Every company has that one thing that is popular - the thing that is always out of stock, that for some reason, people just love. For us it is our Utility Button-down. Thanks to The Garment, we have sold a record number of these shirts in the last month and we have a huge list of people waiting to be notified when they’re back in stock. While we’re waiting, we thought we would tell you a little bit about this beloved shirt, where it came from, how it’s made, and why we love it.
As most of you probably DON’T know, Line + Tow went through a couple transformations before it ended up as it is today. In early 2017, it was founded by myself Grace Brian and my business partner Cait Payne. The business was originally called Care & Co. Market and it was a company geared towards weddings. The goal was to provide brides with quality alternatives to what was already on the market and promote purchasing products that would last beyond the wedding and be used and integrated into everyday life. It was a complicated business idea and for that and many other reasons, it didn't last long. However, the one thing that has stayed with us from day one is the Utility Button-down.
Cait's sister Haley wearing the Utility Buttondown on her wedding day - photos by Ridge and Ramble
The Utility Button-down - formerly called the Molly Robe, was actually designed to be a bridesmaid robe - true story. The goal was to provide brides-to-be with some ethical and environmentally sustainable alternatives to the prevalent cheap polyester and rayon robes. We had two robe styles, a classic short robe with a tie, and an oversized button-down. The idea was that the shirt would be long enough to be worn by itself by bridesmaids while they were getting their makeup and hair done. For this reason it had pockets, was oversized, and we removed the collar (it would have gotten in the way of hair and makeup).
I designed, patterned and sampled this robe in the fashion design studio at the NC State College of Textiles during the same time I was prepping for my senior show. I brought the finished patterns to Rachel of Casa Flor while she was in Raleigh for a pop-up, and she flew them back to Guatemala in her suitcase (you can’t send mail to Guatemala). We bought our fabric from The New Denim Project and had these robes put into production with our seamstress Irma, we got back samples, did some photoshoots and got ready to launch. However, after a few months Cait and I amiably parted ways - Cait now has a tech job in Denver and I continued to run the business. While weddings are lucrative, they aren’t really something I’m passionate about and so the next few months became a confusing anxiety ridden blur during which time I decided to change the name to Line + Tow, and focus on women’s ready to wear pieces.
Cait models the Utility Buttondown in Antigua, Guatemala in 2017 - photos by Ridge and Ramble
During this time of not really knowing what to do (should I keep the business, pivot, or pack it all up and call it a day?) many of my friends saw me wearing the button-down as a jacket and they all wanted one. It was soon apparent that this piece was much more suited to everyday wear than Cait and I had originally intended. Interest grew from both women and men and I knew that when I launched a new collection the button-down had to be a part of it. Now, two years after it was originally designed, the newly renamed Utility Buttondown is Line + Tow’s best seller and frankly one of my favorite pieces in my personal wardrobe.
Ok so, why is this shirt so great (if I do say so myself)?
First of all, the sleeves are not set-in like a standard button down shirt. The sleeves on this shirt are dolman style which is good for a few different reasons: it creates a looser fit which is more comfortable and fits a wider range of body types, it is easier to sew* which means that it costs less to produce, and the straight pattern pieces create less cookie-cutter-style fabric scrap waste. This style of sleeve is also great because it hangs lower than a normal sleeve and it doesn’t sit in your underarm. For this reason, it doesn’t get as sweaty and there isn’t as much pulling on the seams. Secondly, this shirt has pockets. They were purposely designed to be large enough to fit a phone - I fit my wallet, keys and phone all in the same pocket. They are also stitched to the front so that full pockets don’t create any weird pulling on the shirt that increases tension on the fabric (which makes it more likely to tear) or creates any odd lines and puckers while you’re wearing it.
The Garment founder Morgan Hamel in the Utility Buttondown
Additionally, it features: shorter arms with no cuff which makes the sleeves easier to roll (also no cuff makes it easier to sew - reducing cost), a mandarin collar which removes some of the bulk and creates a cleaner look (it is also easier to sew - reducing cost) and this shirt is longer than most, meaning that you can have a long enough shirt to cover your bottom without having to size up to a size that is overly baggy everywhere else. I personally love this shirt because it’s my favorite lightweight sun-shield (did someone say redheawho is constantly getting sunburned?) and bathing suit cover-up in the summer, it works well in the colder months as a seamless layering piece, and is an irreplaceable traveling companion. Plus Morgan from The Garment clued me in to another benefit that I hadn’t considered - this shirt is great for nursing mamas. If you haven’t heard, our fabric is recycled cotton from The New Denim Project. The shirts are cut and sewn by our wonderful seamstress, Irma in Ciudad Vieja, Guatemala, and are completely machine washable.
One of Irma's sisters sewing a tag into a Utility Buttondown - Photo by Maggie Rotanz for Harvest DM
So that’s the story of this shirt - it has been with us since the beginning and in many ways is the thing that held it all together when I thought about packing it in. Not to be dramatic, but I have this shirt to thank for basically everything.
Now just for fun, here are some pictures of the entire Line + Tow team traveling in the Utility Buttondown on our last trip to Guatemala!
Photos by Maggie Rotanz for Harvest Digital Marketing
Please feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
* At the time of production we were experimenting with using sewers from a job skills training program. We ended up using them to sew some of our more simple items, but had they made our shirts, we wanted them to be easy to sew since these women are still learning.