Morning Lovely people!
There are a lot of items of clothing that are not only kept together by a skein of barn but also through language. The white dress shirt is one of them; journalists have written thousands of pages just about its simplicity, feminism and charm.
This is just because the white dress shirt is: classic, anarchic, autonomous, conscious, fair, formal, daring, innocent, powerful, sexy, elegant, virgin, mysterious, floating and pure - just to quote some examples. That some of these words contradict each other does not seem to be that big of a deal. Because, most of all this dress shirt is 'democratic' and 'chameleonic'. Or just simple, as some prefer, just a blanco piece of paper and easy to wear. (Perfect for when you overslept or absolutely don't know what to wear)
Katherine Hepburn wore the white dress shirt in the fifties, masculine en with a stand-up collar - which made her look independent and like a nonconformist. Kim Basinger wore it more feminine and nonchalant in 9½ Weeks - it made her irresistible. Partly due these women and their influence at the present visual culture is this white dress an 'iconic' piece. Just like the little black dress, the denim jeans and the mini skirt. And that's absolutely justly.
But when you start digging in the white dress shirt its history you'll find that the history goes way back, far before this piece of clothing had a hollywood reputation. Quite remarkable for a piece that was once designed as mens underclothes at the start of his career.
O yes, we have to go all back to the Normans, the trendsetting buccaneers with their horn helmets. Back then they already wore those lose, functional white shirts underneath their thick woolen suits. Not until the legendary British dandy Beau Brummell ('If the world is so silly as to admire my absurdities, you and I may know better, but what does that signify?') introduced it at the end of the nineteenth century as outerwear combined with an arty knotted scarf and black blazers, the white dress shirt became visible. And never to disappear ever again.
On the contrary actually! The white dress shirt became the symbol of the higher class, of the business men that didn't have to work with their hands much, because they couldn't permit to get their white shirts dirty. This way the white dress shirt also represented people who had enough money to wear a fresh washed, clean and new white dress shirt everyday.
That aristocratic, elevated trait has always been and always will be a part of the white dress shirt - even thought the trade union of General Motors in the USA always celebrate 'White Shirt Day' on the 11th of February since 1937 to emphasize that there really isn't any difference between the employers (white collar) and the employees (blue collar) and that the white blouse represented the emergence of the new, working woman.
It probably is because of the paradoxical history of the white dress shirt that it is now described as a 'democratic' and 'neutral' piece of clothing, meanwhile everybody knows damn well that men and women, both, who wear the white dress shirt radiate an undeniable allure.
That it's someone that doesn't need any camouflage and the white dress shirt is just enough - Hello Jean Simmons in Guys and Dolls from 1954, with your menswear and killer smile. Class. That's what it is, the only word she's wearing.
ZARA CARDIGAN, BAG AND SHOES / THEORY DRESS SHIRT (menswear) / DAY BIRGER et MIKKELSEN / MANGO NECKLACE
Photos by Hannah Adams