Ten Things About… Dressing Professionally if You’re Busty

A lot of times for our TPS reports, people will note that they couldn’t get away with that, as they’re too well-endowed to wear a certain dress.  It’s one of the sad facts of clothes that most “professional” outfits seem to be intended for women shaped more like Jackie rather than Marilyn (or Betty rather than Joan, in today’s parlance).  But well-endowed women have to dress professionally also!  Below, some tips… Please chime in and let us know if you have any others.

1. Know your bra size. If the girls are multiplying throughout the day (and your bra is giving you the dreaded quadra-boob effect) then your cup size is too small.  Alternatively, if your straps are digging into your shoulders, your band size is probably too big.  Take our advice — go and get fitted at a reputable place like Nordstrom’s.  (The absolute best place to get fitted, in our experience?  Department stores in London –  they have the best range of sizes and the most knowledgeable fitters.)  You may find that you’re a 30F instead of a 34D.

2. Wear appropriate bras for work. You may think that a lacy balconette is fine to wear beneath your suits — after all, your boss doesn’t see it.  (Or so we hope.)  But your goal with underpinnings should be to minimize distractions — a balconette bra might let things bounce around while you’re rushing down the hall to your next meeting (not a terribly pretty — or professional — sight), or the lace pattern might show through your otherwise tasteful shirt.  Aim for seamless bras wherever possible, with full coverage.  Again, make sure that your bra fits and isn’t creating quadra- or sexta-boobage.  Some favorites include Fantasie ’4510′ Smoothing Underwire T-Shirt Bra (pictured) and Le Mystere ‘Dream Tisha 9955′ Underwire T-Shirt Bra.

3. Minimize if you still feel uncomfortable. If you’re wearing the right size and an appropriately modest bra for work, and you’re still feeling too busty, you may want to look into a minimizer.  Our $.02: in our experience these are uncomfortable for the day where it’s going to be a long haul, and your breasts tend to look less natural.  But it may make you feel better, sartorially speaking.

4. Know your neckline.  The Jackies and Betties of the world can wear the crew necks and the mock turtlenecks — those styles really are not flattering on the Marilyns and the Jackies of the world.  If you fall into the latter camp, you still have a wide selection — v-necks, scoopnecks, boat necks, cowl necks, and — if accesorized correctly — turtlenecks.  (A button-down shirt, open at the collar,  creates the effect of a v-neck.)  Most of these look great beneath suits (the exception being the boatneck, which looks better on its own).

Women: Women's Basic Camis - Punk Pink

5.  Raise the eyeline in artificial ways. If you’re well-endowed and trying to be professional, the last thing you want is to draw anyone’s eye to your cleavage.  If you’re wearing a v-neck that dips a bit low for work, first add a camisole. Go for something plain — not lacy — that will raise the neckline and cling to your chest (and not gape open).  Ann Taylor Loft makes some good ones; we’re also fans of Old Navy’s simple cotton camisoles (pictured and linked).  (Another tip:  never wear a nude camisole — you don’t want people wondering if that’s your skin or a camisole they’re seeing.  Go for white or black if you don’t have one that matches or compliments your top.)  You can also use accessories to draw the eye upwards — a pair of pearls that stops below your clavicle tends to draw the eyes there; a brooch placed on your shoulder also tends to draw the eye there.  Avoid pendants or long necklaces that hit you at your bust’s widest point.

6. If you’re busty, you may find that you prefer tops that have no buttons – t-shirts and sweaters don’t gape open, after all.  If you find that sweaters hug your curves a bit too much, try for a silky camisole beneath them — it makes everything lay better.  (A cotton camisole will just stick to the sweater.)

7.  When buying things, buy them to fit your bust. If a button-down blouse is gaping in your chest, it’s never going to look right — just buy the next size (or two) bigger and then get it tailored.  Similarly, with dresses — if the girls are smooshed then the dress will never fit properly.  (You can try it with a minimizer, but trust us — just get the next size bigger.)  Some brands that are forgiving in the bust include Rebecca & Drew (which has button-down shirts sized by bra sizes); Shoshanna dresses, David Meister dresses, Tahari, and Ann Taylor.

8.  Know your proportions. If your figure is an hourglass, do your best to work within that shape — even if you long to wear A-line skirts, a pencil skirt may be more flattering.  Similarly, if you’re more of an inverted triangle — large on top with slender hips (or not much of a waist) you may want to try to wear an A-line skirt, to balance the top.  You may find that wearing outfits of entirely one color are more flattering.  Many, many articles have been written about this — you may want to check out What Not to Wear’s Fashion Tips for the Hard to Fit, or Happygrrls’ quiz, What Body Type Are You? We’re also partial to Jezebel’s Sadie’s tips on finding your personal style by finding an era in which your body type was in vogue.

9. Buy suits with multiple buttons. When suit shopping, look for suits with at least two or three buttons on them — a higher closure will mean your bust is more covered.  Avoid suits with a single button in the middle.  (If you’re considering a double-breasted suit, please put it down, and stop shopping until the urge passes.) Pictured: Lafayette 148 New York ‘Everson’ Jacket, available at Nordstrom’s for $398.

10. Try to find a professionally-dressed woman with your body type and watch her, both to get inspiration for outfits for yourself, as well as to learn which things don’t look good.  Examples: Oprah.  Karen on Will & Grace (sometimes too sexy, sometimes just right). Maria Bartiromo.  We’ll try to keep thinking of suggestions…

Comments

  1. I must disagree with the section on suits. My most flattering suits are one-button because they elongate my upper body and help avoid the dreaded “box torso.” You are allowed to have a waist!

    Ann Taylor also has nice camisoles without the built-in-bra (do those really work for ANYONE?)

  2. Booo! Just because I have big boobs, doesn’t mean I should have to look like a nun.

  3. Thanks for the tips!! Most people envy the boobs, but they can be a pain in a professional setting.

  4. Who are Betty and Joan?

  5. Intimacy (www.myintimacy.com) is AMAZING for bustier women, but any woman should go and get fitted by one of the ladies there. I went from a 38DD to a 36F. I have never worn better bras in my life. They look better, don’t squish, and put the girls where they are supposed to be. My clothes fit better, and I look better because of it. They are a little pricey but worth every penny, because they actually fit and last a lot longer. I won’t buy bras anywhere else.

    Also, I find that Thomas Pink shirts fit my bust line very well and don’t make me look like I’m wearing a maternity shirt or a men’s shirt. Feminine, but very, very professional. I always get complemented on my shirts.

  6. I agree with Mo. One button jackets tend to look better on busty girls. More buttons means that they will either pop or make you look matronly.

    • I’m sorry but Corporette is right. Single button suits bring the eye right to the area that you are trying to smooth–the bust. More buttons create a long, leaner line. It does not mean you are hiding your waist–that would depend on the shape of the jacket. I think boxy jackets are just plain horrible on everyone so don’t equate a 3-button suit with a matronly box. Look for a curvy jacket that fits without being too sexy for work. A well-fitting 3 button suit will look more professional than a 1 button any day of the week.

      • Right, because every single woman with large breasts have the exact same other proportions as well. Plus, every single single button suit fits the same, as does every three button suit? With the same universal tailoring, right?

        You’re doing the same thing the author of this site does: pigeonholing every single possibility to the exclusion of common sense.

  7. I disagree on this:

    Our $.02: in our experience these are uncomfortable for the day where it’s going to be a long haul, and your breasts tend to look less natural. But it may make you feel better, sartorially speaking.

    Not that they uncomfortable and make your breats look unnatural – they do – but that you should consider wearing them in spite of that. You shouldn’t. Get a really well-fitted bra (consider a specialty lingere store like Intimacy if you have one in your city or make a trip to one next time you’re in NYC) that will leave you supported and lift up your chest, elongating your torso. The effect will be much more comfortable and flattering and you’ll ultimately end up feeling better about yourself than if you feel like you have to buy ugly “minimizer” bras to squash down something you were born with (well, uh, born with the genetic tendency for).

    I also agree with the commentor above about one buttoned jackets. Jackets that create a waist are a good thing.

    Those Old Navy camisoles are my absolute favorite; I wear them with almost everything. Unfortunately, they seem to be out of white and black right now, just when I need to stock up. Thanks, Old Navy. Gap has some for $5-$10 that seem fairly similar, however.

  8. Glad you addressed all of this — a few thoughts are below — I am mainly reemphasizing your points btu of course I need to comment :)

    1. Before you go out and buy new clothes, buy great bras. I mean that. I went to Bratenders when I lived in NYC, and I still will get stuff shipped from there now that I live in WDC (and drop by when I am in town — you should get fitted 1-2x a year). I have had great luck with Freya bras. They’re pricy, but SO worth it. All my suits and dress shirts fit better as a result. Oh and be sure to make your appt with Racquel. She’s a genius.
    Because of her I still would go to Bratenders even if I found something similar in Washington — I would probably buy at both places. They have bras I have not seen at other bra-type stores
    2. Those Old Navy camis (with no built in bra) are genius for raising a neckline btu the beauty of a good bra is that you only need the cami when the neckline is too deep (as opposed to needing the cami every day to minimize bouncing).
    3. Minimizers vs balconette. I went into Bratenders expecting that minimizers were better under suits — turns out a well built balconette (*cough*Freya*cough*) with some coverage will often give you a better line under a suit. A balconette lifts and separates which means that the suit jacket falls more proportionally.
    4. Seamless is better, but a good seamed bra wont show the seam under a work-appropriate top.
    5. Teh lean one color look (you mention this but I wanted to reemphasize) — honestly the fastest and easiest way to look professional if you have a set of girls (and are generally very curvy) is wearing a good bra, a nice knit top and a black pantsuit that fits you well without clinging provocatively but without being too big either — i have seen this work on me and on everyone else, regardless of height and weight. It’s professional, but you dont look like a nun, I promise. The downside for me is that I end up wearing black pantsuits most days because it makes things so much easier.
    6. Take good care of your bras and handwash them. I am guilty of not always following my own advice on that, but when I do I am happy I did.
    7. Dressing professionally when one has curves is possible, really. The key is not to wear things too tight (as you said above) but also not too baggy because then you just look like you are wearing an expensive potato sack.

    City Girl´s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday — Meyer Lemon Crème Fraiche Linguine

  9. Thank you!! This is great. It’s hard to complain about being busty to less busty friends because they don’t understand how difficult it can be to look professional with the two giant “elephants in the room” if you will.

  10. Lawyerette :

    Well, you are partly right. I find that the key is camouflage. No matter how well my bra and tops fit, I have always found a tendency among male colleagues to stare somewhat unabashedly at the assets. And trust me, I’m an older professional woman with several children.

    So: I wear high necklines to work, typically a crewneck or a very modest “v.” I then layer on either a cardigan for more casual situations, or a jacket for anything remotely business. No matter how warm it gets in my office, I ALWAYS put on the jacket before going to meet with anyone.

    Getting a good fit at a good store really is the key here. And if you need anything from a “D” up, do yourself a huge favor and get only wide or padded straps. Yes, getting the right band size is important; but at some point, hanging that much weight even marginally from your shoulders gets extremely difficult on a string or cute strap of lace. Be reasonable.

    I have always wondered why we can send a man to the moon, but not make a supportive, comfortable bra that is not hideous. Somebody’s priorities are not right.

  11. Norm Thompson has great camis with built-in underwire bras in all manner of colors and sizes. Perfect for raising the neckline on something otherwise too revealing for busty women.
    http://www.normthompson.com/jump.jsp?itemID=7588&itemType=PRODUCT&path=1%2C2%2C4%2C14%2C821&iProductID=7588

  12. I gave up several years ago on finding well fitting, comfortable bras for my H-cup girls. Enell sports bras for me, every day, all day. Yeah, I’ve got the smooshed boob thing going on, but almost no jiggle, bounce or back pain.

  13. designer/lawyer :

    Just on tip: if you’re busty and go for a 3-button suit, make sure to tailor or you’ll wind up looking boxy/shapeless…

  14. If you are busty a 1 button suit is the way to go. Elie Tahari makes fabulous ones that typically come with a skirt and pants. They are pricey but you can find them at Off Fifth and other outlets. 3 buttons are asking for trouble – you end up looking boxy. A deep v minimizes the bust – something a 1 button jacket provides. make sure the top you wear under the jacket comes up high enough.

  15. 1. absolutley get fitted once a quarter with at least one new bra for your wardrobe.
    2. you don’t want the boobs moving around while you are quickly walking to your next meeting. a three seamed (full cup or balcony) cup bra will give good bounce control. a seamfree bra in a tight night top and guaranteed everyone will see the boobage bounce with a quick gait. it is not good.
    3. pretty much against minimizing the epitomy of your feminity — your breasts.
    4. necklines uber important.
    5. i think cheap camis cheapen nice outfits.
    6. buttons are the ultimate challenge. i have never found any that are curve following enough not to gape.
    7. always when buying things, fit the biggest and hardest to fit portion of your body.
    8. awareness is helpful.
    9. one button suit jacket/blazer gives the long and lean that a busty woman needs. multiple buttons look stuffed, because they are, stuffed with all our breast fluff.
    10. mentors are always inspiring and motivating.

  16. White House Black Market makes AMAZING camis – they are thin material with the built in shelf bra, but with wide straps instead of spaghetti straps. The straps add additional support while hiding bra straps, and the material is thin enough to wear under anything without bulging.

  17. In my experience, oxfords and other button up shirts fit well everywhere but that DREADED gap….

    If anyone else has this problem, the best advice my mother gave me was a well placed safety pin. None of this tailoring nonsense; I’m a college student. A safety pin (pinned in such a way so that you don’t see it from the front, takes practice) saves me from gapping and tailoring fees

    :)

  18. I’m a busty Asian hourglass and have found that the most supportive bras ever can be ordered online from UK based-Bravissimo (www.bravissimo.com).

    Other tips: try any of these necklines – cowl, draped, V, scoop, square, boatneck.
    Semi fitted sheaths work great too, as do wrap dresses (with the cami!).

    A no-no: I’ve seen busty girls belt dresses and trust me, unless you’re really long waisted, don’t!

    • I would like to second this. Clothing from the UK in general is better for us, but bravissimo is definitely worth the postage

  19. Busty Slender & Proud :

    Show off your figure! Be proud of who you are. Never minimize your bust, it reduces lymphatic drainage. And be sure to frame that little waist with sashes and belts, if you can’t get to a tailor. You don’t want to be mistaken for overweight. You want people to see you’ve got hourglass curves. God bless you.

  20. i agree with the boo comments. my measurements are 38/25/34 meaning dressing to my bust size places me in an extra large when i’m a size 2 if i dress to my bust it looks like i’m wearing a sack and i look 300 pounds… though in there defense there aren’t many clothes out there for people of my body shape i live in america and they don’t sell bras in my size they don’t even sell anything but training bras with a band size of 28. i had to learn to sew and make my own clothes in order to have things that fit.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.