The advent of cold weather is marked by two things— the chafing from boots that starts my heel blisters (a winter mainstay) and apple picking season (as soon as it gets even a little chilly, everyone runs off to the orchards in assorted flannel). Now that both of those things has happened, it’s safe to say that we have exited the summer season. This may mean that this post on white tops has arrived at an inopportune moment, but for my sake, let’s pretend it’s still warm out, yeah?

I first came up with this idea when packing my closet for my big apartment move™ and noticed that I had somehow amassed an inordinate amount of white tops. Several websites declared white tops the top of the summer a few summers back, and I fell into the trap. Those of you who knew me about three years ago know that I used to wear a lot of black and not much else, and after wearing that one out, I’ve started to lean into dressing lighter and brighter. White tops are the perfect base for carefree, clean dressing. They reflect light beautifully. They go with absolutely everything. And perhaps best of all, they make you look like you smell good. Looking like you smell good is a curious phenomenon— one could easily categorize celebrities into two groups, one that smells good and one that most definitely does not. I think it comes down to looking clean, and a good white top does exactly that— it’s brave, maybe smug, saying “I’ve got such a good handle on eating – and life – that I’m not afraid to wear this color that stains so easily.” White tops are stable and reliable and coolly pleasing. Here’s how I styled five of my favorites.

The T-Shirt

Bershka top (similar here), Realisation Par dress, Nike Cortez sneakers

There’s nothing so innocuous as a plain white t-shirt, and though there are a million ways to wear them, I’ve started getting into the layered-under-dresses look. I remember in high school, there was nothing less cool than having to cover more of ourselves than the dress itself already did, but now that I’m a ripe 22, layering feels interesting and fresh. It takes this quite fancy, nighttime silk dress by Realisation Par and dresses it down. I amped up the sporty vibe with classic sneakers and a high pony.

The Cami

Cotton On top (similar here), Uniqlo jeans, ASOS loafers, vintage belt

I would argue that a simple white camisole is even more versatile than its tee compatriot, since it dresses up as well as it does down. Here, I’ve dipped my toe in the all-white look, keeping things sleek and polished for a grown-up feel.

The Puff Sleeve Top

Aritzia top (similar here), thrifted skirt (similar here), ASOS espadrilles, vintage belt

As a lifelong Anne of Green Gables fan, puffed sleeves have always been a magical, aspirational clothing item. Anne’s obsession with puffed sleeves isn’t misplaced— I think they’re wildly flattering, and this top can be worn both on and off the shoulder, which is a nice styling option. I went full steam ahead with the romantic, dreamy concept and paired it with a floaty skirt and white espadrilles.

The Crochet Top

H&M top, Aritzia skirt, Urban Outfitters strappy heels

Of all of the tops here, this crochet one is the least likely to scream “I smell good.” Crochet tops remind me of music festivals, and boho girls, and neither (though this may be a flagrant generalization) smell very good to me. I’ve taken it to a dressier, cleaner look by wearing it with a white corduroy (very luxe fabric, maybe my favorite) skirt and strappy heels.

The Sheer Sleeve Blouse

Urban Outfitters top, Mango skirt, ASOS espadrilles

As we were shooting the looks for this post, I kept saying each new outfit I put on was my favorite, but this was the last we shot, and actually my favorite. It’s a great outfit for transitional weather, with the long sleeves and rich rust suede of the skirt. My arms are raised in every shot of this outfit because the sleeves are too long (a common long-sleeve issue for me), and I need to get them tailored. The espadrilles are my way of harnessing a bit of the escaping summer. But change out the shoes, add a pair of sheer tights, and top this with a coat, and you’re all ready for the fall!