We all know that button down shirts come with a litany of issues (all which I outline, and solve, here), so you may be wondering why I’d be suggesting them during the summer months.  After all, isn’t this the time of year to be carefree with clothing?  Who wants to be all buttoned up?  Well, contrary to popular belief, button down shirts are wonderful casual tops to wear in the summer.  In fact, I never wear them during the winter but always have them on hand in the summer.

Don’t believe me?  Well, hear me out.

Summer button down shirts don’t have to be perfect

Unlike wearing button down shirts in a more “buttoned up” and perfectly ironed way when it is cold, in the summer you can wear button down shirts in a more casual manner.  Rarely do you have to tuck, wrinkles are often welcome and you don’t even have to worry about the gaping issue.  You can either be daring and wear them a little more open, or you can throw a tank underneath.  This past weekend, while spending some time outdoors, I threw on a chambray shirt over a white tank with a pair of denim Bermuda shorts, rolled up the sleeves and left it untucked.

Summer button down shirts hide lumps and bumps

Who doesn’t love knits in the summer?  They’re so easy and comfortable.  However, a knit top with too much cling isn’t exactly comfortable because you’re so aware of what your body is doing underneath.  The beauty of a button down is that it can offer shape while grazing the body, not sitting right on it.

Summer button down shirts break up the monotony of summer knits

Everyone reaches that point in the summer where they just get bored with their clothing.  Those cute printed summer dresses start to feel like you’ve been eating the same thing for breakfast for 50 years, the cute t-shirt and shorts outfit that felt so fresh on Memorial Day has started to feel like a uniform and you just want a new look that is equally hassle free.  Layering is out of the question because it is just too hot, too many accessories feel like you’re hanging hot metal around you neck.  You need a change but aren’t sure what.  Try a crisp white shirt or a sleeveless chambray style and see if that doesn’t give your wardrobe a fresher feeling.

Summer button down shirts can make your easy summer wardrobe look a little less easy

With all the relaxed bottoms out there, like casual joggers, drapey palazzo pants and swishy skirts, adding some structure to an outfit through a summer button down can tighten up a look without making the outfit look too uptight.  You still get the ease of a casual look but with just a bit more polish.

How to wear a summer button down shirt

Before you run out and buy some button down shirts, check out the five looks below for some ideas.

Outfit #1- Take your button down to the beach

button down shirts I have been using an over sized white men’s shirt as my beach cover up for over a decade.  While you could purchase this tunic cover up shirt from Boden for the beach, you can also do what I do and run to a store like the Gap and pick up a crisp white casual shirt from the men’s department.  What I like about this solution is that I can wear it on its own or I can tie it up and wear it with a sarong or pair of shorts over my swimsuit.  I also like that I can keep it open while protecting my shoulders from the sun.  Plus, with the collar popped and the sleeves rolled up, it just looks really chic.

In this look, I layered the Boden tunic shirt over a red J. Crew swimsuit and accessorized the look with a floppy straw hat from Nordstrom, gold flip flops from Michael Michael Kors, Coach sunglasses and beach bag from Lord & Taylor.  Still looking for the perfect beach bag?  Here are some more styles.

Outfit #2- Wear your button down with a swishy skirt

button down shirts As I mentioned earlier, button down shirts can add some tailored structure to your more “loosey-goosey” wardrobe pieces.  Here, for example, I added this summer weight chambray shirt from J. Crew to a flippy skirt from BCBG.  The shirt can either be tucked in or tied at the waist.  To give this outfit a casual feel, I layered a white cotton tank from Theory underneath the skirt that also enables the chambray shirt to be removed if needed.  Lastly, for accessories, I used these metallic gladiators from Anthropologie, a blue crossbody bag from Halogen and colorful necklace from LOFT.

Outfit #3- Use button down shirt to make your relaxed pants look more structured

button down shirts In the summertime, not all button down shirts need to look like you picked them up off the floor.  You may have an occasion that needs a little more polish.  A style, like this sleeveless shirt from Theory works.  Not only does it look more finished but it also adds structure to the look of more free flowing bottoms, like this printed pair from Rebecca Taylor.  Now instead of relaxed weekend, the pants can go places that require a dressier look.  The outfit is further finished with these sandals from Modcloth, a soft grey bag from Nine West and black earrings from Max & Chloe.

Outfit #4- Wear your white button down shirt with slim shorts

button down shirts Surprisingly, I have been getting a lot of wear out of my denim Bermuda shorts.  I’m not big on wearing shorts normally but this style feels more like I am wearing a summer version of jeans.  The look above is somewhat similar to what I wore this weekend.  What I like best about the look is it is an large over lean silhouette that I find really comfortable for super casual.  In the outfit above I used a white Madwell shirt over a pair of Lucky Brand denim shorts.  The look is finished with a pair of grey Converse sneakers, a cute graphic tote bag and colorful stacked bracelets from Bauble Bar.

Outfit #5- Try a long cotton tunic

button down shirts Okay, so you’re not sold entirely on the button aspect of the summer shirt.  That’s fine.  There are plenty of popover and tunic styles out there to consider as an alternative.  Plus, with all the skinny pants out there for summer, this may be a fantastic solution.  Here, for example, this Zara tunic works great with these slim J. Crew pants.  The small stripe in the top picks up the color of the pants perfectly and this is a fantastic summer outfit that looks chic and cool.  For accessories, I added these chambray sandals from Macy’s, chandelier earrings from Stella & Dot and perforated handbag from Nordstrom.

If you’ve been looking for some summer wardrobe balance, feel like you need some sharp crispness or just want a change of scenery in your closet, try one summer button down shirt.  You may find it’s the missing link to a great summer wardrobe.

Shop for more summer button down shirts

Be sure to check out these additional styles.