The humble shirt. It’s been around for centuries and has swung wildly between being a business essential and a barely considered basic. Now the often overlooked staple is in line for a serious rework, with powerhouse brands and future favourites, from Chloé to Isa Arfen to Tome, rewriting the traditional tailoring rules. Neat collars, slim sleeves and standard silhouettes are off the agenda for spring/summer 2017, making room for an altogether more dramatic sartorial statement.
“Shirting is having a moment,” says Jillian Xin, womenswear buyer at Lane Crawford. “The last few seasons have seen designers experiment with the traditional Oxford button-down, taking on new interpretations. Architectural statements in poplin, off -the-shoulder pinstripes, oversized and back-to-front ... we’re loving it all.”
If there’s one name to watch when it comes to trend-defining tailoring, it’s Stella McCartney. Known for her precise lines – courtesy of time spent working alongside esteemed tailor Edward Sexton of Savile Row – and linear cuts, the British designer sent a stream of fresh-faced models down her Paris runway in oversize patchwork shirts and tunics that oozed picked off-the-floor cool. Our top pick was cut big and printed half and half – stripes on one side and overblown circles on the other. Generous proportions were the clear winners, and strong collars, double-length cuff s (left open) and sloping shoulder seams all added to the big, bigger, biggest vibe.
Crossing the stream, shirts were given equally intense treatment at Marques’Almeida’s London show. Painted in the same humbug stripes that ran throughout the collection, fat cuffs swung below models’ wrists as they sauntered around the room. The effect was obviously punkish. Collars (if you can call them that fabrics were folding and draping down bodies, leaving original shirt details lost in a medley of movement) were dropped low and open to reveal more than a subtle hint of the shoulder and décolletage. When it comes to shirts, slim silhouettes are clearly out.
Once considered only the middleman in a well-heeled look, the classic button-up is now taking aim at the core of your outfit, and the old borrowed-from-the-boys cliché has been flung off . It’s not about supersize cuts devoid of shape, rather bold proportions that riff on a modern version of femininity and mark the way for a new direction in dressing. The traditional style has been brought up to date and modest yet sexy designs are made for a generation of women who want clever, easy, effortless dressing.
Newer brand on the block Hellessy, which moved from presentation to runway this season and epitomises the ideal of classic designs upgraded with a modern twist, matched the nonchalant styling we saw across the board with a relaxed half-tuck winking out of calf-skimming skirts and liquid-satin trousers. “I call this shirt the Bessette, as I imagined this is how the sophisticated Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy would have wanted her shirt tailored and how she would have worn it: half tucked into her men’s pants,” says Hellessy’s Paris-born designer, Sylvie Millstein. “It comes in many different fabrications, including crisp cotton and fluid silk. Reworking the classic shirt in unexpected ways each season is a natural direction I have been taking.”
Cue split forearms (some two-tone) and wide shoulder-baring collars that showed off skin for a fresh and covertly sexy take on summertime style. Millstein is herself a supporter of the languid look, taking her spring/summer 2017 runway bow in a self-designed silk-satin number that no doubt made the must-buy lists of several front-row attendees.
In New York, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim – the dynamo design duo behind Monse – didn’t disappoint when it came to their signature poplin shirting. Tucked into pinstriped trousers and cargo pants, styles were pushed off shoulders with slashed cuff s hanging well past the fingertips. Silk shirts were brought down from their lofty heights of pure sophistication thanks to cut-out shoulders and super-long sleeves that drowned the arms of waif-like models. These deconstructed variations were painted in a classic Monse palette of white and blue, and typify the new wave of contemporary tailoring that’s washed up this season.
Between luxury and contemporary brands, the shirt silhouette has been transformed and placed front and centre of your new-season wardrobe. Rebuilt as the most relevant piece you can invest in now, you’ll be reaching for one as the cornerstone of any outfit – day or evening. “It’s so versatile to wear – paired with jeans for effortless nonchalance,” says Xin, “or a statement of contrast with a gown skirt.”
So, whether you zero in on cut, colour or fit, your new season shirting will work from morning meetings through to evening cocktails without fuss, bringing into focus the new normal for 2017: covetable style-led designs that work hard in your wardrobe. It’s time to shirt up.