Oh, I do love a quirky white shirt or beautifully designed white top. Some – the tall, slim and well-groomed Inès de la Fressange and Katharine Hepburn lookalikes – may prefer them sleek and classic, but for most of us, the straight-up version makes us look more like a waitress than a chic woman-about-town. I myself love a bit of a frill, an asymmetrical cut or an unusual sleeve to distract and please the eye. Enter Atlantique Ascoli, a very stylish Parisian who has long been obsessed with the purity of the colour white and the beauty of Victorian blouses. She decided to come up with her notion of the perfect white shirt – except that there are actually seven in the collection, one for every day of the week. Ascoli has deconstructed them, added substance and thought a great deal about how the shirts should look from the back and side, as well as the front. The results are infinitely glamorous. Take the Ballet Russe – inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s famous 1976 collection of the same name – with its ruffled neck and puffed sleeves. My personal favourite is Enfant (£355, third picture), which has a smocked neck and a rounded hem at the back. These are just two, but they are all lovely, made from a cotton/linen mix with great attention to detail – and all except one, the Cover Top (£470, second picture), have sleeves. The collection is stocked exclusively at Dover Street Market.
Also exclusive to Dover Street Market is CristaSeya, a wonderful new label with some classically timeless designs – clothing, ceramics, artefacts – all made by artisans working in fine materials. The brainchild of two fashion editors, one Italian, the other Japanese, CristaSeya has a strong handwriting that is understated, unpretentious and elegant. Check out its new edition (it doesn’t do collections), which is called Le Vent. It includes a white maxi-shirt (£515) that looks stunning worn with a slim leather belt.
Then there’s Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding, who met at Central Saint Martins and today are making waves as Palmer Harding. They’re best known for injecting fresh thought into shirts. They make them in cotton or cotton/silk, and for summer they have some sublimely relaxed and easy-to-wear white versions – perfect teamed with jeans or this season’s pencil or mid‑calf skirts. There’s a collarless spiral‑pleat number with big sleeves, huge cuffs and a lovely swing to it (£330), an insouciant one with snap-bracelet cuffs (£650, first picture) and, finally, a sleeveless, leather-backed one (£360) for sunny days.