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So you think you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. But what about that pile of T-shirts hiding in the bottom drawer of your dresser, just waiting for their moment?
This practical item has somehow become an afterthought, so we decided to put it back in the spotlight: We’d each wear a T-shirt every day for five days, and we’d ignore all the bodysuits, blouses, button-downs, sweaters and other tops in our closets.
The folks at Universal Standard, known for their inclusive basics in sizes 00 to 40, sent us some Tee Rex T-shirts for the experiment. Each of us — one a size 6, the other a size 16 — was supplied four tees to style for the week’s five themes: a weekend style, a jeans-and-tee ensemble, a biz-casual outfit, a midi skirt look, and something for date night.
How would we, two fashion-curious women, fare with locking away our favorite tops in favor of donning T-shirts in a semi-professional work environment several days in a row? Would anyone be eagle-eyed (or bold) enough to call us out for wearing “just a T-shirt” to work meetings, business breakfasts or after-dinner meet-ups?
Here’s what we discovered along the way:
DAY 1: WEEKEND LOOK
Brittany: I should start by saying that I almost never wear T-shirts outside the house. (The exception being a few experimental looks this summer to attempt the cool-girl “midi skirt street-style” ensemble.) Instead, I tend to stick with bodysuits, blouses with interesting necklines and button-down shirts. I’m a plus-sized gal and plus-size bodies are often judged harsher for being “sloppy” and “lazy,” so simply throwing on a T-shirt has never been my go-to. I expect this challenge to be, well, challenging, but I’m excited to see how it goes.
For my first look, I went with pretty much the only outfit I wear on the weekends: overalls. Almost everyone in my neighborhood has seen me at the farmers market or buying groceries in my black oversized overalls. This was a really easy look to style with a tee because, well, overalls are practically made for T-shirts. I liked the color of this shirt too (“eggplant”!) because it felt like the perfect complement to the changing leaves.
Danielle: My style motto is that comfort is key, but heels can be comfortable as hell if you pick the right pair. Flowy fits are my favorite, and I personally believe that everything looks better as a bodysuit or a jumpsuit. I rarely wear T-shirts outside of hanging out at home or when exercising, and when I do they’re almost exclusively white or black. Figuring out how to wear shirts in other colors throughout the week will be a challenge, but I love glamming things up with a printed purse, funky jacket or a pair of statement shoes, so it should be a fun experiment.
My Sundays are usually spent running errands and visiting friends and family, so I typically opt for black leggings, a simple tee or sweatshirt, and my favorite denim jacket. It’s become my go-to off-duty look because it’s comfortable enough to go grocery shopping but still put-together for impromptu lunch and drinks with friends. I’ve found that the key to pulling off this outfit is having a really crisp, clean tee so the combo looks more chic than schlumpy. That’s what I did for my first look here.
DAY 2: JEANS LOOK
Brittany: This look was so easy to put together, I spent hardly any time thinking about it. The jeans-tee-blazer combo is probably the most basic go-to look for anyone who’s trying to make a tee ~profesh~ but I think that’s why it was a good Monday morning outfit. It required basically zero emotional energy to throw together the outfit, and I took almost no time at all to get ready in the morning.
I threw on the Western-inspired belt last minute, and I’m so glad I did because I felt like it made me look like I put a lot of effort into my outfit. Fingers crossed that I didn’t use up all my styling creativity too early in the game.
Danielle: This look was really easy because I knew I wanted to style a classic white T-shirt and jeans look. This morning was especially fast because tucking the top into my jeans took little to no effort or adjusting. I was able to zip up my jeans without having to smooth out any weird lumps from the T-shirt bunching up.
I was excited to dress up this look with my favorite footwear — funky snakeskin booties. Block-heeled booties are by far my favorite shoes. I feel so comfortable and confident walking around in them, and I definitely needed them as a sort of security shoe to dress up this jeans and T-shirt combo. In the end, I topped off the look with my favorite leather coat and felt ready to go.
DAY 3: BUSINESS CASUAL LOOK
Brittany: I had a Very Important™ business breakfast this morning at Michael’s, which is why we opted to do our business casual look this day. Michael’s is an upscale eatery in Manhattan’s Midtown area that describes itself as “frequented by high-profile media personalities,” of which I most definitely am not. (I did meet the restaurant’s namesake, though, so it’s a good thing I was dressed to impress.)
This outfit was probably the most out of my comfort zone, but also the one I was most eager to try. I wanted to lean into the ’70s-inspired silhouettes I’ve seen everywhere for fall. (The plaid! The buckle shoes! The wide-leg trousers!) I restyled the eggplant-colored tee from my weekend look to bring out some color from the tweed trousers. In the future, I’d probably prefer to style these bottoms with a collared blouse, but I certainly didn’t feel “out of place” in business-y settings in this outfit. So far it’s been really freeing not to worry about what I’m wearing in the mornings. At this point in the experiment, I think I’m beginning to understand the hype around a capsule wardrobe.
“I think I’m beginning to understand the hype around a capsule wardrobe.”
Danielle: Like Brittany, this look was probably the most outside of my usual style. Pink is not a color I typically incorporate into my everyday wardrobe (unless it’s something vibrant for summer), and blazers are usually reserved for when I try to make an outfit more office-appropriate.
In the end I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the pink tee and blazer combo with my mom jeans and backless loafers. It felt more like an intentional look than some last-ditch effort to play “business woman.” I was almost out the door when I realized this look still felt too stiff for me, so I snapped on some dangling pink and gold earrings. The look instantly felt more fun.
DAY 4: MIDI SKIRT
Brittany: You might not think rain and satin midi skirts mix, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. I was surprised at how — dare I say...practical? — this look was for a rainy day. I am beginning to feel like I have a work uniform: T-shirt, fun bottoms, funky accessories. Getting dressed has been so much less of a chore because I know at least one part of my look every day is decided. Some mornings I’m ready faster than my boyfriend and that is incredibly unusual.
I chose to pair a classic white tee with a colorful satin midi skirt and oversized vintage denim jacket. I had a lot of fun mixing accessories from different trends (oversized denim, Western square-toe boots) to get a look at felt very “me.”
Danielle: Olive green is my favorite color and I love the way it looks with black, so this was the most “me” outfit of the experiment so far. I actually love the high-low pairing of a T-shirt with a midi skirt — it looks like you’re doing the most when in reality you’re very comfortable, so this look came naturally to me.
For this outfit I threw on a cropped leather jacket and a pair of white booties to give the look some edge and a splash of color. (Yes, white can be a pop of color, don’t tell me otherwise.) Unfortunately it was raining on this day, but the tee was surprisingly insulating and I didn’t feel under or overdressed for the weather.
DAY 5: DATE NIGHT
Brittany: Much like the series of first dates I went on before I met my boyfriend, my heart wasn’t really in this look. Or perhaps so far into the experiment that I was giving up a little. (Did I, in fact, use up all of my styling juju in the first look, as I earlier predicted?!) I had lofty ambitions of throwing together a cute date-night outfit involving a leather mini skirt or stripey trousers. Acrylic earrings were somehow going to make an appearance. Alas, when the last day rolled around, I couldn’t shed the idea of another jeans-tee-blazer look. All of the same basics, in fact, as my Day 2 look.
Despite my own lukewarm feelings about this look, I actually snagged the most compliments on this day. “You look so chic!” someone told me in the lunch line. “Can you pls teach me how to dress,” one friend wrote to me on Instagram. Did I still have some fashion fight left in me? Candidly, I think the Western belt buckle and white patent-leather boots I styled for this look could make a paper sack look good. One of my biggest takeaways from this challenge is that the accessories make the look — but you can’t make an outfit on accessories alone.
Danielle: I love any excuse to dress up, so this was probably my favorite look. I never thought a white T-shirt could be sexy, but I guess a little leopard print and a red lip goes a long way!
What I really liked about this look was that while I was definitely ~feelin’ myself~, the T-shirt kept it low-key and I felt totally comfortable. I will definitely be repeating this look for a day when I have to go straight from the office to a dinner date or drinks.
Brittany: This challenge wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In all honesty, I have a newfound respect for the T-shirts shoved into the bottom of my dresser. In hindsight the jeans-black tee look was probably my favorite of the challenge because I felt really comfortable, polished and put-together in this combo. Maybe there was something to Elizabeth Holmes’ obsession with Steve Jobs’ obsession with black shirts?
In all seriousness, this experiment forced me to reevaluate what I consider “stylish.” I know T-shirts can be an essential part of a wardrobe, but some part of me always felt like putting on a tee was basically accepting fashion defeat — like I was just wearing a T-shirt. After this challenge, I realized just how undervalued and disrespectful I’ve treated the tees in my wardrobe. If I never took care of the “nicer” tops in my closet, I probably wouldn’t want to wear them outside my apartment, either.
Danielle: I have never worn T-shirts five days in a row, so this was an interesting experience for me. I learned a lot about the importance of investing in and valuing your T-shirts. In the past I’ve stocked up on $10 T-shirts, balled them up in my dresser and wondered why I hated the way they looked after the fifth wear. I never had this experience with other tops, and this experiment made me realize I didn’t consider T-shirts a valuable part of my wardrobe. Perhaps moving forward I’ll take the time to fold them nicely or hang them up with my other tops and actually incorporate them into my everyday wear.
“This experiment made me realize I didn’t consider T-shirts a valuable part of my wardrobe.”
I also feel like I got more creative with my outfits as the days went by because I didn’t want to feel like I was “just wearing a T-shirt” again. That resulted in unexpected outfit combinations that I probably wouldn’t have attempted before. Just like my beloved bodysuits or jumpsuits, this experiment helped me realize that tees are comfortable, can easily be dressed up or down, and above all, let the accessories do the talking.
Now for the real question: What the heck am I going to wear now that this experiment is over?