Why everyone wants a silk shirt this year
Not taken the Personal Style Quiz yet? It’s a must to understand how items will work for you.
Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Cut long
- Small pointed collar
- Long sleeves with cuffs
- Drapes perfectly
Every season has its special item of clothing that defines the look we are all wanting.
Right now that look is relaxed, comfortable yet stylish.
Wherever in the world we are, staying at home is the new going out! And with that huge lifestyle change has come a massive interest in very comfortable clothing. Joggers, sweatshirts, tees and big jumpers are selling like hot cakes.
But even if we’re just on Zoom to friends and work colleagues, we still want to look good. So that’s where the more stylish shirt comes in.
This year’s silk shirt is cut large for a relaxed fit, drapes beautifully and comes in the basic classic wardrobe colors of white, cream, navy and black with a few retailers offering more subtle tones such as sage green.
But the biggest news is – we’re back to silk!
Who’d have thought we’d be going mad for such a luxury fabric when all we’re doing is staying home or walking the dog? But the large silk shirt is this season’s must-have.
Why we’re in love with silk
So why are we loving the silk shirt right now?
I hazard a guess that it’s because we’re craving something special, something a little better than the usual cotton or jersey. But we’re not going to head for tailored tops or anything restricting. We’re lounging, relaxing, going super-casual to the supermarket or even, in some regions, to a restaurant or friend’s home. We’ve lost the urge to confine ourselves (pun intended) in anything too tight or detailed.
Silk is a fabulous fabric. It has a wonderfully long history and has always been a luxury material. Until about the 80’s it was out of reach for many of us or worn when only the best would do.
Then China opened up and suddenly within ten years most people could afford a silk dress or shirt.
You’ll still find that almost all silk shirts are made in China whoever the retailer is.
How to choose this year’s silk shirt
I’ve researched what’s easily available at a mid price and I tried a couple on before I bought one myself.
The differences between this year’s silk shirts are few.
They all come to lower hip or upper thigh level. Some have a back longer than the front, many do not.
Almost all have a straight yolk at the back with one central pleat below that.
They all have the new smaller collar.
Most have a placket running down the front that covers the buttons.
Some have no pockets, many have one top pocket and a few have a top pocket on each side.
Near the end of this article I’ll review the best silk shirts at a reasonable price that I found online.
How to style your new silk shirt
Many of us will love wearing our silk shirt simply buttoned and left to hang long over our leggings or tight jogging bottoms. Perfect for video interactions even if some of us have big hips.
However the length does help to detract from the size of our hips so we’re going to look better in the full-length mirror too.
Move things up a notch and wear a cami top or, as I do, a cotton sleeveless tank top (vest) under the shirt. You now have the option to open the front buttons as low as you wish.
The under vest is really useful because silk is a fine fabric and, especially in pale colors, rather transparent. If you’re twenty and slender who cares? If you’re well over fifty and have extra flab around your middle, well, we care. See-through is just not for us!
Also, being able to unbutton the shirt down as far as the waist if necessary is another plus. That long V is going to help you look slimmer. Especially if you add jewelry at the neck. A mid-length necklace or a longer chain or pendant will enhance the look by taking eyes off the hips and focussing on your upper body nearer to the face. Perfect.
If you wear a sleeveless tank top or even a short sleeved tee under the silk shirt, especially if it is in a strongly contrasting color or a small pattern, you may decide to unbutton the shirt completely using it as a layer.
Because silk drapes so beautifully this open style will form two long parallel lines from your neck to your hips. This is a great way to look a bit taller and a bit slimmer.
The current trend of allowing a shirt to hang below a cardigan or jacket is easy to achieve with your new shirt. Be sure to wear it over pants, leggings or a skirt that is not going to make it cling to you though. I found I had to select the bottoms carefully because the weight of the jacket or cardi caused the fine silk to cling just where I didn’t want it to – the thigh.
And, because the shirt is so long, you’ll probably find it looks better styled with a longer jacket, blazer or cardigan. The cropped cardi or short boxy jacket doesn’t give you the right line at all. The idea is to keep the whole silhouette long and straight but to highlight the fluttery quality of the silk layer.
If you like a minimalist look then wear either wide relaxed silk or linen trousers or tight-fitting pants with the shirt buttoned right to the neck. Black bottoms and white or cream top looks good to get that ‘I mean business’ look so beloved of young professional women these days. Not a good style if you have a large bust though. You’re looking to get a straight up and down silhouette so a small bosom is a requisite for the minimalist look.
If you have a large bosom why not wear the shirt tucked loosely into jeans or chinos. Wear a belt then pull the shirt out all round a bit so it doesn’t cling to your waist but, at least at the front, shows a bit of the belt to mark your waistline – or upper hip if you prefer a lower cut pair of pants.
You can also undo the last few buttons of the shirt and tie the front ends together cow-girl style. This makes the top quite a bit looser then nips in the waist or top of hips. The fluttery loose look helps disguise a large upper half or, indeed, an upper half that is too small or flat in comparison with your hips.
There’s so much fabric in these new long wide-cut shirts that it makes styling easy.
A look that was popular in the eighties – when these large silk shirts were also all the trend – was a shirt hanging over a narrow skirt or pants – or today leggings – but belted firmly at the waist with a wide and interesting belt. Have a go and see how this style looks on you. You may need to mess around a bit with the way the shirt gathers below the belt to get the fullness in the front and back not on your hips.
By the way is you still have a large loose silk shirt in this casual ‘workday’ style with the top pocket you can start wearing it again. Just be aware that the collar will probably look a bit big compared to this year’s fashion. You might wish to slightly mask this by adding a scarf at the neck so the color of the scarf takes attention away from the collar.
Two silk shirts compared – my try-on
I live in France but usually order online from retailers based in the UK. For my silk shirt try-on I ordered one from Boden and one from Marks & Spencer’s. Both companies ship worldwide.
I have to say there was very little difference in these two shirts. So little in fact that I wondered whether they had both been manufactured by the same company in China.
This is no surprise because Boden has basically taken over the more classic but stylish area of the clothing market for mid-life and older women in the UK.
Anyway, back to the two silk shirts.
As I couldn’t decide between cream and navy for my Fall capsule wardrobe I ordered one of each. I finally decided on the cream simply because I noticed that I had so many navy items already in my capsule.
However, the cream shirt from M&S is a bit see-through as is to be expected with silk. I’m not a fan of the large top pocket but on this shirt it helps lessen the transparency, at least on one side.
They both have the small pointed collar. But the M&S shirt makes a change with the cuffs. Instead of a small cuff it goes for a more feminine look with a longer cuff. These can be worn as they are or, in my case, buttoned and turned over once to form a double thickness cuff, making the cuff look more obvious.
I think on balance I prefer the Boden traditional small cuff simply because I am short and I don’t really like long sleeves to the wrist. It also makes it easier to push up the sleeves to just below the elbow – ideal for shorter women and another flash back to the eighties!
There’s a few pennies difference in the price but I can recommend either.
My other silk shirt recommendations
Silk shirts from retailers based in the US
SaksFifthAvenue.com has a good-looking traditional shirt by Frame, in XS S M L and XL. It is nicely straight cut, hanging long and with the usual back yol and front panel covering the buttons. It has a slightly larger collar than the ones I tried on. Check the current price as so many retailers are discounting clothing right now.
Interestingly I couldn’t find anything on Eileen Fisher whose style is minimalism.
Silk shirts from retailers with US and UK sites
Bodenusa.com is ideal if you live in the States. Their return policies are the most generous I’ve found. The silk shirt I tried on also comes in some beautiful patterns too.
Shirt styles for 2022
Since writing this post I’ve published The 9 Best Boyfriends Shirts if You’re Over 50. I look at cotton shirts this time. And the look has got bigger. So if you’re not sure if silk is your style take a look at my pick, and try-on, of inexpensive on-trend oversized shirts.