The Hunt: White Tops for Spring

 white tops 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.

I would guess that 60% of my closet — if not more — is black. White appears far less frequently — but even I love to herald the beginning of spring by buying a few new white tops every year, and (if they’ve held up well enough), pulling out old favorites from previous years.  The white blouse, of course, is a classic — but sometimes you want something that isn’t quite as fussy or as formal as a blouse with collars or buttons. (If you’re on the hunt for a basic button-front blouse, a silky collared blouse, or a basic tee or shell to wear beneath a suit, check out our latest roundups on those topics.) I never know what to call these items (tops? shirts? white non-blouses?) but I do think they’re something that makes every outfit more versatile — and can be an easy way to take your more formal suits away from the dreaded “I’ve got a secret interview today” territory. Of course I am on #teamwhitecamisole as well, but that’s me…

In my mind, white tops break down into basic general categories, which I’ll lay out below…. I’ll note at the outset that a lot of these tops come in colors other than white, which show the details FAR better than the white versions, at least online. In fact, the very fact that there IS a white option may be hidden because the color doesn’t show up against your screen — so use the dropdown color picker menu if in doubt (screenshot of what I mean here).

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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…]

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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When to Tuck Your Blouse

when to tuck blousesWe haven’t talked about whether a professional must tuck her shirt in YEARS, and not one but two readers wonder… so let’s discuss. First, reader A wonders about tucking:

I recently read a fashion post suggesting that a woman in a professional environment should never wear her shirt untucked. I am fairly short (5’3″) and busty, and the tucked-in look usually isn’t very flattering on me. Though I can sometimes pull it off with a blazer on top, tucking my shirts tends to make my torso look very short and my bust look huge. Is it really necessary to wear only tucked shirts in a professional setting? I’ve always thought reasonably tailored, hip-length shirts were fine untucked, even in a conservative environment. What do you think?

Meanwhile, reader S wonders:

I was wondering if you could weigh in on a debate I’m having with a couple friends — we’ve been discussing whether it is more professional to wear a button-down shirt tucked or untucked with dress slacks/trousers. One person says untucked and tucked are equally professional, one person says tucked in is ok only if the trousers are worn with a belt, and one person says tucked in is always more professional! Thoughts? (And thanks!)

I’m curious to hear what the readers say here. We’ve talked about how to keep your shirts tucked, rounded up blouses especially for busty women, as well as done Hunts for crisp button-front blouses and silk blouses… but I’m not sure we’ve ever talked about whether you MUST tuck your shirt in for big events like interviews or presentations.  For my $.02, as someone who (like reader A) is short and busty, the tucked-in look is rarely a good one on me, and I would consider an untucked, fitted blouse — worn with trousers or a pencil skirt — to be a classic workwear outfit.  I would make a few caveats, though, for when you can wear a blouse untucked: [Read more…]

The Hunt: Silk Button-Front Blouses

The Best Silk Button-Fronts | Corporette2016 Update: All of these tops are now in our Workwear Hall of Fame. We’ve also updated the text as of 2016.

Sure, 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.

We rounded up some of the best crisp button-downs around this time last year, but we haven’t ever rounded up the best silk-button fronts.  I’m still a fan of the ones with a pointed collar (instead of a rounded or band collar, or a split neck) for a more classic look — the collar looks great beneath a suit blazer, layered underneath sweaters, and more.  For my $.02, I’d suggest wearing a cotton camisole (with the arm holes adjusted fairly high) beneath them so you can try to get at least two wears before you have to take them to the drycleaner.  There’s a ton of selection out there — readers, which are your favorite silky button-downs?  Do you have any laundry tricks (either to extend the wears-per-launder or to make them look nice without drycleaning?) Any must-haves (or do-not-buys?) [Read more…]

The Hunt: Button-Down Shirts


2016 Update: All of these tops are in our Workwear Hall of Fame! The content and links were also updated in 2016.

Sure, 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.

Of all The Hunt features we’ve done, I’m kind of surprised that we’ve never done one on the best button-downs for women — a crisp white blouse is a classic for the office.  (All of these shirts come in white, even though I’ve mostly featured colored shirts so you can see the details better.) Now, a few points: yes, yes, most women’s collars do not button down, so these should all properly be called “button front” shirts. But most of these stores call them button-down shirts, and that’s what I’ve always heard, so I’m going to go with “button down.” A second point: a big decision (as far as blouses go) is whether you want one that is non-iron. Personally, my iron is gathering dust because I always buy the non-iron ones for myself — but I have heard (but not researched) that there are some health concerns regarding the chemicals that treat a fabric to make it “non-iron.” So — readers, if you HAVE researched the subject, please weigh in. Finally, a few random tips: a) if you prefer silky button-fronts, check out our Hunt for that one, b) if you’re busty, check out our guide to specialty shops for busty blouses, c) this post is being updated, but you can still check out our original top 10 ways to wear a button-down shirt, and, finally, d) as a laundry tip, I’ve had great success with putting the shirts in the dryer for no more than about 15 minutes and then hanging them up to air dry. Oh, and I’m on Team White-Camisole-Beneath-White-Shirt–but many others are on Team Nude Camisole; you can check out our discussion here.  Readers — which are your favorite button-down shirts? Do you purchase non-iron shirts? And what are your best tips for laundering (and wearing) a button-down shirt? [Read more…]