Men and women have different shapes -- such a basic fashion fact that most people don't feel the need to mention it. There are men's designers and women's designers, and those who create clothing for both sexes have a different line for each. Yet when it comes to T-shirts, women used to have no choice but to wear those designed with men in mind. They were called "unisex," but ladies knew better. Things have changed, and this fashion staple now comes in both unisex and junior girls' or women's cuts.
When you want to remember a vacation or commemorate your favorite team's championship win, a T-shirt lets you wear your souvenir to proclaim your joy over the event. When spring or summer come, you might wear a basic white tee as your go-to casual look. The basic unisex tee was designed for men, with a rounded neckline, broad shoulders and fairly large arm holes. The short sleeves generally run 8 to 10 inches from the shoulder, making them a little long for most ladies. Fabrics, whether cotton or cotton blend, are thick and somewhat heavy. It used to be that women had to buy small or medium-size men's tees with this basic design in the gift shop, sporting goods store or mall -- but no more.
Shape and Fit
Back in the 1980s, inspired by Madonna and the movie "Flashdance," women started cutting up their so-called unisex sweatshirts and T-shirts to make them more interesting and feminine. This, however, did not change the basic design. Apparel makers took note of the female desire for more feminine tees and started changing the shape to make curvier T-shirts that fit the female body. Women also wanted a more snug fit, and designers complied. No longer do young ladies have to tie the sides of their tees in knots or stuff them through rings to get a more flattering fit.
Necklines and Sleeves
The neck and sleeve shapes of women's tees have evolved so that many women's shirts with the same logos or basic designs as unisex tees barely resemble them otherwise. While the unisex tee has a rounded, close-fitting neck, women's shirts come with V and deep-V necks, scoop necks and even square necks. The shirts might have regular T-shirt sleeves, longer tight-fitting sleeves or cap sleeves. You can find the "basic" white T-shirt in a multitude of designs.
Any woman who's had the thick seams of a man's tee rub against her armpits or waist breathes a sigh of relief when wearing the lighter, thinner fabrics of a women's T-shirt. Soft, breathable cotton has long been the key fabric for women's tees, and it's been joined by featherweight barely there blends for summer. There's no way your significant other will mistake your cute, semi-opaque, tight-fitting tee for his, even if it's just in plain white. But, of course, women's tees come in all colors of the rainbow and with every conceivable pattern and logo, including sports teams and vacation destinations.
Teresa Daly has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. She has been an editor at Denver's Westword along with several other publications and sites, and written articles for AOL, Society 6, TypeF.com and more.