Dress Shirt

AKA: formal shirt

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • stiff, folded shirt collar
  • button up front
  • full length sleeves
  • single or French cuffs
  • can be worn with cufflinks
  • usually made from high thread count cotton
  • longer length to allow for tucking in
  • often more fitted through the body
  • traditionally in solid, conservative colours


…of the style: Some may say that a shirt is a shirt is a shirt, but that is not entirely true. In the modern marketplace there are different varieties of shirts intended for different occasions – the soft, casual, sports shirt, the tough and hard-wearing work shirt or the stiff and most formal of evening shirts, just to name a few.

The dress shirt fits somewhere in the middle. It has a stiff, folded collar, proper cuffs, is made of a higher quality cloth and is generally of better construction than the sports shirt, but does not go as far in its styling as the formal shirt. Basically it makes the wearer look smart and is an appropriate choice for the office and a semi-formal or formal occasions (that do not call for black or white tie).

While the shirt as a garment as a long and ever-changing history (more about that later this month), according to a few sources, the dress shirt began to take on its own identity after WWII. I could not find out how or why it came about, and to be perfectly honest that it seems a bit late in the game for its inception. Personally I think the modern dress shirt came into being in the early 20th century as a result of the popularity of the folded collar, the acceptance of coloured shirts in polite society and the relaxation of men’s dress codes; but I have no evidence to back this up, these are just my musings on the subject.

Regardless of when it was introduced, the dress shirt is now a wardrobe staple. The popularity of the style has encouraged designers to experiment with cut, fabric and colour and the modern marketplace offers endless varieties for both men and women.

…of the name: I couldn’t find any evidence as to why it is called a dress shirt but I assume it has something to do with the higher quality and smarter look of the style. It is a dressier shirt option.

For more info on Dress Shirts try Wikipedia, Effortless Gent, here, here or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

21st Century Dress Shirts

Traditionally, the dress shirt is made of high quality cotton or linen, but in womenswear the softness of silk has made it an equally popular option; giving the working woman even more options for looking great at the office.

burberry brit Dsquared2

Burberry Brit, DSQUARED2

jcrew DvF


J.Crew, Diane von Furstenberg


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