Les Essentiels: The V-Neck Tee

Ines de la Fressange in a navy blazer, white tee and jeans.

The Perfect White Tee is one of those items that often shows up on various “must have” or “French Wardrobe” lists. While I sometimes take issue with one-style-fits-all checklists, I’ve found a white tee (like jeans) to be a workhorse in my wardrobe, especially during the summer months.

While a crewneck is often considered the “classic” tee shirt style, I find a v-neck tee more flattering. Often harder to find, too. With any white tee, getting the weight right can be tricky. There’s often a tradeoff between softness/weight and opacity. The softest, lightest fabrics are often more sheer than I’m comfortable with, and the most opaque ones are often too heavy and stiff.

Some women swear by men’s v-neck undershirts, but I find they’re too long and cut too straight for me. I’m willing to spend a bit more for a good quality white tee that fits me well.

White organic cotton tee from Eileen Fisher. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Fit can be a balancing act as well. I don’t like really snug, fitted tees, but don’t want to feel like I’m wearing a tent either. This one from Eileen Fisher hits the bullseye for me. It’s more fitted than in past years, but not at all clingy. Available in Misses, Petites and Plus.

James Perse white slub cotton v-neck tee. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

A lot of people have recommended James Perse tees. The fabric is beautiful and soft, but these run a little too long for me. 
Everlane white cotton v-neck tee. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

This one is very budget-friendly and gets rave reviews. I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to.

Sezane knot-front white v-neck tee

A French twist on the classic: that knot in the front is a feminine detail that adds some structure and shaping.

White slub cotton v-neck tee from Splendid. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

I find that tees with fabric described as “slub cotton” often have that drapey quality I like.

Madewell whisper cotton pocket tee in white. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

If soft and drapey is your tee priority, here’s another budget-friendly style.

(Many of these tees are also available in other colors, if you prefer.)

Edited to add:

 

Style blogger Susan B. models an Eileen Fisher white v-neck tee. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Several of you have mentioned that the depth of the v-neck is a concern for you. This is the Eileen Fisher tee shown above. I’m wearing a Petite Small. The lowest part of the v is still about an inch and a half higher than the top of my bra (and I’m wearing a full-cup style).

Is a white tee one of your wardrobe essentials? What style and neckline works best for you?

Top image via Pinterest.

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54 Comments

  1. Jan
    June 26, 2018 / 3:24 am

    I too love white tee shirts, tanks and tops in general. I buy them in every colour but always fall back on white or sometimes black or grey and the others just sit in the drawers unworn. There’s nothing like a crisp white top!

  2. June 26, 2018 / 3:59 am

    I certainly agree with the v-neck, but I own no white shirts or t-shirts. Ample bosom; attracts coffee spills and cat fur. (black cat). I’m very fond of the green tone shown in the Madewell and Eileen Fisher tees; Madewell calls it “architect green”. That would be a great summer basic for me.

    While good basics are important, I also disagree with the lists of items “every woman” needs. Our lives, our bodies and our budgets are so varied.

  3. June 26, 2018 / 4:23 am

    Another important consideration is the actual V and how low it is cut. So many are cut much too low for me to be comfortable. I am modest! I don’t like to show all that much. I always wear a fun colored cami so often that does the trick, but I do think it something to be aware of.

    • Ariss
      June 26, 2018 / 4:59 am

      That’s very true.

    • Liz in Paris
      June 26, 2018 / 8:52 am

      Totally agree. I’m short and what looks fine on a very tall model would likely get me arrested here 🙂 A small V is enough for me but practically impossible to find, even in France.

  4. Jan W.
    June 26, 2018 / 4:47 am

    Susan, can you fix the link to the budget-friendly T-shirt? It links to the same Eileen Fisher T. Thanks!

    • Susan B
      Author
      June 26, 2018 / 6:30 am

      Sorry about that! It’s fixed now.

      • Jan W.
        June 27, 2018 / 5:54 am

        Thanks!

  5. Linda Boardman Kerr
    June 26, 2018 / 5:35 am

    I always have a good supply of white T’s in my drawers. When they get a little discolored I give them all a 10 minute dip in a water/bleach bath, and then into the wash. It brightens them up.
    As far as a V-neck goes, being a 65 I am lucky to have used sunscreen on my chest for the last decade or so, but many of my friends have NOT, and their skin has suffered too much sun damage, and frankly should be covered up.
    I still struggle to find good T’s that are VERY budget friendly. Because they are WHITE I won’t spend the money I would spend on a darker color. One iced coffee splash and they’ll never be the same.

    • Denise I
      June 26, 2018 / 10:49 am

      Please try Old Navy for a beautiful v-neck white tee at an amazing budget friendly price. I bought two a couple of weeks ago for around $8 each. They even have the rounded bottom that the EF tee has and that I love! I’m

      • Linda Boardman Kerr
        June 26, 2018 / 2:26 pm

        Thanks!

  6. Nancy
    June 26, 2018 / 5:53 am

    llbean has a great v neck tee. Soft. Good weight. Good length.

  7. Meg
    June 26, 2018 / 6:09 am

    Also, Orvis has a wonderful one. I have not had much experience with their clothes, but the t shirt is wonderful. I bought a cream and a rusty rose color.

  8. Mary Clifford
    June 26, 2018 / 6:20 am

    I just spent some time in Paris and noticed Mesdames in jeans, a pale v-neck t-shirt and Chanel jackets and heels. Trés chic.

  9. KSL
    June 26, 2018 / 6:27 am

    I always have a lot of white tees in both crew and v-neck. Wardrobe staples for me, and I’m careful about going through and replacing stained ones every so often. I wear mostly James Perse.

    • June 28, 2018 / 3:41 am

      If any of you have too many stained or yellowed tees for your housecleaning/painting wardrobe, they also make great soft rags.

  10. Carol Wayne
    June 26, 2018 / 6:43 am

    The Caslon brand at Nordstrom is a good value and a nice shirt.

  11. Bernadette Connolly
    June 26, 2018 / 6:55 am

    I love the Domingo tee shirt from Sezane that you feature here, the tie waist is great, gives a nice feminine shape and also hides the part that is a bit of a problem for most ladies of a certain age :)) The ecru/navy one they fetaure on their website is also perfect. I haven’t bought from them before but if they ship to Ireland I sure will in future, these are staple tee shirts. I agree with you about finding the perfect fit, feel and weight and possess too many that are not ‘just right’. This could be my lucky day!! Thank you Susan, love your blog and follow you on instagram account
    @gettingolderandbolder

  12. June 26, 2018 / 6:55 am

    Yes! V-necks are definitely more flattering–they give the illusion of a long neck. I have noticed French women wear deep Vs, to the point of showing a tiny bit of cleavage or nearly so. However, the V usually is not wide, so the shirt stays in place. It’s borderline risqué, which keeps it from being too much and also from being frumpy.

  13. Candy
    June 26, 2018 / 6:58 am

    I agree a white v-neck is a summer staple. I love it on its own or under a blazer or denim jacket. It’s the one item in my closet I wear the most often on a weekly basis and the Madewell pocket v-neck or the Everlane one are my go-to’s. Nice drape, cool, comfortable, v-neck not too deep, fits well. I find most white tees fade by the end of summer with all that wearing and washing. I start with a fresh new one every summer, which means I don’t want to spend a lot — another plus for Madewell, Everlane, or one of the cotton ones from Banana Republic.

  14. risa Wolfson
    June 26, 2018 / 7:08 am

    I look forward to your posts and suggestions! Love the brands you recommend! I am not sure if I am brave enough to buy a white tee. I am so prone to spilling that a warning label should come with the white tee shirt! Just kidding-I actually like the look of the white against the black linen pants that I adore.

  15. Darling Lily
    June 26, 2018 / 7:39 am

    I prefer a scoop neck. For some reason, V-necks and crew necks look masculine on me. And I agree about the V invariably being too deep! I have to be careful of that with a scoop neck as well. I snap up ballet and bateau neck Ts when I see them, and yes, white is always my first choice, with black, grey and navy close behind.

    • RoseAG
      June 26, 2018 / 9:31 am

      I have several slubby “boyfriend” t-shirts from Old Navy with a scoop neck that I like a lot. It’s got a pocket, which I know some don’t like, but it’s also got a back seam so it isn’t just a sack.

      • Darling Lily
        June 26, 2018 / 1:24 pm

        The pocket looks too manly on me, but the seam sounds fantastic. Thanks for the heads-up, I am going to look for one to try!

  16. Lisa
    June 26, 2018 / 7:53 am

    Thank you for reminding me that I want to try an Everlane T shirt. I love white T’s all year round (I live in a warm climate). I do better with a v-neck with some stretch, or a crew neck. I am small-busted and sometimes v-necks that fit my shoulders gap too much.

  17. Lisa B
    June 26, 2018 / 8:29 am

    Love a white v neck. I have a short neck and a large size chest and find these look the best. I found the Everlane tees a nice weight but you can’t just pull them out of the dryer to wear them. They wrinkle terribly and require pressing. I have have had nothing but bad luck with J Crew tees especially the tissue tees. One wash on gentle and line dry and you can still expect holes. They are nothing but a one wear, disposable tee. I do love the Domingo tee you linked to. Have you purchased from them before? Do you have any knowledge regarding sizing?

    • Lisa B
      June 26, 2018 / 8:45 am

      On another note, I received my EF black jacket and love it. Perfect weight and I love the cloth. Not crazy about the collar ( short neck issue) so I will have my seamstress tack it down. Why does EF constantly do that neckline on its coats and jackets? Forgot to mention the EF tees. May want to size up on those. My white v neck in PM, my usual size, did shrink a bit length wise.

    • Susan B
      Author
      June 26, 2018 / 8:50 am

      Hi Lisa, I haven’t yet tried this style. I’ve tried a few pieces from Sézane and find they run pretty much TTS. When I tried on some blouses in Paris, the size S worked best. For comparison, I’m a size S in Equipment and Velvet tops, and an XS or PS in Eileen Fisher tees.

      • Lisa B
        June 26, 2018 / 9:50 am

        I ordered a medium in the Sezanne. Stay tuned!

  18. Lyn
    June 26, 2018 / 9:04 am

    I usually avoid white in general (too harsh), and v-necks look like scrubs on me. Nevertheless, I went on a search for a “perfect” white tee since everyone seems to feel it is an essential. The Lands End relaxed fit supima tee fits the bill for me. The material is light and drapes just right. And it is not see through. Am I the only one concerned about this? (LL Bean’s white tee is completely opaque, but it has a sturdier look.)

  19. June 26, 2018 / 9:24 am

    Definitely a fan of the V neck in a white T.
    It is somehow more elegant less sporty. My vote goes to the Eileen Fisher one 😉

  20. June 26, 2018 / 9:31 am

    The Everlane tee also comes in a black-white mini-stripe. Yummy, though it looks like navy (not one of my colours) in the photo.

  21. Anon
    June 26, 2018 / 10:02 am

    Zero: the number of white T-shirts in my wardrobe.

  22. CHERYL JOHNSON
    June 26, 2018 / 10:25 am

    love that Sezanne tee! something different is worth a try for sure. I generally don’t wear white tee’s as I have fair skin and do love some of those colors on the Sezanne site. Do let us know what you think once you try on.

  23. CHERYL JOHNSON
    June 26, 2018 / 10:27 am

    Sorry, misread. Lisa ordered a Sezanne, not you. Off topic: what do you think of the fashion advice to bookend your hair’s color in your shoe color? I just read that. I am a greying redhead. Seems like that advice wouldn’t be such a great guide for those of us who are not coloring or highlighting our hair in our saging years.

    • Lisa B
      June 26, 2018 / 11:24 am

      Hi Cheryl, It’s Lisa B I will let you know if you’d like.

      • CHERYL JOHNSON
        June 26, 2018 / 11:29 am

        that would be great! thank you.

          • CHERYL JOHNSON
            June 27, 2018 / 7:37 am

            thank you. will do!

  24. Cathy D.
    June 26, 2018 / 10:39 am

    The LL Bean tees are addictive. They have a v-neck with 3/4 sleeves that comes in many sizes and colors. The v is not too low. And the LL Bean pima cotton tees are sublime. The simple band trim makes them dressier than many tees. Both of these styles are soft and substantial. They are often on sale and I cannot stop collecting them.

    • Joanne
      June 26, 2018 / 9:12 pm

      Do you have a “shrink” problem with llbean tees? I’ve noticed that after a couple of washings they are much shorter then originally.

  25. Sheri C
    June 26, 2018 / 11:24 am

    I love the Everlane tees! I have the cotton u-neck one at the moment. They are budget friendly, and frankly, I would never spend $68 on a white tee, because they only last one season. But, I agree that it is a wardrobe staple!

  26. Kris
    June 26, 2018 / 11:37 am

    Thank you – the elusive, perfect white v-neck tee….solved!

  27. Nancy
    June 26, 2018 / 1:19 pm

    I vote for the LL Bean tees – I am short but have a long neck – a deep V is not what I need. Crew neck better – just bought an EF tee with a gentle scoop and sleeves to the elbow – that works for me. Thanks for this discussion.

  28. Elle
    June 26, 2018 / 4:42 pm

    This is an important post! The perfect tee is elusive. I recently found it, and I was so excited! It had a gentle, kind of high cut V and draped enough to cover my slight apple post-menopausal belly. The sleeves were long enough to cover my not as attractive-in-the-past arms. It was Eileen Fisher. Then I helped my daughter move and paint, and there was a very unfortunate accident with the paint! The perfect tee was ruined, and it is no longer available. Mon mari has what he thinks are some very amusing photos of this unfortunate situation. I tried to re-order the perfect tee but it is gone. I can only hope that Eileen Fisher brings it back, in multiple colors, but not all muted.

  29. Jeanne
    June 26, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    I find V necks too low, probably due to small chest? But inspired to try again. I love Vince tees. Wonderful material and also James perse.

  30. Helga A
    June 26, 2018 / 11:18 pm

    I really enjoy reading your posts Susan. I also find V necks more flattering but Ive found it hard to get the right fit. Boat necks with three quarter sleeves also work well for me especially for a smart look. Community Clothing are trying to bring garment manufacturing back to the UK and they make a white tee (although it is a round neck). Other good brands for white tee shirts are Sunspel and Lavendar Hill in the UK. The best brand I’ve found is Citizen Wolf in Sydney. They make a personalised fitted tee based on your height, age and bra size. The V neck I bought is a great fit and I find their tee shirts are very good quality. There are different fabric weights and I’ve found they keep their shape when washed.

  31. Ann Marie
    June 27, 2018 / 4:18 am

    I find that LL Bean, Uniqlo, and Muji have good quality t-shirts usually at reasonable prices. I don’t really buy white shirts all that much, though, because the arm pits yellow too fast. Personally I prefer a crewneck in t-shirts. I think it looks better, especially in white. A white v-neck t-shirt makes me feel like I am wearing a men’s undershirt out in public.

    • Kelly
      June 29, 2018 / 5:51 am

      Ann Marie, you may want to try Degree Ultraclear Black +White antiperspirant which prevents yellow stains on white clothing. I actually use the Men’s version because I have trouble with some scents and the Driftwood scent is very mild. The yellow stain problem is part perspiration and part chemicals in other deodorants. Since using this I haven’t had any discoloration on my white shirts. Wikihow also has info on how to use aspirin to remove yellow stains on clothes but I haven’t tried that yet, so can’t say how well it works.

  32. Laura
    June 27, 2018 / 4:56 am

    Supima cotton tshirts from uniqlo are my go too and their 3/4 sleeve tee with a bit of stretch

  33. June 28, 2018 / 12:24 pm

    LOVE me some v neck t’s! I have 6 in different colors, all from Gap. LOVE Gap tees

  34. Susan
    June 29, 2018 / 8:21 am

    Should I not be the only reader who never looks at v necked anything…….my square jaw face much prefers a squared neckline. Tho rarely found, I long to see a brand take the style on for others like me…….

  35. Mary in MD
    July 3, 2018 / 8:23 am

    Check out the “Monterey” v-neck pocket tee from Universal Thread at Target. Great quality and the price is an amazing $8, currently on sale 3 for $20. I am 5’2” and chesty, and I like the medium for sloppy activities like gardening, but the small for public appearances. Besides the solid colors, there is a black and white stripe version listed separately that I really like and have in regular rotation.

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