The Hunt: Camisoles for Work

camisoles 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.

We haven’t rounded up the best camisoles for layering (or demi camisoles) in far too long — so let’s discuss. Which are your favorites, ladies? What do you like about them — simplicity, stretch, shaping powers — something lacy or pretty? — or fun colors or prints to add a pop of color or fun to an otherwise basic outfit? What color camisole do you think is best under white blouses? (I’m on Team White all the way!)…

First, some picks in a few special interest categories:

affordable camisoleHeading up the list: the $4 cotton camisoles from Old Navy.  There’s nothing too fancy about these, but that’s kind of what’s great about them — they wash up easily, have adjustable straps so you can make the neckline as high or as low as you like, and, ah yes, they’re $4.  I’m surprised to see that they seem to be phasing out the Tami style (a hybrid between a tank top and cami); right now you can buy a 3-pack in regular sizes or a bunch of colors in maternity sizes.  Note also that if you like a demi camisole instead, a lot of readers have sung the praises of Old Navy and Gap pullover bras.  The pictured tank is available in seven colors, sizes XS-XXL, as well as petite and tall sizes, for $4. Pictured: Scoop-Neck Cami
airism camisoleI’ve yet to try Uniqlo’s new AIRism line, but if you’re looking for something to keep you “dry and comfortable year-round,” give these a try. Note that Uniqlo also makes camisoles in its Heattech fabric, if you want a layer to help keep your body warmth in wintertime; Lands’ End also has camisoles in their Thermaskin line.  The pictured tank is available in six colors (two beiges!) for $12.90. AIRism Camisole
seamless camisoleReaders used to love the Shimera line at Nordstrom — interestingly, if you search for it, these identical-looking tanks and camisoles come up.  If you’re looking for more of a seamless camisole — and one that won’t “stick” to your layers the way cotton can — I’d start the search here.  These two-way seamless camisoles have both a scoop neck and a V-neck, if you’re sensitive about your bra straps showing beneath your camisoles, the two-way seamless tanks are great as well. (Talbots has a similar thick-strapped seamless camisole in regular and petite sizes.) The pictured camisole comes in eight colors, sizes S-XL, for $28 (or, two for $48). Nordstrom Lingerie Two-Way Seamless Camisole (2 for $48)
polyester camisole for workI’ve picked up a few of these Ann Taylor camisoles on deep discount over the years, and have been happy with them.  (I have a fuchsia one that hasn’t faded at all despite a ton of wear and regular machine wash/tumble dry laundering.) They’re 92% polyester, 8% spandex, and machine washable; currently Ann Taylor stocks them in 8 colors (three beiges!), sizes XXS-XXL, for $30 — but right now if you buy one, you get the second 50% off. Stretch Cami
shaping camisoleTo be honest, I’m not personally a fan of shaping tank tops — they all seem to roll up on me or otherwise pinch me in the wrong places, and in general I’d rather just wear an underbust bodysuit or highwaisted shaping briefs, and add a camisole or demi-cami on top.  But if you like your camisole to also be a shaper, these Yummie ones are some of the best — they’ve been around for ages, have 90 good reviews at Nordstrom, and come in a wide variety of colors. The pictured top is $34 at Nordstrom, or you can get 2 for $58. Yummie by Heather Thomson ‘Stephanie’ Two Way Shaping Tank (Regular & Plus) 
simple camisoleI always think of Hanro as being the gold standard if you want simple, classic, well made undergarments — and this cotton seamless camisole is a great example.  I like the tiny bit of satin edging (I’m against lace on camisoles for work, even as a trim — too boudoir), and the fact that select colors are on sale right now at Saks.  The pictured tank is available in eight colors, sizes XS-L, for $37-$62. Hanro Cotton Seamless Camisole 

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  1. Anonymous :

    Any camisole recs for someone who tends to sweat with an extra layer against their skin? I love wearing ivory and white tops but wearing a polyster or spandex blend camisole underneath makes me feel like I’m in a sauna.

  2. I really like the ones from Express! They come with a shelf, which for someone with lots of in the chest area, helps me feel more ‘contained’

  3. I’m ashamed to admit this, but Forever21 has some of my favorite camisoles. I very rarely shop there, but found some basic camis in basic colors that have actually lasted for several years. I am petite and busty, and it seems like most camisoles are so low cut with such long straps they do nothing to help cover my chest, but I do not have that problem with theirs.

    • Lone Engineer :

      +1 to all of this. Petite and busty and I love the F21 camis for all the same reasons. They have a zillion colors including multiple shades of nude, and they’re only $1.80 usually! The only thing I don’t like is that the edge at the neckline and back is thicker than I’d like, so there’s a bit of a line under my blouse. When I care about the line, I wear an Ann Taylor cami instead. They’re invisible and fit nicely on me.

    • I’m the same! It’s the only thing I buy from Forever21 (has been for years, but I never really liked the store). Petite top, busty.

  4. I’d love recommendations for an undershirt/camisole with short sleeves, so that I can wear it under my wool sweaters and avoid washing them after each wear. Any ideas?

    • Anonymous :

      WHBM had thick nylon scoop neck shirts that I’ve used for this.

    • Anonymous :

      Hanro if you’re fancy, Uniqlo if you’re not.

      • I like this distinction ;) Thanks. How does Uniqlo sizing run? Is it TTS for adults, or is it sized for tweens and teenagers? I have no experience with the brand. I’m pretty small on top–wear XS in most brands.

    • Adea specializes in that kind of thing too. If you like demi camisoles, some Halftees have sleeves. Uniqlo is probably a good bet for affordable types though.

    • I have since great ones I bought on sale from Ann Taylor (so not sure if full price is worth it) with sleeves. They are so comfortable I’ll wear them around my place, too.
      I went on a hunt for these last fall and found some but the AT ones are my favorites.

  5. Shelf Bra Camis :

    Any recommendations for shelf-bra camis? Old Navy camis used to have shelf-bras but they don’t seem to anymore.

    • Uniqlo had a ton when I was looking today.

    • KateMiddletown :

      Merona at target – I like them for sleeping

    • I used to buy them at Express, haven’t in years but worth checking out.

    • Weirdly, Charlotte Russe. If you wear them on a frequent basis you’ll get no more than a couple years’ worth of wear from them, but they’re $7.50 individually and frequently BOGO 1/2 off.

  6. I have some M&S ones that I love – they have a stretch lace trim that’s not overly lacy so they’re neither totally utilitarian nor too fancy for me. I’ll see if I can find them online


      They come up significantly smaller than the picture implies – with negative ease.

  7. On a related note, does anyone have a recommendation for white camis, short-sleeve or long-sleeve t-shirts to wear under an open cardigan or jacket? Since I want to wear something open on top, it can’t be too clingy on my post-kids belly, and I’d like it to be reasonably opaque.

    • reunion gift committee :

      LBH shirts — they sell them at tennis shops / amazon / online. The front has two layers (so even the white is opaque) and they are not clingy. They do run small though.

  8. Ranting.

    I was an idiot 2 weeks ago and left my beloved LL Bean Field & Town tote in my car when I took my pup to the dog park Saturday morning. It was super early, busy, and in a very nice area, so I didn’t think twice. Of course that is stupid and someone smashed my window and stole my purse.

    Irritating, but no real biggie. It was a pain to get the window replaced, but I had all of my cards canceled within 5 minutes.

    Where I’m annoyed (and shallowly so) is that I went to LL Bean yesterday to replace my bag. They have discontinued the Field & Town bags! The clerk said maybe they might have some online, but they’re completely out and just have 2 or 3 red ones left. I hate the red and miss my classic, gorgeous black bag.

    The clerk tried to sell me the replacement “Exchange Street Tote” but it sucks. The straps are shorter, thinner, and are only attached to the top of the bag (my favorite feature of the F&T is that I could put a bowling ball in it without the straps giving). It doesn’t have inner dividers/pockets and is just not the same quality.


    • KateMiddletown :

      I can empathize – my sister’s clutch/wallet was stolen from the car while she was at the dog park last fall. It’s got to be an easy target area. Sorry to hear about that :(

    • Wildkitten :

      Oh no! You should call and see if they can find one at another store and ship it to you!

    • Shopaholic :

      Check ebay! You never know what you may find on there if all you want is to replace your classic black bag.

      I am sorry to hear about that though – I would be so upset if that happened to me!

      • HA I’m definitely stalking eBay. I have about 10 different alerts with different keywords :)

        In the meantime, I got a cute but junkie cheap one from Kohl’s until I find a replacement holy grail tote bag

    • Anonymous :

      does this one work for you? It’s a nice looking tote.

      • I did look at this one, but I’m not a huge fan of the slouchy/fold over look. I’m always grabbing stuff so it needs to have an easy zip top

    • Meg March :

      That sucks– but please tell me you actually put a bowling ball in your purse! Giggling at the mental image.

      • Very close to it I think! At one point i had a first aid kit, a laptop, mouse, stapler, scissors, cosmetics bag, straightener and my lunch in it.

        It was like a Mary Poppins bag!

    • I have a brown leather Town & Field from 2010/2011, very gently used, that I stopped using and can sell you if you are cool with brown vs black. I’m very petite and it was too big on me, but I agree, it’s a great bag. Email josiepyeavonlea at g mail dot com

  9. Not THAT Ellen :

    Can someone advise regarding a camisole washing issue? I have purchased “white” camisoles from various brands over the years that are not cotton – they are more of a stretchy material, and no matter how I wash them (I usually wash them in whites only loads), they seem to get dingy/almost gray pretty quickly. When I purchase white cotton camisoles they stay white just fine, it’s the ones that are made of stretchy material that seem to get dingy. HELP!!!! What am I doing wrong?

  10. I’ve had great luck with camisoles from The Limited. They are reversible so you can choose between a v-neck or scoop neck (you turn it around, not inside out). They have some fun colors and then good basic colors. And several shades of “nude” if I remember correctly.

    • The limited filed bankruptcy. I am crushed. The seamless cami has been a staple in my closet for years. I will wear mine until they are rags

  11. LOVE LOVE LOVE the uniqlo airism tanks! I just got one last week and it is already my favorite cami. It is thin, lightweight, comfy and most importantly does NOT ride up! Doesn’t hurt that they’re super cheap too!

    My others were from Commando (pretty good, rides up a bit and a bit too light) and Shimera which I hated. I cannot get that thing to not be around my waist 10 minutes after I put it on.

  12. I’m gonna plug for Costco camis. Cheap, durable, soft, awesome.

    • Anonymama :

      Yes! Also not too tight and not too loose, and don’t bunch up too much

    • Great quality except I’m short and even with the adjustable straps all the way shortened I have cleavage.

  13. eperdutoo :

    I have have nothing but love for the WHBM shaper camis. I wear them year-round. I’ve also found the Gilligan O’Malley ones decent from Target and they are half the price as WHBM but they tend to roll up, unlike the others. WHBM has sales frequently which helps brings the cost down. I rotate through 4 camis and they hold up well.

  14. Hi all can anyone recommend a cami that isn’t long ?? (XL needed) I am petite but don’t usu. fit in petite tops.. I only use camis to wear under sheer tops and I don’t like seeing the cami lining the shirt, or the ones I need it with, just doesn’t look right.

    • thecatsmeow :

      @cjohn, I have been eying the JCrew Perfect Fit tanks myself. Not sure on length. I would just hem them if necessary.

      Which brings me to my main question. Where is the JCrew Perfect Fit tank in this? Does anyone know how that compares to the Halogen skinny strap?

  15. I have to put a plug in for Soma. I bought 2 and they were the only thing I could put next to my skin when I had a shingles outbreak. No seams. Limited colors, though.
    I used to buy merona shelf camis to sleep in but recently they are smaller in top so I can no longer wear.

  16. I think Nordstrom has changed sizing on their Shimera tanks. I bought a size S back in April that fits perfectly – just got one from Anniversary sale (still S) that was large. No longer petite friendly. S is now listed as (4-6) . Any petite suggestions out there? Whats a 4′ 10″ girl to do!