Editor's note: By now every fashion-savvy person knows that CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund selected winners Doo-Ri Chung of Doo.Ri, Thakoon's Thakoon Panichgul, and Rodarte sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy to design a series of limited-edition white shirts for GAP, the eponymous San Francisco institution. We asked Chako Suzuki to comment on the importance of the white shirt—in her life.

Every woman who's picked up a pair of white pants off the rack has a friend that'll ask her what she's thinking ("Thighs! Thighs! Thighs!"). Every woman who's picked up a white shirt off the rack has a friend that'll applaud her ability to spot the classics. For years, the white shirt has signified everything from sophisticated (Audrey Hepburn) to sloppy (oversized hip-hop style), sexy (with nothing but stilettos) to androgynous (with a skinny tie), business (Brooks Brothers) to casual (Gap), retro to modern. Our reliance on the white shirt as a wardrobe staple has seen it through many incarnations throughout the years. In my life, the white shirt has become a symbol purity.

In the beginning, my father not so secretly wanted two sons instead of two daughters. He dressed my sister and me like boys, and held a strict "preppy only" code of dress over us for years. I clearly remember being excited to slip shiny new pennies into my loafers and marveling at my Ralph Lauren embroidered moccasins. While the other kids were showing off their Hypercolor T-shirts and Z-Cavaricci pants, I was busy popping the collars on my white shirts and ironing the pleats on my skirts. Back then the white shirt was the epitome of collegiate chic to me — I fancied myself a step ahead of the fashion curve and in the front of the line for university.

In high school, I lovingly put away my pleated skirts, but kept the white shirts. Instead of the polo horse logo, I swapped out my boy-cut white shirts to actual boy's white shirts. I scoured thrift stores for shrunken white button-downs to pair with baggy men's trousers and Converse Chuck Taylors. I loved the androgyny of Kate Moss and Amber Valetta during their waif years and even plucked my eyebrows into oblivion to further the look. Thankfully, the phase passed quickly (if only my eyebrows grew back as fast).

I have a picture that a professional photographer snapped of me during my college years. I'm wearing a white fitted shirt under a black v-neck sweater with khaki capris and black loafers. It's kind of embarrassing looking at it now—seeing the cycle and return to the comfort of old styles. After that picture, I hung up my white shirts and adopted a breezy California style: midriff baring tops, flip-flops and mini skirts.

Today, I still buy white shirts, but I never wear them. They sit stuffed into my closet alongside the flowered silk tunics and black blazers. I can't seem to pull them out because I know how much upkeep they take—how after one day of wear they go from crisp to crumpled and after one cleaning they never quite look as crisp as when I first bought them. I see the fleeting beauty of the white shirt rather than the appeal: once worn, it degrades with each tick-tock of the clock. For me, the white shirt has become more of a must-have than a must-wear: I keep them safely tucked in my closet as a memento of what was and a reminder of the ephemerality of life.

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