the silk road

My current favorite from J.Crew.
My current favorite from J.Crew.


I learn a lot from assessing my travel wardrobes after the fact that can be applied to my quotidien style. Most recently, I regretted not having more lightweight collared shirts in Hong Kong, as they not only help keep the sun off neck and arms, but feel a bit more polished than tees. While I do tend to gravitate toward more casual and unstructured styles (truthfully, I’d be in jeans and a tee or sweater every day given my druthers), every now and then circumstances call for dialing the formality up just a notch. I’ve often relied on jackets for this, but if the weather (or the office, or the conference room) is just too warm to make a jacket practical, a collared shirt is the next best thing.

But what to do if one a) is curvy and/or b) is averse to stiff fabrics and conservative tailoring? I’ve been finding that collared silk shirts fill that void quite nicely, especially for the office. They provide the impression of structure without stiffness, and are often cut a bit more loosely, avoiding the gaping-between-buttons problem. While I don’t like to tuck my shirts, the softness of the fabric can work well with full or half-tucks.

In addition to the J.Crew silk shirts (many of which are available in Tall and Petite sizing), I’ve been quite impressed with those from Everlane and my most recent find from Ann Taylor. It’s been my experience that most silk shirts can be hand washed, line dried and then steamed to smooth out, but if the label indicates “dry clean only,” it’s up to you whether you want to attempt hand washing.

Do you have silk shirts in your wardrobe?  How do you care for them?

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  1. These are wonderful shirts (I am thinking about Everlane) – just the right amount of dressy for almost anything. I do hand wash but I am notorious for leaving things at the dry cleaners, that is the reason : >

  2. I like people with big vocabularies. I spell quotidian with an “a” but I believe both spellings are proper. It’s nice to see words like this in use.

  3. I think the Everlane line is well worth exploring. I have two v neck pullover sweaters and love them. Silk blouses might work for me too. Thank you for the suggestion.

      1. Hi Terri, while it’s true that their L size corresponds to US 8-10, I do find their cuts to be generous for the sizing. Per their sizing chart I should take a size M, but find S or even XS in some items fits with plenty of room.

  4. I love wearing linen shirts in the summer. Toronto gets very hot and humid, so sticky, and, as you found, the shirts protect my neck and arms while avoiding the clinginess of cotton. I’ve never worn silk shirts as I tend to spill! Maybe this is something to rethink for travel in cooler climates.

  5. I used to have a major silk shirt habit. I hand washed them in Forever New (which you can buy in most dept. store lingerie depts.), except if they had contrast piping or I thought a print might run- then drycleaned. Nothing beats that beautiful drape and luxurious effect! (I got rid of nearly all b/c they are insufficient in our cold climate.) I love the look of jeans and a silk shirt.

    @ shybkiker: “quotidien” is French, “quotidian” is English. Pseu often throws a little French our way 😉

  6. The only silk I have is silk long underwear. Maybe I could invest in one blouse, for summer only though, here in Minnesota.

    May I recommend a book called “The Quotidian Mysteries”? It’s a lovely little meditation on the nature of repetitive tasks and the beneficial qualities of “drudgery’. It is written from a Christian perspective, but I think has value to all faiths.

  7. I sew a lot with silk and have many silk tops. The simplest method for me is to wash them by hand with shampoo and line dry. The “dry clean only” warns against unstable dyes and also shrinkage, which is a risk with silk.

  8. I love the way a silk blouse drapes as well — much more suitable for my short waist somehow, than cotton, which can bulk up at my middle. . . . and I use the gentle cycle of my (front-loading) machine, which seems to do no harm, at least to my J. Crew shirts. Hang to dry and a quick, light iron at low heat — easy to care for…

  9. I put mine in the wash with everything else, protected by a lingerie bag. I also dry them in the dryer. once they are dry I send them back with my wrinkle remove cycle an they come out soft and perfect. I’ve never had a problem doing this.

  10. I have had two items in my cart at Everlane for a couple of months now so I appreciate the review. There are different silks and I wonder if they both are considered quality ones, one that has a sheen and the other that has a matte, sometimes “powdered” finish. I enjoy them both. As for washing, I hand-wash most of my favorite tops because even the most delicate of agitation pills (in my experience any way). My mother was a fantastic seamstress (who made clothes, coats and hats) and knew fabric. She was also meticulous with washing. Maybe it’s all the memories of the dish pan with her hand washing that has me fearless about washing anything.

  11. I used to wear silk shirts, occasionally. It’s true that they have the most beautiful drape and take color (dye) in such a gorgeous way. I didn’t wear them day to day, but my favorite outfit for opera-going in New Orleans in winter was a black fine wool turtleneck dress with a jewel toned silk shirt thrown over it and belted. It was a way of being slightly dressy, but not too stuffy, that I appreciated.

    Be prepared for heresy- I wouldn’t buy them now. My day to day collared shirts are almost always a cotton blend, often with Lycra. Yes! That perfectly solves the gapping button situation if you are curvy up top like me. I do admire the many purists here who stick with silk, but it just doesn’t work with my life.

  12. I had one silk shirt that fit me – it was a vintage item in a rich gold, from the days when blouses had “darts”.

    I’ve always been busty, with small shoulders, so they never fit. Indeed it is a chic item. I only have a couple of silk t-shirts and a silk undershirt.

    I’ve always hand washed the silk t-shirts, as well as my linen ones.

  13. Just a question about shirts silk or otherwise. I have a short waiste and do not suit anything tucked in. How do you style a non tucked shirt not to look frumpy. I would love some help with this. Margo

      1. Thanks for the reply. It’s hard as I get older to have style confidence your blog is a great help and inspiration. I also love Eileen Fisher so your tips on her style are Invaluable too. Margo

  14. Yes to this – I am busty and the silk shirts drape and flatter. I have also found that silk shirts wind up in secondhand stores very often, because people don’t know how to take care of them, or, if they aren’t oversized, it’s easy to be the “wrong” size for them. I handwash all my light silks but with darker silk shirts I will alternate a dry clean with a hand wash, to preserve the darker dye. Also, now that silk shirts have become popular again, watch out for lower quality silks from online retailers. I was recently VERY disappointed with a Talbots silk henley that turned out to be embarrassingly transparent, when it was described as a solid crepe.

  15. Yes I have silk shirts .. Equipment, Nexx (less exp. than Equipment and very good) .. I usually hand wash, only dry clean when lazy/busy. Also have linen and rayon (challis?) collared shirts .. bit of a shirt collector
    Silk shirt makes jeans more dressy .. possible “casual elegant” outfit..

  16. I had a friend that owned a silk clothing shop and I used to help her out sometimes. She always told clients to wash the silk in shampoo dry inside out of the sun so as not to fade and then use a very hot iron. I have many silk shirts and follow these directions and have never had a problem.

  17. Pseu, Back to say I find the new font that displays commenters’ usernames pretty, but almost unreadable… am I the only one?

  18. I would like to add my voice to the new font discussion as it is impossible for me to read.. Even tho’ I only know commenters in the virtual world of Pseu’s blog, I have a sense of connection to her regular posters that has developed over the years of reading her blog. She has an established community of creative and interesting women whose faces are no longer visible. With the new font it feels as tho I can hear the voices but can’t see them … sad for a long-time reader.

  19. pseu, I wonder if you could find a “French cursive font” – the very vertical (not slanting) writing you’ll find on menus and display signs in France. (I’m lefthanded, so my writing is more similar to that). It would be in the spirit of your new design (which I love, otherwise) but far more legible.