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How to Style a Button-Down Shirt

How to Style a Button-Down Shirt: Five Ways to Wear One Timeless Top

These looks prove a classic button-down is up for anything.

By Emma Steinbergs

When I say “button-down,” do you picture starchy office attire? Tom Cruise in Risky Business? Fair enough, but I’m here to remind you that this timeless classic has the potential to be so much more than boring or boyish.

Think about it: A button-down shirt looks just as at-home on the beach as it does in a board meeting. It’s the ultimate closet chameleon—a versatile wardrobe workhorse you can wear with a wide variety of pieces and style for nearly any type of setting. In other words, you ought to invest in a really good one—or two, or four—that are well-cut and crafted from high-quality fabric.

Featuring a relaxed fit and luxurious cotton poplin, our subtly striped, classic white Mila shirt is a fantastic place to start. Here are five fresh ways to wear it—inspired by how I’ve been styling mine for every aspect of my life lately.

Sizing guidance: The Mila shirt fits true to size. I’m 5’6” and typically wear a 2/XS in M.M.LaFleur; I opted for an S since I love a slightly oversized look.

How to Style a Button-Down Shirt

Tip #1: Keep It Classic

A classic white button-down is the most quintessential iteration of the work shirt. Let it serve as a blank canvas, and play with colors and patterns throughout the rest of your outfit.

Tip #2: Opt for Oversized

If you’re in between two sizes, go up. A too-small button-down just looks ill-fitting, but an oversized one looks intentionally chic.

Tip #3: Try Different Button Combinations

Should you leave one, two, or three buttons undone? The answer is that there are no rules! Play around with different combinations to find out what works best for your body and your outfit.

Five Button-Down Shirt Outfit Ideas

Outfit #1

As a Power Casual Essential

Power Casual has become the default dress code for so many of us—myself included. Who doesn’t love an outfit that can take you from on-duty to off-duty without needing to change? Last Wednesday, my plans involved a busy day at the office followed by my second viewing of Barbie, so I needed an outfit that excluded work-life balance. Enter: my Mila shirt and our #1 best-selling pants of all time, the Fosters. By combining a relaxed top with fitted pants, I formed a balanced silhouette that looked polished and felt incredibly comfortable as I raced to the subway, sat at my desk, and, finally, filled up on popcorn. Pro tip for my fellow Power Casual fans: Get yourself some go-to gold earrings and white leather sneakers. You’ll find that these easy accessories go with every polished-casual look in the book.

Power Casual outfit
Formal Office attire

Outfit #2

For a Formal Office

As you might’ve gathered from the previous outfit, M.M.’s office dress code leans business casual. That said, my coworkers and I genuinely enjoy wearing full suits—particularly the ones we make. Since I can never seem to quench my thirst for camel-colored clothing, I recently chose to invest in the Yiyan blazer and cognac Ginger pumps to complement my beloved Horton pants. (If you’re more of a pencil skirt person, swap the Hortons for the Cobble Hill.) Our washable wool twill is fairly lightweight, so I’ve had no issue adapting these styles to warm weather as long as I wear a breathable top. In this case, my 100%-cotton Mila shirt kept me cool throughout my commute and layered smoothly under my jacket whenever I felt chilled from the office A/C.

Outfit #3

For Weekend Relaxation

“Set dressing” has become quite the trend—probably an evolution of our 2020 obsession with loungewear—and I think it’s here to stay. It just makes sense: Matching separates are the ultimate no-brainer outfits. They’re as easy to style as dresses or jumpsuits, plus you can mix and match them with other separates in your closet. Clearly, I’m a sucker for a set, so I jumped at the chance to save on the currently marked-down Madelyn pants. They’re made from the exact same fabric as the Mila shirt, so together, you get a seamless, stripy ensemble that feels like a wearable breeze or a Hamptons house in clothing form. When I wore my Mila shirt with my Madelyns last Saturday, I decided to leave it unbuttoned over my favorite tank top to achieve a laid-back look then added my raffia sun hat and some leather slides. Let me tell you: I felt like a lady of luxury as I lazed about on my tiny apartment patio.

How to Style a Button-Down Shirt for the weekend
mmlafleur button down shirt

Outfit #4

For an Evening Out

Even your most businessy button-down deserves a night out every now and then. I recently took my Mila out for a dinner date, and in the process, I was reminded of how much I love mixing workwear essentials (e.g. button-downs, blazers, and tailored trousers) with less structured pieces. There’s something about the juxtaposition of ultra-tailored items and distinctly delicate pieces that’s so singularly chic. On this particular evening, I chose to pair my button-down with my rosy-hued Orchard skirt and some dusty pink shoes I scored at a vintage shop. The slip skirt was really the star of the show here, so I made sure to show it off by tying up my shirt—high enough to define my waist but low enough to avoid it becoming a crop top. For some added texture, I layered a lace camisole underneath, but a silk style will achieve the same elegant effect.

Outfit #5

For Vacation Mode

Earlier this summer, I packed for a two-week vacation in Europe and included my Mila shirt as one of my trusty travel companions. I wore it many times, often leaving it unbuttoned over a tank top and high-waisted jeans and sometimes styling it as a chic swimsuit cover-up along with the airy Adina shorts. Even if you don’t have plans to be on the Croatian coast anytime soon, I highly recommend exploring all the unexpected ways you can wear a button-down. The possibilities are endless, really.

mmlafleur Mila shirt vacation look

Written By

Emma Steinbergs

Emma is M.M.LaFleur's Brand Manager. She previously worked as an M.M. stylist and still loves thinking through styling challenges and solutions for customers.

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