The Best Tees For Layering Under Blazers, Cardigans, and More

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.

Which are the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans, and more? What qualities do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt, how many do you own, and how long do you expect your tees to stay looking new?  We haven’t had a discussion on the best tees for layering for work in a while, so let’s revisit some of the basics, at least for my $.02. First, t-shirts make a great layering piece because they’re washable and generally no-fuss (such as tops requiring ironing).  Furthermore, a work t-shirt should be something designed to be seen — you should be able to take your blazer off during the day without worrying that it’s see-through, clinging to your bra, too low cut, tattered or torn, or otherwise too casual.  Personally I think any pockets will usually make a tee too casual for a conservative office, as does a wider rib trim at the neckline — I love my relaxed slub t-shirts for the weekend, but I think a slub knit or linen blend would make it too casual for work, as would a pattern like a space-dye. Finally, while a tank top can be great for certain situations, it isn’t always the best for layering for two reasons — first, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to wear by itself at your office (see our last discussion on whether going sleeveless is professional – know your office!), and second, it may necessitate more laundering and drycleaning than a t-shirt would because a t-shirt would cover your armpits and protect the top layer from sweat. (But: if you want a seamless look and just want to add opacity/raise a neckline, a camisole for work, demi-camisole, or tank top is definitely the look for you.)

How about you, readers — which t-shirts do you think are the best tees for layering? Do you prefer to layer tees, tanks, camisoles, or something else beneath suits and blazers? What do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt? 

Pictured at top, a few of our Hall of Famers: black / red / blue.

Some of our Hall of Famers, the best-selling, classic styles that have been around for years, include:

Above: black / pink / blue / red.

Today’s featured tees for layering include:

budget tees for layeringReaders have extolled the virtues of Merona t-shirts for years — and the price is certainly right at $9 full price (right now you can get 2 for $16). Personally I’ve found them a bit too clingy, but the few I have wash up beautifully and still look new after several years of ownership. Also in this price range: Uniqlo’s cotton tee ($.9.90.) Pictured: Merona Fitted Tee
affordable tees for layeringI was intrigued to see Jean at ExtraPetite raving about the Express One Eleven line of tees lately, but their basic tee does look nice and it has a whopping 71 mostly positive reviews.  It bill itself as “the perfect balance between fitted and draped” — a number of reviewers note that it runs large, so be wary of fit issues if you give it a try. Also in this price range: Banana Republic’s classic stretch tee. Pictured:  Express One Eleven V-Neck Skimming Tee
best seamless tees for workJ.Crew’s “Perfect Fit” tee was always a reader favorite on this list, but they’ve improved upon it by launching a “suiting t-shirt” just for layering, made from soft and seamless stretchy cotton.  It’s machine washable, available as a tank and a three-quarter sleeve top, with a nice high neckline. It’s available in four neutral colors for $59.50 full price. Stretch Suiting T-Shirt
best double layer teesTalbots is another brand that readers have always loved for t-shirts (along with our Hall of Famers at top, of course) — but they keep switching up the styles of t-shirts. Right now they have two lines that look like good possibilities right now: the Refined tee (which is not getting very good ratings, alas) and the Platinum jersey line, which seems limited. Still, the pictured Platinum tee has a double layer front, is machine washable (lay flat to dry), and I like the slightly rounded V-neckline.  It’s $59.50; the pictured top is available in three colors. Platinum Jersey V-Neck Top
great layering tee for workThis short sleeve jersey tee from Layfayette 148 New York has been around for years, and it’s always pretty highly rated. Right now Nordstrom has it in black and white (which one reviewer notes is that rare bird, an opaque white top), sizes P-XL. I like the neckline here — not quite a crew, not quite a boatneck, not quite a jewelneck. It’s $148 at Nordstrom, but keep an eye on spots like Last Call and Off5TH (as well as flash sale sites) to see if you can get a better deal. Lafayette 148 New York Short Sleeve Jersey Tee
luxurious layering tees$345 for a t-shirt? Well, sure if it’s Armani. Nordstrom has them in a number of colors, sizes 2-14, for $345. I like the ballet sleeves, the high, seamless neckline, and the stretch. Armani Collezioni Stretch Jersey Tee

 

the best tees for layering under everything! best tees for layering under blazers

Readers, what are your favorite tees to wear to work? Which do you find to be the best tees for layering?

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Comments

  1. Do you do anything for your parents for anniversaries? My parents are hitting 30 this year. Most years I just wish them happy anniversary and maybe send a card. This is isn’t big enough that we’re doing a family party like we would for 50, but I feel like I should do something. Any suggestions?

    My parents are considering doing a small vacation just the two of them to celebrate (not sure where yet). My only idea is to gift some sort of experience type thing during their trip.

    • For my parents’ 25th I threw them a surprise party. They just passed their 40th and they have put their foot down saying that the only thing they want are grandchildren.

      I was going to get them really nice (expensive) watches (cartier or something) and have them engraved on the back, something like “45 years at the most important job ever” because my Dad never had a job long enough to get one of those fancy watches, and my Mom was a housewife (I hate that word) and I want her to know that just because she didn’t work in an office, her job was every bit as important and I am grateful for it.

      • numbersmouse :

        If I were you, I’d also name the watches and be like “here are your grandkids; enjoy!”.

    • Long married :

      Our daughter surprised us on our 40th anniversary by arranging to have a bottle of champagne delivered to our table. An unexpected but delightful surprise!

    • Shopaholic :

      For my parents’ 30th, both my sister and I went to visit them and took them out for a special dinner, and then gave them a picture collage of family pictures that they could hang in their place.

    • Anonymous :

      For my parents’ 25th, I gave them a framed wedding photo with an engraving with their names and wedding date. It was from one of those mall kiosks, so not exactly a high end gift, but I was in high school and didn’t have much money. For their 35th, they went on vacation to my honeymoon destination (one year after my honeymoon) so I gifted them an excursion we had done and really enjoyed.

    • Anonymous :

      I know my mental timeline is skewed as a mid-30 something who is just now thinking about marriage, but 50 seems so long to wait to celebrate as the “big” anniversary. Maybe you did a big celebration for 25, but if not I’d take the opportunity to do at least a modest party for the “round” ones like 30, 35, etc. I know 50 as the golden anniversary is a popular one to do the big party for, but even 30 years is a wonderful thing to celebrate!

      Also, at the risk of being depressingly morbid, one of my parents was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer shortly after their 35th anniversary and passed away not long after. I regret not making a bigger celebration out of their 35th because I know it would’ve made my dad so happy and also given my mom some wonderful memories to help when that day rolls around each year now. My attitude now is to celebrate even the seemingly little joys and milestones early and often.

    • The best thing that we ever did was get custom stamps made (their wedding portrait). We then mailed the stamps to all the wedding guests we found contact info for, plus some friends they made along the way and asked everyone to mail them a note / card for their anniversary. They got dozens of cards and after about 6 or 7 they noticed the stamps. It also worked well because my siblings and I were all working in different parts of the country that year.

  2. I am on the hunt for the best tees under suit jackets, so this is so timely. My favorite are by MaxMara & Armani, but who can afford them? My preferred are the silk ones by Eileen Fisher that I buy on sale. I like the natural materials.

  3. Sydney Bristow :

    All I want is a white t-shirt that is completely opaque. That Lafayet t e one won’t fit. Any suggestions?

    The closest I’ve found is Eddie Bauer. I got a Halogen modal jersey one as a gift that someone swore was opaque, but it isn’t. I still wear a n*de cami under both of those.

    • anon anon armani :

      Double layered front spandex/modal … JudyP tops. tanks, 3/4, long sleeved. Scoop, ballerina, v necks. In boutiques and their own internet site.

  4. I swear by Ibex tees for work. They are merino wool, but machine washable. The wool is super comfy, and makes them look a touch more formal than cotton.

    • I love merino — any recs for brands that sell more business casual spectrum merino? An Ibex tee might be fine for me for casual Friday but not so much the rest of the week.

  5. i’m obsessed with ann taylor’s linen t-shirts! i bought a few at the beginning of the summer, and they are absolutely magical during hot weather especially. they’re nice and lightweight, wick sweat very well, and almost all colors have a round, thin collar that’s appropriate for my office. i got them on sale for $20 apiece, they’re usually closer to $40. they’re supposed to be dried flat but I generally just stick them on a hanger and let them air-dry in the laundry room, and haven’t had a problem yet with stretching.

    • Wrinkles? I have a couple of linen blouses from Talbot’s that look like a hot mess within a couple of hours.

  6. Saving for Grad School :

    I am currently trying to decide whether I want to apply to grad school programs this fall (to start next fall) or wait another year. Part of the uncertainty in timeline is because I’m not sure whether I want to go for an MBA, MPP, or possibly do a dual degree. These are expensive degrees, so I don’t want to make the decision lightly. In the meantime while I figure that out, I’m trying to determine the best way to save up for that. I have already saved enough to take the GRE/GMAT and pay for applications fees, so I’m referring to living costs/tuition costs. Of course, the majority of those expenses will be sustained by loan money, but I’m trying to mitigate the amount as much as possible by saving up now, even if it’s only $10-20K.

    Since I have at least a year, maybe 2, until I will start to draw on that money, where should I be putting it? I currently have it earmarked in my general savings account, but have heard of things like high yield savings account (are fully online banks legitimate?) and 529 accounts? Do I need to ask my parents what they did with any leftover money from the 529 they had in my name from undergrad?

    Lastly, should I continue to fund my 401(k) and Roth IRA while I do this? I’ve heard that grad schools consider retirement accounts assets when determining aid for students so it seems pointless. I know that each school may have a different aid package consistent of scholarships/loans/etc. but I don’t know exactly which programs I’ll be applying to yet, so I want to figure out what financial moves I should be making now to set myself up for financial success when the time comes. Many thanks for your advice!

    • I asked my dad for you about your situeation. You should ALWAYS max out your 401K, even if you can’t use it until you are 59 1/2. Savings accounts pay little, but if you want liquidity, you will have to save in a bank–he said go on line and some of the banks pay 1% — he mentioned ING bank, but he did NOT use them. Just make sure the bank is FDIC insured, Dad says. You do NOT say if you are single or not, but if you are married, you will have 2 people earning money so you can go to grad school. Your taxes could be much lower if you file an IRS JOINT return, if there is a dfference in salary. Personaly, I would go for an MBA. What is an MPP, anyway?

    • empresaria :

      I have an MPP. It has served me well and was a great decision. I would advise against dual degree (unless it’s free/crazy cheap) because, in my experience, they’re treated interchangeably in the public sector. I have never applied for a private sector job (not since the days of mall stores anyway).

      I didn’t have much money going into grad school so I only considered programs that admitted me with fellowships/scholarships that covered my full cost. I sacrificed some prestige for it, but it hasn’t seemed to matter (I make more than people with fancier degrees) and I came out almost debt free. For the money I saved in advance, I had a savings account but I didn’t have much money (maybe $10k).

    • Bensonrabble :

      I’m beginning the grad school process and have those same questions. Narrowing down the search seems the hardest part. Best of luck

    • Bensonrabble :

      Timely post! Looking for underpieces to jackets. But cotton pieces read casual to me. Any other options?

  7. Does anyone have the Express One Eleven? I am looking for tees for under suit jackets – so not just cotton jersey – but really need a V-neck. Is this one suitable?

    I’d love to hear about any other slightly dressier (silk or silk blends, matte jersey, fine-gauge knit, etc.) V-neck tees that people like.

  8. I’m in my first trimester and need to wear a bella band with my suits, so I’m looking for professional looking tops I can wear untucked under my suits, that would disguise the bloat (pretty sure it’s not a bump yet). Does anyone have any suggestions?

    • AT has lots of tops/blouses that can be worn untucked. I have one similar to this (different print); it feels more like a crepe than matte jersey. It’s loose but doesn’t make me look pregnant.

      http://www.anntaylor.com/floral-matte-jersey-v-neck-top/429326?skuId=22530646&defaultColor=9192&colorExplode=false&catid=cat70008

      And congratulations.

    • The boden ravello tops would work nicely I think – the tucks up at the neckline make it look a bit more intentionally full, and they look great either tucked in or left out.

  9. Anonymous :

    I like Uniqlo’s t-shirts. I just bought the Supima Cotton 3/4 sleeve crew neck t-shirt. It is not too tight or clingy.

    https://www.uniqlo.com/us/en/womens-supima-cotton-3%2F4-sleeve-crew-neck-t-shirt-172266.html?dwvar_172266_color=COL30&cgid=women-t-shirts-and-tops-3-4-sleeve-t-shirts#start=5&cgid=women-t-shirts-and-tops-3-4-sleeve-t-shirts

  10. In the last year or so, I discovered Tommy Hilfigers tshirts. They are great for under cardigans or blazers at the office because they are thicker than many other brands. Especially important with a basic white tshirt. They are fitted, but not clingy. I have several in the long sleeve and the short sleeves. My new go-to!

    I dont like Merona (Target) tshirts for work. They are too thin for work and look cheap. However, they are comfy and great for weekend wear.

    And while I like the look and feel of the lux Banana Republic tshirts with the satin ribbon trim, they just dont lay right across the chest. I find I am alwyas adjusting it so it doens’t create a shelf across my breasts.

  11. I love Everlane, PACT, and American Giant for T-shirts (bonus: they’re all ethically made!). Everlane has some options that work on their own; PACT tends towards a more casual texture than I’d wear as an outer layer at work; and Amercian Giant has a thicker collar so I only wear them under sweaters. American Giant’s t-shirts are the best though – so soft and such great quality!

  12. I like whatever ruffly tanks or tees Loft Outlet has each season. The straps are a little skinny sometimes so I usually layer with a cardigan.

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