Blouses I can wear untucked with suits. Difficulty level: plus size.
November 1, 2014 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I work in an office where the dress code is basically business formal I have been wearing dress + blazer mostly, but would like to wear some pantsuits now that it's getting colder. Problem is blouses tucked in to pants do NOT look good on me. Any advice out there on tops that would be appropriate and look good not tucked in with suits?

Additional details:

--I say "basically business formal" meaning: men wear suits, women wear suits or dresses with blazers, and some women stretch the dress code a little...however, this is a solidly middle class job so expensive/designer clothes would be majorly out of place.
--I am 5'4'' and wear a size 18 or 18W--size 18 suits from Ann Taylor fit me really well, are what I'd like to be wearing, and are basically at the top of my price range.
--High natural waist + large breasts explains why shirts tucked in do not work. At Ann Taylor, I'd get the "signature" line pants which has a higher waist; lower waisted pants mean the line of the pants goes through my stomach, not a good look.
--Sadly, I would buy blouses at Ann Taylor or Loft, but the largest size is too tight in the chest :-(. It's a mystery why their suits are bigger than their other clothes, but there you go.
--Large breasts also means the average v-neck looks super inappropriate on me.
--I think for the untucked look to work, it has to be not as long as the suit jacket and have a straight hem at the bottom. Which rules out most button-downs.

I am also wondering if there's some sweaters (e.g., shell from a cardigan set) that would work under suits.

Any ideas?

Thank you!
posted by picardythird to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
do you keep the jacket on all day? If you do you can wear whatever kind of shell underneath, right? Like this?
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:59 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wear tailored shirts untucked, no problem. As long as the shirt fits well and isn't floppy then it looks fine with suit pants. I don't currently wear business clothes but I have in the past, and I'd totally do this with a jacket. This is the shirt I have right now, as an example.
posted by shelleycat at 2:05 PM on November 1, 2014

I would look for fancy shell-style tops. typically these are either short-sleaved or sleaveless, but since you'd be wearing a blazer, that's fine. Here are some examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:07 PM on November 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, one key to wearing shirts untucked is wearing a more flowy fabric like a polyester, that's not too long. You can often find these kinds of shirts as sleeveless, instead of long sleeve, but they work with a cardigan or blazer. Almost my entire closet is sleeveless blouses + cardigans/blazers.

Here's a peplum that would look good untucked.

This kind of sleeveless buttondown looks good untucked, as they're made a bit shorter and often straight across the bottom and is a bit more formal.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:10 PM on November 1, 2014

Large breasts also means the average v-neck looks super inappropriate on me.
--I think for the untucked look to work, it has to be not as long as the suit jacket and have a straight hem at the bottom. Which rules out most button-downs.

I am also wondering if there's some sweaters (e.g., shell from a cardigan set) that would work under suits.

When I worked at BigCo, I found that in winter I could wear things like knit mock turtlenecks or knit shirt with a round neckline and long sleeves (which can look a bit like a t-shirt with long sleeves if you are not careful, but it is possible to find a shirt like this that doesn't look like a long-sleeved T). I never tucked anything in. I was not wearing a jacket and it was a business casual dress code most of the time (and they forewarned us when they expected us to dress more formally for some reason).

So things that were slightly stretchy, with no buttons and no V-neck worked fairly well untucked with pants. In summer, this was hard to find because things with short sleeves and a round neckline tend to look like a t-shirt even if they aren't and t-shirts were mostly forbidden. I had to be careful about it not being too form-fitting, because that was in violation of the guidelines, but things that had a little give were more forgiving of my weight and so forth.
posted by Michele in California at 2:17 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't wear button-down shirts, and pretty much all my dress tops are knit tunics or faux-wrap/empire not meant to be tucked blouses like this or a swing hem like this (and based on the photo, you can also wear that one with your leather pants...).

I also sometimes have to take my jacket off, and I don't believe that bare arms are business-appropriate, but every damn retailer in the world does. So if you're willing to do it, or keep a lighter cardigan on hand in case your jacket is too hot, that opens up your options.

Most of the faux-wrap tops I have are decent at basic modesty, but you may need some camisoles.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:21 PM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

A blouse like this would look very business appropriate and not require tucking.
posted by heathrowga at 2:43 PM on November 1, 2014

I'm I guess similarly sized, and haven't worn suits lately, but when I was, I was mostly plain-colored tops from the likes of CJ Banks or Lane Bryant, and most of them looked okay untucked so long as they were tidy. Like, including what I would wear normally as a casual t-shirt, so long as you're leaving the jacket on. This is one area in which I honestly think the plus-size dress standards differ a little; I don't think I can really remember seeing women in that size range with tucked in blouses regularly, because it tends to draw attention to exactly the wrong spot on the stomach even without a high waist. But I think my jackets hit low enough for it to not be an issue? Anyway, I don't think anybody'd blink at a scoop-neck sweater at an ordinary middle-class sort of place. I'm sure high-end companies are more fussy about a lot of things, but my law school internships never were.
posted by Sequence at 2:44 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Most of my work tops are shells, like many have stated. They look great under blazers or cardigans. I go to Nordstrom or Lord & Taylor when they are having sales or coupons (and L&T has a coupon every damn week, it seems). At those stores, I would stick to plus-size brands like Michael Kors, Vince Camuto, and Calvin Klein - all of which have tons of work-appropriate options and are around the same price point as Ann Taylor. I'd also do scoop-neck lightweight sweaters in cotton under a jacket, and you can get them in a ton of colors to suit your skin tone and personal style.
posted by bedhead at 2:46 PM on November 1, 2014

If you find a blouse that would be perfect to wear untucked, but the bottom has that "this should be tucked in" look (too long, ends below your jacket, too boxy, etc.), consider taking it to a tailor to have the bottom modified to look right untucked.
posted by cecic at 2:50 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you're into button-down shirts but have trouble finding a good fit because the buttons gape at the bust, you can do some quick home-tailoring to fix it:
- sew hidden snaps into the button placket
- sew down the button placket where it gapes

Seconding tailoring long blouses. It's a really easy modification and should be inexpensive.
posted by homodachi at 3:20 PM on November 1, 2014

I agree with everyone above; what you're looking for isn't so much blouses, it's shells or other softer, stretchy-fabric type shirts. Also, buy camisoles. It opens up a whole new world of v-neck tops. I get these cotton/lycra blend tank tops at Costco, 3 for $10, that I wear under almost everything to raise the necklines and avoid inappropriate cleavage, and it works great.
posted by decathecting at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Take a look at It's a plus size online store (or actual store near LA) they have really well made clothing with lots of rushing, tucks and gathers that are interesting, business appropriate, feminine, and can easily accommodate very large breasts. I only discovered them last year and am crazy about them. I get the most compliments when I wear their tops. Most shirts are in the $50-$60 range with the occasional 25% off sale.
posted by saradarlin at 5:24 PM on November 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

What Saradarlin said. Ruching in a soft jersey would be knockout and could be "moveable" in that you could kind of place it at the most flattering length.
posted by Lornalulu at 5:51 PM on November 1, 2014

I am your size and shape and when I had to dress for exactly the same kind of dress code, I bought and wore just about every color (and sometimes print!) of the sleeveless sweater shell that fingersandtoes linked to above.

Macy's was a goldmine of this kind of top. August Silk for the knit tops, Alfani for the more blousy tops. If you can go to a Macy's in person, you will find tons of options!
posted by waterisfinite at 1:53 AM on November 4, 2014

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