Tricks for Styling Button-front Shirts

So. I know that many of you will never enjoy the wearing of button-front shirts no matter how I cajole and no matter how many alternatives and workarounds I offer. But JUST IN CASE you’re willing to give these shirts another try, or in case you’re in the button-front-loving minority, here are a few of my favorite ways to make these classic garments feel fresh and fun.


At this point, I feel odd if I HAVEN’T cuffed my button-front’s sleeves. So sleeves worn long can feel awfully conservative to me, hearkening back to my office-working days. Also, I find 3/4 and cuffed sleeves to be more flattering since they draw the eye upward a bit toward my waist.


This became a summer favorite for me a few years back, and I enjoyed it well into fall. If a button-front shirt doesn’t fit quite right, or if an ensemble needs a little more waist-emphasizing than a standard shirt can offer, buttoning partially and tying is a great work-around. I don’t do this look with pants myself, but can make it work with skirts and adore it with dresses. (Video with tips on how to make this look work right here.)


This isn’t a trick that does much for the shirt itself, but it enables you to wear a long, drapey scarf with a button-front shirt. Which is well nigh impossible with a stiff shirt collar claiming all that valuable neck territory, am I right? I also use this workaround when I’m layering a cardigan over a button-front and the shirt’s collar is fighting with the cardigan’s.

Originally posted 2012-09-28 06:30:52.

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25 Responses to “Tricks for Styling Button-front Shirts”

  1. Nadia

    Tuck the collar advise – priceless! Going to try some new combinations immediately!

  2. Viktoria

    Collar tuck? Must try! I have cut off a few shirt collars over the years, but this is a completely new idea.
    I wear shirts all the time, and I have cuffed since I wore my father´s shirts all through highschool. I also tend to get my hands wet, so cuffing makes sense. Only this summer I began to tie at the waist. For me, it´s a good alternative to belts. I try to befriend the belt, but I keep stretching my arms upwards all the time, which pulls the shirt up over the belt and I find myself selfconsciously fiddling and pulling it down all the time. Tucking the shirt is pretty much the same problem. I have also cropped a few shirts, which sometimes works.
    I once pulled a men´s shirt together in the back with a large brooch, to great effect. It doesn´t work so well with women´s models, though. It needs to be really oversize. I should do that more.

  3. Lorena

    I never thought of tucking a collar !
    Very clever 🙂 thank you for the tip.

  4. romy

    Hi Sally, I have never ever though about tucking the collar, great tip! and that red dress is gorgeous!

  5. D

    I have never thought to tuck in the collar, that is a good idea! As for the other tips, I almost never don a button front without cuffing the sleeves. It feels so much better that way! The tie at the waist example looks great, I’ll have to give that a try sometime.

  6. Anne

    I don’t wear a ton of button front shirts anymore as I am pretty thin through the upper body and sometimes I look a little lost in them. Here are a few tricks I have used over the years.
    Pleat the back and anchor with a broach.
    wrap at the front and pin
    half tuck the front.
    wrap like a ballet sweater and tie in back
    wear “Cardi-style” with a tee underneath and only about three buttons done.

    Best trick: take the shirts to a tailor and get a good fit.

    I will sure remember the tuck the collar trick. good one.

  7. Cynthia

    I just found a couple of silk button front shirts that I actually like, at (of all places) Victoria’s Secret. They’re slightly oversized by nature and they have something that is neither a formal stand collar nor a round band collar (either of which look dorktacular on me) — it’s sort of a v-neck band collar with notches. Perfecto. So you might actually see me venturing into button-front territory at some point soon.

  8. Vildy

    I’ll be darned – the tucked collar enabling the easy addition of a scarf.
    It’s funny, I alter/refashion my clothing all the time and still would never have thought of this one.

  9. Josie

    I’d love to wear button front shirts but I can never, ever find one that buttons over the girls! I know there are worse things then having a generous C cup and a small waist…but it does limit your shirt options…I feel like I’m either busting out of everything or I look like I weigh a lot more then I actually do because everything these days is so drapey. Sally, I’d love some tips on dressing a curvy figure.

    • Darlene

      Josie, there now ARE shirts that button over a C cup and higher. You might want to check out the “Clothing for Us” on my blog, Hourglassy. Depending on your measurements, you may also be able to wear one of my company’s shirts–Campbell & Kate.

  10. FutureLint

    I agree – I haven’t NOT cuffed the sleeves on an oxford in years – it just feels too stuffy! I’m a huge fan of the knot too – a bit casual and don’t have to worry about it bunching up under your skirt like a tucked in shirt!

  11. Chris

    Tucking in the collar for the benefit of a scarf or cardigan? Absolutely brilliant! I wouldn’t have thought of it. Thanks.

  12. Heidi/The Closet Coach

    Another scarf option I like with a collared shirt is a short square one knotted at the throat. I always feel a bit French that way.

    I think tucking the collar under would drive me crazy, but maybe because most of my button-front shirts are stiffer fabric?

  13. Megan Mae

    I’ve always loved buttonfront shirts, but sometimes they feel too formal for everyday. I hope to try styling the ones I have more casually. I want to try tying them.

  14. Jenni

    i love button front shirts! but i can never button them well over the girls. i mostly style them like i would a cardigan – open over a t-shirt, with a belt or scarf. i like the collar tucking idea!

    • Darlene

      Jenni, check out the “Clothing for Us” list on my blog Hourglassy and my company CampbellandKate. There are also 2 Polish brands out there, BiuBiu and Urkye, a Russian company called DD Atelier, and another American company called Rebecca & Drew. I LOVE having the option of buttoning if I want, in addition to wearing them the way you describe.

  15. MJ

    I love layering a button front over a tank or cami. I can’t remember the last time I wore one tucked in as it tends to bisect me in a most unflattering way.

  16. SKP

    Sew the front shut so the buttons don’t gap. I’ve found most shirts are either stretchy enough or loose enough to be pulled over my head even after this operation, especially if I leave it unsewn below the waist.

  17. Sandra

    What’s not to love about a button front short? I too roll the sleeves unless I wear with a jacket. The hardest thing to find is a man’s style in a woman’s cut, esp the collar. So many women’s shirts are strangely cut, esp if you want to dress it with a tie for instance. I love the crispness of a tie and jumper, tie and slipover, or a cravat. But needs the right shirt, and I hang on to the few I have which fits the bill. Have never found one in thrift, too rare!

  18. No Fear of Fashion

    Oh Sally, this was a really helpful post. And it really is so simple! Love it. It also means I can wear great sleeveless shift dresses without showing my arms. Your tip about the scarf over the stiff shirt collar… thanks. I am going to dive into my closet.