What is Chambray?
Chambray is a relatively lightweight plain-weave cotton fabric, woven with a dyed warp thread and a white weft thread. “Plain weave” refers to a basic style of weaving where the weft thread alternates over and under the warp thread; if you “wove” a two-color construction paper placemat in grade-school art class, you know exactly what plain weave is! Chambray can be any color, but it is most often seen in an indigo wash, which is part of the reason it is so often confused with denim. Denim, however, is a twill fabric and generally much heavier than chambray.
Chambray is most often used in making shirts, though it lends itself easily to skirts and shirtdresses, too. Chambray is popular in both menswear and womenswear; it offers the versatility of denim in a softer, lighter cloth with greater breathability and comfort.
How Do I Wear Chambray?
Here, we’re going to talk mainly about how to style your chambray shirts. Chambray shirts are back, trending like we haven’t seen since the 90s! Of course, they never really went “out” of style, because they are a classic piece, but we believe they will be a must-have for the next couple of seasons at least. There are new ways to mix and style a chambray shirt that the 90s never even considered, and we can help you explore them.
Wear Chambray as Comfortable Casual Wear
Pair a long-tailed chambray shirt with leggings and boots or ballet flats for an absolutely effortless casual outfit. You can add a sweater in chilly weather or high-roll the sleeves when it’s warm out. This is the basic application of a chambray shirt—a go-to, versatile, comfortable piece you can count on day-to-day.
- Wear a chambray shirt instead of a cardigan-- When you might grab a light cardigan to go over a sundress or sleeveless dress, reach instead for your chambray shirt. Classic indigo washes go with literally every color and print, and you can opt to style your dress-and-shirt combo in any one of a dozen ways. Wear it open for a casual feel or button it up for more coverage; this also creates a whole new look for your dress, since it might appear to be a skirt at first glance. You may even decide to cinch your dress by tying your open chambray skirt at the waist—check out Pinterest for different charming ways to do your tying—which imparts a high-fashion vibe to your humblest sundress and chambray shirt.
- Use a chambray shirt for layering-- Try a chambray shirt instead of a turtleneck or Oxford cloth button-up under your favorite cotton sweater or go-to wool cardigan. Chambray, especially as it is washed and worn and loved, becomes buttery soft against your skin. If you love that wool sweater you bought in Iceland but find it a bit too itchy, a chambray shirt can fix that. Your favorite lightweight sweater for early fall can be worn over a chambray shirt well into cold weather. Chambray is also an unexpected, flattering color peeping out from under the collar. It’s a fresh look we think you’ll like.
- Mix up high and low-- Something fun to do with fashion is to surprise others with how you wear your clothing. Mixing dressy or extremely high quality (expensive) pieces with well-made casualwear is one way to do that. You can start out simply by wearing a chambray shirt to the office with your best skirt suit, or with a sequin skirt to a party. Consider layering an easy chambray shirt under your favorite cashmere pullover, or over a silk shantung dress for dinner out. A tip for mixing high and low: Keep it tidy. Iron that shirt and tuck it in, unless showing the shirt tail under a sweater or jacket is purposeful. Beware of looking rumpled or sloppy when you mix pieces this way. Look to celebrities known for this type of styling for inspiration!
These are just a few ways to wear your chambray shirts, and we hope that at least one of them is a fresh and exciting idea to your mind. You can enjoy the ease and comfort of chambray no matter what you want your final look to say about your taste and style. Chambray shirts are a classic staple piece, poised to be appreciated anew in the coming seasons. Select a new chambray shirt (or two!), and try it with dress pants, knit skirts or party clothes—the sky really is the limit!