Ask Belle: Comfortable Dresses for Work

Aug 17, 2015

Dear Belle,

I’m an executive assistant at an investment bank.  I don’t need to wear a suit or even a jacket.  I like dresses but my weight fluctuates so I try to choose stretchier materials.  Can you help me find some jersey or ponte dresses for work?  I’d love a sleeve, short…long…don’t care.

So many thanks for your blog.  Leila

When you can find a dress made from comfortable material that is styled for the office, you win.  One of my favorite dresses is a jersey sheath that looks sleek but feels like a nightgown.  So when women tell me that they don’t like getting dressed for work because they can’t find comfortable clothes, I tell them they’re not looking in the right place.  Here are a few comfy office dresses.

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Adrianna Papell Printed Sheath ($73) // Shabby Apple Real Beaut Dress ($92) // Velvet Ruched Jersey Dress ($285)

This Adrianna Papell jersey dress is a great option because the waistband gives it definition.  Some jersey dresses are shapeless, so the waistband prevents that.  This Maggy London faux wrap gives you the same effect.  This Badgley Mischka dress has a vintage-inspired sleekness and a belt that gives it a great shape.  Hard to believe it is ponte.

The next two dresses have ruching and draping for a figure flattering fit.  Shabby Apple has a lot of great work-appropriate dresses in comfortable fabrics.  Their Mrs. Porter dress has a chic shape and neckline.  I also like their dotted Santa Monica dress.

Boden is another great source for dresses that look chic but are comfortable.  It’s like work camouflage.  The Betty Ottoman dress is fabulous.  And I love their Aurelia dress.

Velvet makes amazingly comfortable tops and dresses.  They’re the kind of pieces you find yourself reaching for whenever you have a case of ‘nothing to wear.’  They have a similar v-neck dress for $215.  It also comes in a gorgeous eggplant hue.  Their Gauze Whisper dress is a more affordable option.

Plus-size?  Try this Michael Kors dress with a side gather.  And I love the sleek style of this berry-colored Eloquii sheath dress.  Petite?  This red Anne Klein dress is fun.  I also like this blue dress with asymmetrical neckline from Michael Kors.

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  1. Nora says:

    I got a wrap-bodice dress from Talbots that is the most flattering, comfortable thing I own – and since it was on sale, I got it for $25! They’re still selling it, still on sale, but only available in plus and plus-petite sizing, so FYI.

  2. Kate says:

    I would recommend the “feminine pleated knit dress” from eShakti. It has a cap sleeve, a modest, but interesting neckline and it’s fitted through the waist. Right now they have it in a really tough to wear yellow-green but they’ve offered it in various colors over the years.

    • Kate says:

      Also, I really want to love Shabby Apple but I wish they would provide catalog-style pictures of their clothes in addition to the editorial ones, and for heaven’s sake, invest in a steamer before they photograph these close that cost $100-up.

  3. Kelly Andthen says:

    The Lands End ponte v neck dress has sleeves (real ones! not cap “sleeves”!) and at $79.95 its a steal. Comes in 3-4 colors..just bought and love the blue and fuchsia. The ponte is thick and the seaming is pretty great for an $80 dress.

    • Amanda says:

      Yes! Land’s End ponte dresses are my absolute favorites. Super comfortable but polished, and you can get them on sale for $30-40.

  4. Mo says:

    I’m a fan of NYDJ Dresses. They have a built-in shaping slip that shapes without constricting, which is nice after an indulgent weekend.

  5. L says:

    One note on Velvet dresses: they are usually shorter than they look in pics and tend to ride up even more making them prohibitively short for work!

    • Amanda says:

      Agreed — and they look too thin to be office appropriate and flattering to lumps and bumps.

    • Angie says:

      Seconded (thirded?) I invested in a v-neck sheath thinking it would be work-appropriate. It’s been a great comfortable dress for long evenings out, but the fabric is too clingy (requires seamless undies or a thong) and the hemline is too short for work (I’m 5’9, so the hem would be closer to knee-length on someone more petite).

  6. Jess says:

    I found a great dress at Target this weekend – ponte, v neck, 3/4 sleeves and great seams for $27.99! Comes in black and emerald green – I bought them both. Perfect for the office this fall/winter!

  7. Valerie says:

    Susana Monaco makes great jersey sheath dresses in different necklines and colors. The fabric is thick enough to provide work-appropriate coverage (no visible panty lines!) but breathable enough to wear in warmer weather. Only drawback is that they are pricey; I found mine on a Gilt sale, and they pop up on other flash sale sites and on department store sales also.

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