Marie-Antoinette is the earliest public figure to be immortalized wearing a white shirt, making the undergarment visible for the first time. Over time, white shirts became more gendered and sophisticated. Collars, cus, cotton quality, and lace trimmings, are all details that made undergarment shirts subtle status signals from the early sixteenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
By the Victorian era, however, white shirts grew into proper garments for men, thanks to writers and artists who would be portrayed wearing white shirts as their working attire. After the first World War, liberation through work was picked up by Hollywood, and around the same time, Coco Chanel enabled women to borrow from men's wardrobes and attitudes. Loose white shirts became acceptable for women, and stars like Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Lauren Bacall regularly donned white shirts on and o-camera.