The White Shirt and The Waste Land: Spring Conversations

Endless White Shirt Coming to you from my smart phone, and my mother-in-law’s computer. Cheers to typing with one finger, feeling the warm sun on your back, weekend soccer games at Grandma’s, hints of Spring, and starting fresh– Monday.

Sometime mid-February our weather here went from the low 60s (extremely unseasonal for the mountains) back to the 30s and snowy (that’s more like it). While the quiet solace snow brings can be insular, even comforting, I can’t help but look ahead.  I am dreaming of Spring.

Blades of green grass and daffodils ruffled by light breezes. That fresh, chilled snow-breaking smell of warming soil and children’s voices ringing happily outdoors. It’s hard for us humans to love where we’re at. To juice our moments for all their worth.

It’s hard for me to love the last of this winter. I’m lusting after mid-morning sun on bare legs, the crimson brown of new branch growth– buds nubbing out, getting bigger, breaking almost silently as they succumb to a fresh stab of leaf.


These Spring thoughts moved me to mulling over The Waste Land. T.S. Eliot’s seminal epic draws on the seasons throughout, and never ceases to surface in my mind this time of year. It’s the thread of that first verse. Some mnemonic device of the barren branches, unpredictable weather, dead worms. Poetic power, “IL MIGIOR FABBRO.”


“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…”

Breaking down means rebuilding. Inevitably, this time of year I’m not only watching the sun, the grass, the flowers and trees. I’m ready to break out of my cozy sweaters, I’m ready to feel the light air on my neck and arms, I’m ready for my winter toes to go naked in a favorite pair of slides.

One area you can look to both break down and rebuild is your wardrobe. I’m also ready to CLEAN out. I am one of those who really does get that Spring cleaning bug. Do you feel me? So in this fever, I’m writing about white shirts for one reason– the white shirt is the perfect transition piece. The perfect always and anytime, no excuse. The perfect bridge to any full-fledged season.

Listen, I understand it is a stretch to call on the strength of Eliot’s words in a post about a white shirt, but the reality is we all make our own reality. Take the tumult and the churn of Spring– the crazy, uproarious gusts of cold wind contrasted with mild lamb-like afternoons, the scattered snow and rain alongside cerulean skies and lung-burning fresh air– and put a white shirt on it.

Pick one that has some structure, that holds its shape. Choose a cut that flatters your figure by hugging your waist but not gapping or pulling across the chest. (This can sometimes be difficult, we’ll talk options on Wednesday.) Don’t go for something trendy, or do, if you think that you can turn that trendy white shirt into a classic in your closet. Wear it now and years to come.

Spring to Fall and around again, you’ll pull out that white shirt and pair it with everything from high-waisted mom jeans and slimming pencil skirts, to track pants for a Saturday morning or a destroyed pair of Levi’s for the beach. Pop the collar and go to brunch with friends, or pull out an old ratty version that you may never wear in public again to clean your toilets. Borrow your husband’s french cuffed, long-tailed version for a lazy Saturday.

Pick a white shirt that makes you feel doe-eyed and perfect: Audrey Hepburn

Or young and sultry:

Emma Watson White Shirt

In control of your universe:


Or my personal favorite, just really freaking jazzed. Carpe!:

Lupita Nyog'o White Shirt

“The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank.The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends…”      

You know, Eliot wore white shirts too:

T.S. Elliott age 10T.S. Eliot 20

Not bad, eh? You’ll probably never again read a juxtaposition of Eliot’s The Waste Land alongside a white shirt prospectus, but at least you can’t call it regurgitated!

Summer will end and Fall will come again. And if you see the shirt below pass by like flotsam on the Thames, pluck it out. It’s a great wear! The tumult will continue– seasons, tides, family– all of it. But there are certain things that will prevail. Like… the white shirt.

XX, Megan

Images 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

White Shirt

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