This is a simple question without a straightforward answer. Short sleeve button down shirts aren’t really “in” style because they have never been “out” of style! That’s like asking if tights are in style; some years patterned or colored tights might be trending, but tights as a garment are here to stay. So, what might cycle in and out of style is the detailing of your short sleeve button down shirt, as well as how is worn—the choices you make in merchandising or styling the outfit you build around your shirt. But a short sleeve button down shirt as a shirt is timeless, like women’s jeans or a pencil skirt. This is a shirt style you can depend on to be a wardrobe workhorse for years if you choose carefully and then treat your garment properly.
There is an honest possibility that if you are reading this today, the last time you had a short sleeve button down shirt in your regular clothing rotation may have been in the 90s. Those shirts were oversized and boxy—too big on men and a shapeless mess on women. The sleeves of those shirts were wide and flapped at our sides, the hems often went past top of the thigh, making us look squat and rectangular. (We thought we looked terrific!) However, looking back at the cuts and details of that period might have turned you off of the style in general for a long, long time.
Women’s short sleeve blouses are different today, and may strike a just-right chord for you in your wardrobe. Fabrics are thinner and softer, and often contain stretch for a much more flattering drape. Cuts are trimmer, too, so no one will look boxy or squat in a modern short sleeve button down. The sleeves fit, not flap, and your figure or physique will show a bit. If you have been thinking about whether or not short sleeve button down shirts are “in,” this may be the perfect time to try one out!
If you want to try a short sleeve button down for the first time or the first time in a long time, remember that a great fit is paramount. The buttons should not gape or pull across your chest, the tail should not cross the top of your thigh unless you plan to tuck the shirt in every time you wear it, the arms should permit free movement, and you must be able to button the top collar button, even if you never plan to wear it that way. Checking these fit details ensures that your shirt will look great however you style it.
Don’t pay much attention to the size on the tag; if you shop women’s wear, you know that sizes are not standard and fits can vary wildly. Even if you tend to shop the same few retailers you love, in a new style you might want a little more or a bit less room. The fit is much, much more important than the size.
Short sleeve button down shirts are de facto casual. You will never see a short-sleeved tuxedo shirt! That doesn’t mean they can’t be polished! Pair them with jeans, short or capri pants depending on your taste or the weather. Short sleeve button downs can be stylish, and you have lots of options on how to wear them. Tweaking the silhouette of any garment can take it from “okay” to “amazing!” so don’t be afraid to try a new way of wearing your shirt. Some styling ideas we suggest:
Short sleeve button down shirts are definitely an option for building a fresh, of-the-moment look if you are careful to select a modern fit and fabric as you shop and to use contemporary styling as you create your outfit. This shirt style is a classic that will be with us forever; only the details change.