Z or The Anatomy of the Shirt

The letter Z has stumped me this month, so here is the anatomy of the shirt instead.

The Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion defines a shirt as

Clothing for the upper part of the body, usually more tailored than a blouse. Can be closed in front or back or pullover style, tucked in or out.

Shirts are an infinitely versatile piece of clothing that have been around since the Middle Ages. The evolution of the shirt through history goes like this:

  • The shirt began as a pullover style in the Middle Ages
  • The neckband was added in the 14th century
  • The standing collar was added in the 15th century
  • Embroidery, frills and lace were added in the 17th and 18th centuries
  • The coloured shirt was introduced in the early 19th century, although they weren’t considered acceptable clothing for a ‘gentleman’ until the early 20th century
  • Printed shirts with a white collar were introduced in the 1860s
  • Women began wearing shirts in the 1860s
  • Striped shirts were introduced in the late 1900s
  • The attached collar became popular in the 1920s

Anatomy of the Shirt

Anatomy of the Shirt


Parts of a shirt:

  • collar – can be any style, but is traditionally a fold-over collar with a stand. This is often called a shirt collar. See the Anatomy of a Collar
  • sleeves – traditionally full length with a cuff, but also come in shorter lengths and even sleeveless
  • placket – traditionally extends the full length of the front of the shirt with buttons at regular intervals. Can extend only part way down the shirt or be on the back.
  • cuff – Can be single or double (French). Closed with buttons or cufflinks
  • yoke – can be on the front or back, or both
  • darts – usually only present on a fitted, women’s shirt in the bust area to add shape
  • tail – the extended back hem of the shirt allowing for extra fabric to tuck in
  • bust pocket – pocket over the bust. Can be one or two, with or without flap
  • back box pleat – single box pleat in the centre back to provide extra movement in the arms. Only present if there is a yoke

While there are many, many shirts styles available, there are a few timeless styles that every woman should own. Here are my 5 Must-Have Shirts:

1. The White Button-down Shirt

Rag & Bone
Rag & Bone

The classic white shirt is so versatile and will class-up any outfit. Go for a dressier style, in a cut that suits your body shape and you will never look back.

2. The Chambray/Denim Shirt


Comfy, and exuding a sense of relaxed chic, the chambray shirt in either full button-down or pullover style can be worn all year round and never goes out of style.

3. The Silk Shirt

Acne Studios
Acne Studios

There is nothing like the feel of silk on the skin. This soft, floaty shirt is as well-matched to office attire as it is to brunching with friends – it’s all about how you wear it. Available in all colours of the rainbow, the brighter the better!

4. The Tuxedo or Bib-front Shirt

Catherine Malandrino
Catherine Malandrino

The Tuxedo shirt has made a bit of a comeback in the fashion world over the last couple of seasons and can now be found in a range of fabrics and colours. The bib-front detail adds interest to the style, making it perfect for that occasion where you want to look like you made an effort, but not too much effort.

5. The Printed Shirt

Alice + Olivia
Alice + Olivia

This shirt is where you can really show your personality – whether you prefer a minimalist striped print or a full-on floral, the printed shirt is all about expressing yourself and having fun.

Check out our April posts for more examples of shirt styles.

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