Are You up to "The Challenge of the Classic White Shirt?"

If you've visited the Campbell & Kate Facebook page, then you've already seen my link to this article by Maggie Alderson in The Brisbane Times.  Since reading it, I've been mulling over her statement that 

[t]here is also a uniform connotation to the plain white shirt, which can be dodgily sexy in a Britney Spears way on a young woman but the opposite on an older one. She was 18 when she made that ghastly video [Baby One More Time]. Add 20 years and that shirt would make her look like a parking attendant.

Some women do look like parking attendants in plain white shirts.  For example, this woman that I photographed on the subway yesterday:

She just happened to be middle-aged, but I disagree with Alderson that age has anything to do with it.  Consider the three women below.

What makes the difference between sharp and classy or matronly and boring?

I have a few theories.

  1. It may be a plain white shirt, but there's nothing plain about the woman who wears one.  Each  woman is amazing and complex.  However, unless she asserts her personality in her clothing, almost anything she wears can look like a uniform, and not just a parking attendant uniform--it can be a mom uniform, a corporate uniform or a hipster uniform. 
  2. It's important to stay contemporary.  Unfortunately, I speak from experience when I say that baggy pants and ultra "comfortable" shoes can really pull a look down.  A white shirt can do a lot for you, but it can't do everything.  Case in point below (and no, that isn't me). 

  3. Using clothing to hide sabotages the amazingness of a classic white shirt.  Last September, I used this same photo here when I wrote about the "Hide Me" attitude that full-breasted women sometimes succumb to.
  4. Finally, accessories make a big difference.  Great shoes, fun bags, big bracelets, neat earrings . . . all the reasons it's so much more fun to be a woman wearing a classic white shirt than a man.

Please share your theories--along with any further thoughts you have on The Brisbane Times article.  I could go on and on about this quote from the article (perhaps in a later post!):

Indeed, any interface between the white-shirt wearer and food is likely to lead to an irreversible collision.

This applies particularly to women with more than a cheeky suggestion of a bustline - the protruding chest providing a perfect resting place for stray liquids and foodstuffs.

The white shirt also has a specific frumpy-making effect on this figure type. On a lean, boyish figure (see supermodels, above) the white shirt is flattering, with the crisp drapery enhancing the slenderness of the form beneath. On a fuller shape, the bright whiteness just makes everything look bigger.