What to Wear Under Your Suit

Sep 8, 2011

Last night, I was chatting with a co-worker’s significant other when she mentioned that I should write a post about what to wear underneath your suit jacket.  Why?  

A few weeks ago she was sitting in a packed committee hearing room and a substandard amount of air conditioning.  To cope with the rising temperature, a half dozen female staffers shed their blazers to reveal…tank tops and bra straps.

Quelle horreur.

In a professional setting, there is never a time when it is okay to wear a tank top without a sweater or a blazer on top of it.  It doesn’t matter if it has spaghetti straps, a racerback or your standard wife beater (I tried to describe it another way, I couldn’t think of one.).  Uncovered tank tops in the work place are simply not acceptable.

For the most part, I avoid this problem by avoiding tank tops.  There are plenty of other choices, so there’s no reason why one should be forced to inappropriately disrobe because the office gets a bit toasty.  Here are some suggestions:

Polyvore Set Here.

Long sleeves, short sleeves and cap sleeves are all more stylish and more professional than tank tops.  So do yourself a favor and relegate your tanks to your casual wardrobe.  But if you must wear one, know that removing the jacket or sweater covering it is not an option.  I don’t want to see your bra straps, your collarbones or your bacne in the workplace.

As for the sleeveless shell and other tops like it, some people are opposed to the exposing of any part of the shoulder.  I, however, think that as long as the blouse is wide enough to reache the edge of your shoulder, you’re fine.  

Unless of course, your upper arms lack tone to the point that they are almost gelatinous.  In that case, sleeveless is not your best look.  And I’m not judging, I’m speaking from experience.  My deltoids jiggle like a jar full of change.  

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  1. S says:

    How about “ribbed tank top” instead of “wife beater”?

  2. KC says:

    Relieved to see your approval of the “sleeveless shell.” I have silently justified them to myself when our office was 80 degrees this summer. I have disproportionately big & broad shoulders and the thought of one more layer constricting my shoulder movement is unbearable.

  3. KS says:

    I wish Ms. Bachmann had seen this post before the debate last night- she doesn't need to dress like a man to hang with the boys. I think a colored blouse would've been more fitting with or without a blazer and might have drawn more attention to her than that boring white shirt.

  4. Marti says:

    Just an FYI, came across your BLOG recently and I throughly end joy it.
    Marti

  5. Danielle says:

    Oh yes! I see so many women wearing spaghetti straps and tank tops to the office and just want to yell no, no, no! You are so right, Belle.

  6. Jennifer says:

    My one huge issue with short sleeves: the visible line in your blazer or cardigan sleeve where they end. It doesn't happen on every suit, but it definitely happens on all cardigans. Worse yet, if the sleeve underneath bunches up and your entire shoulder/ upper arm area is wrinkly looking. It feels annoying and it looks bad, and yes I notice it on other people not just on myself (we all have pet peeves, this is mine). I agree with the point though, most of your shoulder/ collarbone area should not be exposed by whatever you are wearing underneath unless you know for a fact you won't take off the outer layer.

  7. Erin says:

    I think covering jiggly upper arms is a matter of preference, not professionalism. If you're comfortable revealing them, go ahead and do it. We don't need to look like Michelle Obama to be professional. Fat doesn't equal unprofessional.

    And I think the technical name for wifebeater is A-shirt. Or so it says on my pack of Hanes'.

  8. Alex says:

    A wifebeater is called a singlet, outside the US.

  9. Belle says:

    A singlet? Hmmm. Maybe 'll work on bringing that term state side.

  10. Kari. says:

    hmmm. Love this post. I had the same problem when I tried to label my wife beater (I also thought of guinea tee, which is equally offensive to me). Somebody told me a ribbed tank, and that's what I used the next time. A singlet, to me anyway, is something that you wear when you run in a race.

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