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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:

For a crisp blouse, such as the cotton non-iron one from Brooks Brothers pictured above (for $98), this Hugo Boss blouse ($195), or this plus-size Foxcroft blouse ($90):

  • the blouse should say “fitted” in the description, or have darts that make it fitted
  • it should hit at the top of your hipbone, not just below your waist — I’ve found that the shorter blouses are intended to be tucked, ironically.

Silky blouses can be trickier, because the rules for crisp blouses apply to some of them (particularly ones with a collar and darts) — they should be fitted and hit at the top of your hipbone.  In addition to those blouses, though, there are a number of more relaxed styles that are not fitted that also, I think, look appropriate untucked.

  • the same rules apply as for crisp blouses for fit and hipbone, such as this lovely Hugo Boss (for  — for example, I think these silk blouses will all look better tucked (or layered beneath sweaters) in a conservative office setting: Equipment ($208), Everlane ($78), Halogen ($68)
  • you have more leeway if the blouse is uncollared, I think — there are a number of relaxed styles that are popular now, such as this Vince Camuto, ($98) or this plus-sized version from Talbots ($69) that give you the option of tucking or not

Now: would I wear an untucked blouse for an interview?  I probably wouldn’t, to be honest — this is one of the reasons I tend to prefer untucked, fitted silk sweaters beneath suits, but that’s me.  As for the belt question:  I think most of the time a slim belt (less than 1″ wide, certainly) will make the look more polished — but that obviously isn’t always the case, as Brooks Brothers illustrates with the blue version of the pictured blouse.

Readers, what say you — when do you leave your blouses untucked?  What types of blouses (or situations) “demand” a tuck? Also: how do you feel about belts and blouses?

(L-all)

Comments

  1. oil in houston :

    I understand the argument if you’re petite. But personnally, I’ve always tucked my shirts (I’m 5’7), unless it’s the weekend and I want a more relaxed, which to be honest is what that picture looks like to me, weekend relaxed fit, not I’m going to a meeting ….

    • I’m 5’8 and an untucked shirt makes me look out of proportion. A half tucked shirt in the front is about all I can handle.

  2. SadatWork :

    I routinely un-tuck for business casual. Would opt for something else for conservative: buttoned jacket, sweater, tailored blouse. Belts and blouses are okay, but not universally flattering. I don’t have much of a waist so it just makes me look square. I avoid belts. Tab closure pants aid a more “polished” look when tucking.

  3. I usually don’t wear structured blouses or tops because of my…er…busty-ness, so my take on this is a bit different. If I’m wearing a blouse–silky or knit–with something that has the room for tucking in (ie, a tulip/banded waist skirt, trousers), I might tuck in. I’m more of a belting person, usually, simply because I can look really top heavy if I tuck in. Oh who are we kidding, I also look bottom heavy then too ;)

  4. Diana Barry :

    If it has a shirttail or a curved hem, it should be tucked for a formal setting. I don’t think the blouse in the picture should be worn to work untucked.

    I don’t wear button-up blouses any more to work, since (1) I always felt like they should be tucked and (2) I didn’t like how they looked on me when they were tucked. I think this happens even with tall people if you have a short torso and/or are at all busty.

    • Agree on all fronts. I think straight hemmed blouses look fine untucked, but not curved hems (unless it’s silky and flowy and you’re going for a look with some skinny pants).

    • Agree also. I feel like button downs like the one pictured should always be tucked. That untucked under a sweater thing died for me when they started sewing dickies (and shirttails) into sweaters. I’m firmly on team tuck, unless the blouse or top is specifically designed to be untucked.

  5. Anonymous :

    I’m 5’2 with a large bust, and a short waist. I look ridculous with tucked shirts, like I’m all boob and legs (which is a little true, but not something I want to emphasize).

  6. I always tuck. I have narrow shoulders, a small waist and curvy hips. I just think if I don’t tuck, it looks (a) sloppy and (b) I look like a barrel. I need the waist definition.

  7. Wildkitten :

    I hate tucking so all my favorite shirts are the ones with “neat” hems at the bottom.

  8. hoola hoopa :

    Agree with the hive. Untucked shirts are generally more casual – especially if they have shirttail hems.

    I don’t tuck because I also don’t find it flattering on me, so I opt for other options when dressing for a formal environment. I like banded blouses and tops such as silk sweaters which look finished without needing to be tucked. Or I skip the whole mess and wear a dress!

    • Exactly- They look sloppy on me, untucked. Tucked, they look terrible. So, unless they are absolutely mandatory, I wear something else.

      They basically don’t look good on many women, in my opinion. They look good on tall/ long torsoed, slender women with smaller busts. So, they look great on TV lawyers and models, and another 10-30% of women in real life. It’s a top that is directly adopted from men’s styles, and therefore the tailoring is hard to get right on women.

      • Rachelellen :

        You had me laughing, but for me it is a lower-body issue rather than a bust one. In other words, waist-hip ratio.

  9. ManagementConsultant :

    I have the busty issue that I think makes me look terrible when my shirts are tucked in, but agree that a belt can work wonders. So I just make sure I don’t wear button downs/other shirts that require tucking unless I’m also wearing pants that have a belt loop (and perhaps something like a nice tab closure). Otherwise, I wear sweaters/cardigans/etc that don’t need to be tucked.

  10. I’m neither short nor busty, so tucking is often a better look on me than untucked.
    However, I agree that those curved hem shirts should never be untucked- for some reason it conjures a mental image of polyester black pants and jewel toned polyester button downs (untucked, curved hems) in a very un-polished, 2004ish look.

    Straight hems, regardless of height, are ok untucked for me (like a sweater would be), and the curved hem shirts with jeans or leggings on the weekends, but never never in a professional area and never ever EVER at an interview.

  11. Most of the time, I tuck when I am wearing a skirt, but not when I am wearing pants. I do agree that shirts with uneven or shirttail hems look better tucked in a formal setting, but I almost never wear those.

  12. rachelellen :

    This is really, really straightforward for me. I’m not busty but I’m very curvy and tucking looks atrocious. I’ve also come to realize that the style of blouses that would wind up being tucked also looks bad on me. So I stick with things that fit more loosely and would never need to get tucked – like nice quality sweaters, for example. Under blazers and cardigans I’ll always do a sleeveless shell.

    In my mind, whenever I even so much as consider a tuck-able shirt, I wind up looking like an early 90’s fashion disaster.

  13. I mostly tuck my blouses. I don’t typically wear button down blouses because they don’t work for my bust/shoulders, but I tuck the other types unless they’re some kind of imbellished top which is hard to describe. For example I have a white tank with a crochet overlay which actually looks great with a cardigan over it. I don’t tuck that in. I’m also 5’11” so my torso is a bit longer. I just feel sloppy when I don’t tuck. I do wear sweaters very often though and those of course I don’t tuck.

  14. My anti-tucking stance has largely to do with my feelings about my abs. I feel like even if you have a relatively flat stomach, tucking emphasizes that one little tiny roll that would otherwise hide beneath your shirt. And if you’re like me and you’re still looking for the abs you had pre-baby, that roll may have its own name.

  15. I am also short and short-waisted so button-downs that tuck and look good on me are hard to find. In general, I tuck and don’t tuck depending on the top and pants I’m wearing. I do think that tuck always looks more “put together” to echo yesterday’s topic of people who just always seem to look good. So even though we are a business casual office, I look at the director and what he wears. He’s always tucked (even his polos and even on Friday) and he always looks really put together so that’s what I strive for myself.

  16. Gail the Goldfish :

    I generally think button-down shirts should be tucked if they have a curved hem, which is most of them. Then, of course, they never stay tucked in. I’ve largely avoided buying button-downs for this reason, but this probably obvious possible solution just now occurred to me: could a tailor take a shirt with a curved hem and hem it straight across so it looks like it’s supposed to be untucked? Has anyone had this done?

    • In the Pink :

      Absolutely possible. I have done it … to turn a blouse (in a fabric/pattern which I could not resist) into a tunic of sorts, worn with a belt. More of a biz caz item then in my mind.

      Occasionally, I will wear a modal or other form-fitting tank and allow it to be seen underneath the hem of my blazer… as an accent/tertiary color. So if that’s untucked, I’m guilty. I might also do that with a belt and then leave the cardi or jacket “open.” Otherwise, I tuck, being an extreme hourglass.

  17. Josie Pye :

    I am short but long-waisted/hourglass figure, and I find that tucking is essential. Tucking in my top lengthens my legs because more of my pants are showing, so I look more proportional. If I am untucked or have a long shirt, my top and bottom halves look like they’re the same length, and I seem stumpy as a result.

    On a related note….any tips for keeping silky shells or blouses tucked in? Mine always wiggle out. I tried tucking the shell into my undies by going over the undies and then up through the leg holes so you wouldn’t see my underwear if I bent over (does that make sense?) but all that did was give me the worst VPL ever.

    • If you’re not a pantyhose wearer, I have no tips. But I usually wear pantyhose – yes sometimes even with pants – and tuck the shirt into the pantyhose. If you wear any kind of control top that sits around your waist, that would work too, provided it doesn’t show over your pants/skirt when tucked

  18. tuck or not :

    I can go either way, it kind of depends on the rest of the look. As to answer about belts, if the pants have belt loops AND I’m tucking, then I absolutely will wear a belt. If the pants have no loops, I don’t tuck. I typically have to wear a belt anyway, as I have yet to find pants that fit well enough that it’s not necessary.

    I am short, and short-waisted, but no longer busty. I’m just slender & petite now, so sometimes tucking and/or belting works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

  19. Another hand raised for the short and curvy who never tucks. I look for neatly hemmed tops that hit at the hip. I agree that having curved shirttails hanging out looks unprofessional.

  20. Old Iowa Lawyer :

    I have always heard that if you tuck your blouse into pants with belt loops, you must wear a belt. If the pants do not have belt loops, you don’t wear a belt. (Duh.) Even though my body shape is fine for tucking, this rule keeps me from tucking many times because I either don’t have the appropriate belt or a belt will make a weird bump on the front of my outfit (or prevent me from buttoning my jacket). I think I need to buy some new belts with flatter buckles. In the meantime, I often wear knit tops untucked with suits, making sure they are short enough not to show below the jacket in the back.

  21. Wow, it never even occurred to me to wear dress shirts like the one pictured with a pencil skirt untucked. I work in a business casual office that’s a little closer to business than to casual. Is anyone else confused?

  22. I personally prefer my shirt tucked in, as I’m very petite and quite busty. I do think it adds polish to an outfit, especially when combined with a slim belt on the pants or skirt. The only way i’d wear my shirt untucked is if it’s a collarless shirt/tunic/ blouse or if I cinch the shirt itself with a slim belt. Thanks for a great post!

  23. I am amazed at the vast majority of commenters for whom a blouse just doesn’t work. Count me as one of them, but I thought I was “weird” because of it. Now I finally know better.

    So here it is: I have worked for over 25 years, and have not tucked a blouse in for probably the last 10 of them. Most days I go to work dressed business casual, and in the summer that is usually slacks and a shirt worn untucked (straight or curved hem). For formal business days, I will wear a shell of some sort under a jacket of some sort (including suit).

    I agree completely that almost no women can pull off a crisp blouse under a suit jacket.

  24. In-House Europe :

    I only tuck silky tops that I can then slightly pull out to make my short-waistedness (?) not as obvious. When I was 20 pounds lighter and not such an obvious apple I was fine with tucking, so there is that.

    Good conversation point – yes, it is a silly thing to worry about but something many of us probably wondered!

  25. I pretty much wear all of my blouses untucked. I think silk blouses with the exception of an Equipment blouse should not be tucked in. I have an equipment blouse and when i wear it which is rare, I do not tuck it in. I don’t tuck in my shirt unless I am wearing a high-waisted pencil skirt. It gives my body a nice hourglass shape (I am tall, skinny, and smaller busted, but I say proportional :-) ). All of my other blouses are from Ann Taylor, NY&Co and BCBG and Nanette Lepore and some bebe(yes bebe) and those are pretty untucked because they are structured. I think ultimately it depends on the look you are going for and the material of the shirt which makes a huge difference.

  26. London lawyer :

    What a great post! I feel a little ashamed to hear that the untucked look is for the slobs among us. I’m another short pear shape and tucking looks atrocious on me, so I always untuck. For some reason I started wondering if I should be striving harder to achieve a good tucked in look with a belt and here you all are talking about this very thing. Trouble is, a good belt is hard to find too

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