When you think of a plaid or flannel shirt, do '90s-era bands like Pearl Jam come to mind? If so, it’s time to rethink your style references. A well-made flannel shirt for women is a fall fashion staple, but it’s just as versatile to dress up for the office or at an upscale restaurant.
This common lumberjack aesthetic always reappears during fall season for its warm and high-quality material. From oversized tops to grunge-inspired flannel shirts, there are numerous ways to elevate this style. Shop TODAY asked a stylist for tips on how to wear this beloved staple, plus some of the best brands to shop.
What is a flannel shirt?
Flannel can easily be mistaken for another polyester shirt that is made with a plaid pattern. Usually, flannel shirts are made of leftover sheep's wool, which gives it that soft and warm woven texture. While the shirt was commonly worn by workers and references to the white collar uniform aesthetic, the style has trickled up to major fashion houses such as Issey Miyake and Marc Jacobs, giving it a more relaxed feel during the fall season.
"Nowadays you can find flannel made from both wool and cotton and sometimes synthetic fibers. Either crucial part that makes a shirt flannel is brushing the fabric, called napping, to make the fabric softer," shared wardrobe stylist Karis Battle.
"'90s grunge fashion made flannel shirts popular as grunge bands began to incorporate them into their on-stage attire, which began the trend and the flannel shirt became one of the go-to styles in early 2000s fashion."
How to style a flannel shirt
If you're stuck on how to wear a flannel, the options are fairly endless as we transition deeper into cooler weather. For a casual weekend look, grab a plaid tunic and wear it over leggings with booties. If you’re looking for a more sleek vibe, tuck your top into a fitted pencil skirt and pair it with heels. Feeling particularly brave? Mix patterns by wearing your plaid with textured pants. Or, if all else fails, just throw on a flannel and pull up a pair of knee-high boots for an easy fall uniform.
For Battle, one of the best ways to style a flannel shirt is "the most popular grungy way, which is tying the shirt around your waist with a T-shirt or tank and a pair of jeans."
"This look can be dressed up or down with sneakers for a day look or paired with heels for a night out. Another great way to wear a flannel shirt is to do a half tuck in the front, with a pair of camo pants or another print that is complementary. Mixing patterns work great with flannel shirts since they are normally made in primary colors."
You can find another pattern that incorporates the same color as the flannel shirt for a coherent mix and match.
What's the best brand for flannel shirts?
With so many options on the market, it can be hard to find the perfect flannel. According to Battle, the best brands that offer this style include Lands' End, L.L. Bean, Good Thread and Dickie's. You can also find affordable options at Amazon, Target, Walmart, Madewell and Lucky Brand.
Here are some of our favorite flannel shirts for women to wear for every fun fall activity.
Best women's flannel shirts, according to shoppers
Embrace your cabincore aesthetic with this plaid flannel shirt. The plus-size style is ideal for all your apple picking and outdoor activities. This classic look will match most of your turtlenecks and add an extra flair of coziness.
There is nothing better than matching with your beau for seasonal pictures. This flannel can be worn by just about anyone and it comes in more than 12 colors. Wear it over a cozy sweater or match it with your favorite LBD for a casual yet chic vibe.
If you aren't sold on the flannel trend but still want to incorporate a bit of plaid into your closet, this classic pull-on style will match all your bottoms. Wear it to the office with a pair of dress pants or use it as a sweater for a comfy fit.
You can't go wrong with this oversized flannel shirt. This grunge-inspired shirt features a straight silhouette so you can match it with your favorite pair of jeans or leggings. You will feel comfortable doing any fall-related activity with this essential piece.
Another basic that never seems to disappoint! This navy blue and white checkered flannel from L.L Bean is made out of 100 percent organic cotton and is super soft. The shirt offers a relaxed fit, making it an ideal option for layering during fall.
This colorful plus-size plaid shirt from Target is perfect for the woman looking to add a pop of brightness into her wardrobe. Lightweight enough to wear underneath a winter jacket but thick enough to wear on a chilly day, pair it with your favorite clogs or chunky shoes for the ultimate fashion-forward fall look.
This is the ultimate cozy solution for the cool season. The flannel has vintage-inspired graphics and features different hues for a more grungy feel. Also, the extra length in the back will give you the confidence to wear this shirt with your tight leggings.
Keep it classy with this flannel made with neutral hues. The beige base matches most fall pieces, especially if you love wearing black and dark tones. Pair it with ripped jeans and boots for a casual fall look.
This one is for the tomboys. The chambray-lined collar and cuffs add a rustic element without going overboard on the lumberjack aesthetic. Plus, the classic design will give you something to wear for every fall adventure. Try it with a leather jacket and leather boots for a complete edgy attire.
Keep it simple with this big flannel shirt. The pattern gives away holiday vibes with its red and green plaid details. You can wear it over a white shirt with a pair of joggers or add a pair of leggings with chunky boots for a retro feel.
This is a fun, flirty twist from the classic flannel shirt. The drapey fit features denim details and is a cool upgrade from your classic flannel. It will feel like wearing a blanket on cool days.
For a more casual affair, this unique cropped style is the perfect match for your high-waisted jeans. The dark hue goes well with many colors from dark blue to light brown. Wear it buttoned with your favorite knee-high boots or unbuttoned for a more laid-back feel.
You can never go wrong with a light color for the fall. This flannel shirt has a frayed hem and button cuff sleeves for a more put-together style. Pair it with white denim and pointed-toe boots for a trendy look.
This cozy flannel is perfect for the outdoorsy woman who needs added warmth. Thanks to the super-soft fabric and double-brushed elements, this flannel will add a trendy layer to all your outfits. Keep it simple with boyfriend jeans and cowgirl boots.
Go back to the office in style with this oversized flannel shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch. The design can be worn as a jacket and it comes in nine different fun patterns.
Add a hint of New England aesthetic with this flannel shirt made with the softest cotton. The button-down will complement your everyday style thanks to the classic fit and that chest pocket that adds country vibes.
Another great alternative to the classic plaid flannel shirt is this black and white peplum shirt. (It's also available in a festive white and red pattern.) This fun top would look great with a pair of skinny jeans.
How to wash a flannel shirt?
Because of the way flannel is made, Battle recommended keeping avoiding hot water to keep the shirts soft and from fading. "Warm water works best in order to preserve the integrity of the flannel. I mean the whole point of a flannel shirt is to be soft, so let's be sure to keep it that way."