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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:

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Six Brands for the Stylish Vegan Professional: Clothes and Accessories

The Stylish Vegan Professional: Six Brands for Vegan Dress Shoes, Clothes and MoreAll right, ladies — if you’re a stylish vegan professional (or are trying to be), which are your favorite vegan brands for workwear? We recently received a question from a job-seeking reader about sources of vegan workwear — both clothes and accessories. Fortunately, it’s far easier to find stylish vegan professional workwear today than, say, 15 years ago. Before mentioning some brands, let’s review what isn’t vegan. Drawing from a post from The Compassionate Closet, here’s a list of materials made from animals (ranging from the obvious to the ones you might not think of): leather, wool, suede, silk, cashmere, mohair, alpaca, angora, worsted, serge, tweed, down, velvet (non-synthetic type), gabardine (wool type), grosgrain (silk type), jersey (wool type), satin (silk type). 

A search for “vegan” at Zappos brings up 700+ items, and a search at Nordstrom shows 350 (of course, you can further sort by category), and sites like MooShoes, Ethica, and Vegan Chic bring together many vegan products in one place. (Related: our slow fashion shopping guide.) What sources have you found for quality vegan workwear, vegan dress shoes, or other musts for the stylish vegan professional? 

But for those of you looking for vegan workwear brands that are specifically vegan-focused — not just animal-free by accident — we’ve rounded up six brands worth trying:

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How to Buy a Blazer to Keep at the Office

how-to-wear-a-blazer-as-a-separateLadies, what are your best tips for buying a blazer to keep at the office, or otherwise to look for in a blazer you’re buying to wear as a separate? (Does anyone have success with wearing suiting blazers as separates?) I often suggest to readers that they keep a blazer in their office to grab and go if you get an invitation to a meeting at the last minute or otherwise need to look (or feel) Very Professional. As another plus, it can also be a way to stay warm (whether with chilly air conditioning or a cold day), and — depending on the needs of the situation and the blazer you have — I might even grab a blazer with pockets if I were going somewhere and just wanted the use of the pockets.* But how do you know which blazer to keep at your office? We haven’t talked about wearing a blazer as a separate in years, so I thought we’d discuss. (Pictured.) Some of my top tips for buying a blazer to keep at the office include:

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Workhorses for Your Working Wardrobe

working wardrobe workhorsesLadies, what are the workhorses in your working wardrobe? Are there any surprises in there — things that you reach for a ton more than you thought you would when you bought them? On the flip side, which were the wardrobe disappointments — the things you thought you’d wear a ton but found aren’t that versatile? (Are there any suiting pieces in the mix on either side, either bought as separates or as a suit set?)

When we last discussed surprise basics for workwear, I called out my love of colorful purses, olive-colored pants, a good watch, and nice pearls as things that I was surprised to find myself wearing a ton. (I’ve had good luck with dark olive pants, like the ones pictured, as well as lighter olives with more brown in them. I’d wear the pictured pants with neutrals like black, white, navy, gray (as well as with cobalt); pastels like peach/pink, lavender, or French blue; dark eggplant, or even limited pops of red or orange.) I’ve also written of other things that are outside the usual “must have” lists, including very light gray pants instead of summer whites, velvet blazers for festive in-office holiday luncheshuggie earrings, light blue blazers, and purple pumps. It also came up a bit with our discussion of light blue suits, with lots of readers noting that they often wear a pair of colorful blue trousers or a colorful blue blazer (but not together).

(Pictured above: shoes / pants / earrings)

In our last discussion, some of the items the readers noted they loved included:

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Sleeved Dresses with Pockets

dresses with sleeves and pockets roundupI was just writing something about the best default thing to wear to a networking event (like a conference) where you don’t know what to wear — and my answer was, if all else failed, wear “a sleeved dress with pockets.”  Sleeves because it looks like a complete look — no need for a cardigan or blazer to forget somewhere — and pockets so you have a place to stash business cards, key cards, and more.  Then, I thought to myself: good luck finding that workwear unicorn!  Despite lots of readers (year after year!) saying how much they love sleeved dresses — and dresses with pockets! — very few companies are granting that mystical request.  So I thought I’d do a mini hunt: FIVE sleeved dresses with pockets. (Psst: here’s an old WSJ article about why so many dresses are sleeveless.)

Let’s start our hunt with some of the top-rated dresses at Nordstrom

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How to Keep White Blouses White

Keep White Blouses WhiteWhile Kat recently rounded up white work tops for spring, we haven’t discussed keeping those tops white in quite a while. Before researching this post, my knowledge of how to keep whites white was limited to “wash them in the washing machine” (or more realistically, just don’t buy white shirts!), but to my surprise, there are many simple strategies to keep white blouses white. (If you haven’t seen it, check out our advice on washing “dry clean only” clothes, too.) Here are several easy tips:

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