Le Must - The Perfect White Tee - une femme d'un certain âge

Le Must – The Perfect White Tee

One of those items that makes almost every Style Maven’s “Must-Have List” for women is a “crisp white button-down shirt.” Une femme says, “Must-have? Not necessarily.” Bien sur, the white shirt is timeless and chic, but for many of us the button-down shirt gapes at the bust, develops wrinkles around the waist when we sit, and can look anything but crisp and soignée.

Une femme’s answer to the classic white shirt during warmer months is a simple, well-fitting white tee. A few seasons ago, I discovered the Banana Republic Timeless Tee, a crewneck cotton tee that looks equally chic under a suit jacket adorned with layered necklaces or with jeans and a scarf. I’ve picked up one or two of these each year (which is about as long as I can keep them looking good).

While this is a perfect classic tee, there are times and ensembles that call for a v-neck, which is also for many of us a more flattering choice. But true v-necks seem to have been more elusive than Bigfoot these last few seasons, so I was thrilled to see one show up on the Banana Republic website recently. But unfortunately this tee is cut very differently than the crewneck: much longer, more fitted (read: very snug in all the wrong places, even after going up a size). In short, pas bon for short-waisted, curvy me. The Gap version was cut much the same, and the fabric flimsier.

Yesterday, on a whim I decided to stop by Talbot’s to see what they might have to offer. Other than their fabulous bateau neck tee, I haven’t really been impressed with their iterations of cotton tees. They tend to be cut on the shapeless side, and stretch out even more with repeated wearing and washing. However one of the two v-neck cotton tees they’re currently offering has a whopping 11% lycra content, enough to keep the shape and fabric looking fresh. The fabric is light but has a substantial feel (critical for a white tee), and the fit, while not perfect, is much better than anything else I’ve found so far this year.

The vee is nice and deep, but still lands right above the top of the bra, and the curve adds a feminine touch. (They didn’t have the 100% pima cotton version in the store, but I may order one just to compare the cut and fabric.) The sizing runs toward small (if you’re unsure, go with the larger size, especially if you’re full in the bust). And right now Talbot’s is offering a special on all tops: buy one, get the 2nd at 50% off (through Sunday, 5/10)! Free shipping too.

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  1. May 6, 2009 / 12:45 pm

    Frugal – the interesting part about this tee is that it’s not as clingy as the BR v-neck version, and seems to be cut a bit more loosely though the waist. In extreme heat I’ll go sans jacket, but usually I’m looking for a way to keep my upper arms covered.

  2. May 6, 2009 / 1:45 pm

    Deja: I do love the look of a white tee…..I just have a difficult time keeping it looking crisp and white after a few washings. I have traded in the white tee for a black tee…not the same but lasts much longer. Any advice on washing the white tee so it doesn’t yellow? I have even tried using the old fashioned bluing in my laundry.

  3. May 6, 2009 / 1:55 pm

    I do the black tee much more, but I have a few whites. I like Michael Stars.

  4. May 6, 2009 / 2:46 pm

    Last year I pretty much got my entire vacation wardrobe from Target, and that included perfectly fitting black and white t-shirts and polo shirts.
    I wouldn’t overlook Target for basics like t-shirts.

  5. May 6, 2009 / 2:56 pm

    White tee fever. I swore I’d always stick to black, but suddenly I thought white tees might not look so bad on me. I just bought a 3-pack of men’s Hanes v-necks, size S/P, washed them in cold water, stretched them horizontally and in the neck, air-dried them, and I am wearing one for the first time today. This busty girl, who always thought a white t-shirt made her look like a duck, DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A DUCK. I love this shirt.

  6. May 6, 2009 / 4:06 pm

    I’d love to find a v-neck tee with sleeves that are longer than the cap sleeve, which seems to be everywhere.

    I do love them long, which is what I like the scoopneck tees from DownEast Basics — if they only had sleeves….

    Bought a few JCrew tees a last yr – very disappointing. They were paper thin, too low cut, and developed holes immediately.

  7. May 6, 2009 / 4:42 pm

    Gap for under jackets, stuck if jacketless b/c do not want cap sleeve. Also I refuse to pay $80 for a plain white t-shirt. My French GF has me bring packs of mens’ Fruit of the Loom, she thinks the quality for price is exceptional.

  8. Frugal Scholar
    May 6, 2009 / 12:30 pm

    We’re all trying to love Talbots! I wonder if that lycra is not a problem for many? It is for me. Too clingy on the middle-aged flab around my waist.

    Can you wear those tees sans jacket? I’ve been looking for all cotton to see if that will minimize the visible flab.

  9. Rubiatonta
    May 6, 2009 / 9:14 pm

    Chico’s does a nice tee shirt — I’ve got both a v-neck with 3/4 sleeves (black), and a u-neck with elbow sleeves (white) — and they’ve held up extremely well.

    To the poster wondering how to keep white tees white, I highly recommend Oxy-clean or a version of it that can be found at Trader Joe’s. If you get a stain on your tee, you can spot treat and soak — or add to your wash.

  10. Someone
    May 6, 2009 / 2:27 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Someone
    May 6, 2009 / 2:29 pm

    Mes pensées…! C’est rare, ces jours, à trouver tant une demande en manier si gentil…alors, au moins en français…
    I’ve also long been of the black-T persuasion, but just picked up a white T by Willi Smith that has muslin-y fringed edging along the scoop neck and close-to-the-shoulder puffed cap sleeves of the same fabric – a hybrid that’s more interesting to me than the usual white T.

    I also cannot wear the typical constricting sausage-tube of a T with my hourglass curves – large bust, definite (but short) waist. So, I tend to avoid the stiffer knits and man-shaped Ts. Babydoll shapes are a great alternative, though I was very pleasantly surprised by a Mossimo T I got at Target a few years ago.

    This T has lycra, a long-V judiciously cut, is soft and drapes well, long enough but not too long, and thin enough for hot weather but not see-through in the least. It is however not white but a deep berry-purple. I have been so disappointed with the paper-thin quality-free shirts I’ve seen everywhere over the past few years…wonder if Mossimo still makes anything as nice as this one.

  12. Arabella
    May 6, 2009 / 2:46 pm

    Back in the mists of time (when dinosaurs roared, it seems) all I had to do was pop to J.Crew or Club Monaco and find a couple of well-made and long-lasting basic T shirts.
    For the last several years, I haven’t found a single one that fits my shape – hourglass. They are all without fail now – TOO. LONG. IN. THE. BODY.
    Often the V necks are cut extremely low and as these shirts are now very narrow, it would be impossible to layer one underneath for modesty’s sake even if I wanted to. And I don’t – I hate wearing layers, it makes me feel like a child with a head cold in winter. Or a sausage.
    Sorry about the upper case outburst. My nerves are shattered – I mean, it shouldn’t be this hard, it’s a T shirt….

  13. lagatta à montréal
    May 6, 2009 / 9:58 pm

    How does Talbot’s sizing run? They have a couple of pima cotton tees – though I don’t want white or black; I want basil green.

    And I’m still looking for the perfect GREY tee – one of those lovely Parisian steel greys.

  14. Sal
    May 6, 2009 / 3:22 pm

    Ooh, thanks for the tip. I tend to buy American Apparel v-necks, but am definitely ready to try something new.

  15. May 6, 2009 / 10:25 pm

    Button down shirts are a gaping wrinkly mess on me. I wish I could wear the crisp white shirt, but I pass on these also. The t-shirts look nice.

  16. La Belette Rouge
    May 6, 2009 / 4:08 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. Leah
    May 6, 2009 / 4:19 pm

    I like J Crew ringspun tees. They are very soft and I have not had any problems with quality yet. I have the BR crew neck tees too and also like them. I have a difficult time fitting in Talbot’s but I have not tried anything since they hired Ann Taylor’s designer.

  18. La Belette Rouge
    May 6, 2009 / 4:23 pm

    I love a Talbot tee but I have never tried this one. I’ll pass a Talbot’s today on the way to get my pedicure. I am going to stop in and see if it works for me. Thanks for the tip!!!

    p.s. I have learned my lesson. I must not type with Lily sitting between me and my laptop.;-)

  19. May 6, 2009 / 11:33 pm

    I spent 2 hours today looking for a new white tee – but I want a square/scoop neckline! Do you know where I can find one?

  20. May 6, 2009 / 11:54 pm

    Talbot’s doesn’t have the pima in my size online either–backordered until June. Bah..

    Nevertheless I did order one in the pale blue.

    I can’t get excited about white T’s for some reason–I guess they remind me of those Hanes Ts that come 3 to a bag. I guess having a brother spoiled me on that.

  21. May 7, 2009 / 12:21 am

    I hate lycra and it is well nigh impossible to find a t-shirt without it these days. That, the ubiquitous cap sleeves and the flimsy “layering” weight (see your bra thru-it weight) fabrics make shopping for a basic t a nightmare these days.

    Target used to be a good source, but they only seem to have lycra mixes now. I usually order white v-necks online at old navy or eddie bauer.

    What weight fabric are the Talbots t-shirts? Very thin or normal?

  22. May 7, 2009 / 1:17 am

    L – it’s been my experience that all white tees yellow at some point. I think the sunscreen I wear also accelerates this, so I spray some Shout around the collar every time I wash, and have recently discovered Arm & Hammer + Oxy detergent, which seems to brighten the whites and removes some of the dinginess.

    WendyB – I’ve had much better luck with black tees, guess a dark color is more forgiving? Michael Stars tees are very nice, but unfortunately most only seem to go up to size 6.

  23. May 7, 2009 / 1:21 am

    Someone – “sausage tube” – yes, that describes perfectly how so many of these seem to be constructed nowadays! I’m planning to check out the Target tees in the next go-round.

    Belle – I’m making a point to see what Target has to offer in this area. I’ve picked up lots of good “play” clothes at Target in the past. Not the most stylish stuff, but we’re talking basics here.

  24. May 7, 2009 / 1:24 am

    Arabella – I hear you! Even some of the tee’s cut for “petites” (we shorties) hit me at the top of the thigh! And yes, when they’re “featherweight” (retailer-speak for “flimsy”) AND low cut, it’s downright crazymaking!

    Glove Slap – I’m going to try those Hanes as well. If they don’t work out I can give them to my son.

  25. May 7, 2009 / 1:26 am

    Sal – I like the idea of buying from American Apparel because of their alleged “non-sweatshop” manufacturing, but unfortunately most of their items fall into the “too long and narrow” category for me.

    Mossback Meadow – I’m determined to hunt down the best tees. I’m planning to report back on my findings.

  26. May 7, 2009 / 1:28 am

    Leah – unfortunately J.Crew has not yet seen fit to offer their tees in petite lengths, and their regulars are another “too long and narrow” option. I like their colors and designs though.

    LBR – that’s too bad that the Talbot’s tee didn’t work for you. We’ll keep looking!

  27. May 7, 2009 / 1:32 am

    Duchesse – I’m going to try some men’s tees (or large boys, maybe not so long?) just for grins.

    Metscan – I love 3/4 sleeves too, but so far have only had luck with the Talbot’s boatneck version. No one seems to be offering v-neck, 3/4 sleeves right now.

  28. May 7, 2009 / 1:34 am

    Arabella – I did look at those JJill, but the white ones are on backorder until mid-JULY!!!! Gah.

    Rubiatonta – the Chico’s tees look like a possibility, if they aren’t too long. They have some good colors, too.

  29. May 7, 2009 / 1:38 am

    lagatta – if you don’t mind flimsy, Old Navy has that “lead pipe” grey color available. I don’t know how the Pima cotton tees fit, as they don’t have them available in the stores. In the past, Talbot’s sizing in tees has been generous, but I think they’re cutting them to a more fitted silhouette these days, as I’m finding I’m more frequently ending up with M instead of S.

    Bonjour Madame – I think with the exception of very dressy ensembles, a simple white tee can go anywhere a white shirt can.

  30. May 7, 2009 / 1:43 am

    Imogen – how much do you want to pay? You can get a James Perse at Bloomingdales’ for $65 or J.Crew for $24.50.

    Nancy – let us know how you like it!

  31. May 7, 2009 / 1:45 am

    hollarback – I actually prefer some lycra in my tees as I think it helps them keep their shape much better and not stretch out so much. The best 100% cotton tees I’ve found are the Banana Repubic cotton crewnecks. The combination of fabric, fit and price are a winner.

  32. May 7, 2009 / 1:47 am

    hollarback – regarding the weight of the tees, the ones with the lycra are lightweight but have a substantial feel, if that makes sense. They’re not see-thru or flimsy. I don’t know about the Pimas, as they didn’t have them available in the store.

  33. metscan
    May 6, 2009 / 7:30 pm

    If I buy a tee-shirt, any color, I´d like it to have 3/4 sleeves ( to avoid the ape look ), preferably as much cotton as possible and with a generous neckline.

  34. May 7, 2009 / 3:34 am

    Hullo there. New reader as of today. Am 52. Have to weigh in. For white t-shirts? Cannot do better than Petit Bateau. That said, I have a multitude of credits at BR and will probably go there this weekend, your post in hand, searching for white t-shirts.

  35. May 7, 2009 / 3:47 am

    LPC – welcome, and thanks for commenting. I’ve heard raves about Petit Bateau, but unfortunately their largest size is about two sizes too small for me (at least judging by bust measurement).

  36. Arabella
    May 6, 2009 / 9:02 pm

    Me again. I had a look at the Talbots T shirts, helpfully recommended by Deja; certainly boxier but sadly too much lycra for me.

    On the subject of T shirt sleeves: take a look in J.Jill. There’s a selection of pure cotton with elbow length sleeves (blimey!) that are not too long in the body, with scoop and V neck. I find the colors a bit insipid though – you know that kind of black that isn’t truly black?

  37. La Belette Rouge
    May 6, 2009 / 9:23 pm

    The tee didn’t work for me. The M was too small and the L was too big. But, I did get two of their cotton cardigan( like the Jackie Jcrew cardigan) in aqua and hot pink. Thanks for telling us about their sale!!!

  38. May 7, 2009 / 6:09 am

    Is it okay to talk discount stores here?

    I used to find the perfect tee at Walmart. Honest. It was Hanes Perfect-T (fitted). For about $7.00 big ones.

    But for some mysterious reason they stopped carrying them. Sacre bleu.

  39. Leah
    May 7, 2009 / 12:42 am

    Imogen, try J Crew for scoopneck tees. They will have a huge J Crew at South Coast Plaza.

  40. May 7, 2009 / 1:00 pm

    “In the past, Talbot’s sizing in tees has been generous, but I think they’re cutting them to a more fitted silhouette these days, as I’m finding I’m more frequently ending up with M instead of S.”

    OK, so it’s not necessarily me!! I’ve noticed this too.

  41. May 7, 2009 / 2:12 pm

    I can’t say I want to spend $64.50 on a white t that I’ll drop my dinner on and have to throw out – I like my white t’s cheap so I don’t have to worry when I wear.

    I did find that there were many that were way too thin – you can see right through – I want there to be some substance to my t

  42. May 7, 2009 / 2:55 pm

    Imogen – in that case, do check out Talbot’s and Ann Taylor. I believe they both have scoop necks in their current offerings.

  43. Anonymous
    May 7, 2009 / 3:56 pm

    Arabella, a good taylor will shorten tshirts, it’s not expensive adjustment, about $7.

  44. May 7, 2009 / 5:51 pm

    Ah. Understood. A large bust is not one of my current fashion challenges. Actually never has been, except those first few weeks of nursing my daughter…I felt like I should use them to throw a spiral pass.

  45. May 7, 2009 / 7:09 pm

    Pyzahn – welcome and absolutely, I’m into good value and best bang for the buck!

    I’ve added those Hanes to my test drive list, if I can find them. Hopefully our local Target will carry.

  46. May 7, 2009 / 8:38 pm

    Seriously folks, JJill, while a snoozer for most things, has a decent scoop neck elbow sleeve t for about $29. It’s a decent weight/not see through. I’m not keen on the bands around the arms, but under a jacket you don’t see. Caution: runs large. I never wear a S, but I do there.

  47. May 7, 2009 / 10:30 pm

    For men I recommend the white vneck from American Apparel. Yes, the stitching can be suspect and yes, it doesn’t go in the drier, but I still love them.

  48. May 7, 2009 / 11:18 pm

    I’m a 34DDD – and I also LOVED that Mossimo t-shirt “someone” mentioned. I got mine at Target about three? four? years ago. It was perfect – perfect v-neck, perfect weight, perfect length. I have never seen the same t-shirt since. Sigh. I wish I’d bought ten.

    I tried on the Talbot’s t-shirt today and I liked it. It’s the closest I’ve found in a long time. I can see that some might not like the high lycra count, but I do. I feel it gives the t-shirt a little structure, which I always like for my (no longer young and svelte) body. It’s no Mossimo, but I actually bought one in white, one in black!

    The only problem is – what will I do with all this extra time now that I am not hunting for the perfect white t-shirt? Finish writing my memoirs? Get a Ph.D? I never thought this day would come!

  49. lagatta à montréal
    May 7, 2009 / 11:40 pm

    (psst, ma très belle femme, vos pensées)…

    doll, long lost sistah?

    dana, I’ve never heard of J.Jill. I do like this: http://tinyurl.com/jjill-pimatee

    I’ve had high-end cotton knits (bought in Italy) that structured and fit fine without any lycra. I’m kind of sad about all that lycra as it will make it much harder to recycle cotton.

    Know nothing about that line or how it fits. They have regular, petite (short) and women’s (plus).

  50. Fifi Flowers
    May 9, 2009 / 4:59 am

    Target… believer it or not had some great white elbow sleeve tees by Mossimo… actually they were sooo great I bought them in SEVERAL colours!

  51. Rubiatonta
    May 9, 2009 / 5:15 pm

    This just in — I was at Coldwater Creek yesterday and they have very nice v-neck tees — drum roll, please — WITHOUT LYCRA. (Yes, I’m shouting. When was the last time you saw such a thing?)

    The fabric is substantial, not sheer, and it has a very nice hand (not likely to pill). Plus CC has a good range of sizes for those at either end of the spectrum

  52. May 17, 2009 / 5:18 am

    In the US, I’ve had varied luck with the Target Mossimo tshirts, but IME they change the range every year, and the cut and fit of tshirts. So the quality really is variable, though it’s definitely worth checking back.

    Outside the US (where I am now), I’ve had great luck with Esprit basic tshirts. These go on sale periodically at Myer (in Australia) and in the Esprit stores around the place. They’re around $25A regular price and $15A on sale. I believe they may be available online in the US, but what’s in-store (eg Macy’s) is pretty bad.

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