green and blue for pounds 34, as well as a variety of classic white woven shirts in cotton for pounds 28 to pounds 30.

If you don't find what you're looking for on the high street, head to the traditional men's shirtmakers. Hilditch & Key has a good selection of ready-to-wear shirts. The company celebrates its 100th anniversary next year and stresses the importance of details, such as top quality fabric and patterns. A popular women's style this season is a white shirt with pretty mother-of-pearl buttons that costs pounds 69.95, but each Hilditch & Key collection always includes three or four white shirts.

A little further down the street, Thomas Pink sells three styles of ladies' shirts; the contemporary fitted shirt and the classic black label shirt for pounds 49.50, and the more trendy continental shirt in sheeny fabrics for pounds 65. Val Miki explains that the company developed this range after noticing that "women came into the shops looking for shirts for their husbands or boyfriends, and liked the shirts so much that they would buy smaller sizes for themselves".

The new Thomas Pink collection has been so successful that the company's new store, which opens on Monday at 74 Sloane Street in London, includes a large area devoted to women's shirts. It offers a smaller women's cut, standard sizing, larger sizes and a more updated look, including cufflinks to match. This will go down well with Joanne Williams, who works for a large City firm. As well as preferring a fitted style and a good quality fabric that will iron easily, her criteria for choosing a shirt includes it having double rather than button cuffs.

One company which has made the most of this recent interest in women's shirts is Sparklers. A few years ago, sisters Lexi Douglas and Henrietta Nettlefold were so exasperated at being unable to find high-quality, no- fuss women's shirts, they set up their own specialist business. Offering a single style of shirt in five colours, their first batch of shirts sold out within five days. The current collection ranges in price from pounds 39.95 for a classic shirt to pounds 72 for a silk mandarin shirt, and the concept is well-planned. Each collection is not only designed by women but is also made and bought by women. The mail order catalogue even includes a chart of fabric swatches to help the customer make her decision. The one area which lets the catalogue down though is the fabrics. The choice of chalky pastels, breezy florals and bold tartans could do with an update - and a simple, crisp, white cotton adding to the list.

For more information contact: Pauline Burrows 0171-261 1988; Marks & Spencer 0171 935 4422; GAP 0800 427789; Hilditch & Key 0171-734 4707; Thomas Pink 0171-498 2202; Sparklers 01304 830424

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering