Poll – How Casual A T-shirt Can Be Worn Beneath a Suit?

tees-beneath-suitsLast week, we were surprised to see comments saying that a t-shirt is not appropriate to be worn beneath a suit, and we thought, a) perhaps we’re talking about different things, or b) perhaps we’re terribly wrong. So we thought we’d explore.

For our $.02: Agreed, agreed, you can’t wear a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert shirt beneath a suit, nor can you wear the kind of v-neck from the Gap that you would paint a garage in. And of course, a silk or cashmere sweater or button-down shirt is preferable. But, we would say that a “dressy” cotton t-shirt like the ones we linked to that day, or very classic tees in a thick cotton or machine-washable fabric (e.g., a crewneck without a ribbed neckline), are totally acceptable to wear beneath a suit, particularly in a solid color like white. Our reasoning here is that we’ve just never studied another woman’s clothing that closely beneath her suit. Is it too tight? Too sheer? Too old-school rayon shell-like? If it isn’t any of those things and the suit looks good, the top generally fades into the background. It’s there to provide the woman with an option to take off her jacket if she needs to, but — as we’ve said before — we generally think you should keep the jacket on if you’re roaming the halls or going to meetings. In addition to being acceptable, there’s a benefit — if it’s machine-washable, it makes a working woman’s life that much easier.

which-tees-can-you-wear-to-work can-you-wear-tees-to-work which-tees-go-best-beneath-suits

But enough of our two cents — what do you guys think?
tee beneath suit

Psst: Check out our guide to the best tops under suits!


  1. I go to work every single day of my life dressed in a tshirt from Petit Bateau of one sort or another. Despite my bad casual dressing, I am quite appropriate for all kinds of situations professionally. However, when visiting the New York Stock Exchange for meetings, I wear button down.

  2. I was completely shocked to see those comments last week too! I was especially perplexed by whoever said that you could wear a t-shirt only if it has a collar. What? I think polo shirts (that’s what I think of when you say “t-shirt with a collar” — maybe I am just interpretting this incorrectly?) are WAY LESS APPROPRIATE than all three of the options you show in this post.

    I’d wear any of the three you list under a suit, and would not worry about taking off my jacket (unless I was in court or in a meeting with clients).

    Also, I think you can get away with slightly more casual shirts if they are in a darker color. For example, I might not wear the Brooks Brothers shirt #2 if it was white, but in black, I would not hesitate.

  3. Yeah, seriously, I’m not sure who these commentors who are carefully scrutinizing what people have on under their suit jacket are. I don’t even notice unless it’s glaringly bad.

  4. Can someone tell me how to make a button down look good under a suit jacket? The collars are always all over the place and they NEVER stay tucked in (but if I wear them untucked, they’ll show with the jacket). Every time I try to wear a button down with a jacket, I spend the whole time tugging and fussing because it never stays put.

    I usually stick to knit shells, but from these comments it sounds like they are less appropriate for formal occasions (clients/court) than a button down. Really?


  5. Dress according to your company’s dress code. If it’s business formal, wear business formal. If you cut corners to see how casual you can get away with, people will notice.

  6. k., I wear knit shells to court under my suits all the time and nobody has said a word about it. A sweater, knit shell, silk or cashmere t-shirt, or even a modestly scoop-neck rayon tank under a suit look just fine — at least in California. In five years of litigation, the *only* thing I have ever noticed under anyone’s suit was a fire-red, plunging v-neck, skin-tight shirt (or possibly bodysuit) an attorney wore to trial one day.

  7. But what the heck is business formal exactly?

  8. I think that this one is subjective. I would do it, but then I work in the public sector and the dress code is slightly more casual than coporate. The most important thing is that I have seen my boss wear a t-shirt under her blazer, so I am not worried about doing so myself.

  9. The key with button downs is getting the kind that are fitted, i.e. not blousy in the body, and then making sure the jacket lapels aren’t so big that they compete with the collar if you wear it out. I usually keep the collar under, which again if you have a fitted shirt that you tuck in, will stay OK.

    Just don’t lift your arms over your head too much, hehe.

  10. Um, I’m wearing a tee very similar to #3 under a jacket right now, so I guess I think it is ok. I have worn Old Navy perfect tees under a suit that I wore buttoned up and had a higher neck on it and that was fine, even for court. As long as it is in good shape and is the right weight and colour, it is probably ok.

  11. I wear $6 cotton tees from Target under my suits, even to court. The tees are comfy and wash well.
    Button-downs under suits make me feel like a man, plus they are way too suit-y for LA.

  12. Artemisia :

    Some of my favorite under-jacket tees are fitted ones from Target.

    With all the new cool stretchy fabrics, all but the most casual tees look fine at work, especially with a scarf.

  13. My favorite shirt to wear under a suit is a brightly-patterned cotton t-shirt from Ann Taylor Loft, worn backwards because the neckline is higher (and more work-appropriate) in the back than the front. I never take my jacket off at work regardless of what shirt I’m wearing, so it works. Also, I bought the shirt for four dollars on sale. Can’t beat it.

  14. Anonymous :

    If it doesn’t look like a “t-shirt” which means undershirt to me, then you are fine. As long as it is not too tight or too low-cut, nobody is gonna get close enough to examine the fabric (unless they plan on marrying you). A nice pullover shirt, which is what the pictures are to me, works great. Nice smooth front, goes on quick, easy to care for.

  15. I tend to prefer t-shirts or collarless shirts under suits. As long as the shirt fits properly it looks sleeker and less bulky/complicated than a button-down. It looks especially lovely when the t-shirt has a scoop neck and is paired with an interesting necklace.

  16. tinylawyer :

    I’m barely 5′ tall but even fitted, petite collared button-down blouses look absurd on me when I wear them under a suit — there’s just way too much going on around the neck. And even fitted, they still end up coming untucked. It may have something to do with the fact that I’m not only short but somewhat, um, buxomy on top. On my body type a simple scoopneck tshirt looks more professional under a suit than a collared blouse — because it fits better so I don’t look like a little girl wearing her mom’s (or dad’s!) clothes.

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