My Favorite Way to Wear a Chambray Shirt

by - June 12, 2023

If a denim vest is my favorite third-piece accessory, a chambray shirt is a close second. In fact, my short-sleeve, button-up chambray shirt is one of the oldest pieces in my closet. So old, in fact, that I can't pinpoint when exactly I bought it.

I do know that it's from Target and is their Universal Thread brand. It's good quality, obviously, since it's lasted at least five years now with very little signs of wear and tear. Mostly, it's just softened up and is a bit thinner.

It's a camp style shirt, which was popular at the time I bought it. The sleeves are a bit loose and cuffed. There are no pockets, so it's a nice flat front, but the sides are split.

I rarely wear it on its own, but I do have photographic evidence from several years ago. I've always preferred it tied over tucked, although I hadn't quite figured it out back then. I'd like to think I've gotten better at styling this shirt since then, and I wanted to share my favorite way to wear it.

If you follow me on Instagram or have been reading my Real Outfit Roundup posts for awhile, then you know that I mostly treat my chambray shirt like an accessory to the rest of my outfit. It's never the star of the show. It's simply there to complete the outfit, add balance, add contrast, or help tie everything together.

Sound familiar? If you read my post about denim vests, it would. I use my chambray shirt in much the same fashion as my vest...except that it's always tied at the bottom. The buttons are where I change things up. Sometimes I leave them all open, sometimes I button all but the top one, and sometimes I button half. 

One of the newer ways I've started styling my chambray shirt is with a printed skirt and basic top. The chambray is a good in-between option for when it's too warm for a jean jacket but not warm enough for a sleeveless vest (especially if you're using a tank top like in the picture above).

With this outfit, I was using the yellow tank to pull the more subtle colors from the skirt's print. Honestly, outside of school, this outfit would have worked without the third layer, but the top is a tank and it was still early Spring at the time so I needed sleeves. I wanted the yellow to be the prominent color of the outfit, so I left my shirt unbuttoned, but it's too long to leave untucked over a skirt. It just looks sloppy, so I tied it as close to the bottom as possible and tucked it under all the way around. The split sides help with that a lot.

That wasn't the first time I styled the shirt with a skirt. However, it was very different. In this outfit, I wore the shirt by itself, fully buttoned. I did not tuck it into the skirt because the shirt is too loose, and it just didn't look right. So, I tied it at the very edge of the skirt's waist, which is smocked and what ultimately was causing the issue.

My absolute favorite way to wear my chambray shirt is over a sleeveless dress. I do this two different ways depending on the look I'm going for, as demonstrated in the photos above.

This dress has a defined waist, but the top is not school appropriate on its own. For one, it's spaghetti strap. It also has a cute button detail that shows a bit of skin that middle schoolers don't need to see.

In each outfit, I tied the shirt at my natural waist, to keep the shape of the dress. In the first outfit (left), I fully buttoned the shirt to create the look of a two-piece outfit. In the second (right), I only buttoned the button directly above the knot to not only keep the shirt more structured but also to allow a peek of the dress's bodice. I wanted it to be clear that I was wearing a dress.

This is actually the most recent way I wore my chambray shirt over a dress. It was warm enough that I could have gone bare shoulder, but I always feel better with my shoulders covered in this dress, and honestly I needed to shave under my arms and didn't feel like it. Also, I always feel like this dress is missing something on its own. I think it's that the pattern needs to be broken up in some way because it's so busy. You can't tell in this picture because I'm sitting down, but the shirt is only buttoned just above the knot, which gives some visual contrast to the dress's print while also not taking away from the print.

Would you wear a chambray shirt over a dress or skirt?

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