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Tops For Work
The constant struggle.
Why are tops such a tricky category? Why are they so hard to find? What makes one comfortable to move in? Flattering? Durable?
Some of the reasons buying work tops are such a drag lately: they’re either too un-fun to commit your paycheck to (though those are the ones you really need), too girlish (you are the CEO of your life are you not!?), too flimsy or cropped or voluminous. It’s hard to find styles that are juuuuust right. I don’t envy the designers, this is where we have our most specific neuroses. Colors we hate near our faces. Needs sleeves! Too many buttons! You get my point.
So today, the next layer in our workwear month is tops. A good top is interesting, but not wild. It can be a layer or stand on its own. It should be crafted from a substantial fabric.
This is one of those weeks where everything is going to look a little drab on the page, since you can’t feel the weight of a Celine silk through the screen. But actually, these are the elements that will help us build the backbone of your workwear arsenal and make the full picture shine. The pieces here shouldn’t be so exciting you get sick of them. Complimentary tops are the un-fun things to buy that make everything else fall into place. All of this is a bit obtuse, so let’s break it down. Five work top categories below.
The silky, vintage-y blouse
There is something about a great designer crepe or heavy silk that is hard for me to resist. Think of the designer blouse as a Jackson Pollock. Like, you look at it and think, I could do that…but really, who are we kidding. It’s the same with a really really good quality silk shirt. You may think, I can get that for half the price, but in reality, it’s just an entirely different product. This is not to say you all need to go out and buy a $1,500 shirt. But you SHOULD go to your local department store and just look at the Loro Piana or Celine section and really hold one of these shirts. It will help you be a better detective in fit, texture, body feel, button placement, everything.
A few different things to discuss in this category. First, if you were wondering which category to splurge on in your workwear, I without a doubt will say this one. I think a black skirt, a cashmere coat, a black loafer are all things we can hunt down, but the item laying on your chest, that is closest to your face, makes a huge impact and you want it to be so good that it says absolutely nothing (and lets you do the talking!). You may think I’m being dramatic, but an insanely beautifully made crepe blouse, with an $89 pair of pants is going to look a lot more powerful than the reverse. It is what will make the whole outfit feel expensive. I’d honestly rather you wear a Celine shirt and carry a cotton canvas tote than a Celine laptop bag and a flimsy silk shirt.
The good news is, this is a great category to shop resale, thrift stores, etc. 70s and 80s power dressing prints are so good, and even the synthetics were more durable then, so vintage is your friend (along with the dry cleaner. :) ) Also great, the shades of brown and tan and green that are so associated with the era.
If you are looking for a more modern color palette though, I just bought this Loro Piana silk button down on The RealReal, new with tags for a fraction of the price. So now you know what to search.
This hefty, silk-like texture is easy enough to cheat at every price point. Synthetic (or semi-synthetic) and textured fabrics like viscose and cupro can contribute to this blousy look. You will be able to figure out what feels good because you did your research and felt the Celine one at Neimans. :) Or you can just simply check out the COS and A.P.C. ones below.
The fine gauge knit
A thin, knit tee (as opposed to a jersey tee) is the ultimate problem solver, especially as offices go more casual and you are conscious of feeling too dressed. I’m talking about something that fits looser. Not a tight, under-the-blazer-layer like this (not that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just not what we are talking about right now. I’m just giving you a visual.) A good short sleeve knit can be the whole shebang. It looks feminine, conservative, appropriate in so many settings. Yet also has personality, because it creates just the slightest amount of slouch. It won’t pull at your bust if you choose the right, roomy size. You can roll the sleeve a little. Choose a bold color, or use it as an effortless accent for your statement skirt. Tuck it. Or layer it over a tricky waistband that you just can’t figure out how to pair. It’s the perfect plate for both statement and delicate jewels toboot! Shall I go on?
The Stretchy Shirt
There is a new genre of button down. And it’s the slightly stretchy, non poplin, non-silk shirt that I am pretty sure has its roots in “travel wear.” This category is a fun one to play with in 2023 because we are still slightly confused about what is too dressy and what is too casual. So by choosing a shirt made from a slouchy, matte fabric you are kind of bridging the gap, in an interesting way. Plus there is something innately feminine about the way these fabrics drape on the body and how they fall open at the neckline in a way that still feels totally appropriate for any professional setting.
The poplin shirt you can tuck in without feeling fussy
There are 10 million poplin button downs out there (please share your favorites in the comments) and its impossible to narrow down. But I wanted to focus specifically on cotton button downs for this category that do not make me feel conscious of wearing a button down all day. You know what I mean? Some button downs are so stiff that you overly notice every move. And then there’s boxy button downs that you’re not sure how to style in a business casual way since they are so bulky when you tuck them. There are button downs where the buttons look too casual for an office or the collar too dinky for your senior title. And then don’t even get me started on tucking in your shirt and then reaching for a high shelf and feeling overly blousy until your next trip to the ladies room. Poplin button downs are really hard for work come to think of it!?
So below, the button downs that feel like they have the proportions, fabric weight, finishes and tuck-ability for a day at work, that won’t have you just thinking about how your shirt is touching you. All day.
Blouses Without Buttons
There is a subset of you out there that shy away from button downs, mainly because you have issues with them separating or pulling at the bust. For those of you willing to try, I advise sizing up and tailoring the sleeves at the shoulder and/or wrist (remember, I tailor EVERYTHING) so the shirt can still have that nice flat fall. But if you say, “Absolutely not!” “Not for me!” and I know there are a lot of you, here’s a section of non-button-downs that support your case. Keep in mind the fine gauge knits above also are speaking to you!!
All for today.
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