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March 28, 2011 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a chest tattoo and a wide back where wearing button-downs seems impossible. How to I dress for work?

I've seen other questions with similar issues. But a lot of the answers suggested way-out-of-my-budget (custom) stores.

About ten years ago, I got a rather large tattoo on my chest (basically it's a heart). Since I've always worked in more laid back companies/industries, that has never been an issue and I wore whatever.

Recently I have been employed by a place with rather conservative employees. There is no actual dress code, but I'd rather not draw attention from a lot of these people.

Note: I was working in a more lax part of the company where I wore shirts where you could see a bit of my tattoo. This "offended" two older ladies (one said it offended her Christian religion?) My then boss told me about it and said he didn't mind but he thought he'd let me know about it.

So. My issue: summer. I am sick of wearing polo shirts.
Button down dress shirts don't seem to fit me because my back is pretty wide (FTR - I am a 38B/C) Most shirts that fit me in the shoulders and waist don't even come close to buttoning, so fabric tape would be useless.
I have to wear 2 sizes up and then I look like I'm wearing a tent.

I do have two sleeveless mock turtlenecks that are lightweight. But I haven't been able to find any others like the two I have in two years.

I'm having a hard time finding non-old-lady shirts that cover just below the neck.
Light layering would be fine, but even light t-shirts seem difficult to find that aren't v-necks or scoops.
All the dressy tank tops I find are too scooped or have slits down the center.

Anyone else have a similar problem? Anyone have any ideas?

My budget is somewhat limited and I'm a pretty cheap person. I'd like to spend less than $25 on shirts.
posted by KogeLiz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (41 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Something like this perhaps? It's a sort of lawn/lace panelly thing that is designed to be attached under the shirt to sort of fill in the scoop/v and look as though you're wearing another layer underneath, without actually wearing another layer.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 PM on March 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, boatnecks? LL Bean and Talbots and so on usually have boatnecks where it's not a deep, off-the-shoulder kind of boatneck.
posted by Frowner at 6:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What about boatneck tees and tank tops? They look modern and fit nicely like a tee shirt. If they look too casual alone, pair them with a long beaded necklace or a lightweight patterned scarf.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:34 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think some terms that would be helpful in searching are "boatneck" and "crewneck" (which would rule out scoopnecks and v-necks). Also, searching for "shells" instead of "tank tops" might be more effective.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 6:34 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ironically, you might have luck searching on websites targeted toward modest/religious clothing. Something maybe like this or this (link found via an FPP from several weeks back) maybe?
posted by phunniemee at 6:38 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How high up on the chest are you talking?

Also ETST has a good point - "shells" will more likely be higher-necked and less skimpy, meant to go under a jacket or cardigan.
posted by radioamy at 6:43 PM on March 28, 2011

JCrew also has boatnecks, often on sale, though their shirts run small. Another suggestion would be to buy several boatneck tank tops and wear them like camis under various shirts.
posted by questionsandanchors at 7:03 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out lane bryant? Their clothes are for women who find other off the rack clothes kinda small.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:04 PM on March 28, 2011

I think it's really polite that you don't want to upset these old ladies who are presumably otherwise nice people but...if your boss said he's okay with it then I'd just wear whatever I felt comfortable and professional in, whether it exposes your tattoos or not.

I think it's pretty unfair that everyone else has the privilege of not having to follow a dress code except for you, just because you have a tattoo. They should get over it. Sorry if this doesn't answer your question or if you've already given this a lot of thought.
posted by windbox at 7:08 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

following up on the L.L. Bean comment, what about this or this? They're both under $20 and come in a bunch of colors and a big size range -- you could also wear with an unbuttoned button-down or a cardigan.
posted by mercredi at 7:27 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: How high up on the chest are you talking?

It's... pretty high. Right below my collarbone.
So some boatneck tops don't work unless I constantly pull them back.

Thanks for the links/search tips.
Already, I've bookmarked several tops that I think will cover my tattoo.
Most of them are pretty casual, but I think that will work. Like rachaelfaith mentioned, I can dress them up with necklaces and stuff.

I'd still be interested in finding some dressy tanks with higher necks. something like This sleeveless mock turtleneck. But the ones I'm finding are sweater material or just... not my style.

Here is one I own.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:36 PM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: I think it's really polite that you don't want to upset these old ladies who are presumably otherwise nice people but...if your boss said he's okay with it then I'd just wear whatever I felt comfortable and professional in, whether it exposes your tattoos or not.

Well, I have a different boss now and I'm in a more "high profile" building now. Besides summer students, I'm probably one of the youngest (30yrs) people I've seen out of hundreds of employees. I also now live in a rather conservative state now and ... well... I'm socially retarded and maybe care a little too much about what (older) people think of me.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:40 PM on March 28, 2011

You may be able to a local person who does a bit of sewing on the side for much less than a tailor with a shop. Go to your local fabric store and ask around. Generally you pick the pattern and buy the fabric and they charge by the peice based on the complexity.
posted by humanfont at 7:45 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looking at your example picture, the first word that came to mind was mandarin. Here's a search of sleeveless mandarin shirt. Not all results are in your price range, but gives you an idea of what to look for.

FWIW, I think this style looks super-cute on you, so flaunt it! Not everyone can pull it off.
posted by spinturtle at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Boring $10 sleeveless mock? LL Bean Signature blouse? (There are some other similarly cut ones at that site.) I don't see anything on there right now but Eddie Bauer has in the past made some sleeveless things that button up to a sort of mandarin collar deal, pretty nice. Target's "Liberty of London" line had a ruffly print thing with a high neck (pic), long sold out in the stores but regularly on eBay. (Nicer)

"Sleeveless high neck shell" turns up some nice stuff.

Vintage stuff (Etsy, if you don't mind sifting through dreck) might be a good route (like this?)-- you could get some nice tops by buying vintage blouses and having the sleeves removed. I would definitely look into the 'person who does sewing on the side' option, because a simple pattern for what you want should not be too hard to come by and it wouldn't be a big investment in fabric.
posted by kmennie at 8:04 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered using a concealer on the parts of the tattoo that are exposed? A heavy duty councealer (like this one or this one) followed by a setting spray would last throughout the day and allow you to be a little more comfortable during the summer.
posted by zamdaba at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of high-neck halter tops in stores lately. Any reason you couldn't wear one with a light cardigan?
posted by Kololo at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2011

southern Christian guy here - I just wouldn't let these "ladies" tell me how to dress. There is just no reasonable way to construe anything in the NT as making tattoos morally offensive per se. Probably not a conversation you want to have, but do they think it's some pagan symbol, as opposed to just a heart?

I know you've already addressed this, just my $.02. My prediction would be that if they never see a glimpse of your tattoo again, they'll still find something to be judgmental about.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:23 PM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: The Gap often has nice casual office stuff, and some of their blouses have fairly high necklines. Something like this, this, or this might work for you.

Also, tie-neck blouses are kind of in these days, and I find that they tend to be more forgiving of different upper body shapes than regular button up shirts (because they tend to be a little looser and flowier) and most come up close to the neck. Like this or this.
posted by EmilyFlew at 8:29 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just a parenthetical post (as I don't have any dress advice), but, just so you know:

This "offended" two older ladies (one said it offended her Christian religion?)

...because tattooing is specifically prohibited in Leviticus 19:28 :
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you...
I dunno how seriously you should take that sort of disapproval - I'd lay money that the offended woman was ignoring the Biblical injunction about having her hair properly covered. People pick-and-chose which passages they want to be uptight about - and they usually pick passages that apply to other people.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 8:32 PM on March 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is there any way to use large jewelry to cover it up a little? Large pendants, large and multiple bead strands a la vintage stuff. Then there is the ever lovely infinity scarf or circle scarf. They are fabulously versatile and extraordinarily easy and cheap to make yourself from any lightweight fabric you can find. And there are also just plain old fashioned silk scarves at the thrift store that would work. I would just become a master of the neck accessory and wear whatever I wanted. My friend has arm and neck tats and she is just Miss Cardigan and has long hair.
posted by hecho de la basura at 8:46 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I, too, am having a hard time finding high-neck t-shirts right now. Lands End has some that come in a bunch of colors.
posted by craichead at 8:53 PM on March 28, 2011

(If you're looking at Lands' End definitely stalk retailmenot.com or similar {or their FB page} for '25% off plus free shipping' deals, and I wanted to mention their Canvas line, much less stodgy but still without teenybopper cuts; they have some light boatneck short-sleeved tees right now that might suit)
posted by kmennie at 9:13 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Regarding the cardigans and scarves- I'm looking more for summer wear. It can get up to 90 degrees or so here.
A tissue-type t shirt under a vneck t-shirt is layering I would consider.

[kinda straying away... but thought I'd answer/share]

More on my tattoo: It is a heart with some flames. But the whole thing was never completely exposed to anyone at this job. Just an inch or so of the top. The lady who complained also has a lot of Christian calendars and bible quotes and lists of prayers in her office. She was also offended when another older lady said "crap" and explained to her that The Lord knows what she really meant to say.
So... you know. But there are quite a few ladies that use bible quotes in their email sigs, ask me about what church I go to (none) and have bible calendars and stuff like that.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:20 PM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: whats strange is that i work at a massive government science lab
posted by KogeLiz at 9:21 PM on March 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I went for a look on Modcloth thinking there'd be lots, but all I found was this, which is a bit odd, though looks nice and cool for summer...

Oh, and this. And a whole lot of button down type things, to which I'm not linking because you've ruled those out.

(And on the topic of covering tattoos at work, I can sympathize. It feels silly to hide something you love so much, but sometimes it's definitely just easier to avoid the conversation.)
posted by dizziest at 9:28 PM on March 28, 2011

What about camisoles? This one is pretty high necked and if you keep looking - sport camisole seems to be a good search term as does stretch tank, that's how I found this one and this one, which is a somewhat less dubious site - you could probably find quite a few that would cover it. Then you can layer anything on top.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:33 PM on March 28, 2011

This is long sleeved, but light enough that it might work...
posted by dizziest at 9:36 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A necklace like this might hide your tattoo (bonus: like your tattoo, it would add color to your outfit instead of diminishing it).
posted by clearlydemon at 9:38 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about a half-tee from Mia Bellina?
posted by oceano at 10:04 PM on March 28, 2011

Best answer: Have you tried plugging terms like mock turtleneck, high neck, and crewneck into the ShopStyle browser? Not everything that comes up is appropriate, but I see lots of possibilities.
posted by Orinda at 10:29 PM on March 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks for everyone's help!!

I cant even begin to "favorite" because everyone gave such awesome leads/items!
posted by KogeLiz at 5:40 AM on March 29, 2011

Another good store is The Limited (used to work there), if you have one in your area.

Lots of colors of basic tees in right now, plus the general point of the store is "office wear" for your age bracket.
posted by itesser at 7:12 AM on March 29, 2011

I have a giant chest tattoo, and a job where it's totally fine for me to let it show, but there are times I don't want to. Mine is only higher on the sides (basically v neck shaped) but I have a couple tricks.

1. Scarves. Just little ones, worn like big necklaces. I have summer and winter-weight ones.

2. A couple of colors in this tank: http://www.backcountry.com/lol-vista-top-sleeveless-womens It's not as boatnecky as it looks here, and the back opening/strap thingee keeps it up on my shoulders.

3. Crewnecks. I hate them, but if I *have* to hide it, that's the ideal thing.

A note on the scarves and such -- I'm not going for "this will never show" with those, I'm more going for a "it will cover most of it most of the time, and they'll have to work to see it" kind of thing. The latter might be the attitude you find useful to adopt around the religious busybody types you're dealing with.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 7:20 AM on March 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Even a top like this might work. The key to eBay is looking at the provided measurements and comparing them against pieces of clothing that already work for you.

A mock-neck tie top would also give you options, and there are tons of them out there. Something like this, for example. Have to get back to work but I'll find some more later :-)
posted by barnone at 7:43 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pretty twist - would also be good for evening occasions if you ever need to be covered for an event.

cowl - this would be extremely easy to modify by sewing a triangular piece of black fabric behind the neck area. And would work for a variety of occasions!
posted by barnone at 7:54 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about a smallish (smaller than shown in this pic) fine, square silky scarf worn like a cowboy bandana? If the scarf is fine and tied loosely, it shouldn't be too hot.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:04 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This would be pretty too.

And another idea, what about using a scarf or bandana type covering? They don't have to be fuddy-duddy-ish. Look here for an example of how to tie it - yours would have to be a tiny bit tighter, but play with the placement a bit. Something like this with a white button-down would be really summery and stylish!

Here's a simple google image search of "how to wear a silk scarf" but if yo uplay with the wording (i.e. bandana, neck, how to tie scarf, etc" you will get a ton of suggestions. There are oodles of pages dedicated to various ways to tie a scarf too. I love the new bandanas from Hill-Side and they would be awesome for a summer neck/chest covering, especially under a button-up shirt of some kind.

Finally, look at Etsy for a few things: infinity scarf (you will have to find lightweight ones for summer, like this seersucker infinity scarf) and this newer trend of "necklace scarf" like this white one or this green one. Worn with a decently high shirt, those scarf neclaces or bandana/scarf options would pretty much completely hide the tattoo -- someone would have to really stare or work at finding it. If they did...well...why are they looking so closely behind your neck covering?!
posted by barnone at 8:22 AM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of those words my mother taught me that I've almost never had occasion to use: How about a dickie?
posted by aimedwander at 1:16 PM on March 29, 2011

Also, tie-neck blouses are kind of in these days, and I find that they tend to be more forgiving of different upper body shapes than regular button up shirts (because they tend to be a little looser and flowier) and most come up close to the neck.

Another term for this would be the 'pussy bow blouse', which might help in the searching.
posted by hellopanda at 4:28 PM on March 30, 2011

You should buy something that fits you in the neck, shoulders and chest (these are hardest and most expensive to adjust) and then go to a local tailor. If you can, try to find someone Vietnamese or Thai. They tend to be quite good for most basic tailoring while still being cheap.

This is likely going to run you between $15-$45 depending on the difficulty. Basically, they are either going to take it in the side seams (essentially folding the fabric into the seams on the side) or they're going to dart it in the back (add two vertical seams that will give the shirts a curve) so that they will fit your waist and hips.

This takes the hassle out of finding the shirt that's "just right" so you can concentrate on buying something you more or less like the look of.
posted by anateus at 1:47 AM on April 6, 2011

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