denim shirts for spring 2011

Denim styles for spring include, from left, looks at Celine, Banana Republic and Stella McCartney. Photos: Karl Prouse, Catwalking/Getty Images; Banana Republic; Nathalie Lagneau, Catwalking/Getty Images

The denim top may have had its beginnings as a work shirt, but today's new spins on the American classic make it perfectly suitable for all kinds of play.

"A denim shirt is always an essential part of any wardrobe," eBay creative director Andrea Linett tells StyleList. "It's particularly great now because of all the camel and white for spring, which begs for denim."

Simon Kneen, Banana Republic's creative director and executive vice president for design, tells StyleList denim is the perfect staple that gets better with age.

"It can be dressed up or down with very little fuss," he says. "Button it up and pair it with a high-waist pencil skirt and ballet flats for day -- and let loose some of those buttons. Throw on skinny black leggings, a belted cinched waist and open-toe platforms for night. It's always a great cover-up for those breezy sunset walks on the beach."

Spring's denim shirt styles range from soft, sleeveless and romantic (Derek Lam) to long, loose tunics (Stella McCartney) to three-quarter sleeved bateau styles (Celine).

How to choose your best denim look? Linett says to check out sites such as eBay Fashion to find different styles, "narrowing them down with key search words like 'chambray shirt' if you want the look with a lighter fabric, 'Western denim shirt' or 'vintage denim shirt.' "

And remember, it's the details that make all the difference, Kneen tells StyleList.

"Look for fabric quality, good stitching with flat-felled seams," Kneen says. "If you invest in a great piece it will last for years."

Linett says other modern touches include ripped-off breast pockets, sleeve roll tabs, contrast stitching and an overall old world feel.

"Think steel workers from the '30s," she says.

We asked Linett and Kneen to offer denim shirt outfit suggestions for four fashion situations. It's time to put that work shirt to work.

At the office
"A denim shirt looks great under a camel or navy suit for days when you don't have to be so dressed up," Linett says. "The suit elevates the shirt, while the shirt funks up the suit -- a perfect balance."

"Tuck it into a great print or patterned high-waisted skirt, a great pair of ballet flats, your favorite satchel or tote bag and a classic stud earring," Kneen says.

A dressy evening out
"For a dressy evening look, I would suggest tucking the top into a chic sequin skirt, pairing it with a platform sandal and adding some mixed metal chains -- to give you a great edgy feel," Kneen says. "Finishing touches like a standout cocktail ring and a structured clutch will also allow for great conversation pieces at the dinner table."

"Pair a denim shirt with a sparkly skirt and sexy heels," Linett suggests.

On casual weekends
"White jeans and a denim shirt is casual yet never sloppy -- and always classic-chic," Linett says.

"Wear it loose with a great pair of leggings, roll up the sleeves, unbutton a few buttons, wear it loose or cinch the waist with a skinny belt," Kneen says. "Finish the look off with a tall leather boot."

For cocktails/date night
"I love denim on denim and would pair a shirt with skinny jeans, a sparkly belt and red or metallic heels," Linett says.