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Women have long co-opted items from the closets of their husbands and boyfriends -- a roomy T-shirt to spend the night in or a blazer to wear when the weather suddenly turns cool. It’s an ingrained habit that led to the boyfriend jean, which is essentially a pair of slouchy jeans that look as if they were pulled from a man’s wardrobe.
Designers are now introducing menswear-inspired shirts for women too. “This style fits in with the rebirth of grunge we’ve been noticing for the last year since it went down the runway at Marc Jacobs,” said Los Angeles stylist Annie Jagger, who has worked with Eva Longoria Parker, Serena Williams and Ashlee Simpson. It’s also a great match for the return of ’80s-style biker jackets, which are all the rage this year. Here’s how to get started.
Choose Your Shirt
Designers and brands from all tiers of the fashion industry are putting forth their versions of the men’s shirt for women. At T by Alexander Wang, the design wunderkind has created a V-neck silk white T-shirt modeled on a classic men’s undershirt. Seven For All Mankind, known for their premium jeans, recently debuted a long-sleeved plaid shirt cut to accentuate a woman’s curves. JCPenney’s accessibly priced Twelfth of Eleven brand is featuring a button-down boyfriend shirt in classic blue-and-white cotton that fits snugly around a woman’s body. Come spring, you’ll be able to find similarly crisp and affordable versions at The Gap and Old Navy.
Most of these shirts come in white or neutral shades, echoing the traditional men’s dress shirt. But a print or a bit of color can be fun, providing you don’t go overboard. Flannel lumberjack-inspired shirts can still look feminine in purple and black plaid, or a fresh tan-and-pink combination.
Pay Attention to Proportions
“The idea of the boyfriend shirt is that a girl just throws on her boyfriend’s shirt over leggings or shorts and looks sexy,” says designer Arnold Zimberg, who formerly worked with Givenchy, Valentino and Pucci, and recently launched a women’s line of his signature men’s shirts.
Proportion is everything. Stylists suggest sticking to the rule that if a silhouette is a little loose and casual on top, it should be more streamlined on the bottom (and vice versa). Pair a blousy plaid shirt with a pair of shorts and a belt, or for a downtown-chic look, with tights and thigh-high boots. If you’re going with a legging, make sure the length of the shirt hits at least the middle of the thigh.
Add Ladylike Touches
“Remember to show some skin when wearing this trend; it will take it from boring to sexy,” says Jagger. A knockout look, for those with the figure to carry it off: one of the tighter versions of the boyfriend shirt tucked into dark denim or a fitted mini in a texture like leather. Choose accessories that will also keep the boyfriend shirt from looking masculine.
Instead of a classic blazer, top the shirt with a cropped sweater in a soft weave. Wear a pretty pair of chandelier earrings to offset a stiff collar, or layers of delicate bracelets at a cuffed wrist. A belt can take a shirt from dowdy to divine in no time, especially if you keep that belt to a slender width of 2 inches or less. And remember that your hair can add the ultimate feminine accent to this menswear look. A sleek and high ponytail is very fresh, although nothing says “sexy” more than a tousled just-rolled-out-of-bed coif.
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