I've been a devotee of the "capsule wardrobe" since, hmmm, childhood, back when it was just called "not having a lot of clothes". I've always been a T-shirts and jeans gal, and in the summer I switch to T-shirts and skirts. So it's always good to stock up.
Illustration by Elena Scotti/GMG.
Fortunately, T-shirts are cheap, durable and, most importantly, don't require fussy laundering or ironing. (I love the look of a crisp white blouse, but if the tag says, "Hand wash cold, dry flat, puff back into shape using the gentle exhalations of adolescent fairies, cool iron," the blouse is staying in the closet. My wedding dress wasn't that much trouble.)
But there's a problem with cheap women's T-shirts: They don't wear as well as the men's. Tees for women tend to be made with flimsier material — all the better for a wet T-shirt contest? Because we're afraid a heavier weave will make us look bulky? I dunno — and I for one prefer the thicker, softer material of men's shirts.
But men's shirts, even if they're approximately the right size, hang weirdly on women: The arms are too loose, the hem is too long, and they don't even slightly nip in at the waist. Now I don't want all my band tees to be corsets, obviously, but I would like them to fit the normal contours of my figure without puddles of extra material around the waist and hips. Poorly fitting T-shirts make me feel depressed: Overly baggy tees and sweats are too close to the kind of clothes you might help your grandma into when she's in a nursing home. They look... unintentional and invalid-ish, like you're just trying to clear the minimum sartorial bar of clean and decently covered.
And women's shirts wear out faster, likely because of the thinner fabric. My husband and I occasionally buy band tees at the same concert; his last for years, mine crap out after six months. So recently I hit on the idea of buying the least expensive, but still comfortable, men's shirts I can find, and having them tailored to fit better. For my summer uniform of patterned skirt + white top + sandals, this meant a "unisex" size small white tee from a local chain store, at a price of three for $12. The fit was predictable: The small still gaped around the biceps, fabric bunched at the hip, and you'd never know there's a waist underneath the column of fabric from neck to hem.
I took them to my local alterations place on New York's Lower East Side, where they will alter anything in, no kidding, about nine minutes. A guy pinned the sides, marked the hem and pinched the sleeves, and voila, 10 minutes later I had three properly fitting white T-shirts. This cost me $27, so a total cost per shirt of about $13.
Photo by Leigh Anderson.
Now, if you want to tailor your own shirts and save the $27, have at it (I have neither the skills or equipment for home tailoring). A lady over at Instructables has a nice YouTube tutorial she calls From Boxy to Foxy, and from the comments, at least, it looks like her directions are right on the money. One note: The tees I bought did fit around the collar, and judging from her video, it looks like that's the one thing that does really have to be right, right from the beginning.
So if you, like me, want the easiest possible — but still flattering — capsule wardrobe, head on over to your local shopping centre and stock up on men's shirts. They're cheap, durable and with a little nip and tuck, very cute. No hand-washing or adolescent fairies required.