Why I Never Travel Without a White Button-Down Shirt

A timeless, versatile wardrobe staple, the white button-down shirt transcends both season and dress code. It can be sexy or professional; it acts as a sterling choice for weekend errands, a trip to the beach, or a black-tie event in equal measure. A soft oversized number can even function as pajamas.

The white button-down, or WBD as I like to call it, also happens to be one of my favorite souvenirs to bring home from a trip—not only because they can squeeze into overpacked luggage—but putting one on back home allows me to momentarily slip back into the places I’ve been and the person I was while visiting.

In my closet, tucked between the lightly rumpled, oversized button-down shirt I wore all summer and the vintage Ralph Lauren “borrowed” from my mom in 2008, hangs another favorite, lightly textured with a clean, hidden button placket bought while visiting friends in New Delhi. Another, crisp and collarless, was picked up while on book tour in Mexico City. Then there’s the WBD with a bib of tiny, perfect pleats worn extensively when my luggage was delayed on a trip to Florence. The newest—and brightest white—closet member was bought closer to home in Paris at Chloé Stora on the eve of la rentrée (in French, “the return,” a phrase used to denote the country’s return from summer holidays to work, school, and routines in the first week of September).

The ease and satisfaction of reaching for something classic, familiar, and fashionable checks all essential boxes with minimal mental lift, and acts as a balm for the anxiety of what to wear. As a friend recently described the WBD to me, “put one on and you’re dressed.”

I’m partial to white button-downs that are loose fitting with a beautiful drape, subtle design touches—an oversized collar, unexpected embroidery, particularly rollable cuffs—and a machine washable fabric. One non-negotiable, whichever white button-down shirt gets pulled from the mix: a good stain remover, and, with any luck, a suitcase with just enough room to bring another home with me. Below, the perfect white button-downs that I routinely pack.

  • The elevated button-down

  • The everyday button-down

  • The relaxed-fit button-down

  • The oversized button-down

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

The elevated button-down

Aday Boyfriend shirt

$150.00, ADAY

More styles like this:

Abercrombie long-sleeve satin button-up

$70.00, Abercrombie & Fitch

Quince Washable Stretch Silk Notch Collar blouse

$70.00, Quince

Spanx The Best Button Down

$128.00, Spanx

Athleta Urbanite top

$119.00, Athleta

The everyday button-down

Sézane Tomboy shirt

$110.00, Sézane

More styles like this:

Buck Mason Mainstay cotton shirt

$128.00, Buck Mason

Abercrombie Oversized Poplin button-up shirt

$59.00, Abercrombie & Fitch

The Boxy Oxford

$88.00, Everlane

Madewell Signature Poplin short-sleeve button-down shirt

$78.00, Madewell

The relaxed-fit button-down

Bourrienne Paris X Pianiste shirt

$260.00, Bourrienne Paris X

More styles like this:

Everlane relaxed linen shirt

$88.00, Everlane

Express Relaxed Portofino shirt

$50.00, Express

J.Crew Relaxed-fit cotton poplin shirt

$98.00, J.Crew

Wildred Free Relaxed shirt

$88.00, Aritzia

The oversized button-down

Anōmaly Classic button down shirt

$44.00, Anomoly

More styles like this:

Zara Extra Long Poplin shirt

$50.00, Zara

Hotouch Boyfriend shirt

$32.00, Amazon

Summersalt The Perfect Boyfriend shirt

$75.00, Summersalt

Old Navy Oversized Boyfriend shirt

$37.00, Old Navy

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler