Ready To Wear: The white shirt looks set to be everywhere next season

By Susannah Frankel
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:23

Sometimes the simplest of garments brings out a display of virtuosity in designers more effectively than anything more obviously sensational in flavour.

You can, for example, tell an awful lot about a creator's aesthetic from the manner in which they handle a man's shirt destined to be worn by a woman – be that white, striped, whatever.

This most classic of wardrobe staples looks set to be everywhere next season– as indeed does the minimal and essentially androgynous style that it signifies – and in the right hands it is anything but boring.

The Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf, for example, based their entire collection on just that garment, coming up with everything from an entirely pared-down and effortless version to a white shirt scaled up into a wedding dress so huge it barely fitted on the runway. At Céline, Phoebe Philo uses the white cotton shirt to nail her understated colours (or should that be non-colours?) to the mast. Shirts were oversized here, also. Tails were left un-tucked in decidedly louche fashion and cuffs were so long they covered wrists and hands, emphasising the finely honed limbs of the arms underneath.

Junya Watanabe made striped shirts – and just stripes – the central motif for his collection also. This designer has long borrowed from menswear for his women's collections, and this particular motif was as sporty and summery as a modern woman who would rather not wear pink, say, or a frilled cocktail dress could wish for.

At Peter Jensen, who first unveiled his collection in New York but also hosted showroom appointments in Paris, the man's shirt is a vehicle for many a witty twist. Here, necklaces could be threaded through collars (this is very cute) and one arm was noticeably more narrow than the other, causing the garment to sit on the body in a marginally – or indeed not so marginally – eccentric way.

Finally, for Hussein Chalayan, the finest white cotton shirting was used as a blank canvas via which to express a typically lateral interpretation of the ritualised art of kimono wrapping. Broad bands of broderie anglaise bound these garments to the body beautifully and always in a gentle, as opposed to restrictive, way.

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