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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Weekend Open Thread

mesh leggings weekendSomething on your mind? Chat about it here.

I’ll admit, I clutched my pearls a bit when I first started seeing leggings with mesh insets. Mesh? On my upper thigh? Oh no no no. But I honestly really like them now. They seem far, far more acceptable than short shorts, and as someone who isn’t super fit I feel comfortable wearing them while I work on, you know, getting more fit. This pair comes in sizes XS-XL, and is $64; if mesh isn’t your thing this popular legging comes in a zillion other colors in regular and plus sizes. Pictured: Zella ‘Live In – Spectrum’ Leggings

Are you guys looking forward to any outdoor workouts this weekend?  

Psst: here’s a more affordable option for fun mesh-inset leggings (they also come in petite and tall sizes). Another shoutout: if you happen to be large of bust and on the hunt for a good workout bra, give this Freya one a try — it’s so much more flattering/pretty than my old favorite, the Enell, but is functionally great as a sports bra. The trick (suggested by a fitter during my last trip to Bratenders) is to size way down in the band, and accordingly go up in the cup — I normally wear a 36 band but went down to a 32 in the sports bra.

Camisoles Beneath Blouses: White or “Nude”?

seamless camisolesWhich are the best camisoles to layer beneath blouses? Is a seamless camisole important, or a nude-for-you camisole? Or is a white camisole the best thing under a white blouse? Reader S has a question, and I thought it might be a fun topic because I’ve said before: I am a fan of plain, non-lacy white or black camisoles (with a nude-for-you bra) beneath sheer blouses, rather than “nude” camisoles. They make it clear to the non-fashion people you work with that it’s safe to look at your blouse — a solid camisole avoids that weird Barbie look of “it’s sheer and I think I see skin but there’s no bra or nipple and I’m so confused…” I also think it streamlines things in your closet, because if you need a camisole to raise the neckline of a dress, you’d want a white or black one anyway. But maybe I’m in the minority. Here’s S’s question:

I recently got several lovely silk button up blouses. I love the feel and look, and the step-up in fabric. However, they are kind of sheer. I have been searching high and low, and can’t find a good nude camisole that doesn’t show all the straps and seams and edges under the silk, making it look cheap and not well put together. Not the look I’m going for. Why can’t they make the camisole equivalent of these panties?

nude camisolesIn addition, most of the “nude” camisoles I have found look like they’re nude on a banana cream pie, but not on me. like this one (pictured at right).

I’ll weigh in with a few answers for S, but I’m curious to hear what readers say about this whole issue. [Read more…]

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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Wearing Thigh-High Stockings at Work

thigh high stockingsWhat if you like your legs covered when you wear skirts — or your office dress code doesn’t allow bare legs — but you don’t like wearing full pantyhose or tights? Are thigh-high stockings acceptable to wear to work? Are some more appropriate than others? Reader N wonders…

I was wondering if you might consider doing a post on thigh high pantyhose that are functional and work appropriate. I hate the feeling of full pantyhose, but can’t go without, so I want to try thigh highs but have no idea where to start. Thanks!

Great question! We’ve talked about how to care for pantyhose, whether you should wear them in the summer, how many workplaces still require them, the appropriateness of fishnets at the office, rounded up everyone’s favorite lingerie brands, but not this. (Blast from the past: this 20-year-old Chicago Tribune fashion Q-and-A actually recommends layering opaque tights under thigh-highs.)  I’m going to apologize in advance for the sure-to-be-interesting AdSense ads that will follow us all around the interwebs, but I do think this is an important and legitimate question for working women — I’ve had a number of friends who preferred thigh-highs for hygiene, comfort, or other reasons, and there’s no reason they should be stigmatized.

The good news: it seems like there’s a HUGE variety to choose from out right now, in part (perhaps) because over-the-knee boots are so popular. Thus, we’re seeing a ton of “over the knee” socks and tights. Some of the bestsellers that I’m seeing: [Read more…]

The Best Underwear for Eliminating VPL

What is the best underwear for eliminating VPL — particularly if you don’t like thongs?  I’ve gotten a number of questions about this from readers lately (and have seen it recentlyish discussed in the comments), so let’s discuss in a proper post.  Here’s Reader M’s question:

The recent post about bras also triggered me wondering what others wear for appropriate underwear, especially under work pants. I hate thongs, but I find that many “no show” undies still have lines. I am pear shaped so I have a bigger bottom, which works to my disadvantage. I have a few pair of lace Natori and Filomena that do the trick, but they have seen their better days and will need to be replaced soon.

Meanwhile, Reader J wonders:

What kind of underwear do you recommend for eliminating VPL? I just bought some gorgeous but relatively form-fitting pants and I really need some invisible underwear. (I dislike thongs because of the constant wedgie issue.)

Great questions. (Pictured: nothing, as per previous reader requests.)  We’ve talked about this before, with a discussion in 2013 about our favorite lingerie brands, as well as a discussion in 2010 about what unmentionables people like the best.  I’m on the hunt for a great new underwear brand myself, so I thought I’d peruse the reader responses to see underwear brands were mentioned the most in those posts.  (Joanna Goddard also recently asked her readers this question.)  Here are some of the greatest hits among the various posts — readers, do you have any favorites among these?  For those of you who DON’T like thongs (but don’t want visible panty lines), which brands are you wearing? [Read more…]