7 ways to wear a denim shirt

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 30 Comments

I learned long ago on my style journey to never say I wouldn’t revisit a fashion trend that I tried the first time it came around.


Because such nonsense will inevitably come back to bite me on my wide-but-flat-as-a-pancake bottom.

Let me give you some examples where I’ve gone back on my word and embraced a former trend:

Neon? TICK

Drop-crotch pants? TICK

Double denim? TICK

Holly Hobbie/Little House on the Prarie maxi and boots? TICK

Off-the-shoulder anything? TICK

Shorts as evening or workwear? TICK

Boho anything? TICK

Which brings me the re-visited trend of the moment that’s very much a TICK, TICKETY TICK for me.

The denim shirt.

This genius of a wardrobe piece and I have a long and colourful (well blue) style history.

It was the winter of 1990 when my first denim shirt – a Country Road classic – beckoned me from the racks of a Sunshine Coast boutique. (And yes, this was back when Country Road had its own stores but also stocked in boutiques)

I wore that shirt like nobody’s business but preferably tucked into high-waisted black pants and teamed back with tan loafers and a tan belt.

The next time I embraced the denim shirt was in the mid-90s when pregnant with my first baby. Think over-sized (men’s!) JAG denim shirt with leggings and tan deck shoes.

Sadly, it would be many years until my next denim or chambray shirt encounter.

In 2012 when shopping up an Aussie-US-dollar-parity storm while on holidays in the States, I stumbled across a Calvin Klein number that still sits in my wardrobe.

UM. Right next to its subsequent denim mates – you’ll find one from Bohemian Traders, Sussan and now UNIQLO and Katies.

They’re all different. HONESTLY (well that’s my story to Mr SY who shakes his head in disbelief that I almost need a wardrobe section dedicated solely to denim shirts … a bit like my striped section … but that’s another blog post).

So, when SY reader Kylie emailed me last week asking for some styling tips on how to wear a denim shirt, I took one look in my wardrobe realised that in showing the versatility of the denim shirt, I would also be justifying the wardrobe space they take up.

I’m nothing if not VERY good at justifying clothes purchases.

7 ways to wear denim shirts

7 ways to wear a denim shirt

1. With blue jeans. Double denim is still a controversial fashion topic. I was anti when it first came back in trend but, like a true Gemini, I am now so on board. Personally, I prefer less of the matchy-matchy double denim and more of the high-contrast double denim. So … an indigo denim shirt with light-wash jeans or chambray denim shirt with indigo jeans.

How to wear denim shirts | UNIQLO denim shirt, jeans, knit and hat

UNIQLO denim shirt, jeans, knit and hat

2. With black jeans. It worked in 1990 and still works now. Black and denim are very good outfit buddies. I mention black accessories – boots and bags – below but don’t discount the dress-up power of black jeans or black leather pants or skirts.

How to wear a denim shirt - black jeans

3. With white jeans. Whenever I want to do a warmer weather denim look, it’s most likely with white as its outfit partner. Tan accessories complete the look. The below is not strictly a denim shirt but … you know, you can never have too much blue in any form in MY wardrobe.

Binny Parade Ring Shirt | NYDJ jeans | FRANKiE4 Footwear boots

4. With skirts. I’ll pop a denim shirt on with a striped tube skirt, navy tube skirt, black leather skirt, textured charcoal skirt or even a maxi skirt. It’s the contrast of masculine and feminine that makes this look just work.

How to wear a denim shirt - skirt

Katies shirt and skirt

5. With shorts. Again, this is a summer look for me and one I’ll often take on for times when I know I’ll be on the sporting sidelines in the sun.

How to wear a denim shirt - shorts

6. As a jacket. That sporting sideline look might be a denim shirt over a tee or tank, turning the shirt into a jacket. Or as it cools down but before it gets super cool, worn as a jacket over a long-sleeve tee and jeans.

How to wear a denim shirt - jacket

7. As an accessory. If I’m wearing a sporty styled t-shirt dress or skirt and sneakers, it would not be out of place to see me with a denim shirt tied around my hips. It breaks up the line of the dress and any layer you make to an outfit is always a good one. If it did cool down you could untie it and wear as a jacket.

How to wear a denim shirt - accessory

8. As after-five wear. This look is very much about the contrast of masculine and feminine. Work back a denim shirt (tucked or tied in a knot to be almost cropped) with a full skirt in tulle or satin and team it work a blinged-up statement necklace and heels. I’ve never successfully pulled this look off (the below was for a fancy dress event) but very much admire those who do.

How to wear a denim shirt - evening

7 denim shirt style tips

1. Do try the half tuck. I love the half tuck for its ability to look like you haven’t tried too hard but you really have because nailing the tuck takes some skills. My friend Rach from @redcliffestyle is the queen of the half tuck. I love the half tuck because it shows off your waistline but in a casual way. Often a tuck can rescue a too-long shirt and bring it back into proportion with your body.

2. Do try the full tuck. Ok, so you’re not going to find me doing this look too often, despite my 1990 denim-shirt heritage. I now know why this look did nothing for me. My waist is short, tucking in and creating a waist do not make me an hourglass, it just points a shiny neon light on my hips.

3. Look for a good fit around the shoulders and bust. It is tricky finding shirts that fit you on the bust and on the hips but you need comfort at the top of the shirt otherwise you’ll never wear it. If you are a vastly different bust size to hip size, consider having the shirt altered by a tailor to fit.

4. Lighter weight denim will look less boxy on you. If you’re struggling with finding a denim shirt that works for you, look for lighter weights and chambray styles. A lighter fabric has more chance of draping and being less boxy around the bust.

5. There should be shape to your denim shirt – it doesn’t have to be super fitted but it should skim but not resemble the over-sized look I embraced while pregnant in 1995.

6. Tan accessories will always be a match made in denim-shirt heaven. It’s a little bit country and a lot all right.

7. Black accessories will dress up a denim shirt, especially when you contrast the denim with a different texture, say leather or suede. Whenever I want to take a denim shirt out on the town or in a work situation, I’ll work it back with black.

7 denim shirts to buy right now

Indigo denim is the hero denim of the season but you will still find all shades of denim shirts out there and available to you. Choose a shade that you LOVE or double or triple it up like I have done with a few options in your wardrobe.

7 denim shirts AW16 | How to wear a denim shirt

1. Katies shirt $49.95 (also pictured above on me with charcoal skirt)

2. UNIQLO shirt $29.90 (on sale, also pictured above on me with denim jeans and red knit)

3. Target shirt $39

4. Witchery shirt $129.95

5. Emerson @ Big W shirt $25

6. Sussan shirt $83.97 (on sale)

7. Country Road shirt $129

So tell me, would I find a denim shirt in your wardrobe? Did you also wear them back in the day? How do you wear them now?

Share your outfit to WIN

Get more denim shirt inspiration from the #SYdenim16 feed on Instagram.

Every month in 2016 I’m giving away a $100 gift card to help freshen up your wardrobe.

This month you could win a $100 gift card from Adrift.

Each month, I’ll propose a different wardrobe theme for you to consider incorporating into your #everydaystyle outfit planning.

Each day that you incorporate that theme, simply upload your photo as you normally would, using the #everydaystyle hashtag. To be in the running for the prize, you just need to add the specific hashtag for each month’s theme. You can enter as many times as you like.

This month’s theme is: Denim Days. Think jeans, denim jackets, chambray shirts, denim skirts, denim vests, indigo blouses. Show us your favourite denim styles and inspire us through the month of April.

This month’s hashtag is: #SYdenim16

Your outfit photo could be featured here on the blog with a link back to your Instagram page. Entries close April 26, 2016. The winner will be announced on the blog, April 27, 2016.

Photo 29-03-2016, 9 09 09 PM

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Comments 30

  1. At the risk of really declaring my age, the zenith of my double denim experience would have been circa 1975/77 when Adele Palmer’s Jag range was hot, hot, hot. The jeans were high waisted and the shirt tucked in, unbuttoned as far as you’d dare and tight. Sadly there are no evidentiary photos which is probably just as well, LOL.

  2. Thanks, Niki! I just bought a denim shirt and now I have heaps of ideas about how to wear it! Last time I wore one was 1994 and I never felt good in it then. I’ll get lots of wear from on this time around.

  3. Love this post Nikki. I have a chambray polka dot denim shirt I bought two years ago, but I reckon I could do with another one – you’ve shown me so many possible ways of wearing one. Love all the tips and tricks. x

  4. I love a double denim look and wore it yesterday with the cooler weather. My favourite denim shirt in my wardrobe (yes I do have a few too) would be the one from yesterday’s outfit, a Cotton On favourite from last year which is super soft and a bit longer than a normal shirt. Love your denim shirt styling tips Nikki.

  5. I often steal my husband’s twentysomething year old oversized CR Chambray shirt that he often overlooks nowadays, as has several other newer ones for some reason, but I do think that Katies Denim shirt might have my name on it as well.. it looks absolutely amazing on you with the charcoal skirt Nikki!

  6. I am the proud owner of a Country Road denim shirt that was one of my hardest working holiday items, for all the styling reasons you’ve provided today. It seems to be the right weight denim so it doesn’t crush when tied around my waist and skims just enough to reduce that boxy look.
    I also have a half button mandarin collar shirt (also Country Road), that while not quite as versatile, is fun too.

  7. I love that you are not rigid nikki! … your mutable star sign!;)) me too! yes I have several and could be looking for one more!
    a great selection out there at the mo thanks for the tips hun!
    enjoy your day! love m:)X

  8. I remember stealing and wearing my dad’s in the 90s – soooo oversized – with leggings, ankle boots and giant puffy squished down just right socks. There is one in my wardrobe now, pretty much my mum uniform. I’m also looking for a darker one to alternate with. Thanks for your recommendations Nikki. I will be checking them out.

  9. I love a good denim shirt! Love pairing my chambray one with dark or black denim jeans in winter. I also love wearing as a jacket or around the waist too. I especially loved wearing mine as a jacket over a dress while pregnant, it just gives a ‘put together’ vibe when really, you’re feeling the opposite! Love your tips Nikki.

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