The Hunt: The Perfect Camisole

Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

For today’s Hunt, I thought I’d search for the perfect camisole.  In my mind, here is what is a perfect camisole: It’s machine washable (and, usually, can be tumbled dry).  It doesn’t roll up around your sides.  For the office, in my mind the best camisole does not look like lingerie — the less lace and mesh, the better.  It’s a solid color.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate the nude camisole for most office looks.  And, I think, the best camisole serves the purpose that you want it to serve — for my busty self that usually means raising the neckline of blouses, sweaters, and dresses.  I’ve also used camisoles over the years as a way to put a layer between myself and the sweater so I didn’t have to launder it so often — so high armholes can be helpful.  My perfect camisole doesn’t have a “shelf bra” attached to it. — and for me, it is almost never a shaping camisole.  (I’ve bought a number of brands through the years and have always been disappointed; I’d much rather wear a high-waisted shaper (like this or this) or even a bodysuit if I want to smooth out my midsection/back area.)  And, of course, the perfect camisole is inexpensive — this is one of the few times where I would rather have 5-10 inexpensive camisoles to throw away at the first sign of wear, rather than to “invest” in a single, expensive piece.  Readers, what do you look for in the perfect camisole?  Which brands have you bought in the past; which have you bought recently?

Women's V-Neck Layering CamisFour stars, 1513 ratings on the Old Navy site — and what may be the modern mark of a true best seller: it’s only available online. In my experience these are super easy to wash and wear — consider sizing down for a tighter fit. It’s available in 11 colors in regular, tall, and petite. The color pictured, “purple glory,” is on sale for $7.50; take another 20% off with code GAMEDAY. Women’s V-Neck Layering Camis
Stretch Cotton Clean Cami I’ve been happy with camisoles from LOFT before too.  There are two highly rated ones on the website — this cotton one (pictured) (93% cotton, 7% spandex) and another one that is more nylon — for machine wash/dry reasons I would probably prefer the cotton one.  It’s available in 5 colors for $19.50 (but take 40% off with code TAKE40 at checkout). Stretch Cotton Clean Cami
 Jockey Elance® Supersoft CamisoleI’ve never had this particular cami, but it looks great — the reviews all talk about how amazingly soft it is (and at 92% micromodal I can believe it), and I think it’s a good sign that it’s currently available in 18 colors and patterns. Machine wash and dry.  It’s $19.50 at Amazon. Jockey Elance® Supersoft Camisole
Halogen® CamisoleReaders have sung the praises of this Halogen camisole in the past, and it has 101 positive reviews on the Nordstrom website! I like how the armholes and neckline are particularly high on this cami. It’s currently available in 12 colors on the Nordstrom website, sizes XS-XL, for $19. Halogen® Camisole
shimera  Seamless Camisole I’ve also heard great things about the Shimera camisole, and it has 72 glowing reviews on the Nordstrom site. This one is currently available in 14 colors (including 3 different beige options if, unlike me, you like “nude” camis) — $26 for one, or get 2 for $48. shimera Seamless Camisole
Hanro Touch Feeling TankOk, ok. So I’m really not a fan of the fancy/schmancy camisole. But if I were, I’d go for Hanro — I’ve always thought of the line as being Jockey For Rich People. This micropolyamide/elastene tank is $120, available in six colors at Saks (while Amazon has more colors, some marked as low as $44.) Hanro Touch Feeling Tank

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Comments

  1. I own quite a few camis from the Limited and they work well — I have matching cami/sweater sets that I wear often and the camis work on their own for other things as well. Just today I’m wearing a black cami from the Limited under a gray wrap dress…

    • Second The Limited camis. I own several. I don’t quite get Kat’s prejudice against the nude cami. I think as a stand alone item, it may be kind of weird. But as a foundational garment, something to wear under a tad-bit-too-sheet shirt/blouse, I think’s fine.

    • The Limited seamless camisole has been my go-to for years! I have them in black, navy, gray, nude, off-white, and white. They hold up very well, and since I always tuck them in they don’t roll up. The cheap cotton Old Navy camisoles are okay, particularly for warm weather, but it is definitely not seamless. The Shimera tanks are kind of heavyweight so best for cold weather.

  2. Yes, the Shimera. I wear one every day. I wash cold, sans lingerie bag, and hang dry. They go on sale pretty regularly in the colors, and the basics (black, white, beige) go on sale during Anniversary.

  3. Liz in the City :

    I like a.n.a. camis from JCPenney, of all places. I’m plus-sized, so I value something that’s long enough to cover, um, ample assets without coming untucked or riding up.

    http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/gifts/for-her/ana-strappy-cami—plus/prod.jump?ppId=1c1deae&catId=cat100250043&subcatId=cat100240005&deptId=dept20000013&N=100630309&extDim=true&topDim=Categories&topDimvalue=tanks+%26+camis&dimCombo=Categories|&dimComboVal=tanks+%26+camis|&currentDim=Categories&currentDimVal=tanks+%26+camis

    • These are the BEST ever. Seriously, I snap these up all the time. They cover, they smooth, they wash-n-wear well, and there is no “shelf bra” in them.

  4. OOOh!!!! I LOVE THIS CAMIs, and this BLUE COLOR! But I would have to wear it away from work. They are way to tight for work and Frank and the manageing partner would be stareing at my boobies! FOOEY on that! Even if I wore a JACKET, those two would be stareing. I know Lynn wear’s Cami’s and a jacket, and the two doofuses are stareing at her, and she is NOT as voluptus as me.

    The manageing partner did make good on my bonus! YAY! Tho my dad has it in my bank account now. FOOEY!

  5. Looking to Move :

    Hello ladies! I don’t usually post on here, but I’ve recently made a big life decision and am now in the planning stages…and I need some advice. I’m planning to leave my current law firm job and move to Des Moines, Iowa. I’m hoping to find something new so I can take the February 2014 bar exam (or the July 2014 exam)…so I’ve got time to find the perfect place (if it exists). Does anyone have any suggestions for legal head hunters in the area? Also, any other advice regarding quitting your current law firm job/timing when looking for a new one/etc. would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • BigLaw Refugee :

      Workplaces vary, of course, but my experience was that partners were not offended when people left for government jobs or geographic moves. The law is all about having connections, and they’ll want to have a connection to you, their former associate. So tell them early, ask their advice about how to find a job in Iowa, and do a great job of not only doing your work until you leave, but also easing the transition. A partner from my old firm tells me every time I see him how one case reactivated after I left, and my summary memos on the work we had done while I was there proved enormously helpful.

      • Looking to Move :

        Thanks for the advice! Since I’m not planning to move for about a year, I’m not sure I will tell anyone just yet…my firm is a little less ok with associates leaving than most…but I will definitely talk to someone if I’m still having issues finding something new in a few months. Thanks again!

  6. I’ve had luck with Ann Taylor/LOFT camis as of late (after graduating from Forever 21…) Sometimes can be hit or miss though — I’ve found the straps can sometimes be difficult to adjust, and some that I’ve ordered online have been more on the stretchy than soft side. I’m intrigued by the Old Navy ones for weekends; I usually always wear one as a layer between my shirts/sweaters and skin as you mentioned, and these would be affordable to stock up on.

  7. I’d recommend Second Base. I’m a huge fan of their “Janet” style

    http://www.shopsecondbase.com/demi/janet/

    They offer what they call demi camis. They raise the neckline of a shirt or whatever. They’re super soft and comfy. They’re available in many colors. They wash well. Since they’re demi they don’t add bulk around the middle. What they are NOT is a shelf bra. Real bra required.

    • I like this idea. I’ve been looking at something called the “bo*b tube,” which is like a narrow tube top, but straps seem even better.

      Does this one have any tendency to roll up? I have a fear that I’ll be walking around and will find it rolled up around my neck. (This happened years ago to a friend of mine who was flirting with a cute customer on a busy day at the bakery where she worked only to find that her front-clasp bra had come loose and the cups were up around her ears like some weird collar.)

      Also, does anyone else find the name of this site hilarious?

      • i love the boob tube, have about 20 of them now – no joke. they have basically obliterated the need for camis in my wardrobe since i’m usually just trying to supplement a neckline. they are super comfortable too.

    • Meg Murry :

      This looks great – I need a cami for under a v-necked wrap dress, but I hate having them all bunched up at my waist.
      I’ve also seen a recommendation for halftee dot com for the same concept, although with sleeves, although I haven’t tried them myself. I read about them as a suggestion for how to make wrap/crossover dresses and shirts nursing friendly without showing too much cleavage, but I never got around to actually buying one.

    • I”ve been tempted to alter my existing camis to a demi cami. 95% of the time I don’t need the length of the cami, just something to raise the neckline.

    • I use these from the Gap: http://www.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=84648&vid=1&pid=636142012
      They cover more than it seems from the photo and I don’t have to deal with extra material.

    • Thank you for this link! I love this concept!

  8. Uniqlo heattech. Swear. The neckline is really high and stays up, and they never roll up around my waist. They are also super thin so they don’t add bulk. I also don’t think they add any more warmth than other camis and I’m comfortable in them throughout the summer.

    • Second this! I’m so happy with mine and it really did help keep me warm on a recent trip to nyc.

    • Big fan of Heattech. It’s amazing how much warmer I am with such a thin layer.

    • Second this one. I also got their long sleeve heattech tees and those do add warmth, same for the tights.

      I bought the cotton LOFT one last year and hate it so much. It’s me undershirt of last resort. Doesn’t hold its shape at all and somehow manages to look lumpy under clothes.

    • Agreed. Also, I have the heattech and the airism lines and realized while doing laundry this weekend that I can’t tell the two apart… Are they really just the same thing?

  9. Miss Rumphius :

    I am a big fan of White House Black Market’s ultra soft square neck tanks (which do have a built in bra) and the seamless square neck tanks. The fabric feels more substantial than other tanks I have tried and I like the thicker straps as well.

  10. I was just going to recommend the Caslon camisoles from Nordstrom, but I just saw on Nordstrom’s website that they seem to be the same thing as the Halogen camisoles. So I concur with that recommendation. :-)

    I’ve also found that I need to order a petite in a camisole, even though I’m not traditionally petite (I’m almost 5’6″). I’m very short waisted and petite camis are a much better fit for me.

    • Research, Not Law :

      +1 for Caslon/Halogen camis. Perfect weight, feel, neckline, etc. I’m petite but buy the regular because I prefer a longer length (they hit me at hip)

      ON camis (the very few I have) are way to short for me. They stop at my waist.

    • Yes, they are awesome. I love them.

  11. As long as my cami doesn’t have a shelf bra, then I’m happy. As someone with a larger bra size, I find those utterly useless.

  12. TO Lawyer :

    I really like the t.babaton camisoles from artizia. Come in a variety of colours, are stretchy but maintain their shape really well. Wash well too – I’ve had two for over a year and a half, wear them probably at least once a week and they’re still in great shape.

    They do roll up at the bottom, but I find if I make sure to lay them properly, they’ll stay flat throughout the day.

    • Those are my go-to camis also- they hold up really well, I have so many colours and patterns at this point, they’re definitely a staple in my wardrobe (and yet for some reason, I *always* pick up one more when I buy something at Aritzia).

      Agreed re:rolling up, but they’re usually fine 85% of the time.

  13. Research, Not Law :

    Has anyone tried the camis at Costco?

    I’m talking about the ones that come two to a box. I don’t like that you can’t pick the color combo, but the price seemed good and it looked like they were made in the USA.

    • Maddie Ross :

      I’ve bought them before. I’d rate them similar to Target. A cotton blend. Comfy, but don’t last forever.

    • I have 4, from various iterations.

      I love the old ones without the shelf bra; lately they have the bra. I reserve the shelf bra ones for the weekend (it’s so annoying to adjust it with the bra.

      They also run long, which helps for layer look over skinny jeans, but are bad with wool Eileen Fisher skirts.

      However, after 5-6 years of use (hot wash, hot dry) , I do report that they pill. I have been trying to avoid the dryer for the newer ones and have noticed that those don’t pill (but they’re also newer).

      • I adore the Costco camis, and I actually love that they have a shelf bra, because for me, they work without a bra. I’ve had my first set for about a year now without major signs of wear – I wash cold and dry medium. They’re super-soft, and come in great colors for adding a little bit of color contrast to a layered outfit.

      • The care instructions say not to tumble dry at all, so that might have something to do with it.

    • I like them. They are long, but I have a long torso, so it works. I don’t mind the shelf bra. I will wear it with a regular bra, although sometimes alone on weekends.

    • I have and would love them if they didn’t have the shelf bra (my chest always seems too big for the shelf bra so it winds up giving way too much cleavage, which I was trying to avoid in the first place). They’re super soft and stretchy though, and the long length is great for layering.

  14. Forever 21. Am I embarrassed to walk in there? Absolutely. Do I feel old and frumpy compared to the adorable 17 year olds in their skinny jeans and Uggs? Of course. But the camis there are between $2 and $4 and come in a ton of colors. I buy them in bulk, and I don’t feel bad about throwing them in the dryer. When they start to wear a little, I use them to sleep in. Seriously, if you need to stock up on camis (or even T-shirts), Forever 21 is the place to do it.

    I should add that I ONLY use them for layering. I probably wouldn’t wear them under an open cardigan.

    • Forever 21 does have a great selection of colors. I have a few that I use for layering under v-neck tops. I agree, they are too thin to wear under an open cardigan.

    • About half my camis are F21. They don’t last forever, but the color variety is great and I also don’t feel bad subjecting them to the washer/dryer in my apartment building.

      Agreed with not wearing them so they’re visible. They’re great for under sweaters and button-up shirts, but too thin for cardigans (except on the weekend).

    • On that note, Wet Seal surprisingly has great camis in terms of chest coverage (34C here so YMMV), and they are usually 5 for $20. They aren’t great quality but they’re easily replaceable and you can beat them up without feeling bad. I also size up so they’re less clingy.

    • Diana Barry :

      Yes. My camis are just about exclusively F21. I don’t like to wear camis under cardigans – I just wear a t-shirt instead – so they are just for layering.

    • I am a banana. :

      H&M also has great, cheap ones. They are long, though, so they are definitely more for layering than tucking.

    • Katy Beth :

      I COMPLETELY agree. Forever 21 and Wet Seal…good gosh they are cheap as can be! They definitely don’t last “forever” but they do last forever in my book! I had to throw away one for the first time just the other day after 4 years…

  15. What about something with a thicker strap? My bra straps are probably 3/4″ thick at the top of my shoulders.

    • For thicker straps, I really like the reversable seamless tank at Anthropologie by Eloise. They are around $25 (although sometimes they are on sale) and I’ve found that the stores have more color selection than the website: http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/853345.jsp

      They have high necklines (and are reversible if you cut out the tag. They’re supposed to be reversible so it’s unclear why the tag is even on what should be the “front” ). The tanks don’t ride up and they’re tight enough to avoid bulk (wearing under sweaters or to raise the hemline of something). They also look more polished (imo) than cotton tanks.

      • SVTechLawyer :

        I’ll second this and I like the reversibility of it – one side is scoop neck and the other is v-neck so you can match the neckline to suit what you put over it. I put mine in the dryer and they’ve lasted. Also, I bought a light beige textured one last year that I like a lot as a neutral.

        • I have these anthro ones in several colors, and they are quite good. I think the neutrals rarely go on sale, but I think I got my purple and hunter green ones for 1/2 price.

    • I have one from J.Crew that has thicker straps and I really like it. I got it on deep sale at the end of last summer and wear it all the time on the weekends. It’s in a colour that doesn’t jive with my work wardrobe, but I would definitely look at buying another one there when I need one. I like the fact that it is (a) cotton, so easy care,and (b) longish, so no risk of riding up.

      Gap also makes really good tank tops – mine have lasted for years – but they are definitely tank tops and not camisoles, so not really appropriate for wear under silky work blouses.

    • target makes a tank style with thicker straps that cover bras straps – wearing one now.

      I’ve also found something similar at Old Navy, which also come in tall.

    • Try the square neck tank I linked to above at White House Black Market.

    • KS IT Chick :

      I go with the Double Lace Tank from Coldwater Creek. They have lace at the neck & waist, and they are sleeveless tops rather than spaghetti straps. I have them in 3 colors right now, and I’m going to buy 3 or 4 more colors the next time they come up on sale.

  16. There’s a basic one from Zara that has about 1 inch thick straps- I use that one often. However, it can slide down a bit low on the chest.

    I prefer camis with decently-wide straps in case I want to take off my sweater/jacket for whatever reason (who doesn’t need that moment, especially when it’s after the weather has become sweltering hot, but before the office has fully cooled down).

    Any good recommendations for camis with appropriate straps?

    • Shimera makes one with a wider strap. I got 2 at nordstrom. More pricey than the oldnavy/target ones that I normally buy, but I LOVE them. Great material, stay fit band along the bottom, no shelf bra, and just feels really nice.

  17. I like the Talbots camisoles. I only buy them on sale ($6.00 or so right now) and I especially like the thicker straps, they last well, and come in many sizes and colors (although this late in the sale, that might not be true).

    Also for plus size camis, I purchased one from Eloquii that is nice and has held up well for the past few months.

  18. Olivia Pope :

    Moisturizer TJ –

    The Aveeno moisturizer that I use after washing my face just changed – and I don’t like it! The bottle got smaller (2.5oz instead of 4), but the price is the same. They increased the SPF to 30, but as a dark skinned woman I was fine with the SPF 15. Plus, my face stings when I put it on now.

    Does anyone have a good drug-store level (price wise) moisturizer that they love?

    • Olivia Pope :

      Just realized that someone asked this question on the last post. Feel free to ignore if you posted before.

    • Are you positive they discontinued it? I use Aveeno Ultra-Calming in the 4 oz size and it seems to be the same on their website. In the past I’ve tried Positively Radiant (SPF 15 is 4 oz and SPF 30 is 2.5 oz), and both varieties are still listed on their website. I also disliked the SPF 30 variety.

    • Embryolisse!!! Moisturizes enough for winter, light enough to use in the summer. A $20 tube from Amazon lasts me a year.

  19. I don’t really like camisoles. When I’ve needed to camouflage a too-low v-neck, I wear a camisole bra from Soma. Not the lacy ones, but the smooth.

  20. I have oily skin so wrinkles are not a huge concern for me, but I’m looking for suggestions for products to maintain skin elasticity. My mom and grandmother have pretty droopy skin on their faces, jowls in particular. I’m in my early 40′s now so I figure it’s time to start using something preventative. But I’m a minimalist in terms of skin products, especially as I get totally overwhelmed by all the options. Any ideas?

  21. I am a big fan of Worthington seamless camis from JC Penney. They have a lot of basic colors, they run long and have a higher neckline. They also usually have a couple of fashion colors per season.

    I stocked up on them 3+ years ago and they are all still in good shape. I haven’t been back to buy any more lately (since mine have held up so well), so I don’t know if they still carry them.

    Just checked online and they still carry them, looks like the price has gone down even more!

    http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/worthington-seamless-cami/prod.jump?ppId=1e2cf15&catId=cat1001600008&deptId=dept20000013&N=4294965755&topDim=Product+Type&topDimvalue=shirts+%2B+tops&dimCombo=Product+Type%7C&dimComboVal=shirts+%2B+tops%7C&currentDim=Product+Type&currentDimVal=shirts+%2B+tops

    • I pay extra to ship those Worthington jc Penney ones to Canada. I have some for over 3 years. Great fit, I’m a 38f, no shrinking, no pilling, love them.

  22. I love the J. Crew Perfect Fit tank, which are nice and long and go on sale for under $10 regularly. Although they may be a tad low for more conservative environments.

  23. J. Jill has had great camis in the past, haven’t bought one recently because the few I bought have lasted a while. Also find that tanks with a little stretch are often better than camis b/c thicker straps and higher neckline. I REFUSE to buy any that have a shelf bra…those serve absolutely no purpose in my world. I appreciate the topic, Kat!

  24. Rugged Wearhouse has a TON of camis in a ton of different colors. They’re about $3, and they’re really long, and with adjustable straps (which, for a short-waisted person like me, is a necessity)

    Your point about buying a ton of cheap camis and discarding at the first sign of wear is priceless.

  25. Some of the best camis I’ve come across come from Walmart. Seriously. They’re the No Boundaries brand from the juniors section, cost about $5 each, and for those of us with long torsos, they are a dream – I wash and dry them and they still fit great without crazy shrinkage. I normally don’t like the quality of the clothes from Walmart all that much, but I own six of these camis, three in white and three in brown or black, and I’ll never go back.

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