Back because it never left, this statement piece secures its spot as summer's must-wear fashion item

Be the center of attention in a classic white shirt. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
Be the center of attention in a classic white shirt. (Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images)
  • Every season has its 'It' must-buy-now item, and even amid a pandemic, this summer is no different.
  • 2017 gave us the satin two-piece and bardot tops, 2018 gave grey checkered blazers and mules the spotlight, 2019 was big on faux leather anything, and 2020 takes us back to basics.
  • Yep, this summer is comeback season for the classic white poplin shirt, as it secures its enduring appeal in an array of head-turning styles. 

In 2019, I predicted that the faux leather shirt (shacket, if you prefer) would be the unlikely item everyone wears that year. 

My prediction was based on the influx of standout street style looks spotted during Spring/Summer '19 fashion weeks, featuring the leather shirt. It was also thanks to Raf Simons' best-selling Calvin Klein colour block Western shirt that had been adapted and made into yet another highly coveted piece of faux leather. 

READ MORE: This is the unlikely shirt everybody's going to be wearing in 2019

Although this hot for not-so-hot season's piece of fashion was gracefully littered all over global fashion capital streets, the trend wasn't picked up as enthusiastically in South Africa... until pre-Covid late 2019/early 2020 days.

To be fair, the shacket did take a while to land on local shopping rails, and by the time the mid-season Zara sale came around this winter, stock was as low as office morale on a Friday afternoon.

The things about the faux leather shirt's allure is that it is actually very forgiving and flattering. Not to mention versatile. 

And do you know which other trendy item of clothing fits this brief?  

The classic white poplin shirt. Especially when it has goodly trimmings in the form of either ruffles, collars, or festive sleeves. It's these extra design perks that elevate a plain white (yet still classic) shirt to a statement blouse fit for any and every occasion - day to night.  

READ MORE: The impeccable white shirt and the torture of keeping it, well, white  

So let's take a look at all the ways you can style statement white poplin shirts in all their crispness:

2 shirts, 4 ways

Worn over, under, alone, or together, a statement white shirt epitomises versatility. I have a keen eye for not only white shirts, but white tops in general, but let's focus on shirts and blouses for now. 

My current favourite go-to statement poplins were both bought at H&M - one is a balloon sleeve blouse, and the other I've had for about two years now, is a longer length shirt with exaggerated cuffs. 

Shirt 1

For dramatic sleeves, I either let it do the talking for itself by pairing it with a skirt/jeans/shorts - no fuss, no frills. Or I layer it under a satin dress, dungarees, and soon... a harness/vest when I eventually buy one (see image far below). 

The unique sartorial selling point of this top is that it's multi-occasional.

how to style white shirts
how to style white shirt
Images: Afika's own 
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 24: Sarah Lou, Jacqueline
Image: Getty 

Shirt 2

For dramatic cuffs and length, I love a half tuck and a cuff-up. Because a mini skirt with its own structural personality should probably not be compromised under the length of a long shirt, I like to go for a half tuck. 

And when worn with relatively understated bottoms, I let it flow and fold over the extra cuff length to let my wrist accessories peek out.   

Fun fact: This shirt actually had a black bustier attached to it that I removed to wear over plain white Tees instead.

how to style white shirt
how to style white shirt
Images: Afika's own. Photographer: Sebabatso Mosamo

International fashion streets have a similar approach - playing with lengths or knotting it up...


READ MORE: Parisian chic is all the rage since Emily’s been in Paris – Stay à la mode and shop the trend in SA 

More shirts, more ways 

From Peter Pan collars to Victorian ruffles - much like dogs, every shirt has its day. 


PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 27: Emma Bonneaud wears a


PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 26: Natalia Ostrofsky Mas


MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 22: Paola Alberdi wears su


MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 22: Paola Alberdi wears su


Jeans for casual day at the (virtual) office. Who says you can't dress up to go work in the dining room?

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15: Therese Hellström w
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 26: Natalia Ostrofsky Mas


PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 15: Therese Hellström w
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 18: A guest wears a NY be
MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 18: A guest wears a NY be

READ MORE: No bras, no heels, no runways: How the pandemic has changed our relationship with fashion

Instagram's ways

Instagram, in all its brunch style pomp, has also already given us a few more ways local fashion enthusiasts are wearing their poplin shirts, blouses, and shirt dresses. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Wandi (@wandi_lee) on



View this post on Instagram

You can throw a @verysuperella dress over anything.

A post shared by Khwaza Tshisela (@khwazatshisela) on

All additional images: Getty

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