Iconic Fashion: 27 Memorable White Shirts Through the Decades

Emma Watson, 2014
Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

There's no other closet staple that's as timeless or as versatile as the white button-down shirt. This season, designers like Joseph Altuzarra, Raf Simons, and Alexander Wang re-visited button-downs and sent out re-imagined variations with fresh colors and new silhouettes. But despite their modern twists and cool detailing, one thing has remained clear—none will come close to superseding the classic white.

Don't believe us? We dug deep into our archives and unearthed iconic white shirt moments worn by Hollywood's most legendary stars while on and off the red carpet and big screen.

We started with Lauren Bacall in the 1948 film Key Largo, worked our way to Marilyn Monroe on the set of 1961's The Misfits, touched down on the famous shopping scene in Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts in 1990, and finally capped it off with Emma Watson's royal look in Ralph Lauren from earlier this year.

Flip through our gallery to see the white top's ubiquitousness, from 1948 to present day. By the end, you'll be convinced that the white button-down will remain a closet fixture!

01 of 27

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, 1948

Lauren Bacall, 1948
Courtesy Everett Collection

Legendary Hollywood couple "Bogie and Bacall" starred together in the 1948 film Key Largo in which one scene features them both stylishly clad in white button-downs.

02 of 27

Grace Kelly, 1952

Grace Kelly, 1952
Everett Collection

Before Grace Kelly wed (let alone, met) the prince of Monaco and became a princess, she was a popular Hollywood actress. Here, she poses for a publicity photo for the film High Noon.

03 of 27

Audrey Hepburn, 1956

Audrey Hepburn, 1956
Everett Collection

A more casual take on the white shirt-the actress, all smiles, in one styled with a playful pair of striped capris.

04 of 27

Katharine Hepburn, late 1950s

Katharine Hepburn, late 1950s
Everett Collection

The actress gave her whites a refreshing menswear-inspired spin, selecting an oversize fit (with the collars popped) that she teamed with creased trousers.

05 of 27

Ava Gardner, 1960

Ava Gardner, 1960
Everett Collection

The Academy Award-nominated actress, whose beauty captivated all, showed off the versatility of the white button-down, bringing it out to sea with high-waisted shorts.

06 of 27

Marilyn Monroe, 1961

Marilyn Monroe, 1961
Everett Collection

The blond bombshell took a break from filming The Misfits and stayed cool under the shade in a crisp top and high-waisted jeans that flaunt her hourglass figure.

07 of 27

Sharon Tate, 1968

Sharon Tate, 1968
Everett Collection

The actress-slash-model was known for her incredible on-screen performances and, most famously, for her style, which ranged from embellished gypsy skirts to tailored clothing.

08 of 27

Cybill Shepherd, 1971

Cybill Shepherd, 1971
Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Shepherd smoldered during a portrait in New York City. Her outfit of choice? A timeless crisp white shirt.

09 of 27

Diane Keaton, 1977

Diane Keaton, 1977
Everett Collection

In Woody Allen's rom-com Annie Hall, Keaton played the quirky (and completely endearing) Annie Hall opposite Allen's equally neurotic character Alvy Singer. The most memorable fashion moment was, hands down, her menswear-inspired ensemble, complete with a white button-down, a vest, tie, and khaki slacks.

10 of 27

Madonna, 1978

Madonna, 1978
Michael McDonnell/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This fresh-faced studio headshot of Madonna's gave us a glimpse of what the singer was like before she became the cultural icon we know today. Always the trendsetter, she went with a simple white shirt and dark tie for her shoot.

11 of 27

Cybill Shepherd, 1985

Cybill Shepherd, 1985
Mary Evans/Long Hot Productions/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

More than a decade later, Shepherd once again selected her go-to crisp classic for a captivating camera-ready look.

12 of 27

Jennifer Grey, 1987

Jennifer Grey, 1987
Everett Collection

Another iconic white shirt moment in film: Jennifer Grey wears a tied up button-down as Baby Houseman in Dirty Dancing.

13 of 27

Isabella Rossellini, 1990

Isabella Rossellini, 1990
Terry O'Neill/Getty Images

The model-actress went back to basics and paired her top with a tailored black trousers and black flats. Simple, yet so chic.

14 of 27

Julia Roberts, 1990

Julia Roberts, 1990
Everett Collection

Roberts caught Hollywood's attention in her breakout role as Vivian Ward in the now-classic romantic comedy Pretty Woman. The white button-down played a major role as well-Roberts added a degree of polish to her cut-out dress with a men's shirt for her shopping spree.

15 of 27

Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, 1992

Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, 1992
Ron Galella/WireImage

We're seeing double! The supermodel duo dressed up as twins at Revlon's 4th Annual Unforgettable Woman Contest in matching white shirts and red knits.

16 of 27

Tina Turner, 1993

Tina Turner, 1993
Jeffrey Bender/Corbis

One of our favorite shots of the queen of rock 'n' roll-Turner captured mid-laugh in an oversize shirt tucked into high-waisted jeans. Such beautiful ease!

17 of 27

Susan Sarandon, 1994

Susan Sarandon, 1994
Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

Starring alongside Tommy Lee Jones in the thriller The Client, Sarandon was the epitome of sophistication in the closet staple while playing a lawyer defending an 11-year-old boy.

18 of 27

Uma Thurman, 1994

Uma Thurman, 1994
Everett Collection

Pulp Fiction

's Mia Wallace (played by Uma Thurman) is instantly recognizable for her trademark blunt bob, bangs-and white shirt, of course.

19 of 27

Reese Witherspoon, 1994

Reese Witherspoon, 1994
Steve Granitz Archive/WireImage

Then-newcomer Witherspoon worked the white shirt on the red carpet at the True Lies premiere.

20 of 27

Sharon Stone, 1998

Sharon Stone, 1998
Mychal Watts/WireImage

Stone went down for having one of the most unforgettable looks in Oscars history. The actress also quite possibly pioneered the high-low trend by pairing her lilac Vera Wang evening skirt with a Gap button-down.

21 of 27

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, 1999

Carolyn Bessette, 1999
Everett Collection

It's clear that Bessette-Kennedy and husband John F. Kennedy Jr. coordinated their black-tie looks for the night. Though, she spun her whites into an elegant ensemble by pairing it with a black floor-grazing ball skirt.

22 of 27

Drew Barrymore, 2000

Drew Barrymore, 2000
S. Granitz/WireImage

Barrymore hit the Titan A.E. Los Angeles premiere in a short-sleeve top that she decorated with strands of turquoise stones.

23 of 27

Gwyneth Paltrow, 2001

Gwyneth Paltrow, 2001
SGranitz/WireImage

Paltrow also rocked the white shirt-and-maxi pairing on the red carpet, wow-ing all at the Los Angeles premiere of Snatch.

24 of 27

Carolina Herrera, 2003

Carolina Herrera, 2003
J. Vespa/WireImage

Backstage during the 2004 spring collections at New York Fashion Week, the designer was snapped in her trademark look. She's famous for taking her runway bow in a white shirt. "Wehn I don't know what to wear, it's what I choose," she has said of the piece. "I find it fascinating; it makes me feel secure."

25 of 27

Angelina Jolie, 2005

Angelina Jolie, 2005
Courtesy Everett Collection

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

was responsible for bringing together "It" couple Brangelina, and we suspect it was Jolie's sexy white shirt scene that sparked some serious chemistry.

26 of 27

Julia Roberts, 2014

Julia Roberts, 2014
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Roberts wowed on the red carpet at the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards in a Dolce & Gabbana design, boasting a classic black gown over an equally classic white button-down.

27 of 27

Emma Watson, 2014

Emma Watson, 2014
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The British actress dined with royalty at Windsor Castle, dressing up for the occasion in head-to-toe Ralph Lauren-a crisp button-down and a gray silk jersey evening skirt-that she gracefully teamed with a white skinny belt and Ana Khouri jewelry.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles