The Hunt: The Best Sleeveless Tops, Shells, and Blouses for Work

These are our favorite sleeveless tops, blouses and shells to wear to work—whether layered under a blazer/cardi or by themselves. Bonus: most are under $50! Note that these make GREAT components of an interview outfit or interview look!Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work 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.

Sleeveless tops are a basic in every woman’s work wardrobe — but which ones are the best? These are some of the best-selling styles we’ve mentioned in the past, all rounded up in one place — I’d love to hear your favorites that aren’t included here. As I’ve noted in the past, these aren’t necessarily my favorite tops to wear under blazers or other dry-clean-only clothes — call me a weirdo, but I like to have sleeves (even short sleeves) to better separate my body from the clothes that need expensive cleaning. (You may want to check out our post on the best tees for layering if that sounds more like your speed.) That said… a sleeveless top is much better for layering and creating clean lines beneath cardigans and blazers. I like that all of these tops cover the bra strap entirely; they also have pretty high arm holes and relatively high necklines — they’re very different from camisoles we’ve featured in the past. (As we’ve cautioned in the past, know your office — sleeveless looks aren’t always considered professional or conservative enough by themselves; only layered beneath things.)

Readers,  which are your favorite sleeveless tops for work — and how do you wear them? What’s  your preferred price range (most of these are under $50!) — and where do you buy your sleeveless tops? 

See our roundup, after the jump…

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The Best Tees For Layering Under Blazers, Cardigans, and More

2018 Update: We still think this is a great round up of the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans and more — you may also want to check out our more recent discussion about stylish tops for under suits.

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.

Which are the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans, and more? What qualities do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt, how many do you own, and how long do you expect your tees to stay looking new?  We haven’t had a discussion on the best tees for layering for work in a while, so let’s revisit some of the basics, at least for my $.02. First, t-shirts make a great layering piece because they’re washable and generally no-fuss (such as tops requiring ironing).  Furthermore, a work t-shirt should be something designed to be seen — you should be able to take your blazer off during the day without worrying that it’s see-through, clinging to your bra, too low cut, tattered or torn, or otherwise too casual.  Personally I think any pockets will usually make a tee too casual for a conservative office, as does a wider rib trim at the neckline — I love my relaxed slub t-shirts for the weekend, but I think a slub knit or linen blend would make it too casual for work, as would a pattern like a space-dye. Finally, while a tank top can be great for certain situations, it isn’t always the best for layering for two reasons — first, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to wear by itself at your office (see our last discussion on whether going sleeveless is professional – know your office!), and second, it may necessitate more laundering and drycleaning than a t-shirt would because a t-shirt would cover your armpits and protect the top layer from sweat. (But: if you want a seamless look and just want to add opacity/raise a neckline, a camisole for work, demi-camisole, or tank top is definitely the look for you.)

How about you, readers — which t-shirts do you think are the best tees for layering? Do you prefer to layer tees, tanks, camisoles, or something else beneath suits and blazers? What do you look for in a work-appropriate t-shirt? 

Pictured at top, a few of our Hall of Famers: black / red / blue.

Some of our Hall of Famers, the best-selling, classic styles that have been around for years, include:

Above: black / pink / blue / red.

Today’s featured tees for layering include:

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The Office Pashmina: 9 Ways to Use a Wrap at the Office

Ways to Use a Wrap at the Office | CorporetteBesides keeping a blazer at work, it’s also a great to have a wrap handy in your office. Sure, they’re great to grab as a top layer when you’re freezing, but that’s just one of the many ways to use a wrap. Here are nine other reasons to keep a wrap at the office:

  1. Use it as a lap blanket when you’re wearing a skirt or dress and your legs get chilly.
  2. Need a quick power nap at work? Fold your wrap and use it as a pillow.
  3. Could your dreary office really use some color? Drape a folded wrap on the back of your chair or on another chair in your office.
  4. Sit down at work and realize your new skirt is shorter than you thought? Add a little coverage with a wrap. This also works if you like to get comfy at your desk by putting your feet up, etc.
  5. In the same vein: If your new top didn’t seem revealing in the dressing room but you end up inadvertently flashing someone at the office, layer a wrap over it. 
  6. Hold a wrap over your head (or wrap it around yourself) in the rain when you’re caught without an umbrella.
  7. Spill something on yourself? Cover it up with a wrap until you can change your outfit. 
  8. On a work trip and the plane is freezing? Use it as a nicer and softer blanket/pillow than the ones from the airline.
  9. Cover your neck in the wintertime if you’re wearing a neck-baring winter coat and don’t have a scarf with you.

Now that you’ve realized all the great ways to use a wrap, check out a few of Kat’s favorites, most of which are currently on sale:

Pictured above: one / two / three / four

You may have noticed that one of those is called a ruana and the rest are labeled wraps. What’s the difference, anyway? The terms are often used loosely, but here’s a guide to the technical definitions:

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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:

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How to Do Business Casual in Cold Weather

How to Do Business Casual in Cold Weather | Corporette2017 Update: We still stand by this advice for how to do business casual in cold weather — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on how to dress professionally for the coldest days. (You may ALSO want to check out our Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Women!)

What are the best strategies for staying warm during a wintry commute while still looking professional when you get to work? How can you look stylish and professional in the winter? Reader M has a question about how to do business casual in cold weather:

I’m graduating this year and moving somewhere cold, and I have no clue how to dress business/business casual in the winter. (I have tons of dresses and cardigans and skirt suits from my summers, but rarely any winter clothes.) Specially, I’m wondering — what kind of coat should I buy? What kind of shoes/boots should I wear under work pants? What do I wear to walk to work in the snow/rain? I know this is pretty basic question, but I’d love a post on this topic!

Great questions, M — business casual in cold weather can be tricky! Some thoughts for you:

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What to Wear to Work When It’s Unseasonably Warm

What to Wear to Work When It's Unseasonably Warm | CorporetteI don’t know about you guys, but I can barely believe it’s November — it feels super warm to me. We’ve talked before about when there are arbitrary date cutoffs on clothing (such as when to stop wearing tights, and whether you can wear bare legs in winter), but not in a while — so let’s discuss.  Ladies, how many of you have done the seasonal closet shift and put away all your warm-weather clothes — and how are you adjusting? Are there any clothes you haven’t seen for a few weeks that you’re excited to wear again? On the flip side — are you rolling your eyes at anyone wearing things that you think look ridiculous considering some stores are already blaring holiday music?

For my $.02, I’m excited to pull out some of the longer cardigans that I’ve put away already because they look silly with my shorter winter coats — and I may just have to pull out my favorite sandals when I go out on Friday night.  (Must. paint. toenails.)

Pictured: Misplaced snowman, originally uploaded to Flickr by Richie Diesterheft.