8 Ways to Style a Basic Button-Down

Become the master of versatility.

I love a solid wardrobe staple. They are the beating heart of any functional minimalist wardrobe: each staple helps remove my daily decision fatigue, because I already know that it fits and goes with most of my closet.

My pieces and I don’t have to play any games, contemplate any doubts of whether or not we work well together. They’re reliable, consistent, and there for me as I personify them into extended metaphors.

The focus of this week’s wardrobe staple is the black button-down. While a button-down of any color can offer extensive versatility, my adolescent years as a moody, mildly-gothic teenager helped show me the benefit of black clothing.

All soul jokes aside, I prefer black not only because a large portion of my wardrobe is already black, but also because it doesn’t show spills or sweat marks. If, you know, you happen to be clumsy or sensitive to warm temperatures like I am.

So let’s talk about the beauty of the classic black button-down. You can wear it to work, dress it up with the right accessories, and pair it with casual items to dress it down.

My shirt was purchased second-hand, and is composed of cotton. It’s lightweight and breathable in hot weather. I decided to challenge myself to further illustrate the adaptability of this piece by creating eight looks for eight specific scenarios:

1. The interview, i.e. impersonating Johnny Cash

Buttoned to the top button like a proper hipster and combined with a black blazer (or any color, if this is too Edgar Allan for you), black skinnies, sunglasses, and a pair of accent heels, you can test this look out at an interview or any corporate work day. Just add a horse and a hat, and you’re basically a rogue villain from an old western.

2. A Day at the Beach

Wear your one-piece and a pair of high waisted cut-offs, and leave the shirt unbuttoned. It’s a beach cover-up that’s secretly a real outfit. Perfect for when you realize how famished you are after a long day in the sun and feel obligated to look semi-presentable at the nearest restaurant.

3. Date Night

Unbutton the top few buttons and live a little. Roll up the sleeves, keep the accent heel, add a few accessories. Tuck it in or tie it at the waist for a more feminine look. This can be another workplace option, or if you’re like me, you can sport it in the hopes it will inspire your boy or girl take you out for dinner.

4. Baseball Game

Whether it’s your cousin’s Little League game or a professional team, this option works. Combine with a baseball hat, a pair of cut-offs, and roll up the sleeves as high as they go. When it gets colder in the evening, roll ‘em down because you’ve already planned ahead. If you’re anything like me and not particularly into organized sports, try the hat on backwards to reaffirm your edge.

5. Friday Night Drinks

My personal favorite: Unbutton and keep it loosely rolled at the sleeves. Pair it with high-waisted Levi’s and some accent pumps. Go out with your girls, and when they tell you how much they love this outfit, you can proselytize the simple beauty of a minimal wardrobe.

6. Summer Concert

Probably Fleetwood Mac in this case, as this look is more of a Bohemian-witchy-woman-meets-Stevie-Nicks-vibe. Paired with a maxi dress (black, in my case – of course) and some dangly earrings. Tie the button-down at the waist to keep it flowy and feminine.

7. A Day at the Museum

Add some funky earrings, a pair of black skinnies, a high pony, and some ballet flats. Because I’ll never be the type of person who can walk around a museum in heels, and I’m okay with it. This outfit will show how #artsy and #edgy you are as you stare contemplating the juxtaposition of some Francis Bacon works.

8. Sunday Brunch

Integrate with leggings, a jean vest, dangly earrings, and a pair of accent boots. Sleeves rolled to the elbow, and a top knot that will fill the man designing your latte foam art with envy.

Using only 14 additional pieces, these combinations create eight unique looks.


1. Blazer

2. Jean vest

3. Maxi dress

4. One-piece swimsuit


5. High-waist jeans

6. Black skinnies

7. Patterned skirt

8. High-waist jean shorts

9. Jean cut-offs

10. Leggings


11. Accent pumps

12. Croc sandals (no shame)

13. Accent boots

14. Black flats

In a dream world where laundering clothes isn’t necessary, that’s almost enough versatility to wear the same thing every day for a full week and have no one notice.

What do you think – does a black button-down earn a place as one of your wardrobe staples? Any other looks we can add to the list? Let us know below!

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