Thinking of different ways to style a button down shirt can be hard. We tend to ignore those unsung heroes in our closet and focus on their flashier counterparts. Dresses with lace overlays catch our attention; tulle skirts in watercolor hues have us looking a little closer. Interesting crops like culottes get second glances, and romantic sheer textures have us wandering over and imagining how they would look hanging all pretty in our closet. But basics like button down shirts? Well, they just don't have the kind of pizzazz behind them that throw us into daydreams of how we'd look killing it in said piece. A nibble at a bakery here, a devastating entrance on a first date there, a strut across the street to a burger bar over there. One just doesn't imagine a basic, simple-lined outfit when entertaining such thoughts.
But they really should. Just like with any piece, a button down can turn into something jaw dropingly stylish if only you know how to puzzle it together. With a little bit of strategy, you can transform your most simple closet staple into a street style dream. Below are 15 different ways to style a button down shirt in surprisingly fashionable ways.
1. Find Button Downs With Unusual Details
You know how sometimes you see a woman dressed minimally and she looks fabulous, and then when you try it you look just, well, boring? The reason might be that you didn't choose minimal pieces with interesting details. When looking for a button down, don't choose the first one off the rack that you see. Does it have a small, sharp collar? Is it slightly cropped, giving off a more modern look? Does it have wide sleeves, adding a touch of interest? Maybe a bell-shaped hem? These little elements go a long, long way in an outfit.
2. Pair It With Off Duty Pieces
Button downs give off a polished "I have my life together" look, so they're extra fun when pieced together with super casual, semi-rundown pieces. Pair them with ripped pants, boyfriend jeans, white sneakers — anything that has a casual, "it's my day off" vibe.
3. Or Match It With Your Fancier Items
It can be a little tricky when you get a statement piece in your closet. What exactly do you pair it with? You don't want to pull attention away from it, and you don't want to appear messy or over-cluttered with an equally bold top. That's why the button down is perfect for cases like this: It's unassuming and matches almost anything, and it gives a preppy, lady-like edge to boot.
4. Add Some Of Your Quirkier Pieces
There are some trends out there that could be a tad intimidating if you're not a fashion-forward type of person. Overalls, culottes, and pinafores are super fun and pack a lot of personality, but they're "just not for you." Lies, I say. When you have something that's a tad out of your element, pair it with something safe and that you're comfortable with. That's where the button down comes in. Layer it underneath these pieces and they instantly turn into something classic and minimalist looking. It's like magic.
5. Go Tomboy With Them
Pair them with longer hem shorts and minimalist sandals and you have yourself a laid-back tomboy look. Leave your hair mussed, slip on some black sunglasses, and you've got the perfect mimosa brunch outfit. Save you a crepe, will ya?
6. Or Style It Completely Bombshell-Like
Or, adversely, go the completely opposite direction and sex it up. A little goes a long way, so all you have to focus on is unbuttoning your top those two extra buttons and letting the rest accent that deliberate move in a quiet way. For example, loosely tuck the top into baggier shorts or pants to keep that rumpled, bed head feeling, and add a dangly, delicate necklace to lead the eye down the open line. Subtle, but packs a punch.
7. Decorate That Collar
The best part of a button down is that crisp collar, and you can use it to your sartorial advantage by decorating it. Add in a ribboned bow or a classic silk scarf. Maybe a statement necklace is more your speed, or a chunky chain. Whatever it is, it'll add a fun pop to your look.
8. Find Ones With Sweet Details
Not all button downs have to be basic — you can find one with feminine or sweet details if that's more your speed. Look for peter pan collars, floral prints, and softer hues.
9. Layer It Underneath Tops To Add Some Interest
And this doesn't only apply to winter sweaters — this looks equally as good with short sleeve shirts, boxier crop tops, and sleeveless tube-top like shirts. The possibilities are endless.
10. Use It To Offset Your Louder Accessories
You know that floral backpack you love but never wear? Or those cheetah print flats? Maybe oversized statement necklace? All amazing purchases, but none of them quite look right when you pair them with an outfit. This is where your button down comes in. Match it with your favorite jeans and you have yourself a blank canvas to mix in your more playful accessories without looking like a hodge-podge. Simplicity wins!
11. Tuck Half-In, Half-Out
Feel a little too serious with your button down? Try tucking just half the hem into your pants for a rumpled but intentional look.
12. Tie The Hem Into A Knot
Want a more retro feel to your look? Or maybe the top just doesn't look right tucked into your bottoms? Try tying it at the hem to give off a crop top type of feel.
13. Try A Longer Hem Line
Speaking of hems, try a button down that's got a tunic type of feel to it. It looks amazing with slim pants and minimalist sandals, or half-tucked into a pair of shorts.
14. Go With A Baggier Fit
Try going up a size or two so you can create an easygoing, summertime look. Roll up the sleeves, tuck it in all haphazard with your skirt, and leave your hair in messy, carefree waves. Bonus points if your bottoms are a little weathered or ripped to keep the vibe going.
15. Don't Forget The Short Sleeves!
Don't forget that button downs come with short sleeves, too. They have this boyish charm to them, and look extra sweet when styled minimally with clean cut pants and unassuming sneakers or sandals.
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