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).

The Slightly Fancy White Tee

These shirts — usually in jersey or some other t-shirt like material — have a few great details that elevate them from your basic white t-shirt.  The details are usually near the neck — but sometimes also down the back or at the hem; the material may also be different or nicer in some way than your usual t-shirt.  Pro: these can be easy to care for, and if you have fit problems because of your bust/waist ratio, these can be easier to wear than a button-front shirt. Cons: opacity can be a problem, and some details (like a sheer shoulder like the lace one below) may give you pause for your office or wardrobe. (For my $.02 I think they look lovely as a layering piece, particularly beneath a blazer – I just layer a camisole beneath them and a regular nude-for-me bra.)

fancy white t-shirt for suits

The Blouse Tee

These tops are shaped like a tee (and are usually pullovers), but usually made from a blousy material. They can look nice and crisp, but can be high maintenance (e.g., required dry cleaning or ironing). They also can cross into the “too informal” category pretty easily.

t-blouse for work

The White Knit Short-Sleeved Sweater

These can be difficult to find online — so when you see them in the store at places like Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, do stock up! Pros: they’re definitely fancier than a t-shirt material, and sometimes more opaque (be on the safe side here and wear a camisole and nude-for-you bra the first time, though). Cons: they may need extra care in the laundry, or they may fade or look “dirty” too soon.

short-sleeved white sweaters for work

The Non-Blousy Blouse

I normally think of a blouse as having buttons and/or a collar — these tops lack that, but they definitely still feel like a blouse in formality, usually because of their material.  These can be a more modern option, as well as being easier to fit if gaping is a problem… but they can be harder to care for and be more sheer.

non-blousy blouses for work

The Casual/Feminine Blouse

These are blouses that may have buttons up the front and/or a collar — but there’s something about it that makes it more feminine, such as a burnout pattern (like the polka dots below), a peplum detail, eyelet/lace, a wrap effect, or an unusual fabric (like the jersey one we featured a while ago from Anne Fontaine). If you work in a very conservative office and are striving to add more feminine details to your workwear, start here because it’s hard to go wrong (beyond wrinkles/sheerness/etc) — for all but the most formal of occasions they’re appropriate, and an easy, chic addition to your wardrobe that goes with everything else.

feminine white blouses

The White Shell

This can be a huge category — or a very narrow one if going sleeveless isn’t appropriate at your office. To be honest, unless you wear a lot of cardigans or washable blazers, I’d avoid these tops in general — I always think it’s better to wear a sleeved layer beneath a blazer, if only to make trips to the dry cleaner more minimal (not only is it expensive, but it can be really hard on clothes too). I think they can work best with cardigans because you don’t get that line on your arm where your sleeve ends — but if you’re going for bang for your buck, I’d stick with sleeved options. Still, if you’re on the hunt, here are a few cute ones:

white sleeveless shell for work

This is a huge category (and this was a big of a runaway post!) — but what categories am I missing? What white tops do you need in your wardrobe, or have proven themselves to be real workhorses? How do you guys like to make your work outfits more springlike?

* Hunting for maternity sizes? Don’t forget to check out our Guide to Maternity Shopping for Work and our Guide to Dressing Professionally While Pregnant.

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!

(L-all)

Comments

  1. Anonymous :

    That Banana Republic white short sleeve top pictured (worn with the green floral skirt) is great – the fabric is quite thick and opaque, and the pleats on the front are very flattering. It’s basically the only white opaque top I’ve ever found. I love wearing white/ivory shells but I’ve resigned myself to always wearing a cami with them.

  2. SuperScarlet :

    These shirts make me wish I could wear white.

    Relationship question. A guy who ghosted me four months ago after six weeks of dating contacted me this weekend to say hello. We chatted by phone for half an hour. He apologized but gave no explanation for ghosting, just that a lot was going on. We laughed and talked like old times, but he didn’t ask me out. He said he would talk to me soon and that it was nice to hear my voice.

    I’m trying to figure out what he wants. If he reached out with a real apology and explanation, he would have a chance, because I really like him. But I don’t want to get used again.

    In any normal circumstance, a fool like this would be out of my life. But I really like this one.

    • Anonymous :

      I assume he wants sex with someone he knows with no commitment (or if you weren’t intimate before, maybe he just wants the attention). Either way, he’s a jerk. If he had any legit excuse for ghosting or even felt really bad about it, he would have apologized and asked you out properly. JSFAMO.

    • I agree. Men who call and say they will call again are MERELEY sniffing you out to see if you are available and INTERESTED in haveing more sex. FOOEY! This is the story of my life, and I am so tired of men lookeing for sex. DOUBEL FOOEY! Even Sheketovits, who professed that we would be MARRIED, ultimately just wanted to get me into bed where he slobbered all over me and was NOT interested in providing me with any kind of satisfaction. That is NOT exciteing, particularley when he was drunk most of the time and totaly unabel to perform. TRIPEL FOOEY on Sheketovits! I recomend you move on to other men. Grandma Leyeh says there ARE a at least few good men left in NYC, and I should be abel to snag one of them. YAY!

    • Baconpancakes :

      Maybe try asking him out and seeing whether he reacts like he’s interested in a relationship or whether (like Anonymous says), he’s just in it to get his rocks off. A similar scenario happened to a friend of mine – after three great dates, the guy ghosted, and called 5 months later. Turned out he had been overseas with work and then with family issues for 5 months, and wasn’t clever enough to know he should’ve said that first thing. My friend was annoyed but like you, really liked the guy, and after two more dates, she saw he had just goofed up and was super into her as well. They’re getting married in May.

      • I think I would go with this approach. What you want is to see a real effort (from him!), and some recognition that ghosting you wasn’t cool, especially if he wants to have you in his life in the future. Like everyone else says, if he’s just kinda in it to reconnect casually because he basically likes you, but not enough to have a relationship, then you might as well drop him.

        I know. I hate it when that happens, too.

      • Anonymous :

        BP, i think there is a difference between 6 weeks of dating and 3 great dates. If someone ghosted me after 6 weeks of dating, I pretty much think that a terminal disease or jury sequestration would be the only thing that would save that relationship. Much different from 3 great dates/then nothing.

    • NOPE.

      A guy did that to me once. He had been replying more and more slowly to my texts, so I just never responded to his last one. He popped back up months later with, “Hey there! Whatever happened to you? :)” I responded with, “Well, I got the sense that you just weren’t that into me, so I decided to spare you the trouble of texting me. :)” Boo yah! Never heard from his lame self again.

      Dating TRUTH: interested men pursue, disinterested men do not. If this guy didn’t intentionally seek you out when y’all were together the first time, and he’s not acting with intentionality now, he’s not looking for anything worthwhile.

      • Preach.

      • Anonymous :

        I hate to pile on, but none of my male friends has ever said “Man, I really liked this woman and I was really interested in pursuing something with her, but work got busy and I had family stuff so I never called her.”

      • Senior Attorney :

        Yes times a million. The smartest promise I ever made to myself was “I will not chase men who are not interested enough to chase me first.”

    • Shopping challenged :

      I’d be standoffish, as much as I could anyway. If he asks you out, be very clear in what you do and don’t expect, and that you don’t want to be hurt.

  3. Gail the Goldfish :

    All I want is a white shirt that you can’t see my bra through. That’s it. So far I have failed in this quest. Gap used to have plain white t-shirts that were thick, but lately they’ve been a little see through. Uniqlo occasionally does, but not consistently, and forget about finding work blouses that are opaque. The last time I returned a white blouse to Ann Taylor, I told the saleswoman I was returning it because it was see through. Her response: “Oh, I just always wear a blazer on top and don’t worry about it.”

    • Anonymous :

      My goal in life is to find a white shirt that isn’t see through.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I think this could be a serious business opportunity. Opaque white shirts in petite, regular, tall, and plus sizes. I’d pay pretty good money for a white top that doesn’t require another layer.

      The closest I’ve come is the Eddie Bauer tshirts. Not totally opaque but good enough that I’d forego the cami underneath on the weekend. Can’t do it without for work though.

    • What drives me nuts is that I’m certain that I used to own these things, back in the late ’90’s. I spent several years (college) basically never wearing a bra, and I still wore white shirts and am pretty certain that I was decent about it. And believe me when I say that I wasn’t spending a lot of money on these now-mythical shirts at the time, either. So, I’m certain that it’s possible, but I can’t even find one where a nude bra is enough nowadays.

      • Coach Laura :

        Lyssa, I think it’s cheapening of fabric and construction that’s driving the see-through white shirt/t-shirt thing.

        Talbots sometimes has shirts that are double-layered in front – I’m sure there are others out there too. But hard to find. All my white tops now are in the sweater category (also from Talbots) and are ok to wear without showing undergarments or emphasizing my not-too-svelte back-fat.

        • Coach Laura :

          And btw Kat I really like the burn-out polka dot Foxcroft shirt – and the description does say semi-sheer with model wearing underlayer. Good to know.

        • Maddie Ross :

          I think it’s also the style, though maybe the style is being driven by the decreased quality of the fabric. Tee-shirts are more “tissue weight” or “worn in” or “heathered”, which yes is definitely softer, but way more see thru.

          Honestly, this is just me, but I was an avowed cami wearer through college and my early career and I finally gave up. Everyone knows I wear a bra. I always a nude-for-me one. Deal with it.

          • Anonymous :

            I had many that were not see-through in the late 90s. Had I known it would get this hard to find them, I would have bought 10 of each then!!!

      • Amen. I stopped trying to find a nude camisole that didn’t show through white shirts, and just gave up on white shirts altogether.

    • LBH for the win! :

      Get the LBH ones — they have a double-layer in front and I can vouch that the white and the pearl are not see-through.

    • Lafayette 148 white Leigh shirt. I wore it with a medium Colour bra (hot pink) . Zero visibility.

  4. Preggo Anon :

    Is the Isabella Oliver stuff worth the money? Ever any sales? The white shirt with the tie front is so cute but so expensive!

    • Anonymous :

      I wish I had saved the money I spent at Gap and Old Navy and bought all Isabella Oliver, especially when it’s on sale. It’s worth it, to me at least, if you have multiple kids.

    • Agree. Isabella Oliver quality is great and the fit is so much better than many other maternity stores. There are sales, just not as frequent.

  5. Dog Training :

    Does anyone have experience with dog training from a locally owned/operated dog trainer (vs. Petco/PetSmart)? If so, what did it cost?

    Has anyone had great success with Petco/PetSmart? We have a 2 year old pup in need of a some targeted attention to correct a new behavior before it gets a lot worse. Friends who went to Petco/PetSmart have had underwhelming reviews, but the price is basically half of what we’re being quoted from our local, highly recommended operation.

    • pugsnbourbon :

      It depends on the behavior – something like chewing might be solved with the Petco route, but for aggression issues, you’re probably better off with a high-quality independent trainer.

      Last year we used a trainer for our rescue dog (a pug, obvs) who is very dog aggressive. I think we did six sessions and the total was right around $600 (LCOL Midwest city). It wasn’t a smashing miracle success, but she has improved overall, especially with on-leash behaviors.

    • AnonInfinity :

      I would go with the local option, no question.

      We did puppy classes at PetSmart and were happy with those, but we didn’t feel like the training was nearly as good as we moved up to harder obedience classes. I don’t think the trainers we had would have been able to help us with a specific new behavior (unless it was pretty basic).

      My husband and I are DINKs who probably treat our dogs more like children than we should, but we got a local, highly recommended trainer when we started having issues with two of our dogs. She comes to our home, and we’ve been so happy with her.

    • I have a labradoodle puppy (she’s 9 mos) and we did Petco Training twice. The first lady was pretty new but good. The second trainer was very experienced and is much better. I think it’s fair to ask the Petco that you sign up at how experienced the trainer is and to insist that you have a good one. You can’t really know this in advance. For a dog that’s a bit older, I agree that in-home (more expensive) private training would be better, and I would check yelp for that. Good luck.

      I also am a huge fan of the “Pet Corrector” spray can of air. The dog needs to not see you do it, but it makes a hissing sound that all dogs find really disconcerting. If the dog knows YOU make the sound, then it’s way less effective. It needs to be a mystery. It’s really helped with my pup’s barking at other people coming and going in my apt building.

    • We sent our dog off to a doggie “boot camp” of sorts – $500 for 3-4 weeks of boarding and training. It also included a few hours spent with us when we picked our pup up to show us how to reinforce the training. I found that to be VERY helpful. Our dog is a different dog now – he spent time not being the center of attention around other dogs (we had a bad habit of treating our dog like a king) and learning to respond to authority and commands. Highly recommended. In the Midwest, small city, for reference.

      I think the money is worth having a lifetime of your dog responding to your commands and respecting you and your household!

  6. Shopping challenged :

    What categories are you missing? Shirts with built-in bras. I realize they don’t work for the well-endowed, but not everyone here has a big bust. Especially with white, which can be transparent, it can be very helpful to have that built-in. Every so often, it’d be nice of you to throw the rest of us a bone, especially in a post with so many tops!

    • Anonymous :

      Are there shirts with built-in bras? I’ve only ever heard of camis that have them.

      • Shopping challenged :

        Camis are certainly more common, but I have a couple short-sleeved shirts with them, and even one long-sleeved. It is from Victoria’s Secret, so the v-neck is too low to wear to work, but they do exist. Seems to me like a perfect topic for “The Hunt”. Too bad Kat doesn’t seem to believe that there are actually lesser-endowed women among her readers. When I’ve brought it up before, I’ve been shut down because “they don’t work for everybody”, even though I have never seen a similar complaint for things for large-busted women, who are also not “everybody”.

  7. I was madly in love with the Alilce + Olivia lace blouse. But then I saw the $300 price and had to ghost it.

  8. how about off-white or cream? I look terrible in white, even most ivory tops are too white. Have been searching but so far no luck.

  9. Thank you for the awesome maternity selections!

  10. I bought the Ann Taylor sweater pictured with lace cutouts down the sleeves, and I love the look although the lace is a tad scratchy. I worried a bit when I realized that the lacy part goes all across the shoulder, but it’s a bit more opaque where your bra strap hits so there was no tacky show-through (assuming you wear a nude bra). Nice way to spice up workwear!

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