Open Thread: How Low Do You Go?

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There seems to be one way of wearing a button-down these days, popularized by fashion editors (Emmanuelle Alt), creative types (Jenna Lyons), rock stars (all of them, always), and our very own Emily Weiss, that says unbuttoned is the way to go. Down the sternum, and often bra-less. There's a certain insouciance in sighing, "Harrumph, I've buttoned enough buttons this morning, my arms are tired; it's time for me to slip into my ballet flats, grab a baguette and cycle to my design atelier," throwing one's hair into an undone bun, and dashing out the front door. But this is saying nothing of: sheerness, cold breezes, and office appropriateness.

For Langley Hemingway, who's currently starring in the cult French shirting purveyor Equipment's latest lookbook, the matter is less about boobs and more about sartorial semantics. "I like both buttoned down and buttoned up," she says. "I usually prefer buttoned down with tight jeans to create a sexier look, and buttoned up with skirts and shorts to contrast with all the leg showing."

But we want to know: how low do you go? One button, two buttons, three buttons down? No buttons plus a front tuck like à la Lenny Kravitz, onlookers be damned? Neat and tidy with a ribbon like a 1970s Saint Laurent muse? Our favorite answer—based on killer styling tips (photos encouraged), political correctness (or lack thereof), and/or general awesomeness wins. Scratch that—you're all winners in our book: click here to receive a special gift from Equipment when you’re least expecting it, but just when you need it most (hint: look for it at the beginning of August right when you’re pondering fall wardrobe strategy). But because some people win more than others, 10 of you will get a $250 credit to spend on Equipmentfr.com—to swathe yourself in all that silky, linen-y, chambray-y Equipment goodness. Button/tie/wrap/safety pin/double-stick however you please.

The Signature Shirt photographed by Tom Newton in New York City on June 27th 2014 in partnership with Equipment. 

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • http://coocooforcoco.blogspot.com/ Colleen

    always the last possible button before my bra shows, whether i'm in or out of work

  • Aubrey Green

    3 buttons down. Always. I can't wear it buttoned all the way up, possibly because I'm claustrophobic - I love the way it looks though. If you are very small chested, I can see why/how wearing it unbuttoned looks good.

  • http://www.atdorsia.com/ Eliza

    I love the French-girl, no-bra, unbuttoned-halfway look--but I have never seen anyone wear this in real life (maybe since I don't live in France or NYC?). I can't really get behind wearing a white shirt with no bra to any occasion haha--and I've never found a white shirt that isn't too sheer, either. I compensate by unbuttoning the top two buttons and pretending it's wild and chic.

    • Jaimie

      I find the best way to rock half-unbuttoned with no bra in a way that's not too sheer is to get a silk blouse with front pockets, so you still get an open sheer back, but no one has to see your nipples.

    • http://intothegloss.com/ ITG Annie

      It's all in the attitude.

      • http://www.atdorsia.com/ Eliza

        So true--too bad I can't buy je ne sais quoi.

        My problem is less with the buttons and more with how sheer all women's white shirts are--I want something thick and starchy and 150% opaque, because all the French 'tude in the world won't make me leave my house bra-less. Men's shirts, maybe? Suggestions welcome to fuel my raging shopping addiction :)

        • hg

          Try 100% cotton oxford cloth shirts. I have some Brooks Brothers women's shirts from several years ago that are still going strong. If you're open to them, consignment stores sometimes have good men's shirts.

        • Lauren

          I found that the solution for me is to wear a tiny, delicate lace bra in a nude color and button the shirt just at the bra line. Sure, its still a bra, barely, but it creates a similar look while still providing a little more.. stability. I agree that it's mostly all in the shirt. I've gotten a great white button down from the mens section at a consignment store, from madewell, and as the other commenter suggested, from brooks brothers... However, Equipment is The. Best. So here's hoping we're some of the lucky winners. ; )

  • http://maryralph.blogspot.com Mary Ralph

    have yet to find a way to do buttoned all the way up or buttoned all the way down that looks good and gamine-like with DDD boobs. sigh. 1-2 buttons unbuttoned is the ever-so-wide range for me.

  • A.J. Thompson Zielike

    As low as I can go and still be decent. My fave is a silk ivory blouse that I got from JCP's Joe Fresh line. At work I wear a cami under (because banking. in the midwest.), but otherwise I will sometimes wear a bright bra underneath for not-work fun.

  • kt mo

    i'm thrilled this is a trend, at least here (NYC) since my sternum is the only cleavage i've ever had. i keep my American Apparel overlarge chiffon button downs open to J-Lo at the Grammys level, with a lace bra underneath if i HAVE to. Buttoned all the way to the neck is just as daring since they're totally sheer - it's like getting away with wearing a short silk bathrobe in public. It's very, "Oh, this old thing?" Also, this look is still killer for the well-endowed! i've seen it!

    On the way less sophisticated side of things, i also like a thrifted/stolen from an ex-boyfriend flannel shirt braless and unbuttoned. i came by this look accidentally since the shirt is question was missing a very important button and it looked dumb with all the rest done up around it. This goes with jeans, pencil skirts, leather shorts, circle skirts, platforms, flats, anything. It's just dgaf enough to work with whatever pants you wore to his house the night before.

  • Eliana Gil Rodriguez

    I only wear oversized shirts and only button one button: the one in the middle that keeps your boobs (mostly) hidden whether your arms are up or down. It looks great with high waisted jeans and a gust of wind. I guess it may be a bit scandalous but I just need to be free, yo. Just make sure the buttons are of the sturdy variety or you're screwed.

  • Marie

    I really only started getting into blouses after I turned thirty - I always thought they were too grown up in my twenties, but now I love them and can't understand why I didn't get into them earlier. I usually go with three buttons open, but for the fall I want to try wearing one buttoned up with a silk tie loosely tied into a bow.

  • Lily

    Looks like I'm the only one here who likes all her buttons done all the way to the neck at work - the crisper the fabric and the stiffer the collar, the better I feel about shirts. There's something about doing up that last button that forces a literal 'chin up!', like I'm putting on armour instead of wearing a shirt (I suppose this says more about my feelings re: work than my feelings about shirts, ha).

    • thunderlegz

      i like this look a whole too! I definitely admire it on other gals when I see it

  • Rebecca Dean

    it depends on each shirt and how solid the buttons are..sometimes I find they undo themselves! I also noticed..for my smaller but fairly busty frame..switching up the bra can make a world of difference. For some sheer blouses I just throw on a cami thats fitted and basically holds the boobs in place good enough and simple dressing. Love the fem and masculine feel of this look.

  • heysarajean

    I'm a petite girl with a decent amount of boobs (not too big, not too small). That said, I'm such a sucker for an oversize boyfriend shirt, even if it comes halfway down my legs. I just pop on some skinnies and tall sandals, call it good. I'm definitely more of a button down girl, I love to show my clavicle but don't like to show too much cleavage so I generally just leave the first 2-3 buttons undone. Everything else is loose, easy and untucked.

  • Accademia di Moda

    You have to button based on the outfit! We love a really buttoned up look with a skirt and sexy heel! Each person is different, but sometimes more is less :)

  • laura faye

    I button it as low as I can till my bra is in danger of showing too much. If I notice people's eyes drifting to look at it when they're talking to me, I'll button one up - but I do think even one button completely changes the look.

  • sara

    When I was a One Direction fan in 2012, I noticed they all wore their shirts buttoned up to the very top so I wore mine buttoned up too lmao. Then I realized wearing it buttoned up was too warm. Now I prefer some parts of the sternum showing but always with a bra.

  • Megan❤Biles

    One or two. Depends on what fabric the shirt is.

  • Jess

    I want to say I'm a 2 or 3 button girl (depending on how the buttons are spaced) but my fairly full bosom and love for cross-body bags (no hands!!) means I usually end up flashing more bra/cleavage than intended. I love the buttoned up look, but I have issues with gaping which looks awful. Plus somehow it feels more 'hello boobs' than leaving a few buttons open. And only in my dreams can I pull off the only-button-the-top-button Alex Wang look.. Sigh

  • Carole Hawkins Fuchs

    I usually do 2-3 depending on how good the girls look!! LOL

  • dkewbe

    Depends on the material, the fabric, the fit, and above all, who I'm going to be with and how much of me I want them seeing. I'm on board with the all-or-nothing concept though: all buttoned up or dangerously low. Two seems so non-committal and reminds me of grade school.

    I do love buttoned up with a little necktie or ribbon though!

  • Lemon Quoyle

    I unbutton to the point that my bra is starting to show, mainly because that button seems to gap open and show my bra anyways.

  • CK

    I'm currently working with the following rule of thumb when making styling decisions: CK, if you happened to bump into stinkface-ex-boyfriend with his new ladyfriend while wearing this outfit, would the experience be (a) uplifting and life affirming, (b) bearable, or (c) why haven't I burnt these pants before now what was I thinking oh god? If the answer is not (a), change. Sadly, the hateful ex in question lives nearby, so my rule of thumb is not merely a useful thought experiment but also a necessary reminder of an ever-present danger. Applying this reasoning to the question of shirts and buttons, much as I'd like to be someone who can do buttoned-up, sexy-uptight androgyny (a dear guy friend of mine once decided to work with a Henry-from-Ugly-Betty theme for his entire fall wardrobe, and he looked GREAT), it isn't working for me. If I bumped into ex plus one at a party with my top button fastened, I wouldn't feel cool and edgy and sharp in a Jil Sander kinda way, I'd feel like someone who looks like she wouldn't recognise fun if it walked up and handed her a gin and tonic. Unbuttoned, however (maybe three down, hints of bra from the right angle but not a full on HERE ARE MY BOOBS situation) and worn loose with the sleeves rolled up and ankle-length black pants or skinny jeans, and suddenly I'm feeling artfully underdressed and like ex's gal-pal is surely wishing she hadn't done the nice dress plus cardigan thing. (Yes, I'm aware I have issues, I'm dealing with them, don't judge.) In short: I admire those who can button it up. But personally, I like to feel the wind on my collarbones.

    • thunderlegz

      I so so hear you! No judgments hear at all…Im/everyone? is openly/secretly like that around exes too!

  • http://feathersandstones.com Steph

    my belief is that you pretty much can't lose on the button front, as long as the shirt is sheer and the bra is black. there is, however, a part of me that want to rock the unbuttoned/tucked in look...alas, reality.

  • Haiku Jew

    I like modesty
    and the mystery of skin
    that's rarely revealed.

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    There's a coolness I lack to pull off this look. I think I'm more dorky than anything.

  • Kaelani

    My neck is too fat. As are my ta-tahs. So I'm like 2 or 3 down. Not for the scandals, but for the fact that I can't button up past that without having the buttons pulling on the fabric. The breeze is nice too.

  • JSL

    One of the small perks of having a nearly flat chest is that no one is flapped when I wear my shirts unbuttoned down to just above my bra band. Leaning forward into the wind reveals a smooth plane of skin, like the curve of the Earth with no other geological features to distract. I think it's a nice contrast to my rather staid OCBDs, worn with the sleeves rolled up, the tails free, and a size too large. I have nowhere important to be.

  • BraHater

    Buttoned up to the collar for work (as a professor) unbuttoned (3 down) and bra less at all other times. Love the look of a long sleeve silk blouse, bra less, so you can see a bit of nip. I also second what another commenter said about wearing the the BFs flannel shirt unbuttoned sans bra...

  • thunderlegz

    It depends for me me! Im not thin or petite anywhere, just sorta round all over, so I feel people see/judge me, when I have less buttons buttoned, and think that I look really heavy. I feel like i have to overdo the tailored/extra tight-bc I also have really big curly hair, and the less tailored/loose I go with my clothes, I seem really unkempt and unprofessional. I tell myself-oh, Im going for JLo look (and like a billion squats a day).

    It's my dream of dreams to wear wide leg pants and bell buttoms, etc. but I think those looks suit my mind (which really who cares?) rather than my body.

    In theory/practice I like them buttoned all the way to the very top or just one with the tails flying like wings.

  • http://looksforlovelies.com jacque m

    I always unbutton 2 buttons, however I'm a 34 DD so that's quite risqué enough. I love button up blouses for work, the weekend or dressed up especially tucked into a pencil skirt. Such a classic chic trend.

  • thunderlegz

    Be brave!

    It's been like 15 yrs since Ive seen this article from Town & Country(?) There's this article + picture of Stella McCartney when she's like a toddler or really little, like 7yrs. In the article, she was saying something like, "I've always had my own look and Im fortunate my parents just let me have it."

    In the picture, she's with her family and has her cardigan or button down shirt buttoned only at the top button. She's wearing it like a neck cape-not with her arms in the holes at all, but where the buttons, if buttoned, would go down the side of an arm, so one half of the front, the right side, falls across her chest and the other half, the left, falls across her back.

    This was a long time ago, but the memory (or this distortion) of that picture has always been the alpha most ingenious, aspirational/inspirational as fashion gutsiness to me, way way more than anyone else!

  • kelbear

    I have a smaller chest, so it's halfway undone for me, about 3-4 buttons

  • Rebecca

    Silk blouse = unbuttoned.
    Structured shirt = buttoned.

  • Hannah

    When I was a teenager my friends and I had a thee button rule, where if you had more than three buttons done up on your shirt you would be made to unbutton - sounds a bit Mean Girls, but we found it hilarious. Nowadays I unbutton the top up to the point of, but not showing any bra. I think it looks relaxed and not at all cleavage-y, although I guess it depends on the shirt and how widely-spaced your chest it. As a 30F with narrow shoulders I've never been able to pull off the buttoned up-to-the-top look, I either look too restricted or completely swamped, but maybe I just haven't found the right shirt for it yet.

  • Amanda Lou de Perquise

    I'm on my country's team (yeah France!):
    No bra, and as much un-buttonage as my shirt allows, but that's only for summer and springtime.
    In the winter I have tighter shirts that i button all the way up and cut the collar off (idea via Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe). Shows off a hint of collarbone, it's very subtle and sexy in a way. Dare, feel like a geisha! Works with cuffs as well.
    Also: only men's shirts (or kids). Better cuts.

  • Sharon Macklin

    I am older than most of the other commentors, so my response may be different. I unbutton enough to not show cleavage - I'm not comfortable showing it. If I didn't have sizable boobs, I might show a bit more. I know some others who are definitely in better shape than I, who have enhanced boobs, and their signature look, if you will, is massive amounts of cleavage. And with that, I've heard complaints about men looking first at their boobs. Makes me laugh...obviously, that is what you are after, so own it! I, however, will remain buttoned up - there's no denying the boobs are there, I don't feel the need to show them off!

  • Freja

    I'm quite skinny, but with a serious amount of boob in proportion to the rest of my body (30F), so I always button all the way up. I find that the cleaner the shirt front, the less sexy it looks - more mannish, more tight.
    Also, I have found that the last button at the top really accentuates the neck and makes it look long and swanlike.
    I always wear my necklaces on top, tucking the chain under the collar, with any pendants landing high on the sternum between two buttons.

  • Cece

    Me: unbusty and into unform dressing. So 3 buttons. Always. Even in my J.Crew pjs (and yes, I am fully aware that "unbusty" is not a word, but it was for the sake of alliiteration).

  • hdshearburn

    this is my first summer trying this style out! i like to unbutton three and half tuck the shirt into my low rise jeans with holes cut out in the knee-- to mix refined with a bit of grunge. because of the sexy shirt i tend to scale down the make up. toss on a delicate gold necklace and bam - done. the queen of this look, IMO, is karla deras of karlascloset.com.

  • Glorious BE

    I love to button all the way up to the collar, tucked in with a short skirt, or go casual with two buttons undone, flowy, over skinny jeans

  • Anna

    Two buttons regularly, but if it's a lighter shirt in a silk or silk mix fabric with great hang, I think three, with just enough to let an underwired lace/tulle bra in a darker colour peek out, particularly something like this (http://www.net-a-porter.com/product/466121/LAgent_by_Agent_Provocateur/vanesa-lace-underwired-bra). I love the lingerie/lounge reference in clothing, it's chic erring on the side of sexy with a touch of casual nonchalance.

  • Cat

    I can just imagine the ogling stares women will get in real life attempting a no bra unbuttoned shirt look. A wardrobe malfunction in the making. Beware of breezes!

  • Steph

    Today is a daring fourth button day celebrating the summer heat. Anything less would not do. Buttoned up is my go to in winter with pointed heels, a pencil skirt, sharp facial angles and a power walk. A smart, confident and fashionable look for work.

  • L***

    A couple of buttons at the top - just enough to show a peek of bra/ chest, but not enough that my dad would disapprove (the ultimate test!). Then - and this is the crucial bit of my summer 2014 shirt wearing - I roll the sleeves up to create a 'cuff' of about a centimeter and a half that sits an inch or so above the elbow.

    I find that this gives the same insouciant look that unbuttoned, bra-less shirt wearing does, but without the risks of indecency (which is ok in a magazine spread but not in every day life). Voila!

  • Sydney

    Being the curvy (and petite) lady that I am, I HAVE to unbutton at least two buttons, otherwise I look like KFC genetically manipulated chicken. With that being said, my favorite way to wear a button-down is to steal one of my boyfriend's shirts and wear it as a dress. It is my ideal summer look for dates. I wear my highest wooden platform suede t-straps and a crisp white ironed shirt with cuffed sleeves, of course.

  • unvanquished

    Nope. I have DDs and love a chambray shirt unbuttoned pretty low and knotted at my navel.

  • Lucy Hitz

    The less buttons buttoned the better! Especially for curvy ladies, this breaks up the silhouette, shows off best assets, allows for day-to-night functionality, and helps avoid The Chunk Effect (when you look more rectangle than hourglass).

  • http://www.ribbonaroundabomb.com Erin Eyesore

    For me it's not so much about the top buttons as the bottom ones. I like to leave the bottom 2 buttons undone, with half of the shirt tucked in, and the other half tucked out. It makes it feel a little more rock-star-don't-give-an-eff that fully tucked in or out.

    • http://www.intothegloss.com ITGFerber

      This is totally my jam. Half-tuck fo' lyfe.

  • http://classversussass.com Class Versus Sass

    depends on the cut of shirt. The more blousy the more buttons opened. If its tighter, then less buttons

  • http://makelittlejoys.wordpress.com/ Alex

    It depends on where I am. If I'm at work, of course, I'll be more buttoned up. I only leave 2 unbuttoned for the sake of comfort. If I'm out and it's hot, I'll unbutton another. My breasts are small so I'm not attracting attention in that department. Not that it should be so attention catching. It's boobs, not magic.

  • WhaleTeeth

    I go buttoned all the way to the top like a begrudgingly dressed-up skater boy or buttoned down to the sternum like an artsy tramp as these are the only two identities I can relate with.

  • fashionerd

    I think boob location rather than boob size is the determining factor here. Some ladies have lower-set breasts and can unbutton with abandon; however, mine sit rather high, and even some v-necks look raunchy on me. I NEVER unbutton more than two buttons and often button them all because cleavage is never stylish in my book.

  • Sara Delores

    how many buttons do you leave unbuttoned? well, i like to call that answer "the sweet spot".

    gimme an old boy scout uniform and 2-3 buttons is the optimal range. however, a vintage leopard print silk button up is usually decidedly buttoned all the way up with a navy cashmere sweater thrown atop. my general rule of thumb though, 2-3 buttons just in the middle of the sternum. with a masculine piece such as the classic shirt, you have to throw in a bit of femininity with button play.

  • http://unpretentiousbouquetofparentheses.blogspot.com/ Camille

    Buttoned alllll the way to the top when the weather's cold, topped off with a few turns of a wool scarf. But when it's warm, I'm one of those silk shirt wearers with little to no bra (i.e. sheer lace bralette), placket open to the sternum, not that there's any cleavage to be shown in-between!

  • Coco

    Two buttons down with pants or dark jeans, and buttoned up with a skirt for work. For off duty style - depends on my mood. With Equipment, you can't go wrong or look cheap - they go with every style, feel and look great.

  • Grace C.

    I get scared to go bra-less for fear of exposing a nip when bending at certain angles, but then again I have never gone without a bra. I think I might give it a try now. I love the thought of wearing jeans with a white shirt all the way unbuttoned and tucked in. My go-to, however, has been all the way buttoned with a pair of cut-off shorts. Grungy-chic.

  • Dana

    Usually one or two buttons down. I would say it's to show a little extra skin I honestly almost have a tank top underneath no matter what the season. But with denim/chambray tops I usually like to go all the way up for that polished menswear look.

  • http://www.nouveauchique.com Annie

    I'm a big fan of sheer(ish - but not quite) tops with no bra or a triangle unpadded bra but I like an open shirt with said bra tucked into jeans or a modest skirt. All about the contrast. Open shirt + mini leather skirt ain't happenin.

  • Marta

    Depends if I'm layering. Most of the times, if it's a designer shirt you wanna button it up all the way to showcase the structure..

  • f

    three is ideal when i'm trying out the sternum look. four is pushing it for me. two when i like to flash a little décolletage but not much else, and one and none, you know.

  • Jordan Troublefield

    I leave two buttons undone with a lacy bralette and a long necklace chain! Easy breezy!

  • courtney

    Three buttons undone. I'm not so busty and I appreciate a good bra peeping through just a bit. I also hate when my necklaces get tangled in my collar and three buttons allow for just the right amount of skin and freedom.

  • ShannonAnne23

    When I had boobs I would go 3 buttons plus maybe tie it at the bottom, now working out and running is not conducive to boobs, unless you seek medical intervention so I now I am bound by 1 or 2 depending on the look of the outfit or how serious I want to look!

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