This Closet Staple Made Me Swear Off Sweats This Summer

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For the last few years I've spent the summer barraging my friends with unwarranted co-signs of what I vehemently referred to as "short-sleeve button downs." As it turns out, there's a more elegant name for my ever-growing collection of quirky, colorful designs: camp shirts, a menswear staple that holds unisex appeal. The name is a nod to its open collar. It's not just about the materials or fit that make the style a summer staple, either. While I found classic button downs to be stuffy and restrictive, the camp shirt is meant to be playful. The prints, colors, and with my latest purchase pasta embroidery (!!!), serve as a reminder that fashion doesn't always have to be a serious endeavor.

This summer in fashion has been defined by the idea of comfort. When I'm answering emails from bed, you can bet that I'm not wearing trousers and a tailored top. When my meetings are held over Zoom, there are no heels to be found on my feet. But, while being enrobed in soft cotton sweats adds a certain mutinous luxury to workwear, I'm convinced that camp shirts are an alternative not to be overlooked. Since she first launched her namesake line of stitched-together vintage designs, Emily Bode has spearheaded fashion's returned attention to the simple silhouette. Last year, I discovered Tombolo, a brand of "escape-wear" — shirts meant to be taken on vacation, or at least illicit the feeling of being on one while you sit at your desk at home.

Since fashion's inception, clothing represents more than just a covering for our bodies. It's been used to suggest social class, to nod to occasion, and to project something about our persons — intentional or not. While there are no lofty projections I have in mind when I pull my top over my shoulders, the unseriousness of the top embodies my best carefree attitude. For days when I'm sitting on the beach in shorts or a swimsuit, it encapsulates my mood. On days when getting outside is more of a daydream, the shirt can still offer me a certain imagined possibility of escape.

Camp Shirt Styling: As A Swimsuit Cover Up

Styling a camp shirt for off-duty occasion means leaving it unbuttoned and utilizing it as a layering tool. Top a swimsuit over an oversized style when you're at the beach. Raffia accessories and a baseball cap or sunglasses finish the look.

Camp Shirt Styling: With Playful Accessories

For a statement-making shirt, don't be afraid to layer on clashing (or cooly coorindated) accessories. A bandana and bright jewelry both fit the bill.

Camp Shirt Styling: With Jean Shorts And Sandals

A button-down and jean shorts is a classic summer combo. While around the house the look works with Birkenstocks or flip flops, if you want to make a major impression, try swapping in a pair of cool summer mules.

Camp Shirt Styling: Dressed Up

As proof that the top doesn't always have to skew so casual, try layering with trousers, a pair of heels, and a structured bag. A bold color or print will instantly feel a bit more professional.

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