Catching My Personal Clothing Unicorn: The V-Neck T-Shirt

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Recently, I cleaned out my closet in a fit of new year purging. During the process, I placed at least seven barely worn black or white V-neck t-shirts in my donation pile. Why did I have so many and why was I getting rid of them all? Because finding a plain, short sleeve V-Neck t-shirt is my personal clothing unicorn. For years I’ve been on the hunt and I’ve yet to catch the elusive creature. (My loss has absolutely been Thrifty Threads’ gain.)

Really, I don’t think I’m asking for too much. I want something that is fitted but not too tight. (Somewhere in between “I’m wearing my 75-year-old father’s Hanes undershirt” and “I’ve squeezed myself into a sausage casing.”) I would like both the hem and sleeves to be on the longer side. (At this point, I’m too old for a Gen Z crop top and these collegiate softball arms aren’t fond of a cap sleeve.) And finally, I want the V-neck to have a playground-appropriate plunge. (I don’t need to be traumatizing any children.)

As I dreamed about this unicorn of a t-shirt while staring at the large pile of rejects, it hit me that life is way too short to keep buying and wearing shirts that don’t fit, I feel uncomfortable in or shrink after one wash. It’s a waste, both for my bank account and the environment. So I declared right then and there that 2022 would be the year I finally caught my personal clothing unicorn: the perfect V-neck, short sleeve t-shirt.

How you might ask, did I tackle this lofty goal? 

First, I sent out the Bat Signal to friends of all shapes and sizes asking for recommendations. (Not surprisingly, I learned I’m not alone. Many of us are struggling to find that perfect fit!) Second, based on the 20 or so recommendations I received, I conducted very scientific research (or at least that’s what I told my husband it was when packages kept showing up on our doorstep!). While there were several votes for old faithful brands like Old Navy, Target, Kohl’s, and Gap, I’ve tried all of those with mixed results. So I decided to focus instead on brands I’ve never ordered a t-shirt from before.

After analyzing 10 different options based on overall fit, depth of the V-neck, sleeve length, price and size, and color availability, these are my top four recommendations:

  • Lululemon Love V-Neck T-Shirt – I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to like this shirt because of the price, but it ended up being my favorite of the group! (And, when you think about it, investing in one or two high-quality t-shirts you love ends up being a lot cheaper than buying a bunch of shirts you don’t.) The material is on the thicker side, which allows it to perfectly drape around the midsection in a not too tight, not too boxy way. The thickness of the fabric also means if you’re looking for a classic white t-shirt, you don’t have to worry about your bra showing through. Finally, by all accounts, it washes extremely well and comes in a decent variety of colors and sizing.
  • Madewell Whisper Cotton V-Neck T-Shirt – This t-shirt is super soft! It also has a nice depth V-neck, tons of color options, and a great price. Overall, it was solidly my second choice. However, in full disclosure, I only ordered it in black and wouldn’t be surprised if the white version is somewhat see-through due to how thin the fabric is.  
  • Carhartt Relaxed Fit Midweight Short Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt – A true sleeper brand that I never would have thought of had someone not recommended it! (I grew up in a small, rural town where one of the few stores is Farm King so, to me, Carhartts are limited to the yellow-tan bib overalls.) This t-shirt is an extremely solid choice made of soft, thick cotton and decent length sleeves. My only beef is the limited sizes and colors available. 
  • Duluth Trading Co women’s No-Yank Short Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt – I’ve never ordered anything from Duluth Trading Company so was surprised when several women suggested these t-shirts as the perfect basic. The one I ordered was of great quality with thicker cotton, longer sleeves, and a perfectly deep v. However, my normal size was way too tight and I ultimately ended up returning it. If I do decide to order again, I may size up one or even two sizes (one friend mentioned they do shrink some in the wash). However, other than the sizing issue, I also thought this was a quality contender.

With spring arriving, now is the perfect time to find your go-to short sleeve, V-neck t-shirt. And who knows? One of these recommendations may end up being your personal t-shirt unicorn!