Do you really need those plain, boring t-shirts?

by Sylvia

Do you need plain t-shirts

While looking around my closets to organise them better and find space for shoes, I noticed a few piles of t-shirts. They are largely ignored, and I’m seriously thinking about getting rid of them altoghether. They never even get looked at anymore. Yet, I remember a time, just a few years ago, that I used to wear these simple t-shirts all the time. Now I never wear them anymore. What has changed?

I think that when I just got here, I did not really have that many real summer clothes. Popping on a skirt and a t-shirt was easy, so that would be my go-to outfit for many days back then. It was a lazy way of dressing. Most of these t-shirts are actually quite decent. They have a nice print or colour, but in the end they just look like t-shirts. Nowadays when I go out, I want to wear something a little bit more special. I’m simply making a little bit of more of an effort with my dressing. I’m still wearing comfortable t-shirts, as you can see below, but they all have something a little bit more special than the plain t-shirt. If you get a few of these tops, the plain t-shirt quickly becomes obsolete in summer.

special tops

Do you need these plain t-shirts?

I can’t even remember the last time I bought a plain t-shirt. What I’m buying now are tops. What’s the difference, you may ask. Well, in my dictionnary tops are not just plain t-shirts. They have something special. A different design, a different fabric or a drape. They generally tend to be a bit more dressy. Many of these tops are still made of jersey, I just don’t see them as t-shirts.

Now, of course there is nothing wrong with just wearing a plain t-shirt, but at the same time, it’s hard to look fabulous wearing one. Why not make a little bit more of an effort and wear / buy a top instead? You still wear it like a t-shirt, but the effect is so much better. These t-shirts below are much nicer than normal Ts and great for hiding bellies too!

Do you need them for layering?

You may say that you need the plain t-shirt to layer over in fall and winter, which is true, so you certainly want to have a few good ones in your closet for that purpose. But remember that you can layer over more special tops too. Many of my silk tops for example, could easily be used as basics under your jacket. It may be cheaper to buy a good t-shirt or top that can both look good on its own and can be layered over.

Am I being too tough on the good old t-shirt?

Perhaps. But believe me, I see too many examples on the streets of women over 40 (and of any age really) wearing these plain, boring t-shirts as an outer layer not looking fabulous at all. Many don’t fit well, and often you can clearly see bra straps or fat rolls through them, which is just not flattering.

If you buy plain t-shirts then:

  • make sure the fabric is not too thin.
  • the fabric does not cling too much to your skin.
  • choose the right fit your body type. That can make all the difference!
  • observe the t-shirt from all angles in the mirror before you buy it and make sure it looks good from the back too.
  • realise that very few women over 40 will look good in t-shirt with a simple round neck. V-neck is often better.
  • be strict! It’s perfectly fine if you buy plain t-shirts for layering purposes, but don’t wear them on their own unless they look great.
  • make sure you wear a fitting bra underneath.

As for me, I think it’s time that I gave most of the t-shirts from my pile away and free up some cupboard space.

What do you think? Is the plain t-shirt still important for you or do you prefer to own dressier ones?

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve noticed the habit of pele just popping on their “uniform”. At this stage ladies, especially if you are empty nesters, let’s step it up!


2 Sylvia

Absolutely! And have fun doing it!


3 Suzanne

This is a very interesting article. You have a lot of cute tops and you make a good point about it being just as easy to wear something stylish as it is a plain t-shirt. I have never worn many tees in the Summer but I do look for long sleeved, close fitting tees to use as a warm layer in the colder months. They are comfy under a sweater. But, like you, I prefer to wear a blouse or stylish top under a blazer/jacket. It is this attention to detail that upgrades an outfit from good to great.
I vote to get rid of the t-shirts to make room for more shoes – cause we all know how I feel about shoes. 🙂


4 Sylvia

Haha Suzanne, will do! I agree with you on t’s with long sleeves for winter. Those can be very good for layering and keeping warm! But also for those, I would say don’t wear them just themselves.


5 catherine

Since I don’t live in a cold climate here in Southern California, I have no need for layering with the “T’s”.

I do use them when my husband and I go camping, for months at a time, but on our last trip I didn’t need to pack hundreds of them. So off to the donation pile…

Thank you for reminding me!


6 Sylvia

Well done Catherine!


7 Greetje Kamminga

Just cotton T-shirts is boring. I agree. On the other hand I do have cotton tops with a boat neck for instance. Especially good underneath blouses or jackets that plunge too deep. Your examples of good tops are excellent. My favourites in this article are the dotted one and the purple/grey plunge neck one in the second row at the left.
Your tops in the link are all fabulous. I did notice the fact that most of your tops had the most interesting bit at the back. Very handy. Because I tend to buy jackets and such that stand out / attrack attention. You don’t want details of the top to compete with that. Very nice material is of course a must. So the boring plain T-shirts don’t qualify. They are great for housekeeping though. I mean as cloth.
What I try to find for winter, are very fine, tight, smooth (silk) “undies”. The ones you can wear underneath a blouse without clinging. Very hard to find.


8 Sylvia

Yes tops with interesting backs are very good to use as basics as well. Let me know when you found the perfect ‘undies’. I would love to pass on the tips to readers.


9 Marie S

Funnily enough I have come to the same conclusion about T shirts. I have a pile of V neck short sleeve ones in nice colours but I don’t feel dressed up enough in them so have started wearing them for the gym instead. I too have invested in some nicer tops which are a bit more stylish. What I have bought recently are some nude coloured vests to layer under thinner linen tops which are a lovely shape but slightly see through. I like the tops you have shown here.


10 Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback Marie. That is usually also what I do. Invisible undies and then a fabulous top on top!


11 Teri Evans

Personally, I still love my 100% cotton v-neck short sleeve tees
and they’re a wardrobe staple for me.
I don’t like them “plain” though. I pair them with printed skirts
or madras walking shorts – – and, of course, jewelry.
I also tie printed scarves as belts or wear a chain belt.
There’s nothing more comfortable than an all-cotton Tee!
I agree that proper undergarments are definitely needed
so that you don’t look sloppy.
The alternative tops shown are cute, but look too clingy
for my chunky bod 🙁


12 Sylvia

It sounds like you know what you are doing Teri. Indeed t-shirts can be very nicely dressed up with jewellery and scarves. These days I just prefer to start of with a top that has some interesting detail instead, but then again I have never been much of a scarf person. Perhaps I should play with the scarves I do have a bit more often. Thanks for visiting 40+Style and leaving your feedback!


13 Heather Fonseca

I have worn simple t-shirts my whole life, and now I’m starting to turn from them. I thought it was just me! When I see photos of me I one of my plain v-neck or low scoop t-shirts I shudder and think why am I wearing that? Maybe it’s just getting older? My daughter looks cute as a button in her plain t-shirts. Honestly I have a few plain tshirts that I wear for everyday around the house. I need this kind of comfy thing because I work from home, but for going out I’m wearing more and more blouses.


14 Sylvia

Yes, I think this is a bit of an age thing. You are right that t-shirts still look good on very young women, but like you I find that as I get older, they just don’t cut it anymore. But of course they are always good for inside the house!


15 The Style Crone

I think t-shirts can be dressed up (or down), but I tend to wear mine around the house. However, I do see women wearing them with panache. I love the photos, both of you in your gorgeous tops and of the examples below your photos. Beautiful colors!


16 Sylvia

Thanks Judith. They were all taken from previous posts, but they look good when collected in a collage!


17 Seeker

I absolutely agree with you as you know from our conversations. Simple T-shirts don’t make an interesting look in my opinion. I guess the key is in details. Even a cotton top with a nice detail can make a nice outfit.
You have such awesome tops and look great in all.


18 Sylvia

Exactly seeker. It’s all about the details….


19 Aileen

I agree with everything you say and hate cotton ‘T’ shirts. I must have made this decision a while ago because I don’t own any.
Nowadays I want tops that feel good against my skin and have something unusual or interesting about them. Tops can be so boring and it’s easy to throw them on and not pay attention to how they affect the overall look of an outfit.
Great subject and photos, thanks Sylvia.


20 Sylvia

Sounds like we are totally in agreement Aileen. Thanks for the feedback!


21 Sally

I took a look in my closet and found that the only t-shirts I own are those used for exercise. That surprised me because I don’t remember making a conscious decision to change my choice of tops. Lately though, I have been looking for more feminine tops or blouses. These look softer and more flattering on me now that I’ve gotten older. My choice of colors have altered too. Not so many brown, greens, or tans. Now im leaning toward rosier and peachier colors. Softer blues. I wonder if other over 40 ladies have noticed this as well.


22 Sylvia

Isn’t it funny how we sometimes change naturally without making a conscious decision about it. That’s kind of what happened with me and t-shirts too, only I haven’t thrown them away (yet). I guess it has to do with our intuition also. We look in the mirror and just notice we need different garments and colours as we age. Thanks so much for your feedback Sally. Very interesting!


23 pupcakesandpuggybutts

I have an absolute ton of them; layered and wore to work to avoid dry cleaning or hand washing. I noticed that I started to loathe them though. For one thing, I am on the fluffier side and large busted with a long torso. All T-s seem to be cut above the belly button on people like me making them inappropriate for office wear…or any public wear at all.

May keep a few for around the house and relegate the rest to the consignment store and Goodwill.


24 Sylvia

Sounds like a great idea! I think there are plenty of other of options that are easy to wash too…


25 Mary

For me, wearing a soft, good quality cotton t-shirt in a jewel-tone solid or coffee brown is one of life’s pleasures I’m not ready to give up yet. I don’t wear the old underwear-style t’s (thin cotton with ribbed collar) and I have stopped wearing the ones with the small v-neck because they make my bustline look like a long scoop now that the bust is a little lower than it was in my 20s. (I know women over 40 and with C cup or larger bust are supposed to wear V necks but unless it’s a deep V, it just doesn’t work on me anymore.) Brilliant turquoise is my favorite color and I used to get Ts in this color but they scream “Hey look at the neon turquoise lady everyone!” so I go with dark berries, navy and deep brown now. Fitted T’s are unforgiving and baggy Ts are not OK on me so I go with the “in the middle” fit that skims the body. And yet, I still find I can rock a long fitted rib knit tank. Maybe I’m just a tank top legend in my own mind but I feel sexy and athletic in them.


26 Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback Mary. Great to hear that you are feeling so great in your t-shirts. As long as you feel happy and confident in your clothes. That’s all that counts. Still, you may want to try a t-shirt that is just a little bit different next time? See how that feels?


27 kay kerns

I am quite busty and large all over…even plus-sized t shirts are often too short on me. I refuse to wear men’s t’s. I favor cute tops like you showed especially with interesting drapes or gathers, or rib knit long tanks like the ones Mary mentioned.


28 Sylvia

Excellent Kay!


29 Jen

I like plain t-shirts, especially the ones of a thinner material (not super thin) that drape on my body rather nicely, I must say. I guess I can get away with thinner material shirts because I have a slimmer upper body and don’t really have bulges (try very hard to suck that stomach in ha ha). I dress them up though with accessories like layering necklaces or statement necklaces, or something so they are not *too* plain. I suppose I like them because I find that it goes with my style. (although I am not really sure what my style is supposed to be – still figuring that out)


30 ann

As a classic t-shirt and jeans girl . . .I’ve kept a few tees mostly because of the colours – really vibrant colours like orange and lime green which I wear with denim skirts . . . .but only around the house and locally . . . I don’t wear that if I’m going anywhere, I make a bit more effort now. Working on my style . . this site is helping a lot. Having said that, today I wore a navy t with a pair of really bright turquoise pants and felt that I got away with it. I need to introduce more jewellery but anything chunky looks awful on me.


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