No list of wardrobe essentials is complete — or reliable — if it doesn’t include the white blouse. I am going to go one step further and advise: no wardrobe is complete without a few white blouses. I recommend poplin blouses with long sleeves, short sleeves, and no sleeves as well as a variety of collared jerseys. A white blouse always looks smart with jeans or khakis as well as printed skirts. But the variety is useful because a white blouse also looks great under sweaters, jackets, certain sleeveless dresses, and striped jerseys.
Having a variety of fabrics and sleeves lengths at your disposal means that you can layer without creating visible or uncomfortable bulk. You may be wondering why a white collar is so flattering? I wonder, too. I think there are two reasons. First, a white collar adds definition, framing both your face and the neckline of your clothes. Second, white reflects light, brightening and enlivening your face. Here are some blouses for your consideration:
“Who’s going to keep all these white blouses clean?” a friend asked me. I could write hundreds of words about laundry — and Cheryl Mendelson has written thousands in her wonderful books, Home Comforts and Laundry — but I will boil my life experiences down to 100 words here. I’ve tried chlorine bleach (liquid), bluing agent, aspirin (dissolved in water), and a variety of laundry detergents in my efforts to keep white blouses really white. I have had the best results with Oxyclean powder — a powdered oxygen bleach — and have found it to be very effective at keeping yellow stains at bay around the collar, under the arms, and along the cuffs. The trick is soaking whites in water, ideally hot water, with Oxyclean before laundering. The longer you soak, the more effective the treatment — [Oxyclean+a couple of hours] can even lift old, dark stains that I thought had been laundered into permanence. I have also found that Oxyclean removes chocolate stains, which are not irregular occurrences in my life.
Blouses: Talbot Wrinkle-Resistant Poplin Shirt; JCrew Stretch Perfect Shirt; Misha Nonoo Cotton Button Down; Tory Burch Shina Top
Clerical collars: Almy, C.M. Almy & Son