How to wear the perfect white shirt | Jess Cartner Morley

I have stumbled across a small upside to the pandemic. I can’t pretend it’s going to make any significant impact on the balance sheet, weighed against the many profound horrors, but at this point I will swoop hungrily on any crumb of good news. Wild goats roaming Llandudno! A flamingo boom in Mumbai! I’ll cheer it all to the rooftops.

My good news story doesn’t have any cute animals in it, I’m afraid. But here goes. If, like me, you are a clumsy, scruffy person who dreams of being a crisp white shirt person, and if you are in office exile on your laptop at home, I am pleased to tell you that your moment has arrived.

I have long had a love-hate relationship with white shirts. Often on a workday, I feel as if the absolute best thing I could possibly wear would be a pristine white shirt. You can’t beat the optics of a perfect white shirt for a meeting. It radiates a polished kind of utilitarianism. It is no-nonsense but never basic. Like a perfect little black dress at a cocktail party, it makes every other outfit look a little fussy. It is work-appropriate grace under pressure.

But on those exact days when the best thing I could possibly wear is a spotless white shirt, I also know that the worst thing I could possibly wear is a white shirt with a tiny splash of coffee on it. Or a white shirt with a smudge of whatever that stuff is that gets on your clothes if you touch the handrails of the escalator on the tube by mistake. Spotlessness is the whole point of a white shirt, so the margin for error is precisely zero.

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When your commute is 30 seconds long, spotlessness becomes so much easier. And if you do manage to splash coffee, there’s no panicky scrubbing over the sink. Just chuck it in the laundry basket and put a clean shirt on before you launch Zoom. Working from home means no office gossip and having to make your own lunch. But at least, like a minimalist Cinderella, you get to wear the perfect white shirt of your dreams. In 2020, that counts for a happy ending.

• Jess wears white shirt, her own. Skirt, £89.95, Boots, £220, Styling: Melanie Wilkinson, assisted by Peter Bevan. Makeup: Sophie Higginson using Les Chaînes D’Or de Chanel and Sublimage L’Extrait De Nuit


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