Button Down vs. Button Up Shirt: What Is The Difference?

Button Down vs. Button Up Shirt: What Is The Difference?

    The shirt should be a staple of any woman’s wardrobe - they are multi-faceted, can be used for various occasions, and can give an outfit a certain style. When shopping for shirts, you may have heard terms used like button up and button down and be unclear about their meaning.

    It’s important to know these terms as they can make a huge difference to the garment, its look, and where you should wear it, and in this guide, I look at the button down vs button up argument to clear up any confusion you may have.

    Defining the Button Down Shirt

    A button down shirt is also a button up shirt, does this help? Probably not! It’s true though and a button down shirt is essentially a type of button up shirt that has one small difference.

    We have to look at the collar of a button down shirt and here you will see two buttons - one on each end of the collar. These allow you to fasten the collar to the shirt to create a more fitted neckline.

    Therein lies the difference in the button down vs button up argument. Button down shirts have additional buttons on the collar whereas a traditional button up shirt does not.

    How a Button Up Shirt Differs

    The traditional button up shirt has a full row of buttons from the collar to the hem of the fabric. This allows you to fully open the shirt and even wear it open in combination with a stylish undergarment.

    Some button up shirts are also button down shirts and have additional collar buttons. So, we can say that a button down shirt is merely a sub category of women’s button up shirts.

    Women’s button up shirts usually have a more fitted style compared to something like a blouse and you can wear them open or closed. When you wear a shirt open, it’s usually for a more informal occasion, whereas buttoned-up works great for the office or corporate events.

    The standard button up shirt allows the collar to be less restrictive and not put as much pressure on your neck either which some people prefer. The lack of collar buttons means that having the top few buttons open also looks better as the collar can then hang naturally depending on how it sits on your neckline.

    Button Up or Button Down - Which to Wear for an Occasion?

    a man wearing a button down shirt

    Choosing between a button up or button down shirt can be tricky as the differences are minimal. Indeed, you don’t even have to faster the collar buttons of a button down shirt which essentially means they fit and hang the same as a button up shirt!

    However, let’s at least say that if you are buying a button down shirt that you intend to have the collar buttoned. With this in mind, we can look at suitability for different occasions and how you wear them.

    Without any other layering

    Both button down and button up shirts can be worn as standalone tops without any layering. They look gorgeous as part of an office outfit combined with a skirt or trousers and both work well for formal occasions.

    The main difference is your neckline and chest. Traditionally, button down shirts are worn with all the buttons closed therefore your neck and chest are fully covered. In contrast, button up shirts look better with the top few buttons open to show your neckline and chest and which is more suited is a case of personal preference.

    With other layers

    Button down shirts look great when worn underneath something like a jumper so they can make for a brilliant and comfortable outfit during the winter. It’s surprising how much difference a simple collar over a jumper can make!

    Button up shirts without the collar fastening can also look great when layered but some people prefer button down as the neck looks tidier. Button up shirts are brilliant as part of a summer work outfit when you still want to look professional without being uncomfortably hot.

    Button Down vs Button Up - You Decide!

    So, let’s recap on what we’ve learned. The difference between a women’s button down and button up shirt is that a button down shirt has buttons on the collar so you can fasten it to the shirt whereas a button up does not.

    However, a button down shirt is also classed as a button up shirt because it has a full row of buttons on the front! Aside from the collar, there is little to no difference between these two garments and which you prefer comes down to personal preference.

    Both can look fabulous at a dinner party, a night out, or an event, and they can both work as part of a professional and stylish workplace outfit.

    Article by:

    Gina Kuyers

    Gina Kuyers is the founder of Luxeire. The idea for Luxeire came out of founder Gina’s frustration with the discomfort and high maintenance of beautiful clothing. With a 20-year career and PhD in school psychology, Gina spent decades applying research to real-world problem solving. She brought these well-honed skills to designing and producing a line of elevated wardrobe staples.

    Gina grew up in West Michigan where she attended Calvin College graduating with a degree in education. She continued her education at Fordham where she received her PHD in school psychology. Gina and her husband, David, have four adult children and live in New Jersey—just a short ferry ride from the Luxeire studio in New York City.