test case: the best silk shirts

You know how they say a man’s wardrobe freezes in time at the moment he marries his wife? (This basically means The Hubs will be wearing polo shirts and jeans when he’s 97, but I suppose it could be worse.) I think women experience a similar phenomenon, but it’s not tied to any particular life event. It’s that eye-opening day when you realize “Hey, trends are fun, but I have 19 versions of this outfit, it’s a complete no-brainer, and I think I look pretty great in it to boot.” As Stanford’s grandmother from Sex and the City once said, if the Chanel suit still fits, and it never goes out of style, buy it in every color.

In recent months, I’ve had my “Chanel suit” realization, but it’s in the form of a silk tunic and skinny/straight jeans. Given the chance, I could easily, happily wear this combo – in its infinite variations – for the rest of my life. (And can you imagine how easy life would be if you never had to think about what you were wearing? I’d be like Michael Kors or Vera Wang…almost.) It’s easy, comfortable, figure-flattering, and works for darn near any occasion. I’m just doing a rough estimate here, but there are at least 15 silk shirts hanging in my closet right now (not counting the one from Rachel Mara that I’m wearing today).

All this to say that when it comes to silk shirts, I know of what I speak. Since the fit is different each and every time, and drape and cut really matter on a silk shirt, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned from the contents of my closet. 

  1. Equipment: These are the grand dames of silk. And they are lovely – usually a brushed, matte silk with a heavenly drape and gorgeous colors. Their “Signature” shirt is great for women with an ample chest, though not so great for women with equally ample hips (I get around this by leaving the bottom button undone). The big down side with Equipment is delicacy. Just look at these shirts the wrong way and they stain. Water spots are a big problem, and if you drop a crumb from your morning croissant on your lap, even for an instant, forget it.
  2. Vince: No surprise, these are my favorite, particularly the “Popover” or “Half Placket” styles. They win the test case in every possible regard, which is why I own them in multiples. They have a smidgen of stretch and are cut on the bias for more movement, plus they’re built for curves. This means both that they’re great if you have them, but that they give you a sleek silhouette even if you don’t. They resist wrinkles better than any other silk I’ve worn, and handle water spots beautifully. Plus, I’ve always been able to find them on sale (like, say, this one that’s 60% off, and which I’ll be ordering as soon as we’re done here).
  3. Tucker: Another favorite of mine is Tucker’s “The Tunic” (which I stalk every time it appears on Gilt). Some of their cuts can be a little tricky, but The Tunic is a classic, and works on darn near everyone. I do think they’ve changed their fabrics and cuts a bit in the last year or two. The older versions were thick and supple, had stretch and sheen, resisted wrinkles, and fit everyone I know. The newer versions are a thinner silk, and therefore wrinkle a bit more. But they still make the most beautiful prints ever, so I often buy them a size bigger and have them tailored to suit. They’re absolutely perfect for summer.
  4. Joie: Lovely, classic shapes, best suited to girls with a straight silhouette or an athletic build. (I have friends that own “The Rancher” in every color.) These can be a bit wrinkle-prone, but the drape is fantastic, and they’re a great option if you don’t want that longer, tunic-style length. Also, the price points are great, particularly if you catch them on sale.
  5. Club Monaco: Again, great for straighter body types, though moderate hips can be accommodated by unbuttoning that last button. I don’t think these are the masters of flattery that some other styles are (they can be a little boxy), but they do a great job of not wrinkling too terribly much, and actually resist the errant water spot quite well. An excellent budget option.

A quick word about polyester variations: I’m going to sound like a snob here, but just don’t. It’s so tempting, I know. No stains, no wrinkles, wash and wear. But they don’t drape right, they’re a plague of static cling, and they are so unbreathable as to be borderline suffocating. I always end up looking (and feeling) thoroughly bedraggled by the end of the day every time I try it. Especially when you can buy a perfectly lovely silk shirt for under $70 if you find them on sale, there’s just no reason.

Now, tell me – are there any silk shirts you’ve been loving lately?

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3 comments on “test case: the best silk shirts

  1. Roxy from Wholesome Hedonist

    Sometimes i think that you are my shopping doppelganger – it is really uncanny how many times I come here and find the exact same thing that I have been lusting over or wearing incessantly. Just today I was musing on this *exact* same thing – a long silk shirt and skinnies have become my go-to, as well! I’ve probably collected about 19 to 20 in the past few months as well. I love the J Crew Blythe for the colours and and placket detail – I have them in about 10 colours. Club Monaco is hit and miss, i agree. Joe Fresh is actually an amazaing budget option – they have been coming out with 3-4 of the most popular colours every season, the silk is thin but not sheer and decently cut, and they are priced at $39 Canadian. I find they work well as a layer under a boatneck sweater (my current office uniform is silk shirt + boat neck sweater + pencil skirt, all in unexpected colours)

    Completely agree on the polyester option – Banana’s polyester versions are particularly heinous, and they have some they feel like matte silk which are modal (rayon) and wrinkle with just a glance in their direction. However, I have been looking for a polyseter version that i can wear on the weekends that my toddler can drool/smear on without too much damage. The Gap actually has some decent tunics right now that have a good drape and feel nice despite being polyester. They’re a good weekend option.

    I look forward to researching all of these and adding to the already-bulging rainbow of silk in my closet (sometimes it feels positively Gatsby-esque!)

  2. shoppingsmycardio Post author

    @Vanessa: The thicker the silk, the better it handwashes. I’m always wary of the paper-thin styles, and leave those to the drycleaner. But if it has some heft to it (and if you have a good steamer!), I say go for it 🙂

    @Roxy: Great minds! You’ll have to let me know how you feel about the Gap versions once you’ve worn them a bit. I always feel suffocated in the poly versions, but could be I’m just a little too high-maintenance.

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