Hi Belle,I’m a long time reader but this is the first time I’ve written in. I recently graduated from law school and started a new job as a law clerk to a federal judge. I have a fairly good selection of basic suit pieces I can wear but I’m struggling to find nice and work place appropriate tops to wear under my suits. I have to wear a full suit when in court but at other times of the day in chambers I can generally ditch my suit jacket for a cardigan. So I’m looking for nice pieces that would work under either a blazer or a cardigan/light sweater and be both affordable on a government salary and appropriate in the court work environment.I love your Ask Belle column so I thought I’d write and ask. Thanks! CC
Anyone who has ever sat in a hot committee room for a few hours has seen some of the faux pas that happen when women remove their suit jackets. Hot pink bra straps come out. Spaghetti strap tanks make an appearance. Low-back tops more suited to a night at the club are revealed. So when I choose a shirt to wear under a suit, I always wear one that will look as professional with my jacket off, as it will with my jacket on.
V-Neck Sweaters. We’ve spoken before about coordinating necklines, and I feel that v-neck sweaters look much nicer under a suit than crewnecks. Also, if you layer a blouse underneath a v-neck, you can add a pop of color or pattern or texture to break up the look. I also like J.CREW’s Merino v-neck sweater and surprisingly enough, Victoria’s Secret actually makes a decent sweater for the money.
Peasant Blouse. While I probably would not wear a blouse with this neckline under a suit, I would wear a slightly fuller peasant blouse with a split neck like this one. I love the contrast between a snug pencil skirt/well-fitting jacket and a fuller top. Other peasant blouses to try include this navy blouse from Piperlime and this cool leopard print blouse.
Tie-Neck Blouses. For years, tie-neck tops have been my professional blouse go-to. They look great with pants or a skirt and with or without a jacket. They also eliminate the need for a necklace, which is one less thing to think about in the morning. The Loft also has a button-up tie neck in deep green.
Embellished Necklines. Tops with a pleated or embellished neckline also look nice under jackets. This top from Rachel Roy’s affordable line RACHEL has a pleat detail and an all-season iris color. I also like a ruffled neckline and or some light beading.
Sheer Blouses. I think sheer blouses worn under a suit jacket really soften the look and give the suit a sultry, feminine quality. This blouse is in a versatile neutral color, and I love the pleating on the front. I also love this printed sheer blouse from Theory and this dotted sleeveless blouse.
Some women really like the look of a crisp button up shirt with a suit, but for me, it’s a bit too masculine. If you love it, wear it. If you want to have a shirt or two in your arsenal, I like silk button ups from J.CREW and cotton button ups from Banana Republic.