Does the perfect button-up shirt for women exist? We tried one to find out
Grayson claims to give office-appropriate shirts an upgrade—does it?
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In theory, a button-up—or is it button-down?—shirt is one of the simplest wardrobe staples for constructing a distinguished-looking, office-appropriate outfit. But if you're a person who has breasts, you may know that, in practice, a lot of annoyances can accompany that should-be no-fuss piece: gaps between buttons, buttons that refuse to stay buttoned, and unintentional gathers or cinches around the places of the body that curve. But a Grayson button-up shirt is, supposedly, the antidote.
What is a Grayson button-up shirt?
Grayson is the spinoff brand of Frank & Eileen, a high-end button-up shirt brand often spotted on stylish celebrities like Meghan Markle, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Angelina Jolie. Basically, whenever you see a paparazzi shot of a celebrity schlepping somewhere in their "daily lives" carrying a coffee mug or water bottle and wearing sunglasses, jeans, and an oversized button-up top, chances are good that shirt is Frank & Eileen, and—if it wasn’t a gift—it cost them about $200. Grayson is (slightly) less expensive, with most of its shirts priced from $128 to $158, and it has a (slightly) different fashion aesthetic: While Frank & Eileen’s shirts seem to be mainly designed for a calculated rumpled-casual look, Grayson shirts are sleek, crisp, and aimed at women who spend most of their time in offices.
This sleekness is carefully honed—in more ways than one might think. Grayson’s founder, Audrey McLoghlin, has an engineering degree, which Grayson’s site says she uses to “reinvent” the women’s "power" shirt.
I got three shirts from the brand to test out: A white Cozy Cotton (a classic cotton fabric that claims to be as soft as cashmere), a polka-dot Liquid Lyocell (a thin yet sturdy fabric that clings to the contours of the body more than cotton), and a Plush Flannel (a flannel that the brand describes as being “ultra-luxurious” and “super dreamy”). Each shirt is cut in a shape called “The Hero,” which is a typical button-down design with an ever-so-slight nip in the waist and a pleat in the back.
How does Grayson’s sizing work?
With most clothing brands, you determine your size by measuring your waist, bust, and hip circumferences. Grayson does not work like that. Instead, the brand has a matrix-like size chart showing height ranges from five to six feet on one side and weight ranges from 100 to 200 pounds on the other, and dividing the grid in between into sizes 1-5. (It’s similar to size charts many pantyhose manufacturers use.) By cross-referencing your height and weight, you determine which size shirt would fit you best. (It’s the same sizing system used by Frank & Eileen.) According to Nordstrom, which sells Grayson shirts, a 1 is a 0/2, a 2 is a 4/6, a 3 is an 8/10, a 4 is 12/14, and a 5 is a 16/18.
After some initial confusion when I first looked at the chart, I liked the system a lot, as it eliminated the headache of trying to remember my exact measurements without a measuring tape handy, and made it so that all I had to do to find the right size was point my finger at a chart. I also found it true to size—I am 5-foot-7 and about 130 pounds and the size 2 fit me well. (I also ordered size 3 just in case, which was too big.)
Are Grayson shirts actually the perfect women's button-up?
These button-up shirts are some of the best I have ever worn... unfortunately. I say this because, in my current station of life, my bank account cannot justify $128-plus shirts becoming a part of my wardrobe budget. (The shirts I tried were a loan from Grayson and will be going back from whence they came.) In addition to the following rave reviews, in descending order of my preferences, all of Grayson’s shirts are machine-washable. I laundered them on a delicate cycle and let them air dry—Grayson says you may put them in the dryer, but my dryer is old and, frankly, I don’t trust it—and they looked as good as new afterward.
Grayson's Cozy Cotton button-up shirt review
This cotton really is cozy. Saying it’s as soft as cashmere is a stretch that doesn’t really make sense (it is a completely different fabric with a completely different texture), but it is soft—about as soft as a t-shirt I have from college that I still use as a pajama top—yet looks crisp without being starchy. It works well in any context in which you might want a collared button-up shirt: beneath a blazer, under a sweater, hanging out over jeans, and tucked into pants and skirts, both in the French and full ways. If I have a complaint about it, it’s that the bottom half gets wrinkled when you tuck it into something. But I only ever noticed this at the end of the day when I was getting undressed, and I've found that the wrinkles unkinked themselves just by spending the night on hanger, so I didn’t have to iron or wash the shirt to make it look fresh.
Grayson's Liquid Lyocell button-up shirt review
This shirt looks similarly to the cozy cotton, but with two subtle differences: It’s a little less comfortable—the fabric is stiffer and slightly less breathable—but it doesn’t get wrinkled (the big benefit of this fabric). I always choose comfort over crispness, which is why I rank the cotton shirt above it, but if I were a regular power suit-wearer, I’d probably opt for the Liquid Lyocell. It’s good shirt!
Grayson's Flannel button-up shirt review
The flannel shirt is Grayson’s least essential offering. Is it nice? Sure. It’s a flannel shirt. All flannel shirts are nice, in my experience, which is why you don’t need to get this one. It’s soft, comfortable, and has a pleasant-looking plaid pattern, but I also have a soft, comfortable, pleasant-looking plaid flannel that I got from Kohl’s a few years ago for about $20, which is more than $100 less than the Grayson version. I wouldn’t say they are interchangeable, but flannel shirts always look casual, due to their soft, pajama-like material, and Grayson’s cut doesn’t elevate it enough to be worth the price tag.
Should you get a Grayson shirt?
Well, no matter how you look at it, these are button-up shirts that cost $128 or more each. It's true that they are great ones, but I think the value of the shirt depends on how often you wear button-up shirts in the first place. If you wear them often, a Cozy Cotton or Liquid Lyocell (or both) is likely a good investment: Reviewers say they wear their shirts for work, doing chores at home, running errands, traveling, and more. If you don’t wear button-ups often now, and don’t see yourself doing so much in the future (even with the “perfect” shirt), go for a cheaper brand before you commit to Grayson.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.