The Importance of Finding The Perfect White Tee

Testing Tried-and-True Favorites Against Designer Duds to Find the Perfect Everyday Staple
Filed Under > Put to The Test

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It all started as a standard issue, a simple white cotton jersey crewneck during World War II.  But it wasn’t until the nineties did we see the white tee become a fast fashion staple.  Since then, we’ve seen it on everyone from your runway walking fashionistas to your most laid-back dressers on a daily basis…and it’s one of my go-to items in my closet for as long as I can remember.

It’s undeniable; the perfect white tee has staying power.  I find myself reaching for it season after season, year after year.  It’s the thing I hunt for when I complain about having nothing to wear.  Paired with my go-to leather jacket,  a pair of booties and my favorite jeans, I’m out the door in five.  But the problem is I feel like I cycle through at least a dozen of these bad boys every few months, so I knew it was time to take a few moments and find out just what white tee is really the best…and then stock up of course. 

Like finding the perfect pair of jeans, it can feel like quite the hunt to settle on the perfect white tee.  And with so many options ranging from $6 to $125+, it’s easy to fall for the wrong tee, only to realize it too late after a few wears and washes (believe me, I know).  So the WOM team recently set out to find the perfect white tee, hoping to take the guesswork out of it for good.  We brought out your low to mid priced basics: J.Crew, Old Navy, Madewell, Gap, Target, H&M, and Splendid.  We then pulled in the more expensive crew: PAIGE, Rag & Bone, James Perse, J.McLaughlin, T by Alexander Wang and Kit & Ace.  And we tried, and we tried, and we tried on all afternoon.  But we didn’t stop there, we also chose are favorites and test drove them for a month to see how they would stand up when it came to wear and tear; would they shrink, fade, or lose their shape?

The team agreed on a handful of factors that can define the perfect white tee.  Factors like the overall fit (do you want it to be loose, tight, semi-fitted?).  The material (cotton, tissue, spandex content?).  The weight (is it more on the sheer side or thick?).  Will it last or fade in color (pilling threads and snags should be the last of your concerns with a good everyday tee).  What about the neckline: boatneck, crewneck and v-neck versions can feel like entirely different shirts, with a give-or-take a few pounds effect on any body.  Lastly, cost verses just how long the tee will be in your daily wardrobe rotation before it gets shuffled to your nightly pajama or workout rotation.

We all of course had our different opinions, and I’m thinking we should do a Snapchat or Facebook Live to talk about which style we really loved best and why.  But until we get those cameras rolling here’s at least what I landed on.  

For my every day tee it seems history will repeat itself.  I’ve been wearing J.Crew and Madewell for years (and I buy practically in bulk when I order) and even after a dozen try-ons and wears of different brands, I’m most likely sticking to these two tried and true brands.  At $19.50,  Madewell gives you their best-selling white tee shirt, in an “airy slub cotton” that nails that perfectly lived-in look.  The weight of the shirt feels substantial when you’re wearing it too, helping it to drape in all of right places.  Like Madewell, J.Crew offers a similar rendition with its “vintage cotton scoopneck t-shirt” and it’s dependable, easy, and doesn’t break the bank ($29.50 but almost always on sale).  

I loved the long length on H&M’s white tees, but being on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to actual quality you’ll likely only get a few solid wears out of them.  And lastly while I’m a big fan of the  T by Alexander Wang tee’s fabric and high quality they shrink, like really shrink which doesn’t justify the cost.

The Rag & Bone basic white tee, PAIGE’s stretch knit tee and were absolutely beautiful, but likely fit the bill as an “everyday white tee” for those of you who will throw them in the dryer with the rest of your whites on laundry day (costing around $85+).  The sheer materials on both of these led the team to agree that they were too thin for everyday wear and the almost slinky effect of the sheer fabric on the torso wasn’t the most flattering on bra lines.  However these designer digs would be great for date night (with a pair of heels and a great lace bralette).  And speaking of dressed up versions, the J.McLauhlin Signature Tee and Kit & Ace’s stunning technical tee would be a great splurge for under a blazer or vest, as they have the comfort of a tee but function more as a top when it comes to the actual material.

Speaking of bra lines, the importance of a great t-shirt bra hit home for all of us on this shoot day.  Tell me friends, have you found your perfect white tee?!  What brand are your go-to’s?  Truly, MKR


Photography, Kathryn McCrary for Waiting on Martha | LOCATION, AMBIENT + STUDIO | White tee’s, BLOOMINGDALES, J.McLaughlin c/o, J. Crew, and Kit & Ace c/o

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  • I love this post about the classic white tee. I definitely have the problem of falling for a cheap one only to find I can’t get any wear from it and the shape is never right. Will definitely be trying out some of your suggestions!

    Eliza x

  • Thank you so much for this post!! Your research efforts are very much appreciated, and I just ordered the Madewell option from Nordstrom. Hopefully it lives up to the hype!

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