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10 Workwear Style Tips for Busty Women

busty women style tips for workOne of our top posts of all time is one a friend suggested I write, back in the early days of the blog: how to dress professionally if you’re busty. We haven’t offered busty women style tips in a while, so I thought we’d discuss. But let me be clear at the outset: there’s nothing inherently unprofessional about being busty — women come in all shapes and sizes.  I’m not about to suggest you go buy a minimizer and try to pretend that you’re a 34B.  But: dressing well while busty can be a challenge because so many clothes are made with other body shapes in mind — and for work it can be particularly trying since so many conservative styles are rooted in menswear. Furthermore, if you wear something that obviously does not fit or has fit issues (gaping, pulling) it reflects a judgement call. So — here are some new tips and guidelines on how to dress for work if you’re busty, from someone who’s been everything from a 30F to a 38G over the years…

(Pictured: If you’re petite and busty this is yet another reason to watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend — her work outfits are mostly hits for me. The video this screenshot is from is hilarious (“Heavy Boobs”), but it is probably NSFW.)

Finding the Right Bra is Half the Battle

  1. Invest in a great bra that fits you. The right bra will lift you up and support you. It will not give you quadboob. It may have an odd size that you’ve never even heard of before (28FF, for example).  The right bra will not make you worry about falling out of it when you bend over. It will not cut into your shoulders (that’s a sign your band size is too big) or fall off your shoulders. (Note that your straps can be shortened at the tailor — and that you can check out lingerie brands just for petites, like The Little Bra Company, Lula Lu, or even the Bare Necessities special section for petites). A good bra will take work to find and may cost you some money, but it will be worth it in spades. I highly recommend going to a bra shop and getting fitted — think Nordstrom, not Victoria’s Secret (link goes to to one woman’s fitting experience at VS with lots of pictures; probably NSFW). In NYC I’ve used Bratenders over the years and La Petite Coquette — I’ve also heard great things about Linda’s Bra Shop — and in London I’ve been fitted at Rigby & Peller. Ladies who have a favorite shop in your city, please shout it out in the comments. Once you know your size you can watch for sales; I tend to get new bras at Nordstrom’s sales, Bare Necessities sales, or even sometimes Amazon.

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Clothes for the Curvy Professional

Workwear Brands for the Curvy Professional | CorporetteAre there any workwear brands that cater to the professional curvy woman? Reader V wonders…

I’m not plus size – but I am curvy. As in, I hate most clothing stores as I actually can’t fit one size across my boobs but look matronly the next size up. I live in the UK and have recently discovered Pepperberry as a revelation (extra size options for boobs!), but the stuff does veer on the casual side (and the fabrics aren’t always the best). Any other brands catering for the professional curvy girl or is it just getting tailoring?

Interesting question, V! As someone who’s always been large of chest, we’ve talked a lot about workwear for the curvy woman — from curve-friendly blazers to bespoke dresses to blouses for the busty.  We haven’t done a roundup recently, though, so let’s take a look.  (And Reader V, consider yourself lucky to be in the UK — I’ve always found there to be a ton of great options there!) Pictured: an eShakti dress with tons of customizable options; it starts at $69.95. 

Some great brands and online shops to note:

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The Sleeveless Professional: Body Types, Bare Arms, and Expectations

sleeveless-professional-2Is it professional to go sleeveless at the office — even if you don’t have perfect arms? When you want to bare your arms at your sleeveless-is-acceptable office, is it worth considering other people’s potential reactions if you don’t exactly have Michelle Obama arms to show off? Do people adjust their expectations of what’s “appropriate” when considering coworkers of different body types? Reader C wonders…

Some of the women in my department (including those who outrank me) wear sleeveless dresses and tops in the summer months, and I’d like to as well. However, from what I’ve seen, my arms are a lot flabbier and dimplier than those of the women who usually go sleeveless. I don’t want people to be grossed out (though I don’t think they should be and I am NOT ashamed of my body) but I was wondering if you think there are different attire expectations for different body types.

Hmmn.  We haven’t talked about going sleeveless at work in a while — in general we’ve noted that you should know your office when it comes to bare arms, and when we talked generally about what not to wear to work, many of you mentioned in the comments that sleeveless tops and dresses are acceptable at your office. I’m really, really curious to hear what readers say here.  (Pictured: Classiques Entier Colette Sleeveless Dress, available in green and black, marked down to $142 (from $235).  Here’s an awesome plus-size sleeveless sheath dress available in three colors, also on sale.)

For my $.02: I think that if sleeveless dresses are appropriate for some in the office, they are appropriate for everyone in the office — so listen to your own comfort level, and go ahead and wear them if you want to!  Note that in general, sleeveless tops and dresses are more professional when they have a thicker strap, a very high armhole (so there is no underarm… spillage, shall we say), and (obviously) no peekaboo issues with the bra.  The more formal the item of clothing (blouse vs. t-shirt, sheath dress vs. maxi), the more likely it is to be appropriate.  

As someone who has always had flabbier arms as well, though, I will note that sometimes a fake tan helps a bit, as does having a lightweight (cotton, linen) sweater or blazer to wear when you’re arriving places.  Even if you end up removing the sweater or blazer to be more comfortable, the initial impression is more formal.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on going sleeveless at the office?  If you have flabby arms, do you go sleeveless?  

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N.B. These substantive posts are intended to be a source of community comment on a particular topic, which readers can browse through without having to sift out a lot of unrelated comments. And so, although of course we highly value all comments by our readers, we’re going to ask you to please keep your comments on topic; threadjacks will be deleted at our sole discretion and convenience. Thank you for your understanding!

 

sleeveless professional

The Best Workwear Brands for Hips (Or Other Body Shapes)

brands-for-hips

2016 Update: See our latest discussion on the best work clothes for different body types!

Which are the best workwear brands for you if you’ve got hips — and you’re tall?  Which brands are best if you’re curvy and short? Which brands should the apple check out first? How about suiting brands?  Ladies, I got a question from a friend that I am Very Embarrassed to say that I can’t answer:  she’s looking for an interview suit and wanted suggestions for a brand that is “forgiving in the hips and good for tall people.”

Hmmn…  I mean, we’ve talked about which stores do bespoke dresses, shirts and blazers . . . we’ve talked about how work pants should fit — and a LONG time ago we had a conversation about which stores and brands are best for different body types — but it’s been far too long.  (We’ve also done guides to the best brands in general for petite workwear, plus-sized workwear, and tall workwear.) So let’s discuss.  In the comments today, please tell us:

  • Your body type or body issues (if any): e.g., for me I’d say I need something that accommodates a big bust for sure, and where the cut is ok for a short curvy girl. (I’m 5’4.”)
  • Recent brands OF SUITS you’ve tried, and what issues (if any) you noticed:
  • Which brands you think of as YOUR brands in general (for anything other than suits):
  • Which STYLES within brands you like:  If there are repeated styles within the brands (e.g., Theory usually offers the Max pant as well as the Emery pant in suiting fabrics, while Loft has the Julie & Marissa cuts), which specific styles work best for you.

Here’s an easy paragraph to cut and paste to kick off the discussion:

  • My body type or body issues (if any):
  • Recent brands OF SUITS I’ve tried, and notes on fit:
  • Which brands I think of as MY brands in general (for anything other than suits):
  • Which STYLES within brands I like:

Our last real discussion was in 2011 — I found these more recent articles on the web, but I still think the community here will be our own best source. I’ll sort through the answers and try to do a nice roundup (hmmn, maybe a graphic) or something.

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Busty Blazers

Which are the best blazers if you’re small and busty?  busty blazersReader K wonders:

One of my biggest obstacles when it comes to finding business appropriate clothes are my breasts. I feel like it’s impossible to find a jacket or blouse that won’t either pull or else drown me. Either my jacket is so big that I can’t find my arms (and definitely not my waist) or I can’t close it over the girls. I’m a 32G (by nature, not by choice) and a size two everywhere except my chest. I would like to look both professional and not like a child wearing her mom’s jacket. I work in banking, so jackets are a must. (And yet, I’m young enough that I don’t have the kind of funds to have tailor made clothes.) Am I all alone in the world? Is there anyone out there who makes professional clothes for small women with large breasts?

Interesting.  We’ve talked about whether jackets must button to “fit”, how to dress professionally with curves, where to get blouses for the busty, and even how to find such clothes on a budget — but not how to find blazers that fit an hourglass frame. In our last thread on the best suits for small women, Theory seemed to be the winner, which you may want to try — but I’ve never found the brand to be particularly curve-friendly. (If you’re petite as well as small-statured, here was our more recent thread on the best workwear for petites.) I’m curious to hear what the readers say, but here are some thoughts:

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Professional Frump: What To Avoid

How to Avoid Professional Frump | CorporetteHere’s a fun topic that we haven’t discussed in years — what makes something frumpy? How can professional women avoid frump?

I agree with a lot of what I said four years ago — primarily:

  • wearing clothes that don’t fit — this is a big one! A lot of women end up in too tight/too short pants, dresses, and skirts because they’ve gained a few pounds and refuse to recognize it. Meanwhile, a lot of women start out in pants, dresses, and skirts that are too big — baggy, not tailored — because they think that’s “professional.” We’ve talked about how blazers should fit, how suits should fit, how pants should fit, where your pants hems should be, and which common tailoring alterations you should consider — we’ve also talked about when to give in and buy a bigger size. [Read more…]