Your Guide To Care For Cotton T-Shirts

T-shirts have been standard military issue since the 1800s, but they didn't start coming into fashion until the 1920s when sportswear pioneer Coco Chanel was regularly photographed wearing them. (Striped ones, laden with strands of pearls, natch.) The stark-white version went from innocuous to iconic in the 1950s thanks to Hollywood moments from Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause". Later, graphic tees printed with anti-war messaging became a powerful form of protest by rebellious youths in the face of the Vietnam War. It's hardly a surprise, then, that a garment with so much history, function, and fashion is still ubiquitous in modern wardrobes. Even less surprising is how many styles we now have to choose from. Here's a rundown of nearly every type of tee, with advice on how to style them and which might work best for your frame. Women's T-shirts come in many styles, fits, and fabrics. Since these will vary depending on your outfit choice, occasion, or seasonality, it's a good idea to bring a least a few different tees into your wardrobe rotation.

Boat neck

Invented by Jeanne Lanvin, founder of the eponymous French fashion house, the boat neck (or bateau neck, s'il vous plait) elegantly frames the clavicle and extends the shoulder. This neckline offsets the fuller hips of a pear-shaped body.


It has roots in seafaring, hence the name and the more functional, fitted neckline. Wear it as a base layer under button-downs and sweaters, or tucked into something more glam, like a pleated midi skirt or palazzo pants.


The deeper neckline shows off your collarbone and reveals a bit of cleavage, making the scoop-neck a surefire piece for visually lengthening a shorter torso. Great for petites or curvier hourglass and apple frames.


These generally have the same effect as a scoop-neck. More modest cuts layer beautifully beneath blazers and cardigans, while the deepest Vs can be a great way to show off a cute bralette.


Inspire your summer workout with a breezy muscle tee or tank. Choose a fit that isn't too baggy or tight for ultimate comfort and mobility.


Cool and effortless, short sleeves suit every figure. Dress one up with a midi skirt or go classic with your favorite straight-leg jeans.


A layering favorite for cooler seasons. Be sure that the sleeves don't extend much past the wrists, otherwise they'll get dirty and damaged fairly quickly.

How to care for cotton T-shirts

The women's T-shirt is a go-to, and you'll want yours to last as long as possible. Because tees are commonly made from cotton, we compiled a list of simple instructions for prolonging the lifespan of your faves:

1. Wash sparingly

Washing takes a toll on natural fibers over time. Doing so only when it's expressly needed slows the aging process and reduces your carbon footprint by conserving water and energy.

2. Sort your laundry

Sorting your garments prevents dulling, greying, and color transfer. White T-shirts will stay fresh and maintain their crispness when placed together, while graphic tees and colored clothing will remain vibrant.

3. Use cold water

Washing your clothing at low temps reduces your environmental impact while preventing shrinkage and yellowish stains caused by deodorant and sweat.

4. Wash inside-out

If your T-shirt features a cool screenprint or embellishments, turn it inside-out to safeguard against damage and snags in the washing machine. This also prevents the natural cotton fibers from fuzziness and pilling.

5. Air-dry

Skip the tumble dryer and hang your T-shirt to reduce the risk of shrinkage. Just be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent colors from fading.

6. Treat stains immediately

Portable tools like wipes and detergent pens are godsends when you're out and about and find yourself in a stain-related emergency. Check out our comprehensive guide to keeping your white clothes white.