Women’s Ivy: A Good Shirt is Hard to Find

Editor’s Note: ONE MORE DAY until we can update the advertising. Until then, go here to buy custom made from J. Press, or even to explore it.

…. and now back to your regularly scheduled programming, by our now beloved Sarah Cooney.

When I first started writing about classic style, one of my goals was to highlight the brands that returned manufacturing to the way it was at its best—with care, attention to detail, and a personal touch at each stage of production. I wanted to find that ideally-made product for each part of my wardrobe. It is a difficult task–too many companies now outsource their production and might not even see the finished garment until it is ready to sell. That personal touch has all but disappeared.

One of the first classically-crafted products I sought was a white shirt. It’s something I thought would be fairly easy to track down. After all, the white shirt is one of the fundamentals of any wardrobe. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of options available. I quickly learned, however, that a good white shirt is one of the most difficult pieces to track down. (A close contender in the difficulty stakes is the quest for five-pocket, non-denim trousers for women!)

I write a lot about my wardrobe on my blog, and a gap that has come to light is the lack of good shirts. The two shirts that I absolutely love—both from Ann Mashburn—are no longer produced. I’ve ended up wearing a lot of tees and turtlenecks because I’ve been unhappy with current button-up shirts. Shirts are too see-through, the buttons gape open, or they are too fitted, baggy, long, short, expensive, or simply not well-made… the list goes on.

When the small British brand By Merryn launched the newest addition to its line, popover shirts, I reached out to the owner to ask if I could review them for Ivy Style. Merryn graciously sent both the blue and white and the solid white shirts. I have written about her sweaters extensively because they are of a quality I have rarely encountered in contemporary garments (you can read more here at Ivy Style and here on my blog). Like By Merryn’s sweaters, every aspect of shirt production was carefully chosen for its tradition and attention to craft. This post is the first in a series, highlighting traditionalist contemporary brands.

Behind the seams:

By Merryn’s shirts are all made at a small, family-run factory in London, in operation under the same ownership for more than thirty years. The factory specializes in Jermyn Street shirting (the final word in good shirts!), and supplies some of the street’s most notable shops. 

What struck me particularly is that the entire production of the shirt is done by hand. The pattern for the shirt is drawn and graded by hand, without the use of a CAD system. Each piece of the shirt is cut manually, then sewn by a seamstress. All interior seams are French pressed, and no overlockers are used. The cotton is all sourced from a mill in the North of England, still run by the same family that founded it seventy years ago.

Why I love the shirts:

The by-hand craftsmanship truly shows in this brand. Everything is just right–the buttons, armholes, length, and cuffs. The gathers at the shoulders and cuffs are beautifully done. The looser fit and the slightly wider sleeves feel both contemporary and timeless. The narrow, single-button cuffs are a refreshing change from the mass-produced cuffs that often feel too wide on me.

Outfit details: 

In this photo, I am wearing the white shirt with my go-to spring trousers* and my favorite loafers. As the shirt is made from a very fine poplin, it is of course not as opaque as thicker fabrics. While not sheer, I will note that darker clothes beneath may be visible in certain lights. This wasn’t an issue for me but I wanted to note it for reference. The shirt is long enough on me to wear loose or to tuck in. I’ve worn both shirts several times now with trousers or jeans, and look forward to pairing them with shorts in warmer weather, and perhaps even wearing them loose over a skirt, like this favorite picture of Bunny Mellon.

Sizing notes:

I am 5’4” and usually wear a size 0/XS. In this shirt, I am wearing a small.

I am looking forward to continuing this series of posts featuring traditionalist contemporary brands. They are few and far between, but are well worth looking for!

These shirts were sent to me at my request to review for Ivy Style. All opinions are my own (and honest!) I am excited to share one of my favorite new brands with you, and highlight a company that truly celebrates the crafting of clothing. Thank you, Merryn!

22 Comments on "Women’s Ivy: A Good Shirt is Hard to Find"

  1. Your posts are a very welcome addition to Ivy Style! I look forward to each one for it’s informative and useful information. Thank you!

  2. A good look all the way around.

    Kind Regards,


  3. Hardbopper | April 6, 2023 at 8:07 am |

    What is the reason for the buttons being on the other side?

  4. Philologue | April 7, 2023 at 12:27 am |

    Thank you for wearing a classic white poplin shirt, rather than a blue OCBD.

    • Thank you, Philologue! I do prefer lighter fabrics (though of course OCBDs have their important place)! I have also been wearing the blue-and-white striped version of this popover on repeat.

  5. Old School | April 7, 2023 at 12:41 am |

    Your keen idea for detail would be welcome in an evaluation of a men’s white broadcloth shirt.

    • Old School | April 7, 2023 at 3:45 am |

      “keen idea” = “keen eye”. Sorry.

    • Thank you, Old School! I have to admit that my knowledge of menswear for men is less developed than I’d like. My husband has exceptional taste so I never had to learn! It’s a wonderful idea for a future column and I’ll speak to him about what makes the perfect white broadcloth shirt.

  6. I’m impressed. By Merryn is now definitely on the list of places to look for things for my fiancée. Thanks for another enjoyable read Sarah. And what a perfect, simple, elegant outfit.

  7. Sarah
    My wife has found Hinson wu make good women’s white shirts

  8. Last night I watched a PBS episode about a British detective, played by John Nettles. His daughter, an acting student at Cambridge, was dressed in a white Merryn shirt, a gray cardigan and a skirt. Such an interesting coincidence. BTW, I really enjoy your postings, Sarah.

  9. my wife has found that Hinson Wu makes a very nice white polio women’s shirt

  10. Mitchell Baird | April 11, 2023 at 1:02 am |

    Good Morning, Ivy Style ☕️

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