A crisp white shirt is a fashion classic

When it comes to classic fashion, the white shirt—clean, crisp and timeless—is hard to beat and is among the top ten wardrobe staples.

Remember when Sharon Stone wore one to the Oscars with a formal full skirt? Audrey Hepburn famously wore a man's white shirt tied in the back to show off her tiny waist, but we have many more and better options now. While white shirts always have been a crucial part of a woman's wardrobe, the infusion of stretch has rocketed them even higher on the list of go-to items.

Stretch has also made them more of a stand-alone piece—especially when they can be worn over trousers, jeans or a skirt, without being tucked in. The enduring appeal of the white shirt is simply this: It's fresh, useful and modern. Keep this in mind when buying a white shirt, which can range in price from €15 to €200 plus for brands like Ralph Lauren.

White doesn't stay white forever, so be prepared to buy some new white shirts when your older shirts start to lose their whiteness. The good news is that this makes it easier to stay in style, as shirt silhouettes are constantly evolving.

Buying a white shirt

If you're petite, make sure everything about the shirt is in scale to your body. You don't want oversize collars, overly fussy details, too-wide lapels, too-long sleeves or too long of a tail on the shirt. If you're busty, make especially sure that the shirt buttons in the right places so it doesn't gape. The larger-bust figures should stay away from ruffles or extra details on the upper part of the shirt.

For a slimming effect, especially if you go in at the waist, slightly fitted shirts are better. If you have an undefined waist, though, the blousier look might work better.

If your tummy pooches out, a shirt that's ruched on the side can disguise it and vertical white-on-white stripes are very slimming.

Check how see-through the shirt is when you try it on and also check that all seams are sewn smooth and flat; if they bunch or there is an extra wrinkle, the shirt will look cheap.

If white doesn't enhance your complexion, add a pop of colour with a necklace —bold turquoise, coral, jet-black or bamboo beads. Or add a scarf, cardigan or jacket.

If you have a favourite white shirt, that's fine, but try new styles, too —pintucks, darts, piping, coloured buttons, bell sleeves, three-quarter length sleeves. All will update the look.

Caring for your white shirt

In general, it's better to wash your white shirts than to have them dry-cleaned. You must, of course, wash only with other whites.

Never use bleach; it will probably yellow your shirt. Pay extra attention to the collar. Put some dish washing liquid or stain remover on it to get makeup off. Wash in tepid water and let them hang dry, especially if the shirt has lycra in it. Or place briefly in the dryer. Be aware that even if you line dry your shirt, some may shrink up to a size after washing. Best not to buy one that's already snug. Worth trying: put white vinegar in the rinse water the first time you wash a white shirt as it helps it stay whiter. Also, undoing the buttons when you place your shirts in the washing machine will keep them more secure for longer.

For more style tips check out: www.rmibranding.com

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