Seasonless Sweaters for the Office

Summer Sweaters for the Office | CorporetteIs there a magical sweater you can buy that is seasonless — great for summer, great for winter, looks luxe, and retains its shape? In general, what do you look for in summer sweaters? Reader N asks:

It seems that many dresses are sleeveless or cap sleeved, and I am always searching for the right coverup for work. To that end, can you recommend a simple, well made light black cardigan? It seems that every single one I’ve purchased the last few years looks cheap and out of shape after more than a few wears.

We’ve haven’t done a hunt for black cardigans for a while — maybe soon! (Note that both the J.Crew one and DvF one, below, come in black, as does August Silk.) When it comes to shapeless sweaters, I haaaate cotton sweaters for that reason. If it’s a lightweight cotton sweater, it looks shapeless after just a few wears in the summer, and when I wash them I can never get them to look quite as nice as they first did on the rack. If it’s a chunkier cotton sweater in the winter, it’s the same thing — a misshapen mess. Wool is too heavy to be seasonless (although merino wool sweaters are often great purchases), and cashmere can be too expensive or delicate to throw into your bag and survive. So what’s a girl to do?

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Giveaway: Win a $250 Giftcard to Tuxe Bodywear!

tuxe giveawayI’m super excited for today’s giveaway because readers have been singing the praises of Tuxe Bodywear (formerly Bradamant Bodysuits) since we first talked about how to tuck blouses neatly. The idea: no more fidgeting, no more loss of concentration or confidence. Tuck once, and it stays put! — TUXE Bodywear is a thoughtfully designed line of cotton and silk blouses with bodysuit bottoms.  Their traceless technology means the smoothest look under skirts and pants, and a flattering, comfortable fit always.  They have a lot of nice pieces, but I’m loving this silk crepe de chine blouse, available in both white and black (sizes XS-XL, as well as tall sizes XS-XL) — it’s called the CEO.  (It’s $104.)
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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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How High to Button Your Shirt for Interviews

blouse-buttons-suitsWhen interviewing, must you button your shirt all the way to the top? How many buttons are acceptable to leave unbuttoned? Reader S wonders…

I am going for an interview at quite a conservative organisation. I have a navy skirt suit and was going to wear a white button up shirt. Do I need to button up all the buttons up to the top?

I have an immediate, initial gut reaction here — but I’m curious if the readers agree. Before we start, note that the WSJ just discussed this very topic for men’s attire; in the past we’ve talked about whether shirt collars should be tucked into a blazer or splayed on top, as well as where to get the best button-front blouses. Here’s my gut reaction $.02:

NO! Don’t button it all the way to the top! That would look weird, and fussy, and… and… I’m thinking of a hitman in a movie but can’t quite put my finger on which movie. (Also: Rainman.) I dug up a few pictures for inspiration, though, and my opinions shifted as I studied it. So I’m really curious to hear what readers say.  Here are some notes:

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The Hunt: Layered-Look Sweaters

Club MOnaco Mackenzie SweaterSure, 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.

I usually like to use The Hunt for a basic, timeless piece that everyone needs — cashmere sweaters, strappy pumps, etc — but when I got a request from a reader looking for layered sweaters, I thought, ooh, that would make a fun Hunt — they have been EVERYWHERE recently, and the sweater-and-collar look can be tricky to get on your own.  Some people have DIY solutions for the bulkiness that ensues, while for others static cling  is more of an issue — even rolling the sleeves can take some skill.  Still, I think it’s a classic look that range from “very preppy” to “casual” (such as the option from Loft, below) to some of the newer looks that are almost cropped sweaters with tunic blouses (such as here or here).  Ladies, what are your tricks for getting the layered look — short of buying a 2-in-1 sweater or wearing a collared dickey?  What rules do you think apply to the office? 

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What to Wear Underneath Unlined Pants

unlined-pantsWhat do you wear under pants and suits that are unlined? Are you for or against the current trend of unlined clothing? Reader K wonders:

I have a question I was hoping you could address. As a slim, athletic woman I love Theory suits because they fit me like a glove. However, I’m peeved that the skirts and pants are unlined — which has already been noted on your site. I’ve found a number of slips that I can wear under the skirts, but I’m having trouble finding something to wear under the pants. All I’ve found is super-tight shapewear that feels uncomfortably tight at the waist, especially when sitting. Do you have any suggestions?

Great question, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. (We’ve already talked about how to reduce static cling in general.) For my $.02, I’m actually in favor of the move toward unlined pants, for a bunch of reasons. First, I often would find that the lining of my suiting clothes would be the first part to break down, sometimes even shredding — it really decreased that confident feeling of “I look put together today.” (Maybe I’m alone here, but if my underpinnings are in poor shape, no matter what else I’m wearing, everything else feels raggedy too!) Plus, the lining was often a cheap polyester — so while the pants or dress were washable, the lining wasn’t. (OR, the lining would need to be laundered way before the rest of the pants needed a wash.) Also, as someone who often needs to get pants hemmed (yay for being between regular and petite sizes), the lining in pants was just another layer to hem.

A few options for you to wear underneath unlined pants:

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