Sheath Dresses for Work: The Best Dresses of 2017!

The Best Sheath Dresses for WorkSure, 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. Today’s Hunt: the best sheath dresses for work!

The sheath dress is an easy basic for so many offices, from formal to conservative to business casual. It’s hard to go wrong with the sheath dress, but watch out for these pitfalls when buying it:

  • is the cleavage too low?
  • is the hem length appropriate for work?
  • does it have any trendy detail that will make it more memorable and thus less wearable in regular rotation (exposed zipper, embellishment at neck, etc)?
  • is the skirt’s slit too high (sit down and do the mirror test to make sure!)?
  • does the dress look “tailored” (good) or “body conscious” (less good) to you?
  • can you wear a normal bra with it? (some of the versions out this year are almost like halter dresses, with a lot of the shoulder exposed — I’d put those in the “less appropriate for work” bucket)

Once you’ve purchased your new wardrobe workhorse: make sure you cut your vents. Hang the dress up immediately after each wearing and let it air out a bit.  If it’s part of a suiting set, be sure to dryclean all your pieces together so they show the same wear and tear. Pictured immediately below are some of our Hall of Fame favorites — the best-selling, classic dresses we’ve drooled over for years — but we’ve also rounded up six of the best sheath dressses for work in 2017 that we’ve just noticed (including some killer sales). Ladies, which are your favorite sheath dresses for work right now? What are your favorite features (pockets, machine-washable) for your sheath dresses? 

First up, the classics:

the best sheath dresses for work in 2017 - the classics!

Pictured above: one / two / three / four / five

Curious for past roundups of sheath dresses? Here they are from 20162015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. For other sizing issues you may want to check out our recently updated roundup of bespoke dresses, which you can order fit exactly to your measurements.

sheath dress for work: MeronaMerona ponte dresses are definitely on the more casual side, but if you need to build a wardrobe in a hurry, this is a great, affordable option. It comes in six colors (including two pinks, “wood violet,” “sudden sapphire,” and “tumble green” — but it also comes in basic black. The dress is $29.99, available in sizes XS-XXL. Ponte Sheath Dress – Merona
The Best Sheath Dresses for Work: TahariI tend to prefer the v-necked sheath dress Tahari offers, but this round-necked version is a great basic — and it’s on sale at Bloomingdale’s today for $70 in both black and navy, sizes 2-16. Note that it does have an exposed half-zipper in the back.  Cali Sheath Dress
The Best Sheath Dresses for Work: BodenThe Aurelia dress from Boden is in our Hall of Fame, but this is my first time noticing the Elsa dress, which Boden pitches as the “cool, sophisticated cousin of the Aurelia dress.” I like the capped sleeves, and while a low scoop back can go wrong in a lot of instances, this time I think they got it right. It’s machine washable, available in sizes 2-18 (lucky sizes only in stock at the moment) in black and navy in petite, regular, and long sizes for $148 — but try code 5N3R to get 25% off at checkout. Elsa Ottoman Dress
The Best Sheath Dresses for Work: Brooks BrothersOoh: this ponte knit sheath dress from Brooks Brothers looks like a great one. I love the notch neck and extended cap sleeves, as well as the decorative topstitching.  It’s available in regular and petite sizes 0-14 for $198 at Brooks Brothers; it’s dry clean only. Ponte Knit Sheath Dress
The Best Sheath Dresses for Work: Classiques EntierI have this Classiques Entier dress in navy, and it’s a great step up from your basic sheath — I like the wide V-neck and the cap sleeves, along with the stretchy but heavy ponte. The downside is that with the full-length zipper along the back, it’s difficult to shorten or lengthen the dress — but if that’s not your concern, this is a great bet. It’s $229, available in sizes 2-16. Ponte Knit V-Neck Sheath Dress
The Best Sheath Dresses for Work: Max MaraMax Mara is my “when I win the lottery” shopping destination, and this dress is no different — the wide, seamed waistband looks gorgeous, and I like the smooth stretch cotton sateen. It’s $695, available in sizes 2-16. Maia Stretch Cotton Sateen Dress

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best sheath dresses for work

The best sheath dresses for work -- all of our favorite, classic styles to wear to work in a TON of offices, including conservative, business casual, and more! An easy workhorse for women lawyers, bankers, MBAs, executives, and other overachieving chicks.

Comments

  1. No Thanks Anon :

    I have been getting frequent calls from financial advisers asking to meet with me and introduce themselves. I’m not looking for a financial adviser, so I just say “Sorry I’m not looking for a financial adviser right now” and decline to meet with them. They always sound very offended when I turn down the meeting. Is this a common experience? Would you handle it the same way, or am I unintentionally being rude?

    • Anonymous :

      Yes. Very common and yes they do sound offended, though I’ve had them get rude with me — when I say I don’t need an FA, they’ll say — well you’re a lawyer (bc they’re cold calling my entire firm) how do you know how to manage money. Uh – that attitude will win you business.

      • No Thanks Anon :

        Thanks- good to know it’s not just me!

        • Same! And believe it or not I will get the same exact person calling me multiple times. While I appreciate that they have to be pro-active in that line of work, most are generally unfriendly and just relentless.

    • This just happened to me today! The guy was like see you at 10:30 Wednesday? I was like what? I said no! I just hang up. I don’t have time for that.

  2. I’m more worried about necklines being too high, which a lot of these are. I have a big chest. High neck lines look awful on me. Are there any sheath dresses that have something other than a high neck or a v-neck?

  3. I love sheath dresses but sadly, they don’t work with my bottom half – I tend to carry all my weight in my tummy and hips. I need something in between a sheath and an A-line – any suggestions?

    • I am in the same boat! They look so good on a hanger and SO inappropriate on my backside. My top and bottom are about 2 sizes different, so it’s nearly impossible to find something that fits my chest and isn’t “vavavavoom” on my behind, or a dress that fits my bottom appropriately and I’m not swimming in. I am afraid I will always have to have dresses like this fitted professionally, which isn’t in my budget. Do you have any suggestions for professional fitting dresses for pear-shaped bodies? Thank you!

      • Anonymous :

        My secret is to go to the “elderly ladies who lunch” department at the department store. The one for women many decades older than me. There are often generously cut sheath dresses that work for my pear shape. I usually then taper the side seams from hip down to hem for a more modern look. That’s a super easy fix.

    • Tinkerbelle :

      Fellow Tinkerbelle-shaped woman here! I really like the Adrianna Papell one from Nordstrom (with the origami neckline, it’s been featured here before)- it’s more generous in the rear, but the higher (but not choking) neck fits my smaller bust without sagging.

      I have several of the dresses Kat mentioned- the MMLafleur one with the V-neck is good, and def a go-to dress with a blazer for my meeting days, though my bottom does look a bit round in it. MMlafleur has a very similar, machine-washable dress with a slightly wider cut at in the skirt that’s prob worth trying.

      The Classiques Entier ponte dress with the full zip back (I have it in burgundy) is date-night only. Fits well with both my bust and my hips/behind, but a little too curve-loving for daytime (like, someone might offer to insure my derriere a’la Jennifer Lopez).

      Same with the DVF Bevin. Love that dress for a classy night out, too body-con for the office for me.

    • I’m pear-shaped and the T Tahari “Cali” dress posted above is my holy grail sheath dress. It’s literally the only sheath dress I can wear. I have three!

    • Anonymous :

      I just got the Annie dress from MM LaFleur, and I’m in love with it. The a-line isn’t exaggerated, but it’s enough to smooth over my hips. I’m a definite pear shape.

    • I just got the Annie dress from MM LaFleur, and it’s perfect for me. I’m a pear, and the a-line shape is enough to skim over my hips but not so much that it looks exaggerated. It still basically looks like a sheath.

  4. I will miss the Limited’s collection sheath. That one works on me (I always ordered the long length at 5-6, though).

  5. Possible unpopular opinion: I just don’t like sheath dresses. I’m not a pear; it’s not about them not fitting. In fact I think they look nice on me. They’re just wildly impractical. A pencil skirt that hits just above the knee only rides up a little bit when I sit down, but a sheath dress cut to exactly the same length ends up exposing most of my thigh, which feels unprofessional to me. They’re also really difficult to clean right under the arms because suiting material is harder to get sweat and deodorant out of than a blouse. Sheath dresses end up ruined under the arms and only under the arms much more quickly because they’re harder to clean. Basically I don’t understand why people like them so much at all.

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      I wear a sheath dress 75% of the time I go to the office. I don’t have the problems with them that you mention, which is probably why I like them so much. I find them incredibly easy to fit (not a pear either), comfortable, and nothing to match except shoes. I have the Theory dress above in numerous colors and some Boss sheaths in numerous colors. As well as some more “fun” ones as well.

  6. Anonymous :

    Prob too late for this, but any consensus on whether the scoop back on the Boden dress is office appropriate? I like the cap sleeves, I’m leaning towards not. I’m in biglaw for what it’s worth.

    • Probably depends on your office. I personally don’t think I would feel comfortable wearing it, but I don’t actually think it would be seen as unprofessional in my biglaw office. But I definitely work at one of the more casual/least conservative biglaw firms and in one of their most casual offices.

  7. I would love to recommend a Sheath dress I purchased from Nora Gardner (the best dress I’ve picked up in the last five years). I’ve been living in this dress since this past Fall. It’s simply an amazing dress for the office, happy hour and brunch.

  8. Great advice! Love the Tahari Dress. We sell handmade designer jewelry – a great addition to any of these dresses for work!

    http://www.settygallery.com/

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