T-shirts have been standard military issue since the 1800s, but they didn't start coming into fashion until the 1920s when sportswear pioneer Coco Chanel was regularly photographed wearing them. (Striped ones, laden with strands of pearls, natch.) The stark-white version went from innocuous to iconic in the 1950s thanks to Hollywood moments from Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause". Later, graphic tees printed with anti-war messaging became a powerful form of protest by rebellious youths in the face of the Vietnam War.
It's hardly a surprise, then, that a garment with so much history, function, and fashion is still ubiquitous in modern wardrobes. Even less surprising is how many styles we now have to choose from. Here's a rundown of nearly every type of tee, with advice on how to style them and which might work best for your frame.
Types of Women's T-shirts
Women's T-shirts come in many styles, fits, and fabrics. Since these will vary depending on your outfit choice, occasion, or seasonality, it's a good idea to bring a least a few different tees into your wardrobe rotation.
Invented by Jeanne Lanvin, founder of the eponymous French fashion house, the boat neck (or bateau neck, s'il vous plait) elegantly frames the clavicle and extends the shoulder. This neckline offsets the fuller hips of a pear-shaped body.
It has roots in seafaring, hence the name and the more functional, fitted neckline. Wear it as a base layer under button-downs and sweaters, or tucked into something more glam, like a pleated midi skirt or palazzo pants.
The deeper neckline shows off your collarbone and reveals a bit of cleavage, making the scoop-neck a surefire piece for visually lengthening a shorter torso. Great for petites or curvier hourglass and apple frames.
These generally have the same effect as a scoop-neck. More modest cuts layer beautifully beneath blazers and cardigans, while the deepest Vs can be a great way to show off a cute bralette.
Inspire your summer workout with a breezy muscle tee or tank. Choose a fit that isn't too baggy or tight for ultimate comfort and mobility.
Cool and effortless, short sleeves suit every figure. Dress one up with a midi skirt or go classic with your favorite straight-leg jeans.
A layering favorite for cooler seasons. Be sure that the sleeves don't extend much past the wrists, otherwise they'll get dirty and damaged fairly quickly.
Women's T-Shirt Styles
This style is reminiscent of the original military shirts with its front placket. Layer a henley over a crewneck tee to add a bit more visual interest to a look.
Beloved by cyclists and hikers, base layers are ideal for different forms of exercise. They act as a second skin to absorb moisture and wick sweat away from the body.
Cropped tees are on-trend and visually extend the legs of petite figures. If your torso is on the short side, it'll fit like a regular top.
These are surprisingly versatile. Polish one up with an equally oversized blazer for work or ponte knit pants for an easygoing look.
Get a tailored look by tucking it into a pair of slim trousers or a chic pencil skirt, or balance a more voluminous bottom.
When choosing a tee, you should take your intended use into consideration. Is it for lounging? Working out? Date night? You'll want different fabrics for different moments.
A summer vacation must-have thanks to its ultra-lightweight fabrication. Its magic is in the fact that it's crazy absorbent, but dries quickly. Save it for the destination instead of the journey since it wrinkles easily.
This continually evolving textile is great for exercise as it wicks sweat and maintains shape when stretched. More and more brands are developing recycled versions to offset its inability to biodegrade.
Tencel or Lyocell
Durable and breathable, these eco-friendly fabrics are some of fashion's most sustainable. Like linen, they can wrinkle easily, so keep a steamer on hand.
Lycra or Spandex
Stretch, stretch, and more stretch. Need we say more? (Although, we do also love how this textile holds up to repeated washing in both everyday and workout clothes.)
How to care for cotton T-shirts
The women's T-shirt is a go-to, and you'll want yours to last as long as possible. Because tees are commonly made from cotton, we compiled a list of simple instructions for prolonging the lifespan of your faves:
1. Wash sparingly
Washing takes a toll on natural fibers over time. Doing so only when it's expressly needed slows the aging process and reduces your carbon footprint by conserving water and energy.
2. Sort your laundry
Sorting your garments prevents dulling, greying, and color transfer. White T-shirts will stay fresh and maintain their crispness when placed together, while graphic tees and colored clothing will remain vibrant.
3. Use cold water
Washing your clothing at low temps reduces your environmental impact while preventing shrinkage and yellowish stains caused by deodorant and sweat.
4. Wash inside-out
If your T-shirt features a cool screenprint or embellishments, turn it inside-out to safeguard against damage and snags in the washing machine. This also prevents the natural cotton fibers from fuzziness and pilling.
Skip the tumble dryer and hang your T-shirt to reduce the risk of shrinkage. Just be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent colors from fading.
6. Treat stains immediately
Portable tools like wipes and detergent pens are godsends when you're out and about and find yourself in a stain-related emergency. Check out our comprehensive guide to keeping your white clothes white.