The 13 Best Button-Down Shirts for Women

Here, we pay homage to the prepster staple.

Two models wearing blue button-down shirts from Alex Mill
(Image credit: Alex Mill)

The ubiquitous simple-yet-polished button-down (button-up?) is a wardrobe staple. And finding one on the market isn't hard: name a brand, any brand, and you'll find plenty of iterations of the prepster staple to shop. But finding the best button-down shirt—one that actually fits you properly and is made of high-quality materials—is a different story. Pressing 'buy' on the first one you see might mean you end up with a shirt that comes across as too casual for the office or, alternatively, is so stiff and starched that it resembles a waiter's uniform at a five-star restaurant. Most regrettable are the blouses that strain and pucker at the bust or are so big and boxy—and not in an oversized on-purpose way—that they look like they're swallowing you whole.

Audrey McLoghlin, the founder of Frank & Eileen, is a master of the garment. The former engineer is now a fashion designer who crafts comfortable, affordable, and size-inclusive button-downs. (She calls them button-ups, however, for a smart reason—more on that in a minute.) Who better to tap for advice on how to spot and snag a truly perfect button-down? Here, she walks us through how to find the right fit and other key aspects to keep in mind while on the hunt.

What to Look For in a Button-Down

  • Quality

"The first thing I would look for is fabric quality—nothing matters unless the fabric is beautiful," McLoghlin says. "I'm a big 100-percent something and not blends [person], so either 100 percent cotton, 100 percent linen, or 100 percent tencel. You also want to see if your button-up is pre-washed or not. One way some brands cut costs and deliver the lowest-priced garments is that they don't pre-wash the garments. They just cut, sew, and sell it. So if you wear it and toss that into the washing machine, it suddenly might not fit you anymore. Once you have these things down, you have to figure out fit."

  • Versatility

"The second thing I'd look for in the silhouette is versatility (i.e. where am I wearing this to?)." The expert encourages you to invest in a button-down shirt that will work for a diverse set of occasions: the office, weekend brunch, and perhaps even happy hour.

  • Fit

A proper fit, McLoghlin shares, is essential in a button-down. She advises you first figure out your desired silhouette—fitted and close-to-the-body or roomy and oversized? "The next important part of making sure your button-up fits is evaluating the bust area, too," she shares. "This is a dead giveaway of whether or not you have the perfect fitting shirt. The button placement should allow room for your bust, without creating a gap or causing you to size up from your regular size. Most button-ups have buttons all the way up to the collar (like a men's shirt), so you end up with one button below the bust and one button above the bust. This is what creates the ever-dreaded 'boob gap.' A beautifully-fitting shirt will have a button that lines up perfectly with your bust line."

Next up to consider regarding fit? "The shoulders: The perfect shoulders will depend on the style you are going for that day. Going for the classic look? Make sure the shoulder is crisp. Going for a relaxed look? Make sure the shoulder falls off effortlessly." Lastly, McLoghlin advises you "check where it hits you at the waist, hips, and bum. For the classic shirttail, it should curve at the front, around your hips, and down again in your back. The length would be even in the front and the back."

The Best Button-Down Shirts for Women

Button-Up Shirt vs Button-Down Shirt

What's in a name? In this shirt's case, actually, a lot. "Technically speaking, a button-down has a collar with an extra set of buttons. It's a [term that came from men's clothing] because they would put their ties through the button-down collar," explains McLoghlin. "I call my pieces a button-up because the placket buttons up, but it doesn't infer that there is a button-down collar. Women tend to use the term interchangeably, but in the men's world, they're distinct."

Meet the Fashion Expert

Audrey McLoghlin
Audrey McLoghlin

Frank & Eileen was born in 2009 when former engineer Audrey McLoghlin sought to reinvent the button-up for women —a category previously focused solely on men. Inspired by Audrey’s Irish grandparents—our brand namesakes, Frank & Eileen—we have grown slowly and intentionally from our best-Italian-fabric-in-the-world-obsessed beginnings. Now a globally recognized fashion brand, Frank & Eileen is a certified woman-owned, woman-led business that has retained 100% ownership while working with the same ethical, sustainable manufacturers for over a decade. 

Emma Childs
Fashion Features Editor

Emma is the fashion features editor at Marie Claire, where she writes deep-dive trend reports, zeitgeisty fashion featurettes on what style tastemakers are wearing, long-form profiles on emerging designers and the names to know, and human interest vignette-style round-ups. Previously, she was Marie Claire's style editor, where she wrote shopping e-commerce guides and seasonal trend reports, assisted with the market for fashion photo shoots, and assigned and edited fashion celebrity news.

Emma also wrote for The Zoe Report, Editorialist, Elite Daily, Bustle, and Mission Magazine. She studied Fashion Studies and New Media at Fordham University Lincoln Center and launched her own magazine, Childs Play Magazine, in 2015 as a creative pastime. When she's not waxing poetic about niche fashion topics, you'll find her stalking eBay for designer vintage, reading literary fiction on her Kindle, and baking banana bread in her tiny NYC kitchen.