It’s more than a decade since denim jeans shattered the £200 ceiling, keenly pursued by the £700 parka, the £800 legging and the £1,400 sweatshirt. How, I wonder, have we coped without the luxury T-shirt?
Trending: Luxe t-shirts
The sweet spot for the new super-breed of T-shirt, according to Marigay McKee, chief merchant officer at Harrods, is £70-£100. Some, such as Givenchy’s photo-printed cotton jersey ones cost far more – £428, to be precise. Others, like those from J Crew and American Vintage are £30-£40. They all sound excessive compared with £2.50 for a pack of three. But unless you’ve discovered a £2.50 three-pack no one else knows about, they’re also far superior.
Riccardo Tisci, Givenchy’s creative director, is probably the person most responsible for spawning the Luxury T, just as he was the one who took the sweatshop out of sweatshirt. The idea was to design something his sisters could afford… that’s the problem when you involve catwalk designers. Before you know it, the modest, unassuming T-shirt has morphed into the OTT-shirt.
It’s tempting to sneer. But the luxury T-shirt has a lot going for it. The average T, though brilliant in concept, has often been let down by sloppy execution, boxy cuts and unwieldy fabrics with all the sensuality of a cardboard box. But now comes that mythical, perfect T you’ve always dreamed about: the one that drapes like silk, fits impeccably, hits your hips at just the right point, perks up your boobs, feels like your favourite nightie, offers a shoulder-boosting neckline, looks good in the evenings as well as on the gym-run and is available in 300 shades? It’s out there, somewhere.
You may have to spend months hunting for it. Don’t panic; take it slowly. “There are so many different body shapes and requirements that finding the one that’s right is trial and error,” says Carmen Borgonovo, fashion director of my-wardrobe.com.
“For me, the plainer, the better,” says Vanessa Bruno, an early practitioner of unimpeachable T-shirt design. “I like them in very fine yarn and quite close fitting, even though baggy is currently fashionable. I often wear them with a jacket as a softer option to a shirt.”
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An intelligently designed, lovingly produced T should become one of the hardest-working pieces in your wardrobe, especially given fashion’s inexorable slide towards casual separates, particularly now that women are wearing T-shirts with more tailored pieces to the office. Ergo it makes sense to buy well, even if that means limiting yourself to a couple of good ones rather than a dozen indifferent styles.
Once you’ve identified your quarry, you may find it quietly insinuates itself into areas that were previously T-shirtless. “There’s been a revolution in casual wear in the past year that has seen weekend-only pieces ramped up for more formal occasions” says McKee. “I went out for dinner to the SoHo House in LA in a smart fitted dress recently and felt completely over-done. Everyone else was wearing jeans and T-shirts. It’s the same in all the cool restaurants in downtown New York – great jacket or tux, skinny trousers, a fabulous pair of shoes, a crocodile clutch and a luxe T-shirt. You see uptown women wearing them with a Chanel jacket and rock chicks putting them with leather jackets.”
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The souped-up basic is one of fashion’s big successes currently. Last year, J Brand launched its ready-to-wear line – a range of sharp tailored jackets, skinny leather trousers and chic sweaters that flew out of stores. Unsurprisingly, other jeans labels are on the case. Paige Denim, Citizens, Mother and Made in Heaven are all launching their own ready-to-wear.
But lest it seem that fashion’s going all Quaker Oats and anti-glamour, its other wunder product is precious jewellery. It makes sense. As every discerning shopper knows, T-shirts make an excellent foil for diamonds.