What the f*%# am I going to wear?
April 23, 2013 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Help me find work-appropriate tops to wear with skirts in hot weather. Persnickety details to follow.

I have several work-appropriate A-line skirts. Most of my tops are oversized, boxy, and/or drapey... which is just fine for slim cut pants but look really schlumpy when worn with skirts

Here's a specific list of criteria for tops:

- pairs well with A-line or pencil skirts - in other words has some structure to it or is a slim fit (this top works pretty well but see my second point)
- won't make me sweat or won't show sweat in an obvious way -- a solid colored gray cotton tank top would not work in this scenario
- $50 or less -- this is negotiable but if it's over $50 bucks it better be freaking worth it (read: no $80 sheer button-up shirts [why is that a thing])
- somewhat fashionable -- least important but I'd still like to look nice even if I'm sweating my heinie off

NOTE: I feel like peplums are an obvious answer to this question but I believe that trend is peaking right now and I don't want to invest in items that will look really dated in six months.

Stores to try in NYC or online, or specific items would be awesome. Thank you in advance for your help!
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Could you wear your top of choice, but with a dark cardigan over it? I have some half-sleeve cardigans that don't add too much weight (and others whose sleeves I roll up), and don't show sweat.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:45 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you do decide to go with ChuraChura's advice (which IME is great if you work in an over airconditioned office but need to be outside and commute on the subway and such, too), I have a bunch of those types of cardigans that all seem to have come from Loft.
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 PM on April 23, 2013

In fact, I would guess that the answer to your question lives at Loft.

And I am curious to see what people suggest, since I too have the problem of a bunch of cute skirts but no good tops to wear with them.
posted by Sara C. at 7:56 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've had a surprising amount of luck with vintage tops on etsy. There's so much on there that your searches can get pretty specific, and a lot of it is really reasonably priced. I'm fond of tops from the 40s, myself. Most of them were designed to go with skirts or wide, high-waisted pants.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:58 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've had a lot of luck with synthetic or cotton tops from Banana Republic. Silk is a disaster when it comes to sweat. People bash polyester, but I find it shows sweat less and it's machine washable! Thin knit light colored tops work well assuming you can find one that isn't see through.

When it's crazy hot I wear a tank top into the office and then immediately change. Also I always have a black drapery cardigan at the office. Those things can cover anything in a pinch. I could honesty wrap it strategically and probably get away with nothing else if I had some horrible shirt destroying accident or more commonly spilled coffee all over myself.
posted by whoaali at 8:07 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wear a-line skirts a lot, being a fan of retro styles and such, and don't want to show sweat, and have similar criteria for the price range. Here are the two main types of tops I look for:

A tee with an interesting neckline, in a dark print, that I can belt if I want to. Preferably a wrap to it, but like this (with this Dorothy Perkins bird peplum wrap top in black with white birds being my dream top, which I'd really like, but cannot seem to actually find - and this one from Max Mara being a great shape and print, but a bit out of the budget.)

And printed wrap tops in the Diane Von Furstenberg style if I can find them.

Shabby Apple has some really sweet blouses and tops - a little pricey, but I often poke around in the sale section. I have my eye on the Cha-Cha Blouse.
posted by peagood at 8:09 PM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Effie's Heart has some good sales. Check their store finder section too, because many of their pieces are not available online.
posted by corey flood at 8:32 PM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: I actually wear a plain cotton black or navy blue tank -- a nice looking, well-made one, usually from J Crew (they're very streamlined) -- and bring the aforementioned half-sleeve cardigan to put on when I get to my A/Ced office for coverage. I dress the whole thing up with jewelry. Basically, the shirt is the most basic thing possible -- with the right shoes and a necklace, it's just a canvas for the rest of your outfit. You could also wear a shell (like the Banana one you linked), but I think the tank is more youthful.

It depends on your shape, but I also sometimes I have luck with, say, a light-weight, slim-cut button-down with three-quarter or elbow-length sleeves (I have to tuck them in and use a belt with a skirt sometimes, to give myself a waist, personally). Darker ones won't show sweat.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:32 PM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding nice neutral tee or tank with a cardigan once you get to the office.

Loft is a good idea, also check out Penneys:

If you are ok with ruffles.

This is another possibility.
posted by bunderful at 8:37 PM on April 23, 2013

I really like Asos.com for requests like this. They carry lots of stuff over a wide range of prices, with lots of search options. I'm right there with you in thinking that peplums peaking right now. How about something with a squared shoulder (thought not this particularly one because its sheer)? Seems to be just coming in to style.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 9:19 PM on April 23, 2013

Yep - plain tank, cardie, jewellery to liven things up.
posted by heyjude at 10:31 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by brujita at 10:50 PM on April 23, 2013

I used to swear by Old Navy's Perfect V-Nect Tee, and I still have a couple of old ones in regular rotation, but they don't seem to make them anymore. And most of their new lines are in such thin materials they just don;t have any body to them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:27 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about this scoop neck top from JCPenney? They generally keep them in stock in a range of colors, and they do not make me sweat (although I suppose they could show sweat). They also work well with a cardigan. I have several of them in assorted styles and colors, and it's mostly what I wear with my skirts, unless I find a button up that will work well under them.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the answers here for alternatives!
posted by needlegrrl at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2013

H&M has a couple of nice, sleeveless numbers and at $10 a pop, they're disposable. If you want to indulge in a peplum (I did and I'm not sorry) they have this.

Macy's is one of my favorite stores. Here's a nice top, the shape is good. The rouching makes it elegant and gives it shape. (I have one similar and I feel very sexy in it.)

This one would be fabulous with a black pencil skirt!

This shaper tank is pretty. I the sleeves are wide enough to cover a bra strap, and you can throw a cardigan or jacket over it in the office.

I love Macy's they have sales every day and discount coupons in the paper. I was just there and I got 5 pieces for $92.

You're only young once, you should have fabulous clothes for it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:40 AM on April 24, 2013

Best answer: Shabby Apple has some pretty and work-appropriate tops, with lots under $50.

I see that peagood mentioned Shabby Apple, but I wanted to note that they do actually have options in your price range.
posted by snowmentality at 7:27 AM on April 24, 2013

You can wear your existing tops if you tuck them in, depending on how high-waisted your skirts are. A drapey, blousey top looks really nice tucked into a slim skirt, in my experience.
posted by nonasuch at 8:21 AM on April 24, 2013

I like banded tops with my A-line skirts. That way you can be flowy and cool but still have structure at the waist.

And have you tried tucking in your oversized tops, or wearing them untucked with a belt?

Also, here are a couple articles you might like.
posted by yawper at 9:34 AM on April 24, 2013

I like things like this top from Modcloth, mostly because I wear earrings and sometimes a necklace and y'all I cannot accessorize. I feel like a clown. So the top is cute on its own and I don't have to wear 1,000 necklaces. I wear it with a cardigan. You can treat navy as a neutral, so I wear brighter sweater.

Target has billions of cardigans that are great for the office, and so does Modcloth for that matter. I find H&M stuff to be SO disposable that it's only good for a season, truthfully, so I don't buy there anymore. I also just wear a lot of dresses. Land's End has a lot of cotton/ponte/modal dresses that are GREAT. Just FYI they run big. I get to buy a small! that never happens.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2013

My favorite tops that fit your criteria are from NY & Co. It's funny because I don't like a lot of the stuff there, and find the bottoms are sized way too big, but I have several fitted work-appropriate tops from there that don't show sweat. They often have sales and tops are under $50 to begin with.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:58 AM on April 24, 2013

Best answer: I sympathize with this issue.. because it gets to be 95-105 and humid here in the DC area for months; silky tops are usually too much trouble because you often have to dry clean them, for hot weather I really want something I can just wash myself quite often.

I often go for the J Crew Perfect Fit Tees in short sleeve, just about every color - they're cotton, slim cut but not skin tight. I'll wear other J Crew slim cut tees with patterns if they're work appropriate and just add a cardigan or jacket in the office. Not to be a salesperson for that brand but it is really handy to keep buying the same t-shirt in the same cut and size without spending any time thinking about it or trying it on. The other reason for a short sleeve tee is that I don't want the underarms on my jackets to get sweaty, dry cleaning gets expensive and wears them out faster. Same thing with having to constantly wash/dry clean cardigans. It's far easier to wash short sleeve tees that can be replaced for like $25 if they get faded.

Theory Juin tees are good too, size up if you don't want it to be super fitted. They are pricey.. good quality though and the neckline is just right. Department stores that carry the brand will have several colors, looks like online you can only find black and white. Also for simple tops there's A.P.C., they get pricey but I've been wearing some of their cotton-linen tees for years and they still look great.

At Nordstrom, the label Classiques Entier makes these stretchy gathered fitted tops that are slim cut and short sleeved and washable, all good things for the office in summer. And their patterns just kill me. For every one decent pattern there are fifty hideous ones. But I did once find a simple navy dotted top from that brand that I wear all the time. YMMV. I feel like there is a real need for the style of top they make, and they could rake in the cash if they'd only use prints that weren't horrible.
posted by citron at 8:38 PM on April 24, 2013

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