DOES THIS sound familiar—hunting through your wardrobe for last summer’s T-shirts, only to find most of them looking a bit “triste” (sad)? A T-shirt or three is an essential buy for me—the underpinning of my go-to summer uniform: a white, black or striped tee paired with cropped jeans/pants or a skirt. That covers me for lunch with friends and/or business meetings when I’ll add a jacket; for casual outings, I’ll lose the jacket but throw a sweater in my bag to correct for too much AC. What I look for: a slightly fitted torso or a slightly slouchy one, a neckline (either crew or v-neck) that lies flat, a durable material that’s not see-through (must withstand the washing machine) and a price tag of less (a lot less) than $100. Oh, and I like a finished hem with a slight curve.
Instead of blindly browsing the web or local stores and lamenting the high prices of so many labels, I decided to reach out to my most stylish friends, asking them which brands they’ve found that are the best for the buck and quality. To simplify, I specified women’s white T-shirts. Here’s how they replied:
Nancy Gold, Philadelphia lawyer: Gap is generally my go-to for a women’s white T-shirt. They have different cuts and cotton weights. I throw them in the washer and dryer and as long as you get them out immediately and fold or roll, they last and continue to look good. I get extra small for under suit jackets, and small for regular wear. Occasionally you can also find decent quality at Old Navy as well. J Crew used to be good, but their fabric got pretty flimsy. BTW, I have a friend who goes into Target at the beginning of the summer, buys two packs of men’s Hanes T-shirts (three to a pack), and just throws them away at the end of the summer. Economical!
Dasha Karelina, style consultant: I bought a couple from Cuyana that I really like, but they are $45 and I wash them by hand…
Stephanie Gleason, former NYC banker: I like the Petit Bateau iconic women’s white T-shirt and the basic one from Three Dots. Both run in the mid-$30 range.
Candace Johnston, Pittsburgh-based interior designer: I am a Vince fan, have been for quite a while. I used to spend $36 ($28 on sale) for the J Crew basic women’s white T-shirt, which after a few washings was good for sleeping only. The Vince Tees are worth the $$$; it is true that you get what you pay for.
Catherine Clifford, D.C.-based freelance health and beauty writer: Since white Ts have a short life, for me at least (sunscreen stains, drives me crazy), I go relatively disposable. Old Navy frequently has decent quality, great price. The last several years, I have especially liked certain Loft Ts—$ mid-teens or less on sale, nice cut, moderate-scoop neck, light fabric that isn’t too see-through. I recently succumbed to an on-sale-of-course but still expensive-for-me off-white Anthropologie (Sol Angeles) T that I love—substantial weight, very soft, stitched rolled sleeve. P.S. Coincidentally, in Old Navy a day ago, and their T-shirts *@#! Thin, flimsy and see-through. I guess I’m remembering the old days.
Alyse Michaelson, Wall Street analyst: Madewell! I love Z Supply now, but they are big.
Left: Sol Angeles Pocket Boyfriend Tee features a nicely rolled sleeve. Right now it’s available only in peach, marked down from $68 to $39.95, at Anthropologie.com. But you might also like the Kiara Tee,, which features a little bit of texture, $58 in ivory, also at Anthropologie.com. Right: On the pricey end, Vince’s Skinny-Striped Cotton Tee in Optic White/Cream, $85, at Neimanmarcus.com.
Left: A Hanes X Karla T-shirt from Hanes’s collaboration with stylist-turned-designer Karla Welch. This one is The Classic and it’s $48 at MatchesFashion.com. Right: Madewell’s Cotton V-Neck Pocket Tee is easy on the budget. $19.50, Nordstrom.com.
Left: Anthony Thomas Melila (ATM) always shows up as a fave, despite the $85 for this stretch modal V-neck tee. It’s at Modaoperandi.com. Right: Cuyana’s Classic Crewneck Tee is $45 at Cuyana.com. It comes in white, black, navy and heather gray pima cotton.
Left: Gap’s Vintage Crewneck T-shirt for $19.95 at Gap.com. Right: The Modern from Kule, an everyday basic made of light and airy cotton with a boxy cut. The brand’s bi-color stripe signature on the hem (not seen here) adds a preppy accent. $68 at Shopspring.com.
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