Trying to achieve the look that you want for the day is challenging enough.
It becomes even more confusing if you’re not aware of the proper garment terms and how they differ from each other.
Finding out the difference between a dress shirt vs normal shirt is crucial in curating your wardrobe and making sure that it is properly equipped with foundational pieces.
Below, we talk about the basic terminologies surrounding women’s tops and how they differ to help you understand how they are set apart and styled from a classic dress shirt.
What Is a Dress Shirt?
In a nutshell, dress shirts are tops that are sleeved, buttoned-down, and have a more tailored fit. The sleeves can either be short or long, but the fit leans more on the bespoke side.
Dress shirts are great for those in need of a more formal or business look. However, this still depends on the material used to construct the top.
Woven fabrics are certainly more “dressy,” while those made of cotton and plaid are fit for casual occasions. Dress shirts made in no-iron fabrics are also available.
Finally, dress shirts are great for those who want to exude a more masculine or androgynous look.
Dress Shirt vs Normal Shirt
The question is, how does a dress shirt compare to a normal shirt?
If you want to differentiate a dress shirt vs normal shirt, the best thing to do is check out the length.
Even if a normal shirt is made of the same fabric as a dress shirt, in the end, it will always be of a shorter length.
Dress shirts are made longer to make it tuck in more smoothly. On the other hand, normal shirts are styled shorter in case you prefer them to be tucked out.
Oxford Button Down vs Dress Shirt
Of the various tops similar to the aesthetic of dress shirts, one of the most challenging is to differentiate an Oxford button down vs dress shirt.
It’s understandable why they can be mistaken for each other; they’re both worn under suits, blazers, and other more formal outerwear.
Moreover, they’re both sleeved and buttoned-down and also have a more classy, refined, and androgynous look.
Some even consider Oxford button-downs as a category of dress shirts.
They do have two significant style elements that set them apart.
- The Collar
Dress shirts come in a variety of collar styles. Oxford button-downs, on the other hand, always come with button-down collars.
This is why Oxford button-downs are more preppy in aesthetic.
- The Fabric
Another stark difference is the material. As mentioned, dress shirts are constructed in different textiles, from woven to cotton.
On the other hand, Oxford button-downs are always made out of Oxford cloth, hence the name. It’s a woven, durable, yet soft fabric.
The main reason why we prefer to have an Oxford button down vs dress shirt is its flexibility. This type of shirt is worn for both professional and casual occasions.
How to Wear Each of Them
Still, you can reach for your Oxford button-downs as your daily wear.
You can wear it in the office, and it will still be comfortable and stylish enough to wear at night when you go out with friends.
Meanwhile, for more special and formal occasions where you want to look more put together, don’t hesitate to wear a dress shirt.
Tuxedo Shirt vs Dress Shirt
Another top that is usually worn at formal events is the tuxedo shirt. It is definitely more formal compared to an Oxford shirt.
However, when it comes to the difference between the tuxedo shirt vs dress shirt, there are, again, style elements that you should keep an eye out for.
One might say that a tuxedo shirt, like the Oxford button-down, is another subtype of a dress shirt.
Tuxedo and dress shirts are worn at formal events. They are both buttoned down the middle, as well. The tuxedo shirt is markedly more formal, though.
Because it’s more formal, you cannot wear a tuxedo shirt for a casual event, unlike some dress shirt styles. Their collars are different, too.
Most tuxedo shirts only come in a wing-style or classic turn-down collar, specifically to frame neck and bow ties more suitably.
The stark difference, though, is their front style. Tuxedos can come with a “bib,” an ornamentation that frames the first few buttons of the shirt.
There are two: the pique bib (a front style that incorporates a heavier, more textured fabric) and a pleated bib (a front style that includes a heavier, pleated fabric).
There are plain tuxedo fronts, as well, for a more classic, minimalist look.
How to Wear Each One
Remember, a tuxedo shirt will always be a good idea for black- or white-tie events. They can’t be worn for casual ones, though.
On the other hand, dress shirts are less formal yet more versatile. Depending on the fabric, you’ll be able to style it for both formal and casual events.
Now that we know the difference between a tuxedo shirt vs dress shirt, let’s move on with the next comparison.
Flannel vs Dress Shirt
Dress shirts and tuxedo shirts gravitate towards a more formal look. However, is there an alternative for casual events other than Oxford button-downs?
What about flannel vs dress shirts? How are they the same, and how do they differ?
Flannels are also buttoned down along the middle and are made with a collar. One can say that it is another subtype of a dress shirt, only this time, it’s more casual.
Flannels, due to their material, are even more casual and laid-back compared to an Oxford button-down.
Also known as a casual shirt, the flannel has a breathable fabric that makes it perfect for layering.
You can also layer dress shirts underneath various outerwear, such as cardigans and sweaters, but they simply won’t be as comfortable.
One significant style difference is the front pockets. Dress shirts usually don’t have one, and if they do, it’s only a single breast pocket.
Flannels, on the other hand, sometimes come with two front pockets.
How to Wear Each One
We prefer wearing a flannel vs dress shirt for casual and family events, like barbecues and picnics.
These are events that can make your shirt prone to being stained. Flannels are more affordable, after all.
On the other hand, we prefer wearing a dress shirt if attending a more formal family occasion like a baptism or an outdoor wedding.
Both events are not too formal to require a tuxedo, but formal enough that putting on a flannel simply won’t do.
Polo vs Dress Shirt
Finally, we’ll be looking into the difference between a polo vs dress shirt.
While a polo is definitely more casual than most of the tops we have featured, it still shares some style elements with a dress shirt.
For instance, polos are collared. They have a fold-down collar style that allows them to be used beneath blazers and other outerwear.
They usually come in plain colors, too, for a more refined look. However, their similarities stop there.
Not only are their textiles different from each other, but they also only have three buttons down the front.
These don’t go all the way down, unlike a dress shirt. You can’t wear a tie with a polo, as well.
How to Wear Each One
That being said, you can only wear polo shirts for more casual and sporty events, such as when playing golf or tennis, sightseeing, and other related activities.
They are great during warmer days, as well, as the fabric is sweat-wicking and comfortable.
They look more refined than flannel but is definitely less formal than an Oxford button-down and a dress shirt.
Dress shirts, on the other hand, are not recommended to be worn during rigorous outdoor events. Their style can hinder mobility.
Pairing and Styling Various Tops and Dress Shirts
Armed with a better understanding of the different tops there are, we can now start styling.
Styling an Oxford Button-Down
You might have noticed that most of the tops above can be considered masculine or androgynous, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be styled towards a more feminine aesthetic.
For a softer look, you can style your Oxford button-down with a high-waisted skirt and a cardigan to layer over your shoulders. The result is a fresh and preppy look.
For a more refined style, we recommend styling it underneath a jumpsuit together with neutral yet chunky accessories.
Styling a Tuxedo Shirt
A tuxedo shirt with a matching tux can still look feminine and chic. It’s edgy, fresh, and unexpected. You can look into Charlize Theron and Dakota Johnson’s style for more reference.
The buttoning rules and matching accessories (such as cufflinks and buttons) still apply, though. Just choose to wear strappy heels over flats to make the most of your fierce attire.
Styling a Flannel Shirt
We enjoy layering with a flannel shirt. There’s a wide variety of outerwear that will look great with it, such as sweaters and jackets.
The secret in styling a flannel shirt relies heavily on your choice of bottom. Pair it with jeans, and you get a laid-back, casual look.
On the other hand, pairing it with a nice skirt can make it look more feminine, friendly, yet professional.
Your chosen footwear plays a crucial role, as well.
Your choice of whether to wear a pair of boots or heels will definitely dictate the direction of your look, on whether it can be work-appropriate or not. Never wear it to a meeting, though!
Styling a Polo Shirt
Pairing a polo shirt with a short, pleated, tennis skirt is a classic look that must only be reserved for sporting events.
Pairing it with a long skirt, on the other hand, makes for a business casual look that you can already wear to work.
Finally, pair it with trousers for a more refined, business-casual look.
Styling a Dress Shirt
A dress shirt is one of the must-haves that a woman should own for a solid wardrobe.
It is recommended to have at least three pieces in a variety of styles that you can switch around depending on the occasion.
Getting a plain, white button-down dress shirt is a layering staple. You can throw on a leather jacket over it for an edgy look, or a sweater for a more calm and collected aesthetic.
You can also wear with jeans, trousers, and skirts. Your choice of shoes and accessories will depend on the bottom and layering pieces that you have chosen.
Boots look great with a leather jacket (as long as they share the same color). On the other hand, wearing heels with a skirt or a pair of trousers will have a more elegant and posh vibe.
Other Styles of Women’s Blouses
There are numerous styles of women’s blouses and tops out there. However, the ones we have chosen to feature are certainly those we consider as wardrobe staples.
Other styles that we encourage you to explore are:
- The Long and Flowy Blouse
This is a top that may or may not have buttons at the front. They can also come in more oversized and flowy fits due to the materials that they are made in.
They are great to wear for work, especially if you’re looking for a versatile piece that will always look good with a pair of trousers.
- The Off-Shoulder Blouse
This is a great option if you want to create a more laid-back, boho look. You can easily pair it with shorts during an afternoon of shopping or walking along the beach.
While they come in different patterns, we suggest getting one in a plain and neutral color for added versatility.
- Spaghetti-Sleeved Blouse
Finally, here’s another staple. Don’t veer away from it just because you find it rather revealing.
Instead, keep in mind that it is a strong and comfortable layering piece that you can wear together with other blouses (especially those made with a sheer or lacey material) and outerwear.
What Makes Classic Dress Shirts Different From Other Tops
Trying to tell the difference between a dress shirt vs normal shirt can be confusing, even to those already well-versed in fashion.
The same can be said when comparing other tops with each other.
For instance, telling an Oxford vs dress shirt or a polo vs dress shirt apart are not as obvious as it may seem to the fashion expert compared to untrained eyes.
Fortunately, there are style elements that distinguish each top.
Keeping these factors in mind will prove helpful not just as you’re styling your OOTD but also in building a reliable wardrobe that will allow you to put together looks with ease in confidence.
Aside from determining the top, you also need to consider the effect of your chosen bottom. Even a formal shirt can easily look laid-back with a casual piece, like a pair of jeans.
Combining your tops with pants will also create a more androgynous vibe.
If femininity is what you’re aiming for, then wearing a skirt and learning how to layer your items with soft outerwear, such as sweaters and cardigans, can make all the difference.
Then, top your look with the right shoes and accessories.
Finally, don’t be afraid to explore other women’s blouses styles to add more personality and interest to your overall look.
Adding an off-shoulder blouse in your wardrobe, for instance, can help you create a more romantic and bohemian look if needed.
Meanwhile, a spaghetti strap can work as a layering undergarment for sheer pieces.