Classic shirt takes sizzling new forms


March 05, 1992|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,Staff Writer

A white shirt chases the blues away.

Ask any man.

A quick shower, shave and pristine shirt fresh from the laundry and he's ready to tackle the world. No compromises, no gray areas with white. Even laundry products which promise to keep white at its brightest echo that note of optimism -- Cheer, Bold, Fresh Start, Yes.

Yes! The one positive step women can take now to give the wardrobe a jolt is to invest in a white shirt. Not an ordinary oxford, but a top that makes dramatic use of traditional masculine details.

Lowly shirttails have never been treated with such glamour. This year designers have exaggerated the front ends to be tied, wrapped and knotted at the waist.

There are shirts with grand flourishes at the wrist. French cuffs are large and important, begging for extravagant cuff links. Barrel cuffs are deeper, buttoned tight to show off a full sleeve.

Sleeves are full and gathered, accentuating a pretty hand.

Collars are enlarged to stand up and frame the face. Shirtfronts ++ are tucked, ruffled or purely simple.

Yes, a white shirt, everybody has one.

A good start on spring is to put a white shirt to work with a career look: "It really is an extension of the classic shirt. The blazer shape is so strong this year and a white shirt looks wonderful under those jackets," says Geri Savidge, fashion director for the AnnTaylor stores. "Our shirt with the long wrap tie is merely an extension of menswear, but it looks perfectly feminine."

The AnnTaylor version of the big shirt features exaggerated shirttails that can be knotted at the waist or criss-crossed and wrapped. The shirt has many lives. "Wrapped under a suit it has a very clean line. The flat midriff eliminates the need for a belt. It acts as a cummerbund to accentuate the waist," says Ms. Savidge, "Later in the season it can hold its own in a businesslike way when worn with a tailored skirt."

The fashion magazines and designers show white shirts with lots of skin, but many women may not be ready to wear a shirt open to the waist and cinched. "They will find their own comfort level and may button it up to the neck," says Diane Lee of Octavia in Cross Keys. "The shirts we are showing have enough added interest such as embroidery, trim at the placket or contrast piping. We're pairing them with denim bottoms, everything from a 20-inch skirt to a 34-inch skirt. A shirt looks wonderful with shorts and jeans. I see it in a casual context rather than a career look for now, but I think it will definitely carry over into fall, worn with three or four strands of pearls."

Jan Maslin at Trillium Ltd. says a white shirt should be an annual investment. "It is always nice to have in the wardrobe, but it is the one thing that needs to replaced each year because the color just doesn't seem to hold up. Whether it's cotton, silk or linen, white tends to yellow and looks tired by the end of the season. We're showing some great shirts in handkerchief linens and and cottons. They look fresh and beautiful. A white pique shirt would look wonderful with jeans or as a beach cover-up."

It's not too early to think sunshine. "We have been moving a lot of spring since November," says Ann Liner of the Bead -- Rotunda.

"Our girls are doing white shirts with long, flowy skirts. They either tie the crinkle crepe shirts at the waist or wear them over a long tiered skirt. They will drop a Moroccan leather belt around the hips, then blouse up the shirt over it. They take a shirt and adapt it to their own look.

"The young wear the shirt unbuttoned, and it's especially fresh in eyelet or cut-work embroidery."

Ah, the young dressers! Who else can twist the old white shirt into something new?

"The tie-front shirt is one of the hottest new items," according to Stephanie Fassler, vice president of merchandising for the Merry-Go-Round stores. "You'll see it everywhere this summer worn with short shorts. The roomy walking short has had it. They'll be wearing cheeky shorts in denim with a fray cuff.

"We have the white shirt cropped short and ruffled, reduced to a collar as a halter top, and large and french-cuffed," says Ms. Fassler. "It will be a summer for white shirts and jeans, jeans and more jeans."

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