Fall Styling: How to Wear a Denim Shirt & Denim Shirt Outfit Ideas

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With fall upon us and a chill in the air, it’s time to bring out our warmer clothes; this includes your jeans and denim/chambray shirts. While denim jeans and shirts are a natural pairing (in different washes, of course), do you know what to wear with that denim shirt? Need some advice on pairing up these blue standards with the rest of your wardrobe? You’d be surprised how much wear you can get out of these closet staples.

If you’ve been wondering how to wear a denim shirt read on to find out…

What is Chambray?

You are, no doubt, familiar with denim, but what is chambray and how does it compare to denim?

Denim and chambray are cotton materials, typically utilizing blue as their primary color. The difference is in the weave and construction of the actual materials. Denim tends to be more textured than chambray. This is due, in part, to its twill construction. Denim is made with blue-colored cotton thread or yarn in the warp, with white cotton thread in the weave. There are two blue threads for each white in the twill weave of denim. The making of chambray material also utilizes a blue weave and a white weft, but they are alternated in the weave, making for a flatter material and usually less visible white thread, as the two colors mix more evenly.

Both denim and chambray can be found in different fabric weights. Denim is used for all types of clothing, from pants and skirts to jackets and shirts. Pants are rarely made from chambray, but you can find skirts, jackets, and shirts made from this material.


When it comes to denim shirts there are different washes that can be used to achieve different effects. Some of these processes make denim look worn, distressed, or even dressier than normal.

With an acid wash, denim material is washed with pumice stones that have been soaked in chlorine. The effect is a somewhat marbled look, with light white veins and patterns showing throughout the material. A bleach wash makes denim look very faded and well worn. The denim can be washed with bleach or a hand-rubbed or sprayed technique can be applied to achieve the same effect. Light-wash denim is a very light blue overall and is achieved by repeated washings that allow the original indigo dye to wash out. Mid-wash is what you would find in your standard denim, a medium indigo blue. Dark-wash denim keeps most of its original indigo dye, retaining that very deep blue color.

There is also a black/gray wash that utilizes a different dye, turning the material into black denim or a shade of gray (from light to dark). Colored denim is done much in the same way, using dyes to create specific colors on a traditional warp and weave denim. You can also find print denim on occasion. This is often a polka dot, paisley, or similar print, which adds some visual interest to a solid-colored item.

With a chambray shirt, you won’t find color irregularities like you will with acid- or bleach-wash denim, but there are varying shades of blue, gray, and black chambray, as well print chambray. Color variations are achieved through the dying process, using different colors and concentrations of dye to achieve a specific color.


The majority of denim and chambray shirts you’ll find are button-downs with a collar, usually long sleeves, but you can find them with short sleeves or no sleeves. This style is classic and can be worn over a tank, alone, or as a lightweight jacket with pants, a skirt, or a dress. You can leave the sleeves long, roll the cuffs, tuck it in, or leave it out. So many variations when it comes to wearing a denim or chambray shirt!

Let’s take a look at some of the options on what to wear with a denim shirt.

Layering with a Denim Shirt

In this outfit, I started with a simple white V-neck boyfriend tee over black denim jeans. I added a chambray shirt, left open, with the cuffs rolled. Simple, classic, and perfect for a fall weekend. Pull-on a pair of black booties or ankle boots and you’re ready to go! If you’ve wanted to know how to wear a denim shirt with black jeans well here’s the perfect outfit example. Remember to stick with three neutral colors when pairing solid pieces together as it creates a cleaner look.

Denim Shirt and Sweater Combination

For colder fall days, you can wear your denim shirt buttoned up and untucked with a pair of dark wash jeans. Top it off with a creamy cable knit sweater and you’ll not only look stylish, but you’ll also stay pretty warm. I have added a cute pair of leopard-print flats, but you could just as easily wear any type of boot with this outfit if the weather called for it.

Note: When wearing denim on denim like I am here, make sure they are of different shades. This outfit combination works so well together because the jeans are a darker wash than the denim shirt I’m wearing.

Denim Shirt Black Jeans and Boots Outfit

I’m loving the suede boots in this photo, you can find them here at Nordstrom! They are the perfect neutral and pair well with both denim and black. I’ve left the shirt untucked, pushed up the sleeves, and am ready to head to the farmer’s market or out to brunch on a fall afternoon. You could add a tank under the shirt for an extra layer or add a long cardigan over it if it’s cold outside.

Playing with Fun Combinations

Yes, I do realize it is after Labor Day and you shouldn’t wear white! But I don’t always play by the rules, and this is a great outfit any time of the year (with a change of shoes of course!). Here I’ve paired a long-sleeve striped tee, added a polka dot chambray shirt, and topped it off with a camel blazer. If you don’t want to wear white, you can easily substitute black denim jeans. A cute pair of flats, booties or even an oxford wedge would look super stylish with this outfit.

I also like to pair casual dresses with my denim and chambray shirts. The shirt can be left unbuttoned, with several of the center buttons closed, or you can tie up the bottom and make a stylish little jacket.

Cute Road Trip Outfit with a Polka Dot Chambray Shirt

I love layering while on road trips so one of my favorite ways to wear a denim shirt is layering it over a simple tee or tank top. In this outfit, I wanted to be comfortable so I paired this cute polka dot chambray shirt with a boyfriend tee, leggings, and cute pair of flats.

Denim and chambray shirts can be found almost anywhere these days, from Old Navy to the Banana Republic, Nordstrom’s to Bloomingdale’s, and dozens of places online. To give you a head start on shopping, I’ve listed some options for you below. So no excuses for rocking these looks, now that you know how to wear a denim shirt!

Stay stylish!

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