As the weather warms up, tights and boots start to go away, and skirts and dresses come out of the closet more. When is a dress too short for work? Does a slightly longer hem length feel more “modern” to you? What shoes do you wear with different dresses and skirts? And, if you’re tall or short, how do the rules change?
When is a Dress Too Short for Work, What’s Modern, What Shoes Work, and How to Deal if You’re Tall or Short
We haven’t talked explicitly about the best workwear for cusp sizes in far too long, ladies — if you’re a size 16 or 18, what are your favorite stores and brands? Given the fact that the average American woman is now a size 16 and 5’4″, this is particularly a difficult question because with those stats you may fit in regular sizes (e.g., 12, 14, 16, 18), plus sizes (e.g., 10W, 12W, 14W, or 16W), petite regular sizes (such as 14P, 16P, 18P) or that rare bird, petite plus sizes (12WP, 14WP, or 16WP) — this is why women in this size range are called “inbetweeners!” But a lot of “regular” stores only carry sizes up to size 12 — and a lot of “plus” stores only start at 18W. Add to that the fact that most stores carry very few of those sizes on the shelves, and you may be stuck in a never-ending cycle of online shopping and returning stuff, as several readers noted in our post on how to return items bought online. SO. Let’s discuss, ladies: What’s the best workwear if you’re a size 16? If you’re an “average” size and right on the cusp of plus sizes, which brands or stores have you found to be the best for you? What styles of clothes work best for your body type? What brands run small; which run big?
Psst: If you are interested in plus size workwear, please sign up for CorporettePlus, our newsletter! Signing up helps us gauge interest in the project, and we promise not to blast your email more than once a week at most. (Right now it’s more like once a month.)
Some of the brands I know of include:
Pear… apple… hourglass… triangle… ruler… what’s your body type? More importantly, which are the best work clothes for different body types? Whatever your size or shape, what is your power outfit — the general style/shapes of clothes that make you feel great? Kate and I have studied the comments on our last post on dressing for your body type, and Kate’s rounded up some helpful resources on the topic below, but let’s open it up to you ladies! For the sake of discussion, please note:
- your general shape and size
- which workwear brands you’ve had luck with and are the first you shop
- which workwear brands tend to be misses for you
- what your power outfit is for your workweek, OR what the building blocks of your wardrobe are (pants or dress? blazer or cardigan? what shape of dress? what length and type of pant?)
When we last talked about the best brands for your body type, commenters had a lot of notes. (This was from Feb. 2015, so pretty recently, but before the new pants regime at Banana Republic, and also before the lead designer change at Ann Taylor/LOFT.) I’ve tried to be helpful by grouping things below by the classic “body shape” classifications, but looking through comments it seems like people in different groups mentioned the same brands because the waist-to-hip ratios worked for them (so hourglasses and pears mentioned a lot of the same brands, while rulers and apples mentioned a lot of the same brands), as well as for bust-to-waist ratios (so hourglasses and triangles mentioned a lot of the same brands). Obviously bodies come in all shapes and sizes, so the classic “body shape” ideas are a bit of garbage; don’t worry too much if none of the categories (or several) seem to fit.
I found the lists interesting for two reasons. First, a few brands appear on almost every list, namely Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Classiques Entier, and J.Crew — some of that may be because they’re so common that everyone’s found SOMETHING. Also, both AT and BR are known for offering different pants fits, also, which may also explain a lot. The second interesting takeaway: some workwear brands appear on almost no lists. Ladies who love DvF, Rebecca Taylor, and Uniqlo, let’s hear from you!
The brands mentioned by commenters are below — note that brands mentioned most are listed at the top of the list.
One 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
- 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.
In case you missed it, we did a major round up of the best suiting brands for women a few weeks ago, from the budget brands to the boss brands. As promised, we’re back with a focus on specialty suiting brands for women — if you’re looking for plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, or even suits from independent/specialty boutiques, this round-up is for you.
Ladies, if you’re on the hunt for one of these types of suits, which are your favorite brands and styles? Where do you shop the most, and what kind of sales have you found?
Plus Size Suits
- Sejour (pictured)
- Classiques Entier
- Lafayette 148
- Lands’ End
- Tahari (e.g., Macy’s)
- Talbots (plus size petites, too)
- Kasper (e.g., Dillards)
- Pendleton USA
- Doncaster (14-24)
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: