Dress Me: In search of better tops edition
December 17, 2013 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I (petite, mid-20's woman) want to get rid of all my long-sleeved button-front shirts and replace them with things that are still work-appropriate but more flattering and maybe okay for non-work wear as well. What styles would work for me? Where should I shop? Special snowflake style preferences ahead.

I have a whole mess of button-front shirts that I brought soon after graduating college, in a massive "holy shit, I own nothing professional at all, button fronts are what women in non-profits wear, right?" binge. Four and a half years later I'm much pickier about clothing and choosing pieces to flatter my body, and I hate every last one of them. I suspect that button fronts are not doing my figure any favors. How and where should I go about picking better styles for me?

I am
-Narrow-chested, 28-30D bra size depending on brand. (Figured this out following the fitting guidelines on /r/abrathatfits, pretty sure of the measurements.)
-Slightly long-waisted but not dramatically so.
-Skinny-armed; tops with flowy sleeves make me look like I'm drowning in fabric.

Things I like in tops:
-Full-length sleeves, not 3/4.
-Natural fibers. I am a knitter, and I know just enough about fiber types and fits from that to be extremely picky and a pretty good judge of quality fabric.
-Bright solid or semi-solid colors, prints that are bright but not overly attention-grabbing.
-Empire lines.
-Silhouettes that are as fitted as I can get away with at work.
-Things that I can pair with brightly patterned scarves.

I do not like:
-100 percent polyester or acrylic anything.
-Anything that hits considerably below the waist.
-Anything sheer or gauzy.
-Excessive ruffles or flowery details.
-Overly twee prints and patterns.

Other things that might be relevant:
-My current work environment is on the more conservative side fashion-wise, but not so corporate that I need to wear a suit every day. For the winter I'm alternating between dresses with boots and nice tops and slacks. Any job I move to from here will likely be more business casual.
-Given infinite time, money, and skill, I would probably knit more of my own tops. Patterns like this are the sort of thing I look for in a shirt or sweater; close-fitting, in a semi-solid color, basic shape but with some lace or cable details for added interest. Unfortunately I am a very slow knitter and good yarn in sweater/shirt quantities is a big investment.
-Most of my current clothes come from thrift and consignment stores, with a few things from fast fashion places sprinkled in. I have no clue what a reasonable budget for decent-quality new anything would even look like.
-I'd prefer things that don't need dry cleaning or delicate cycles in the washing machine, but that's not an absolute deal breaker.

I've looked through a lot of past fashion AskMes and looked over some of the store names that crop up a lot. There are some things on ModCloth that look like the general aesthetic I'm after, but there's an awful lot of polyester there. Ditto eShakti. Boden and Loft strike me as awfully boring. I have easy access to Macy's but none of the other giant department store chains. I love the idea of picking out individual vintage or custom-made tops on etsy, but I'm not sure where to began wading in there. I'd rather avoid the most egregiously low-quality fast-fashion places.

Am I too much of a picky snowflake here? Or is there hope for me yet?
posted by ActionPopulated to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I browse a bunch of different stores (especially online), and pick up an item every couple / four months - that keeps my wardrobe reasonably fresh without everything coming from the same place with the same look. It sounds like you're trying to do a full scale refresh though, which is harder, but now's the time to look, give year-end sales. Do you have access to stores like Ann Taylor (not loft) / Banana etc, and can you wander around looking?

Ann Taylor is doing 50% off everything, and you can sort their sweaters by material,. I love this leather tipped merino wool sweater, especially at 50% of the price.

Anthropologie is worth looking at too, esp on sale. They tend to have (at least near me) at least some items on sale all the time, so worth popping in to take a look. I quite like this wool-blend top, although it might not meet your no-ruffles requirement.

I do think that for some of the nicer fabrics you should expect to have them be dry clean/delicate, although I've had success with the home dry-cleaning kits.
posted by darsh at 11:58 AM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

OH! I see you're in PA , but if you can get to NYC/NJ to look, or dont mind buying online to try/return, check out Uniqlo. They have some beautiful colors in merino, cashmere, and alpaca. the tops are pretty form fitting, and while the colors are plain, they're fun and can be dressed up with scarves/jewelry to keep it interesting. They have fantastic pricing right now on sweaters, and the merino sweater I bought from them 2 years ago is still one of my winter work-wear staples.
posted by darsh at 12:03 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would check Boden for some of your needs. They have a lot of empire line fitted clothes, which is a silhouette I wear a lot. I can't speak to the fabric for extremely picky stuff but I find it lasts me multiple seasons with regular wear. For work, you will want a cami with many of their V-necks. I wash my Boden shirts but many of them are line or flat dry.

Anthropologie will have some things for you, maybe, but as a regular Anthro wearer, I expect you'll find a lot of their fabrics a bit sheer and not office-appropriate.
posted by immlass at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2013

One thing I'd suggest is to leave behind Juniors and start looking in Petites.

Macy's has some nice things.

For example, if you like crisp blouses, this would be adorable on you with slacks or jeans.

This wrap style is easy to wear and fits your bill.

This DKNY is super-cool looking and has the interest you're looking for.

This Peplum Sweater from Banana Republic is adorable, I can't tell if that's a 3/4 sleeve or if the model just has long arms.

This Piped top is really pretty too.

Anthropologie has this very pretty bell sleeved sweater. (If I were a smaller person I would HAUNT Anthropologie, their stuff is so beautiful!)

Ann Taylor has this one.

Are these good, or am I off the mark?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was gonna suggest Anthropologie as well (though IIRC a lot of their tops are 3/4-length). They've got one by Rittenhouse Square and a pretty decent sale selection. Obviously a bit more casual/hipster but sometimes Urban Outfitters will have good things as well.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2013

Kate Spade Saturday have some really lovely tops in 100% cotton. Horny Toad has great performance fabrics, like this washable wool sweater; Nau currently carry this cowl-neck top in a merino wool/Tencel blend.

You'd specified a preference for natural fabrics, but the knit used by Susana Monaco are amazing, and her cuts are great for petites. You can find her pieces at Kimberly Boutique near Rittenhouse Square.
posted by evoque at 12:56 PM on December 17, 2013

I was going to say 'cashmere twinsets' because they last forever and look good anywhere and come in all sorts of great colours, but then: don't want boring, don't want delicate laundry... Eh, still throwing it out there as it meets a lot of the criteria. J. Crew is a good source of sweater sets with modern cuts and colours. Etsy is a good source of vintage Pringle.

But mostly I just wanted to suggest taking the very nicest of the button-downs to a seamstress/tailor and having them nipped in where appropriate; it's not impossible for a button-down to be flattering.
posted by kmennie at 1:06 PM on December 17, 2013

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