How to dress like a grown-up with Shane Watson: (Un)button the trick to give sex to your old shirt dress

So what do you think of shirt dresses? I texted my friend, a fashion editor in her 50s. “I personally hate them, but they’re very easy to wear,” she replied. Short break. Obviously, she was thinking about the pros and cons: “What did you have in mind?

What I had in mind was a dress to wear now (assuming the weather stays around a warm temp) that looks good during the day (so not wacky with batwing sleeves) , but not too pretty and feminine.

I was thinking of a dress to wear to work, to lunch and on Saturdays, with flat sandals and bare legs, the dress that I would like to have slung over the holiday weekend, in fact – that’s what I brought to mind shirt dresses in the first place.

Because this dress shares some DNA with tailored shirts – it’s sporty enough to wear in casual situations and smart enough, dressed in a slingback chunky heel, to wear to work and then out for a drink.

Shane Watson shares tips on how to style and wear your shirt dresses. A UK-based fashion expert says they’re easy to dress up and wear casually. Pictured: Victoria Beckham

Since it’s long or angled sleeves (key to its appeal), it’s a useful dress for occasions when you don’t want to look undressed and because it buttons up and down (like all shirt dresses have to, those that only button at the waist are found “shirt sashes” and switch quite easily in frumpiness) it can be transformed by a quick turn of unbuttoning one, two, three into a much larger item impertinent.

Some people like to wear an unbuttoned shirt dress over a camisole, but the unbuttoning I’m talking about is a knee-length hem or even higher. (It’s what keeps a shirt dress from being dull and plain. And kind of like something your teacher might have worn in the 1960s — that’s what my fashion editor friend has against them).

Unbuttoning puts the swish and swing in a shirt dress and, if you have good pins, you can unbutton until you reach mid-thigh, if that’s your mood, without risking even a fraction of the time. exhibition of a mini.

A glimpse of the leg when stepping off a bar stool is all we’re looking for. That’s the whole point of a shirt dress: it can look sensible and elegant or a little French and undone (just add a messy bun and lipstick).

Shane says a glimpse of the leg stepping off a bar stool is all we're looking for.  Pictured: Amanda Holden

Shane says a glimpse of the leg stepping off a bar stool is all we’re looking for. Pictured: Amanda Holden

The straight shirt dress – not dull – is long, loose and flowing and not starchy. Look for styles that are slim and cinched (ideally with a tie belt), but not too fitted. I love the ones Zara makes every year. (I was slightly shocked to see Mary Berry wearing my favorite summer dress from a few years ago on BBC1’s Fantastic Feasts the other day, but that just goes to show that a good shirt dress is a keeper .)

This summer’s version comes in two more chintzy but equally beautiful blue floral prints (£49.99, Long-sleeved, of course.

Queen Letizia visits the International School of Music

Candice Swanepoel hits the red carpet ahead of the wedding story

Left: Queen Letizia visiting the International School of Music. Right: Candice Swanepoel walks the red carpet ahead of the wedding story

Marks & Spencer’s three-quarter sleeve shirt dress in beige animal print on off-white (£39.50, is a fraction smarter.

But if you’re looking for a hardworking summer work dress, try Reiss’ linen-blend Emily – which is belted, not too structured and has just the right amount of looseness and breeze (£188, reiss .com). It comes in a warm and soft coral or emerald green from this season and looks like something divorce lawyer Hannah Stern might wear in the BBC series The Split – which, if you haven’t seen it, is a good thing.


  • Avoid starchy foods
  • Undo buttons at hem
  • Keep the sleeves long
  • Try stripes

Speaking of stylish, Cos’ Silk Stripe Shirt Dress in Navy and Blue (£135, has the potential to dress down. If you like stripes, they work particularly well on an extra long shirt dress and Tommy Hilfiger’s red and white striped viscose shirt dress is a good example (£170, With a white bag and white low top sandals, this one would take you to a summer party.

For my money, a shirtdress needs a collar (they can look too utilitarian otherwise), but Zara’s navy and ecru belted shirtdress (£49.99) is an exception to the rule. If you don’t mind the side slits, this is a smarter party dress or even a summer wedding dress. Do not wear it with high-heeled shoes; shirt dresses call for a sandal or sneaker.

Finally, a simple shirt dress, like Hush’s seersucker stripe (£79,, is a very useful holiday dress for all the reasons already mentioned, and you can always wear it half undone over silky evening pants.

Hush also have a bright blue textured cotton ruffle shirt dress (£89) if you like a more voluminous ruched silhouette.

Ideal for putting on and taking off a swimsuit, like all shirt dresses. Quite versatile.

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