An oversized white shirt is much more than throw on and go. Prepare for jaw dropping news, the oversized shirt dates back to the 1920s, becoming a statement in independence and power. From the days of flappers to the radical reimagining of Rei Kawakubo the history of oversized fashion is riddled with politics and of course style. Not only one of the more versatile and timeless pieces in your closet, the oversized shirt could just be the most interesting fashion piece intersecting gender and class. Let’s take a closer look at the storied history and style of the oversized shirt.
Post WWI attitudes shifted as the first women started to vote and enter the workplace. Women’s clothing became far more mobile. Liberation manifested quite literally in the relaxed fit garment. Before this time the white shirt was a garment of gentlemen, the white being too unpractical for the working class. By the 1920s however, designers including Coco Chanel had broken down gender and class boundaries with a more relaxed and contemporary take on womenswear, trading skirts for trousers and corsets for men’s shirts. Coco Channel’s revolutionary move brought the white shirt into the realm of women’s fashion. The success of the oversized shirt was repeated throughout the 20th century. Stealing the style from men gave the first oversized look. It gained serious traction in the 1940s thanks to Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and Lauren Bacall. Moving through the decades it was cinematic moments that secured its place as fashion icon like in Roman Holiday, one of Audrey Hepburn’s most memorable outfits of all time, a white shirt with rolled up sleeves and a popped collar. Free and easy on a vespa.
During these decades, the white shirt despite initially being a feature of menswear, started to be very much more associated with femininity and an essential in the wardrobe. Not in the 70s the style developed more of an androgynous reputation. Patti Smith wore it with a skinny tie and Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall cemented herself as a fashion icon in oversized shirts, tweed blazers and pants. Annie Hall came at a time when women’s equal rights where again a political hot spot and highlights the underlying liberal female attitude with traditionally masculine, loose-fitting fashion.
The oversized shirt was seen as a method of both taking back ownership of the female body while simultaneously obscuring it. Beyond the shape - For centuries men’s clothing has been functionality based. Easy, made for movement, comfort, performance, not for appearance. Corsets! Hoops Skirts! Women endured societal beauty norms over comfort for years! By taking on the oversized shirt women are taking on the easy, function, comfort and power that comes with functional dressing based on a person doing, action, importance. Not an object to be looked at.
Into the 90s and today, Uma Thurman wore it buttoned up with tailored black trousers in Pulp Fiction. It was thrown over a dress in Pretty Woman, with nothing by Angelina Jolie in Mr and Mrs Smith. Its ease and power found itself on style mavens like Carolyn Basette Kennedy making the relaxed white shirt part of her uniform. The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, wore it for her very first appearance with Prince Harry, think that was by chance? No way.
Who could forget Sharon Stone’s red-carpet look for the 1998 Oscars when she paired her husband’s Gap shirt as on oversized shirt look with her Vera Wang skirt. Julia Roberts, Jenna Lyons, and Emma Watson have followed in her red carpet foot steps. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Victoria Beckham, Rihanna, Zendaya, Amal Clooney! The list goes on and the echo effect goes out. Stylish woman everywhere depend on the white shirt fitted or oversized.
It was natural to take this iconic piece and adapt with proportion. The magic of the oversized trend grew because it gave women an opportunity to express themselves outside of the confines of past cultural gender ‘rules.’ How scandalous to dress like a man! The oversized shirt has its roots in casting off feminine beauty standards as very much a political declaration. Today we even have fashion house, Comme des Garcons meaning “like the boys” making a statement about redefining these beauty standards with oversized baggy hoodies, t-shirts, crewnecks, pullovers, and unconstructed blazers. It is a small but major declaration by women we can thank for adapting the oversized shirt (among other statements!) taking the opportunity to dress like men and occupy the same spaces as men.
Men have been enjoying the ease of the white shirt for years, the popularity of women taking it on as their own could have been expected, not only as a power move (way to go ladies!) but for its versatility and has endless styling options, it can be worn all year round, season after season.
A well-cut white shirt looks so sharp and fresh with everything, whether for business, smart-casual or casual. There is nothing better with jeans, a suit and an evening look. Now add in an oversized proportion and this staple takes on more dimension to where ALL ON ITS OWN as a dress, duster, laying piece, beach cover-up, kimono, sleepwear! There is a seamless ability to go from work to weekend, day to night, the white shirt remains so popular because it suits everyone.
How to style a plus size oversized shirt
To style this favorite you can throw on a button up shirt and instantly look polished and put together. The plus size oversize shirt options are catching up to straight size and now provide a selection whether for a more fitted, reconstructed, relaxed or oversized style the refined silhouette of the shirt remains the same as it will never go out of style. Whichever style you choose, one thing is for sure. You’ll have endless inspiration for how to style it, no matter whether it's to be worn today or in 50 years' time.
First find a quality made garment to last, you want a timeless silhouette you’ll wear today and years from now. Second, when styling your oversized shirt keep in mind balance. It’s all about proportion (although its hard to go wrong once you have step one covered!) In order to style the perfect look, it is important to pair the shirt with things that will balance the look. Because the shirt is oversized the bottoms can be leggings or straight leg. Third - try all the options - Cast aside worries of frumpy! The oversized shirt is all about ease and comfort, feel the power! The See ROSE Go Signature Tunic Shirt is a high-low hem shirt with hidden pockets, perfect to wear as a dress. This top is the perfect oversize plus size top and should be a staple in every women's wardrobe! Another tip for styling an oversized shirt is to try a monochrome look. These items create a very sleek and chic look.
Working from home has definitely been a challenge, maintaining routine is a proven way to keep sprites high. For an instant mood boost keep your See ROSE Go oversized shirt handy. Pair the shirt with comfortable pants such as leggings, joggers, or track pants (or no pants at all, really who can see?!)
One wfh style hack - keep the oversized tunic shirt over your chair. Even if you're working in sports bra and bike shorts you can easily throw on this button down for a comfy quick chic trick. Need to step out for a minute? Throw on a pair of Nike's or Adidas and your oversized tunic and you have a cute and casual look to run errands in or grab a mid-day latte! The oversized tunic pairs perfect with your wfh loungewear and knitwear or can be thrown over a cami and leggings or a simple v-neck and paired with a cardigan just in time for a zoom call! The oversized shirt can even be worn with your activewear because of its versatility. For a more layered look, wear the oversized tunic with a graphic tee or a turtleneck underneath!
For a fun and flirty date night look, pairing the oversized tunic shirt with a pair of powerful pumps or booties and a great bag will take the look from day to night. This look can be elevated even further by incorporating a pop of color within the shoes or a ribbed bodysuit under the shirt and of course unbutton a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. For another way to truly emphasize color, try a color block look! Another oversized look to try is an off the shoulder top this is a great way to wear the oversized shirt while keeping your look fun and flirty for date night.
Lastly is to master the French Tuck. The French tuck is a half tuck where the shirt is tucked into the pants at the very front the back and sides of the shirt are left out of the pants and are free to hang naturally. It another step into effortless cool girl.
It is astonishing how simply changing or emphasizing the cut of the iconic white shirt has the power to change what we know about a person’s style and expression. Designers know this power and gain inspiration from exaggerated fits. We know this power and pull on it for that go-to look that delivers every time. Oversized clothing in general has been used to challenge social norms for years. Next time you reach for that oversized shirt you’ll now recall just hard it really does and will work for you.