WHEN OUR super-smart friend and former Washington Post colleague Jura Koncius suggests we write about something, we listen up. Last week she sent us an email about her search for denim boyfriend shirts. “I want new [ones]. Polo had the perfect ones a couple years ago in their outlets but now gone. Hard to find them! I hear Ina Garten’s has hers custom made!”
The very next day my family from Connecticut arrived, refugees from last week’s tropical storm, which left them with no electricity, WiFi or water in their home. My daughter-in-law happened to be wearing a denim shirt, which she reminded me we both had bought several years ago at J. Crew. She says she often wears hers over a T-shirt or for an evening walk on the beach near her house. Yesterday, dressing up a little for her morning Zoom conference call, she wore a navy sleeveless Z Supply Reverie dress and threw her denim shirt over her shoulders for a functional, comfortable, work-appropriate look.
First Jura, then my daughter-in-law. This must be a message to me to look for a replacement for my own worn-out—denim, boyfriend, work shirt—whatever you want to call it. And share my findings. So, below, nine different chambray tops to wear on their own, over a tank top dress, with jeans or come fall and later, with leggings as your go-to uniform. Some are traditional button-downs with patch pockets; other have stand-up collars, balloon sleeves, ruffles or stripes.
P.S. Ina, we love you, but no custom-tailored ones required.
LEFT: Boden’s Elsie Denim Top—Mid Vintage ($95) veers from the traditional with full sleeves, puffed shoulders, a standup collar and slightly fitted silhouette. It falls slightly below the hip so you can easily wear over a pair of jeans. RIGHT: What else to expect from Danish designer Ganni but a fun take on a wardrobe staple? You can channel your inner cowgirl with this Studded Organic Cotton Denim Shirt ($295, Matches Fashion), a Western-inspired denim blouse with elbow-length balloon sleeves and silver-studded shoulders.
LEFT: Although it’s not in chambray, South Street Linen’s oversize top qualifies as a great Boyfriend Shirt ($229). It comes in a slew of colors, but we’re partial to this chicory blue. On its own or over a tank top or tee, the shirt you’ll want to have with you on a summer evening out. RIGHT: Founded by two friends from Paris, Barbara and Sharon, Ba&Sh updates the chambray shirt with feminine blouse details: gathered sleeves for fullness and a collar with a Victorian-inspired ruffle. The mother-of-pearl snap buttons on the Axelle Denim Shirt ($235) add a cowgirl touch.
LEFT: Not too tight, not too loose, J. Crew’s Everyday Chambray Shirt ($78) is the brand’s latest style iteration. Wash it, then iron with starch for a more buttoned-up look. CENTER: Polo Ralph Lauren’s indigo-dyed, cotton twill Custom Fit Denim Shirt ($128) is more form-fitting than the usual suspects. Go for a Western ranch hand vibe with a big silver belt and dark-wash jeans. RIGHT: I like the light wash on Madewell’s Chambray Classic Ex BF Button Down Shirt ($72) for a change of pace that just might attract your next boyfriend. Apparently other customers are thinking the same—the only size left is XXL.
LEFT: The racing stripes on Lisa Todd’s On Track Side-Striped Denim Shirt ($225, Neiman Marcus) give this basic new interest and when paired with leopard leggings, well, we approve of the unexpected combo. RIGHT: Levi’s Essential Western Shirt ($69.50) is available in light wash blue, but we like it in black, paired with light charcoal jeans.