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.
This page was last updated May 2023 except where otherwise noted.
We haven’t been on a Hunt for sheath dresses in far too long, readers, so let’s discuss — what are you looking for in a sheath dress this year? (What shoes will you wear it with? If you’ve mastered the tricky flats + sheath dress look, please chime in!)
I’m sure everyone is thinking, “There is NO WAY I am wearing a sheath dress again — leggings and pants for the win!” Still, the sheath dress is such a crazy easy outfit — and affords such instant polish — it’s really hard to see it going away anytime soon.
There definitely seems to be movement among the stalwarts making sheath dresses, though — M.M.LaFleur looks like it might be phasing out their Annie dress (currently on a killer sale!), and Boden has added huge external pockets to this year’s version of the Ottoman dress, which has been a reader favorite through the various iterations.
Even Theory, which has sold the Betty dress for approximately 10,000 years, seems to be transitioning to their (new to me) “Classic Power Dress,” which looks (to me) identical to the Betty but retails for about $100 more.
Before we start today’s Hunt, here are some of the classic, reader-favorite, Hall of Famers:
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Some categories of note:
- Hall of Famers: J.Crew, Tahari, Lands’ End, Theory, Hugo Boss, Black Halo, M.M.LaFleur, St. John
- Under $125: Lands’ End, Tahari, Donna Morgan, Old Navy, MUXXN (Amazon dress with 13,500 great reviews), Apt. 9, M.M.LaFleur (on sale), Anne Klein
- Splurges: Theory, Hugo Boss, Black Halo, St. John
- Sleeved sheath dresses: Lands’ End, M.M. LaFleur, Universal Standard, Donna Morgan, Boden
- Sheath dresses with pockets: M.M.LaFleur, J.Crew, Boden,
- Machine-washable sheath dresses: Of Mercer, Old Navy, Donna Morgan, M.M.LaFleur, Boden
- Petite sheath dresses: J.Crew, Lands’ End, Old Navy, Boden
- Tall sheath dresses: J.Crew, Universal Standard, Old Navy, Boden
- Maternity sheath dresses: Kimi & Kai, Of Mercer, Isabella Oliver, Stowaway (see our last roundup of must-have maternity dresses for the office)
- Lots of colorful options: Donna Morgan, Calvin Klein, MMLF, Of Mercer, MUXXN, Boden
- Plus-size sheath dresses: J.Crew, Of Mercer, MMLF, Lands’ End, Calvin Klein, Universal Standard
Some of the best plus-size dresses for work as of 2023: 1) Karen Kane 2) Lands’ End 3) CeCe 4) Calvin Klein 5) Talbots (not pictured but these also)
Old Navy usually has a ponte sheath dress, but the product page changes, as does the inventory — still, it’s one of our favorite options if you’re looking for a budget option. This one is $39.99, available in four colors, XS–XXL in regular and tall sizes.
Other great options for budget-friendly, stylish sheath dresses for work (all under $125!) include Lands’ End, Tahari, Donna Morgan, Apt. 9, M.M.LaFleur (on sale), and Anne Klein.
There used to be a Facebook group for lawyer moms (it’s currently archived, alas), but a lottttt of women were singing the praises of this dress from MUXXN for work, and on Amazon it has 13,500 great reviews. For my $.02, I’d recommend sizing up — but I love that it comes in a zillion colors, is only $30, and comes in sizes S–3X. (It’s important to note that the fabric is a bit more like a polyester T-shirt than a thick ponte — but I love looking at all the real women sharing pictures of themselves in the dress.)
If you’re hunting for other colorful sheath dresses for work, some other great options right now include Donna Morgan, Calvin Klein, MMLF, Of Mercer, and Boden.
I’m not sure if M.M.LaFleur is phasing out their Annie dress or not — there are extremely limited sizes and colors left right now on a killer sale for $75. This has been a reader favorite over the years, and as speaking as someone who never looks good in high, crew-necked dresses, it’s so rare to find a perfect V-neck. (I also like the slight A-line to the skirt.) The dress is machine washable, dry cleanable, and available (again, lucky sizes only) in 0P–3X.
Other good options for stylish sheath dresses for work from M.M.LaFleur: the Etsuko, the Aditi, the Sarah, and the Cynthia.
Other smaller manufacturers to check out include Of Mercer, Universal Standard, Nora Gardner, Gravitas, Maven, Wallis Evera (eco-friendly), and Ministry of Supply.
Universal Standard has a number of nice dresses, including its bestselling Mary dress. For my $.02, I’d get it hemmed to just below (or at) the knee. (The dress does not come in tall sizes, but I put it on the list for tall sizes (at top) because one of the models wearing it is 5’11 and it still comes to below her knees.)
Universal Standard, if you don’t know, does this great thing where they show you models wearing the dress in your size, so you can see a variety of models wearing sizes 6–3X. If you worry that your weight is in flux, they also have a great thing called “Fit Liberty,” which includes at least one of the dresses (although not the one pictured); if your size changes within the year you can exchange the dress for another one in its size.
Other nice options for stylish sheath dresses for work in plus sizes include J.Crew, Of Mercer, Lands’ End, Calvin Klein, and M.M.LaFleur.
If you’re looking for a timeless sheath dress that’s a bit of a splurge, this St. John dress has been around for a zillion years in their classic Milano knit, described as a “dense, wool-blend” (50% viscose, “dry clean”) that “maintains its shape and offers near-seasonless wearability.” Nice! At $795, it’s one of the pricier options — reviewers note that it runs large, and as many readers have noted, you can often find great deals on St. John at resale sites and during big Nordstrom sales.
Other great options for a splurge include Theory, Hugo Boss, and Black Halo (their Jackie dress is still going strong after 10+ years, and I swear Nordstrom just brought it back to their product catalog.)
Curious for past roundups of sheath dresses? Here they are from 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. Stay tuned for an update to our post on bespoke dresses — I’d love to hear in general if you guys have any favorites for custom-tailored clothing!
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For those of you who wear high-top Chuck Taylors, what sort of socks do you wear with them?
In-House in Houston
Has anyone tried the Lumen metabolism device? It’s all over social media. You breath into a device and then the app tells you whether you’re burning fat or carbs and is supposed to help you decide what you need to eat in order it lose weight. It’s not cheap – $250. But if it works, I’d be willing to spend it. TIA!!
Seems like checking your blood sugar, and/or those urinalysis stripes that tell you if you’re in ketoacidosis, would be much cheaper and more likely to be accurate.
Eating low carbs puts you into ketosis, not keotacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a very dangerous state that diabetics can get into. Ketosis is the state in which you’re burning fat instead of carbs. Just eat fewer that 40 net carbs (meaning don’t count fiber) a day and you will be in ketosis, no measurement needed.
Finding that perfect work dress is one of my favorite topics, especially sheath styles. At the young age of eleven in 1971, I wanted a career fashion look like mom, so she bought me Max Factor makeup, junior clothing that included mini dresses with Burlington ultra sheer pantyhose, and 3” heels. Consequently, after doing this a while, I find value shopping mainly at Nordstrom and Macy’s for career apparel in both junior and misses sizes.
Late last Autumn, I purchased the $198.00 black Elle Sheath by Dress The Population from Nordstrom. Being a size 6, the medium is snug as a bug and shows every curve while having a Queen Anne lower cut neckline. At 5’-6” tall, it was still too long for my taste, so I had it hemmed to my preferred 2” above the knees and the back slit raised accordingly. Of course, alterations were complimentary because they are Nordstrom. Then after the first wearing, I went back and repurchased the same dress in both pink and yellow colors.
I wore the black dress to work with a waist length, a tan fitted blazer, DK ultra sheer nude hose that I wear everyday, and soft beige 3.75” Hazel pumps also purchased at Nordstrom. The quality lining drives the wear, as the snug tight dress comfortably slides and shifts when walking and sitting. At age 61 and a managing partner, I normally get compliments at work, but this value priced dress attracted more than normal flattery. Elle Sheath is meant to be a special occasion dress because of the lower neckline; however, my judgement in the store was correct, it socially functions as a work dress in good taste, while a few of our clients really seemed attracted to the neckline during our luncheon. Perfect work dress? Don’t know, but it’s in the top ten for now.