How To Wear A Denim Shirt: The Ulla Popken Style Guide

Denim on bottom, sure. But denim on top? Not as simple!

Denim shirts look like a piece of cake to wear, like you’re about to spend a carefree day with your friends in the warm summer sunshine. But figuring out how to style a denim shirt may be a bit of a challenge. What do you wear with a denim shirt, and how can you style it to keep its laid-back casual vibe at the forefront, especially if you don’t want to wear it “doubled down” with jeans? Let’s start with some denim shirt basics and work our way to building the outfit of your dreams!

What are your denim shirt options?

Denim shirts are not a “one style fits all” situation. You’ll find many colors, cuts, and styles, each one tailor-made to fit the look you want. Consider these five factors when selecting a plus size denim shirt:

Pick a color

Classic blue and black shades are a go-to for denim shirts, but there’s such an impressive range within those colors. You can find light, medium, and dark washes, sandblasted designs that look perfectly worn in, and shades of black that range from deep ink black to so faded they’re almost gray. You can also find chambray shirts in multiple intensities, patterned plus size denim shirts, white denim shirts, and dyed colors atypical for denim clothing.

Select a style

When you think of a denim shirt, you may picture a collar with buttons from neck to waist, not unlike a regular button-down shirt. However, there is tremendous variety within the denim shirt category: You can find half button denim shirts, styles with zipper closures, and tops with no closures at all. There are also several unique designs closely associated with denim shirts, such as western-style denim shirts.

Pick a material

Just because it’s called “denim” doesn’t mean it’s actually denim. You’ll find many denim shirt options that are made of other materials and just look like denim. Lyocell denim shirts are one common option, while you can also find shirts spun with elastane for added stretch that shows off your curves. Peek at the label or product description before buying.

Choose a sleeve length

Just like there are plenty of style options, you can find multiple sleeve lengths as well. Long, wrist-length sleeves are certainly common, but you’ll find short sleeves, three-quarter sleeves, and even sleeveless denim shirts.

Pick a silhouette

Whether tailored, oversized, or fitting just right, you can find the right cut to fit your comfort level and properly style your outfit. Oversized denim shirts are a great option when wearing leggings or skinny pants, while a tailored shirt seamlessly flows into a show-stopping full skirt.

6 ways to wear a denim shirt

Denim shirts are versatile and can be twisted and transformed to each style and occasion. Here are six ways to wear your denim shirt:

1. Buttoned up

When you imagine how to style a denim shirt, this clothing all buttoned up likely comes to mind. There are fewer styling options more classic than a buttoned-up denim shirt, with two buttons undone at the top to keep from feeling constrained.

2. Styled open over basics

For an easy, breezy look, slip your denim shirt over a t-shirt, cami, or dress. The layers bring practical warmth during cooler months while adding an intriguing and interesting new dimension to your outfit.

3. Tied at the bottom

A denim shirt simply can’t get cuter when you tie up the ends! To achieve this look, select a roomier denim shirt that buttons all the way down, so you have plenty of fabric to tie on each side. Let your bare midriff peek out just a bit for an effortless beach look, or layer over a tank top if you want the look while staying modest. Protip: If the knot struggles to stay in place, use a spare hair tie to hold it.

4. Rolled sleeves

Denim shirts really lend themselves to casual wear, but rolled sleeves lean into this vibe even more. Roll the long sleeves like you’d cuff your jeans: Turn them inside-out twice, or even more if you want to roll them higher up. If they’re feeling too tight, try unbuttoning any buttons at the wrist first, and then try to roll them again. They can hit right below the elbow or right over the elbow; both looks are great!

5. Tucked in

Tucking in your denim shirt creates a seamless silhouette that moves smoothly from head to toe. This also lends itself to adding a little bit of polish to an otherwise-relaxed look. Tucking in your denim shirt is also perfect for showing off your favorite belt or an ultra-cute waistband detail.

6. Left loose

Airy and breezy, a loose denim shirt looks simple, light, and effortless. The bottom of this denim top flows directly over the waist of your comfiest pants, like our jersey slim leggings, for a look that’s ready in an instant to head to the park or the backyard BBQ.

5 denim shirt outfit ideas

Now that you have an idea of how to wear a denim shirt, you can begin building your outfit. Take a look in your closet for some of these staples to explore ways to rock your denim shirt.

1. Pair it with the right pants

Wearing denim shirts with pants (even jeans) is all about balance. White skinny jeans that don’t look so much like denim, work-ready khakis, or even leather pants are great options styled with a denim shirt. For a more casual feel, leave your shirt untucked; for a more refined look, tuck in the waist. For a fully polished appearance, use a sleek belt to tie the whole look together.

2. Go denim on denim

Is a “Canadian tuxedo” on your fashion don’t list? It’s time to reconsider! Pair distressed, lighter bottoms with a darker top, or swap the look for something light on top and darker on bottom. The goal here is to not go too matchy-matchy; a little variety is key for something great. Stick to the clothing if you’re embracing this look: Adding denim accessories will weigh down the whole outfit. And before you head out the door, check what your friend or partner may be wearing. You don’t want to relive the Justin-Britney denim saga of 2001.

3. Wear it with a tulle skirt

Tough on top, delicate on bottom: These two juxtapositions are perfectly balanced when you wear a denim shirt with a tulle skirt. Try styling a plus size tulle skirt with a denim shirt in two ways: You can tuck it in, or you can tie the waist.

4. Balance out an animal or floral pattern

Whether a loud leopard stovepipe pant or a flowery floral skirt, a memorable pattern is an excellent way to show off your personality. But head-to-toe boldness may be too much for every occasion or for your taste. A denim shirt is just the way to balance that out without detracting from the star of the show. Showcase the pattern by tucking in your denim shirt and letting that bold fabric shine.

5. Layer with a maxi dress

Ideal for a chilly day (or just for a chilly office), you can wear an open oversized denim shirt right over your favorite sleeveless maxi dress. This look breaks up the monotony of a single-color maxi dress or helps tone down one with an allover pattern. Not to mention, it looks super cute to boot! If you’re not into the open shirt, you can button up your denim shirt and tie the waist for a look that says you’re ready for summer.

Shop Ulla Popken for your new favorite denim shirt

Whether you’re totally leaning into the casual vibe or searching for new ways to dress up this look, a denim shirt is a long-lasting and surprisingly versatile addition to your closet staples. Tie it up, let it loose, button it up, leave it open — there are so many ways to mix and match denim shirts. Get creative with one of our suggestions here, or don’t be scared to get creative and find something new that works for you. With an Ulla Popken plus size denim shirt, the sky’s the limit!

You may also like