The Hunt: Work-Appropriate T-Shirts

The Most Work-Appropriate T-Shirts | CorporetteSure, 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.

We just rounded up demi-camisoles, but I thought we’d take a look at that other versatile layering piece: work-appropriate t-shirts. These are great for days where the temperature is in flux (or the office radiator is on the attack), as well as a way of injecting some color into your wardrobe to mix up the sea of neutral basics. Try them belted, tucked, untucked, or layered (I especially like a simple T under a suit), and remember — if you’re wearing them to work, t-shirts should be in impeccable condition. Readers, which are your favorite work-appropriate tees? Which brands do you buy again and again? How do you distinguish between a lounge-only T and a work T? 

 

Lands End Fitted Cotton Modal ScoopIn our last roundup, numerous readers sang the praises of the Lands’ End fitted cotton modal line of T-shirts. For $19 (less if you buy in bulk!), and a wide variety of colors and sizes (including plus and petite sizes), it’s hard not to like ‘em. This lovely lilac one is marked to $15 (was $19) today at Lands’ End; take another 25% off with code FRIENDLY. Lands End Fitted Cotton Modal Scoop
Banana Republic Luxe-Touch Piped TeeThis piped tee from Banana Republic has been a staple there for a few years now, and I like the smoothness and softness of the knit, as well as the tiny bit of satin piping at the collar.  Most colors are $36.50, but you can take 40% off today with code BRCLUE40 — bringing the price down to $22. Banana Republic Luxe-Touch Piped Tee
Caslon T-ShirtI own a few Caslon t-shirts — they’re softer than most, but also tend to be a bit more stretchy, which can be both a pro and a con depending on what you’re looking for.  They’re $22 each, with tons of positive reviews at the Nordstrom website. Caslon T-Shirt
WHBM Seamless TeeAnother reader favorite from our last roundup: the White House | Black Market seamless tee.  It’s available in a variety of sleeve lengths, necklines, and colors at WHBM, generally marked $19-$26. WHBM Seamless Tee
J.Crew Perfect-Fit TeeI’ve heard a lot of chatter about the J.Crew Perfect Fit Tee, which always used to be the go-to for wearing under a suit — some people don’t like the latest versions on the shelves; some remain committed.  Readers, what are your thoughts? There are 13 colors, all available online only, in sizes XXS-XXL, for $24.50. J.Crew Perfect-Fit Tee
Three Dots 3/4 Sleeve British TeeI continue to love Three Dots t-shirts, and snap them up whenever they go on sale (check 6pm and Amazon for sales; you can find them full price at spots like Neiman Marcus).  The more classic-cut shirts are thick, they wash and wear well, and the colors stay saturated.  This “British Tee” is available in five colors (also pictured at the very top of this post), marked from $25-$33. Three Dots 3/4 Sleeve British Tee

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Comments

  1. OK, so weird question. What type of shampoo do the males in your life use?

    Or better yet…my DH has really…voluminous…hair. He’s caucasian and his hair isn’t stereotypical of any particular ethnicity. His individual hairs are pretty thin but the sheer number of them is astounding. In fact, if you watch the show, his hair looks a lot like the main character on White Collar. Changing up the style doesn’t help…if it gets longer he just gets waves and any shorter and his cowlicks look ridiculous.

    He has been using my shampoo (and conditioner) which is meant for people with thin mousy hair, like me. But that makes his hair gets really staticky/frizzy and is apparently driving him insane, to the point where I have to hear about it EVERY DAY. He gets his hair cut at a Manly Barber Shop and they all use some version of head & shoulders or some other man shampoo.

    So…thoughts on a type or brand of shampoo that could work for him? Or how to experiment? His plan before I intervened was to go to CVS and “keep buying things” until one worked.

    • Oh, and he does/has tried product- gel works sometimes, but his hair isn’t really long enough (like the dude in White Collar’s is) to run fingers through. Hair spray does not seem to do anything.

    • My BF has hair that sounds like that – each hair is not particularly coarse, but there are so many that we joke that he gets his hair sculpted (like a topiary) rather than cut. I’m not sure what shampoo he uses – maybe the John Frieda stuff for brunettes? He was using a pomade-type product but recently pinched some of my mousse (Pantene volumizing mousse) and really liked it. Despite its promise to be “volumizing,” it didn’t blow up his hair more, just gave a little more control.

      Another thing my BF does to keep his hair in control is schedule a cut (at a salon, in fact, we go to the same place and use the same person) every 3 weeks on the dot. If he goes less frequently, his hair starts getting really big.

      • hoola hoopa :

        +1 to frequent hair cuts. My husband either keeps his hair quite short or his stylist thins it. When it’s longer, he also uses “volumizing” mousse to control it. He just uses head and shoulders shampoo and conditioner.

    • My SO uses the same shampoo I use, which is the Kirkland brand stuff (I also use their conditioner, he does not). He has pretty voluminous hair, as do I.

    • momentarily anonymous :

      He should get his hair cut by a stylist. There are “Manly Hair Salons” out there, as opposed to Manly Barber Shops that offer the standard set of guy haircuts. They can figure out a style that is easier for him to manage.

      If you’re in NYC I can recommend a really good one in my neighborhood.

      • It’s not even the manliness of it. It’s just convenient. He doesn’t like dealing with salons and calling ahead, etc.

        I think some of the comments about being more rigorous about haircuts are valid–even though ti doesn’t LOOK longer, I think those sneaky hairs that get thinned out are probably growing back underneath.

        • I’d add that the skill of a stylist is (usually) far superior to those in barber shops. My fiancé had ridiculous hair (like a little tuft in the front!) forever, until I finally MADE him go to a stylist. Problem solved. And I dunno, I hate making appointments for stuff too, but I do it. Because sometimes you have to do that.

          • Hmm. Barbers actually undergo more rigorous training and licensing requirements than a stylist (at least in California). My DH gets his hair cut at a barber shop. The key is getting it done at regular intervals. He goes every 3 weeks.

    • Anonymous :

      Beautiful hair requires not only good shampoo and frequent high quality haircuts but also good conditioner and good styling products. Hair wax/pomade may be something he should look into.

    • He could ask for a recommendation at Sephora and if it didn’t work for him he could return it. Or he could take home a couple of samples from Sephora. Some salons may also give samples and allow returns but probably only for regular clients.

  2. I am rather fond of Eddie Bauer t-shirts. They are comfortable and flattering. When I have completely worn out the work t-shirts, they become lounge or weekend wear.

  3. Bewitched :

    No suggestions, but it seems appropriate to point out (again) that Banana Republic’s “sale” price of 40% off brings their t-shirt down in price to….the regular, non-sale price of almost every other t-shirt listed.

    • SAlit-a-gator :

      Yeah, and forget about those Banana shirts if you’re anything above a C cup. Not for the well endowed unfortunately!

      • Lady Harriet :

        I think I have that same shirt from several years ago. I didn’t have a problem with it fitting over my chest (32FF), but mine is probably a size too big now so it’s big all over. The fabric is very thin and will show bra lines through it. It also doesn’t hold up very well. Mine is a lovely color, but it’s pilling all over the place and has developed a few small holes.

  4. Legally Brunette :

    The Three Dots boatneck shirt featured is SNUG in real life. I have one and like it a lot, but you need to go up at least 1 size (and probably 2 sizes if you plan to wear them to work). Also, the material is very very casual.

  5. hoola hoopa :

    LE and Caslon are hands down my favorite. Fit and quality are great. I also like the 100% cotton tees from LE, although the neck band can look more informal depending on the style.

    I have some tees from Pendleton which have been excellent quality. A boxier cut, but I do love the feel of them.

    I also recently got the cowl neck “tunic” (too short to be called a tunic IMO) from LL Bean which is not a t-shirt, but worth mentioning as a knit top worthy of most offices.

  6. Diana Barry :

    I get whatever modal t-shirts they have at BR, only on sale. I like the modal better than all cotton because it doesn’t wrinkle as much and I don’t get as sweaty.

    • Diana Barry :

      As a side note, though, I don’t wear them by themselves – only with jacket over. Thicker is better for wearing on its own.

    • I want to like these so much. But with my being busty and having short torso? Not really who they were designed for.

  7. Halogen Suiting :

    I have found that the white WHBM version of this shirt to be a bit sheer. Needs a jacket, etc. over it to avoid the belly button shadow.

  8. Meg Murry :

    And if you like a higher neckline and wear a Lands End small (which is a 6-8 and might be a M or L in other stores) they have a crewneck version available in their “on the counter” section in grey or pink (link to follow)

  9. West coast power suit? :

    I work at an east coast tech company and my general work wear is formal-ish business casual (e.g., pencil skirt + button down) and full on gray/black power suits when I have big meetings. I’m going to attend some meetings at our west coast subsidiary in the next month. Last time, I made the semi-mistake of doing a Brooks Brothers navy blazer + printed skirt combo and looked ridiculously out of place. I also did not see a single person in anything resembling a power suit. The company isn’t full on jeans casual, but I definitely need to tone down my look. Any advice from west coasters on what to wear if I want to still look “powerful” but without sticking out like a sore thumb?

    • Kontraktor :

      UGH I keep pressing Report not Reply. Really sorry. Reminder, self, LEFT not right. Anyway, I would recommend colorful separates. Do you have any fun jackets (I have a multi colored striped one I often wear to less formal meetings) or maybe fun/printed blouses with louder prints that would jazz up more formal jackets? What about a nice dress with a colorful scarf or necklace?

    • Sheath dress + blazer (at least one of which is in a bright, non-neutral color) would be my go-to. It looks very powerful but is definitely less formal than a full, coordinated suit or an all black/gray dress and blazer.

    • AnonInfinity :

      There was a feature about this last week, I believe. Maybe the week before.

    • hoola hoopa :

      It’s going to really depend on the industry and location, but at my west coast company which “isn’t full on jeans casual”, people very rarely wear jackets. Our female CEO wears outdated, unstructured jackets (but has been updating her wardrobe away from them, I’ve noticed) and the standard “suit” for high up middle-aged women is generally trousers with a nice (not button-up) top and an open sweater. Younger women will wear pencil skirts + blouse, or pants+top+cardigan. If you want an air of authority or feel that’s probably more casual than the office, then I’d go with a sheath dress and scarf with a jacket you could remove.

      • Agree with slacks, nice top, and cardigan sweater. Look polished. Dressy shoes and nice bag. (in Silicon Valley myself. Almost never see suits.)

  10. Used to be a BR tee fan, but have been won over completely by Uniqlo’s fabulous tees. Smooth cotton that washes really well, great choice of colors and basic styles, and they fit great! Much cheaper than several of the other options noted in this thread.

  11. I like the Heattech tees from Uniqlo under suits and cardigans. The neckline is pretty (I like the crew, which is actually scoopy), they’re not bulky, and they come in nice colors. I won’t wear them alone—too clingy, no matter the size—so I wear my smaller size and they provide a nice sleek base layer.

    • Me too, the neckline is really nice, it doesn’t seem to bunch or flip up. I also like them layered under a sleeveless dress.

    • AEK – I’ve actually been considering the Uniqlo Heattech shirts as possible undershirts; do you have an opinion you would like to share on just how warm/hot a wearer would get if layered? I’m looking for undershirts not for warmth but more for keeping deodorant off my clothes/having a layer to smooth out the bumps & bra straps a bit/eliminate problems re sheer/visibility with some of my wardrobe pieces. So, (if you are still reading) I’m wondering if you think these shirts would work as an underlayer that won’t make the wearer really hot. Thanks!

      • I don’t find them particularly warm (which maybe is a knock against them, since that’s sort of the point!) but then again, I am perpetually freezing; someone who runs hot might find them toasty! For me they’re just a comfy inner layer.

        I think they’re worth trying for the purpose you’re looking for. Or you could try their new line which is Air-something and is supposedly lighter somehow?

    • christineispink :

      +1!

  12. Any recommendations for silky t-shirts? I feel like these tend to look better at work but can’t seem to find any that are flattering! FWIW – I’m tiny up top.

    Thanks!

  13. I thought I liked the tees from Limited but then they started stretching over my chest kind of awkwardly and the neckline would get all stretchy too. I think I’m just ruling out work tees altogether going forward.

    • Miz Swizz :

      I have the same problem. I remember seeing Heather Locklear on Spin City consistently wearing a slim tee and a pencil skirt and wanting to emulate her. I’ve never found such a tee.

      • Halogen Suiting :

        Heather Locklear is, I believe, tiny even by TV standards. The WHBM shirts are very lean IMO (I have a 30 band size and the S is trim on me). I’m 5-4 and it is long enough to stay tucked in to lower-rise jeans. It’s not bad for the $, but I bet that the Adea ones are the gold standard.

        If you have a shorter torso and some $, the LBH double-layer sports shirts are wonderful. I wear them untucked with more casual outfits. They run small (so I like a M but have a S that is only gym-appropriate).

  14. ExcelNinja :

    I still love the J Crew perfect tees. I’m 32FF with a long torso and they work really well on me in size M. I had a Caslon tee but found it too loose around my waist and too tight around my hips (I’m hourglass so it’s probably just made for less badonka-donk women). Love the BR tees as well but there’s always no telling what size I am there…could be anywhere between S-L.

    • sweetknee :

      Sorry ! Accidentally clicked “report”.

      Meant to click “reply” to say I love the “badonka-donk” descriptor. I am going to steal that one.

  15. Miss Behaved :

    I have this tee in every color:
    http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/mod-bod-cap-sleeve-tee/3412764?origin=keywordsearch-personalizedsort&contextualcategoryid=0&fashionColor=Charcoal&resultback=279&cm_sp=personalizedsort-_-searchresults-_-1_1_A

    I like the fitted shape and the fact that it doesn’t stretch out. It also seems to hold my stomach in.

    • Legally Brunette :

      ooooh! I really love this.

    • In the Pink :

      I used to travel with my mod bod items…soft, warm for conference rooms, layering piece for travel, etc. However, they don’t really dry overnight over the hotel shower rod and I think they pill up pretty quickly, even if I never put them in a dryer.

      Sad, but true. Their company changed/revamped or something, so the “mod bod” quality to me is less than their original name (which I can’t recall now…)

  16. I love a solid color t-shirt with a cardigan or blazer, especially with strand of beads or opera-length necklace.

    I scored one of my favorite v-neck ts at Marshall’s for $4. Target’s Merona Ultimate scoop tee for $9 comes in a variety of colors that doesn’t break the bank. I tend to get most of my t-shirts off of the clearance racks because they never look dated and work for a ton of different styles for work and leisure.

  17. Banana Republic Luxe cotton blend t-shirts look great at first, but pill after a few washings. I like LillaP surplice cotton t-shirts. They are really soft and wear well after multiple washings.

  18. I used to love the BR tees until they started pilling after 1 wash. My current go to tees are the WHBM although I size up for more coverage. They’re made out of a material that looks dressier. I have a few three dots tees but reserve them for weekend wear.

    As an aside, I’m so thrilled to be out of trial finally. There’s a big glass of wine in my future!

  19. Another Uniqlo fan for all things knit/ stretchy including leggings and tights.

    But sadly, I think the secret to polished t-shirts is recognizing that these are items that need frequent replacement, regardless of brand/ quality/ care in the laundry.

  20. In the Pink :

    I lurve my JudyP tops…modal mainly, double layered in the front. A variety of yummy colors, tanks, 3/4, and long sleeved. Wash and wear, underneath anything…wear like iron!

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