Every year about this time I go through the same ritual—hunt through my wardrobe for last summer’s T-shirts, only to find most of them looking a bit “triste,” as the French say. A good-looking T-shirt or three is an essential buy for me—the underpinning of my go-to daily summer uniform: a white, black or striped tee paired with cropped jeans/pants or a skirt. That covers me for a range of occasions—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 for too much AC. My requirements: 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, I decided to reach out to my most stylish friends, lamenting the high prices of so many labels, asking them what brands they’ve found that are the best for the buck and quality. To simplify, I specified women’s white T-shirt. Here are their responses.
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.
And here are four that are on my radar to try.
A T-shirt from Hanes’s collaboration with stylist-turned-designer Karla Welch. Slight slits at either side of a subtle step hem.
The Modern from Kule, an everyday basic made of light and airy cotton with boxy cut. The brand bi-color stripe signature on the hem adds a preppy accent.
I like the ample sleeves on Redone’s Classic T that don’t accentuate any upper-arm sags.
Whenever I read anything about T-shirts, Anthony Thomas Melila (ATM) always shows up. The $85 price tag on the stretchy modal style is a bit hard to take though.