Given the recent preoccupation with quiet luxury coupled with the rising (and alarming, climate change-induced) temperatures around the world, one fabric has dominated summer fashion this season: Linen. The material is known for both its ability to keep wearers cool and for its prominence among the wardrobes of the moneyed (think Martha's Vineyard and Montauk), but it's also become a staple in contemporary street style, lauded for its ability to transcend passing fads.
"Linen isn’t anything new, but it has grown in popularity recently with the rise of a capsule wardrobe and the laid-back luxury trend we’re seeing this summer," agrees stylist Karen Blanchard. "People love when they can have a staple in their closet that they can wear over and over again with versatility."
Indeed, she points out that linen "has been around for centuries" and remains an enduring go-to fabric for sunbathers summer after summer because it "is is strong and will get more comfortable the more you wear it." Plus, she says, "it dries super quickly for when those summer days get very hot," and is known for being "breathable and temperature regulating, so you can still get coverage without overheating."
But for the uninitiated, shopping for and pulling off this fabric for the first time can feel daunting, which is why I asked Blanchard to break down all things linen shirt—what to look for, how to style it, how to care for your linen, and which linen shirts are worth the investment.
What to Look for in a Linen Shirt
When looking for a premium linen shirt that feels elevated and has the strength to last for summers to come, Blanchard says it's best to focus first and foremost on the makeup of the fabric.
"There’s a difference between linen and linen-blend material," she explains. "Both can be great options, but can vary in how they need to be cared for, so pay attention to what’s on the label. I personally prefer 100 percent linen as it gives a luxe appeal and it is very suitable for the summer."
And in terms of fit, she says, it "is totally up to everyone’s unique style," though she says she usually opts for a loose silhouette, especially since linen is "made from a flax plant" that's woven into a texture that allows wearers "to feel the breeze through the material." More specifically, Blanchard says, "I personally like to buy mine a size or two larger than what I normally purchase so it can have an oversized feel," adding that loose fits have been trending recently, anyway.
How to Style a Linen Shirt
Blanchard says, "Mixing-and-matching is so in right now, so mixing clothing textures can be a fun way to play up an outfit too." Therefore, she recommends trying a linen shirt with denim, cotton, and other summer fabrics. For a more casual look, she recommends tossing an oversized linen shirt over a bathing suit as a chic coverup or pairing it with a pair of comfortable, loose-fitting pants "for an evening outdoors when you want a layer but still want to feel the breeze through the material."
Caring for a Linen Shirt
When trying a fabric for the first time, one of your primary concerns might be the question of how to take care of it. After all, shrinkage, pilling, fading, and other washday woes can ruin anyone's initial joy over investing in a new favorite, statement piece.
"I recommend washing linen in lukewarm or even cold water (with like colors, of course) and if you are machine washing it, make sure not to overcrowd the load and use a gentle cycle if you can," Blanchard advises. "I also suggest air drying your linen (it dries faster than you’d think)." Because the flax thread that makes up linen is often woven or knit, machine drying can cause it to shrink or otherwise change shape.
As far as storing your linen shirts, Blanchard continues, "Linen does wrinkle easily, so it’s best to hang it in your closet rather than folding. And if you’re ironing, use a medium setting—some irons even have a linen setting! Steaming is also a good way to combat wrinkles, especially while traveling or on-the-go."
The Best Linen Shirts
Blanchard recommends this striped piece as either a coverup or as an everyday shirt, saying that she loves how oversized it is. “Then, if I want, I can tuck it into my pants to give my outfit some shape,” she explains. Conversely, she notes that its hi-low hem can be worn loose over pants or as a shirtdress. “That’s one of the great things about linen,” she says. “It can be worn so many different ways!”
Latinx-owned brand Farm Rio never fails to craft colorful, tropical-inspired statement pieces that transcend trends and are well-made enough to last for years. This linen blouse is one of my new favorites, with its loose, Bohemian fit that makes it perfect for wearing with jeans. I love the way the blue thread of its embroidered flowers offsets the fuschia fabric, just as I love the classic look of the top’s square neckline and ruffled shoulders.
If you think linen is boring, think again. Blanchard gushes, “Just recently, I found this super cute linen shirt with cut-outs that I instantly added to my cart (price is also amazing!). It gives a more luxe feel given the detail— a great option for a night out.” Personally, I also love the brand, DL1961, which is most well known for its high-quality, sustainably made denim. While this shirt has long sleeves, they’re loose and airy, meaning that this piece can be worn comfortably no matter the season.
This linen shirt is made with day to day life in mind, composed of a Filium-activated linen that’s meant to resist odors, stains, and liquids, so you can wear it no matter where you’re going or what you’re planning on doing. And while it has a classic structured, button-down silhouette, it’s also built with feminine curves in mind, so you don’t have to worry about that dreaded button-stretch at the breast. It comes in five colorways, including this baby blue (my personal favorite).
Blanchard, like me, doesn’t mind meandering over to the men’s section of a store to find the perfect fashion find. With this particular blue linen shirt, she did just that, in search of “something more timeless” with that breezy, versatile linen feel. She assures that this top “will never go out of style,” adding that “the color is fab for summer.” And at a price point under 30 dollars, you can’t go wrong.
“It’s hard to beat a classic white linen shirt,” says Blanchard, and I can’t help but agree. This no-nonsense option from Beyond Words features a hi-low hemline that’s perfect for use as a shirtdress, coverup, or simply as a top worn loose over jeans or trousers—though personally, I like to tuck my button-downs in for a more structured look. With its button cuffs, traditional collar, and chest pocket, it’s perfect to wear to work but versatile enough to be styled more casually.
Woman-owned small business Dāl the Label is one of my favorite brands. All of their clothes are sustainably made in small batches, and are designed to become part of the wearer’s capsule wardrobe, worn season after season for years to come. This linen shirt is no different, with an oversized silhouette and chic wide sleeves that lend this classic staple a unique look. It comes in three colors—black, white, and this suave oat colorway. It, along with the brand’s linen shirtdress, has quickly made its way into my collection of favorite items.
If the oversized look isn’t your thing, never fear: This sleeveless linen top is designed to be form fitting, with a cut that begins just above the breast and ends below the waist in an inverted triangle shape. While its fabric isn’t stretchy (100 percent linen tends not to be), it’s made to slip on easily. I love this take on the linen trend, and would live in this top all summer long, especially during dinners or drinks al fresco.
This linen top is the breezy fit of any summer fashion lover’s dreams, and it comes in five fun colorways including gingham, brown, dark orange, pink, and this lime green shade. You can also buy it as a matching set with its equally as airy linen shorts. Made from ecolinen for a smaller carbon footprint, it’s unbelievably comfortable and is a welcome departure from classic, neutral-colored linen, so you can make a fashion statement and indulge in a summer fabric tradition.
Designed in Paris and made from linen voile, this subtly cropped top looks perfect with a form-fitting skirt or a pair of jeans. Its high-cut, round neckline also makes it ideal for a day at the office, while its keyhole opening in the back add a flirty touch to it. It comes in both this blush pink shade and in a white colorway that features embroidered flowers, each of which make for a sweet, romantic look.
I love wearing fun, eye-catching sleeves, and these puffed ones are just the ticket. The silhouette of this top makes it infinitely more interesting than the average button-down, and as does the flirty pink shade. The cinched, form-fitting cut of the waist also offsets the bubbliness of the sleeves, just as the structured collar balances out the rounded shoulders. Made from a soft blend of cotton and linen, it’s super comfortable and looks fabulous with everything from skirts to jeans.
Customer Review: "Great top. I love the puffy shoulders and I get a lot of compliments. The fabric, fit and overall quality is great." -Express
I’m obsessed with the pattern on this shirt from Cleobella, which is made from a luxurious cotton linen blend. The top has the look of denim (there’s even a matching pair of shorts on the site that I’m seriously considering), lending it a fun edginess that’s not typically associated with linen. Totally handmade, it’s best washed by hand as well so as not to compromise the fabric—a small price to pay for a look so cute.
I’m positively obsessed with this unique piece from Sézane’s archives. It’s perfect for transitioning from summer to fall, especially in this warm plaid colorway. Its airy short sleeves reach down to the wearer’s elbows and are embellished with ruffles, and its turtleneck neckline is smocked and ruffled as well. My favorite aspect of the look, though, is the back of the blouse, which ties in a large bow at the base of the neck. Overall, it’s an elevated, feminine look that’s sure to catch attention no matter which season you’re wearing it in.
Logan Hollowell, which is responsible for some of my favorite jewelry pieces, just rocked my world by coming out with a linen collection that includes chic dresses, tops, and pants made from 100 percent Italian linen. This top is at the forefront of my shopping cart, with its versatile wrap design that can be tied in the back or the front and its airy, translucent fabric. It comes in both white and tan, but I personally prefer the white colorway for a classic summer look. However, it runs small, so for a traditionally loose fit, be sure to size up.
I’m obsessed with this top from Paige. Its cut mimics a corset, but is perfect (and appropriate) for any setting, including a day at the office, with its straight, square neckline, button-down front, and waist that’s cinched gently with a tie. It’s made from cotton and linen, giving it all the airiness of the latter fabric while retaining the soft comfort of the former. I love wearing it in the summer with a pair of jeans or a midi skirt, but it also works in the fall and winter under a blazer or jacket.
Another gorgeous option from Sézane, this off white top incorporates crocheted lace at the neckline and sleeves for an ultra-feminine, Bohemian look. It also gathers at the shoulders and below the breast, giving the piece more volume and more substantial silhouette. Composed of a blend of cotton and linen, it’s made for comfort and suitable for the spring, summer, and fall, and it even has a keyhole opening and button closure at the back for optimal ventilation (it also happens to be a flirty, fun detail).
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