+ Building a Wardrobe

Wardrobe Essentials: Basic Blouses, Vol I.


Upper Row // Cuyana Silk Tee ($155) // Iris & Ink Tie Neck ($140) // Boden Animal Print Top ($59) //

Lower Row // Mango Flowy Shirt ($46) // 3.1 Phillip Lim Muscle Tee ($137) // Otte Sylvia Top ($289) //

A wardrobe is built on a foundation of basic pieces.  When your closet is filled with the right basics it simplifies your style and your morning routine.  Imagine never worrying about confronting a closet-full-of-nothing-to-wear ever again.

In this feature we’ll discuss pieces that bring style and ease to the task of dressing for daily life.  “Wardrobe Essentials” will cover the basic wardrobe elements–blouses, skirts, blazers, etc.–and be updated every few months with new pieces in a variety of price points (as well as petite, tall, and plus sizes).  Think of these posts as a guide for figuring out which items of clothing should form the core of your closet.

The six blouses above are the styles that I find to be the most versatile and the most work appropriate.  I have at least one of each of these in my closet right now.  If your personal preferences run to another style, swap that one in for the blouse you like the least.  But I’ve chosen these six because they’re the styles that I think flatter the majority of body types.

Silk Tees. This tee is from the indy brand Cuyana, whose slogan is “fewer, better.”  As a result, their silk tees come in a fairly substantial 3-ply weight.  The lighter colors will be just slightly sheer, the darker colors will be completely opaque.  I own two of these, and they’re the thickest real silk tees I’ve found.

For something under-$100, Brooks Brother silk, scoopneck blouses are currently on discount.  This Pleione drape neck tee and this Gibson ruffle sleeve tee are also worth a look.  Vince Camuto also makes a similar top in a variety of colors every season.

Petite AT Cutout Trim Tee ($49) // Plus-size Vince Camuto Shirttail Tee ($89) // Tall Stylus Shortsleeve Woven Shell ($24)

Tie Necklines. I love the look of a tie neck under a suit jacket.  I never tie the ends into a bow, just a simple knot like above.  I also love the softness that a tie neck blouse gives when layered under a v-neck sweater.

Iris & Ink always has a tie neck blouse in stock.  Vince Camuto also carries them regularly, as does Banana Republic.  Prefer a sleeveless version?  Halogen is happy to accommodate.

Petite NY Collection Tie Neck Blouse ($44) // Plus-size Eloquii Tie Neck Blouse ($59) // Tall Fashion Union Tie Neck ($39)

Bold Prints. It’s not secret that I love animal print.  So when I saw this Boden blouse in the navy and black leopard, I had to have it.  A blouse with a bold print breathes life into simple pieces or brightens your mood on a dreary day.

This brushstroke print blouse from Talbot’s is a more subtle option than the leopard.  I also like this abstract floral print from NYDJ.  This geometric print blouse from Preston & York is also worth a look.

Petite Boden Dolly Top ($65) // Plus-size Carmkoma Print Blouse ($80) // Tall Topshop Dalmatian Print Blouse ($70)

Button Ups. These flowy placket blouses are flattering on every body type.  They look great tucked in or untucked, and can be worn casually or to work.  Just remember, that when you wear a voluminous blouse on top, you need a slimmer, sleeker piece, like a pencil skirt, on the bottom.

Mango makes this blouse in a number of colors every year.  If you want something in silk, try this Vince split neck blouse.  Prefer a short sleeve option?  Check out this Bishop & Young blouse.

Petite LOFT Poet Blouse ($55) // Plus-size NYDJ Dobby Blouse ($105) // Tall Ann Taylor Split Neck Top ($60)

Layering Tanks. When I buy a tank to wear under blazers or sweaters, I prefer a wider strap.  Those flimsy spaghetti straps are not for me.  I don’t like when my bra straps show.  It’s not because I think it’s inappropriately sexual, it’s because I think it looks sloppy.  So a little extra fabric conceals that.

The Phillip Lim “muscle tees” are great (caution, runs small).  I also like Everlane’s wider strap silk tees, which are a great buy.  Lafayette148 also makes a high quality version.

Petite Eileen Fisher Sleeveless Tank ($98) // Plus-size Eileen Fisher Sleeveless Tank ($108) // Tall Worthington Knit Tank ($18)

Wrap Fronts. A wrap front blouse is my go-to top for post-vacation, been-eating-for-a-week wear.  It conceals, it slims, and it looks effortlessly stylish.  But same rules apply as with a placket blouse, keep your separates slim when wearing this voluminous blouse on top.

Otte makes this Sylvia blouse in a selection of colors.  ASOS always has one or two on offer.  And this pleated wrap-front blouse from Revolve gives you a slightly sleeker look.

Petite Ann Taylor Dotted Silky Wrap ($80) // Plus-size MisGuided Wrap Blouse ($35) // Tall Topshop Navy Wrap Blouse ($22)

*original image found here.



  1. Anna says:

    How do you wear the wrap front blouse? Do you tuck it in? I don’t know if it’s me but they always seem to low on the hips to be flattering with a pencil skirt.

    September 13, 2016/Reply
    • Ashley says:

      I usually pair mine with cropped cigarette pants, or dark denim on Fridays, untucked. Most of the one’s I’ve bought have a faux-tucked in thing going on.

      September 13, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I tuck in the back always, and sometimes the front if necessary. I love them with slim trousers as well.

      September 13, 2016/Reply
  2. Tiffany Anderson says:

    Great recs! I would also recommend looking at J. Crew factory online for layering tanks and faux silk tees. I got two of these and love them at a fraction of the cost.

    September 13, 2016/Reply
  3. Yael @ Nosherium says:

    I love this, thank you for writing it. I work in a casual workplace, and have extremely difficult feet so I’m always look for a way to elevate my jeans and fashion sneakers/flat booties look. So far, I’ve run into a problem with blouses – I end up smelling really bad. Silk and cotton are the best materials for me, viscose is okay-ish, rayon and polyester are whiff city!

    September 13, 2016/Reply
  4. SLG says:

    Has anyone had issues with the Everlane silk tank armholes falling too low? Every time I’ve tried them, my bra is visible at the bottom of the armhole, which isn’t a terribly professional look. It’s been a year or so since I’ve tried one, though — anyone tried them recently?

    September 13, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Happened to me. I had the straps shortened a bit, problem solved.

      September 13, 2016/Reply
  5. R says:

    I’ve never ordered anything from Boden, but I’ve seen many pieces that i really like. Does anyone have an insight into sizing? I usually wear a 12, but when I use their sizing tool, it tells me to order a size 10 in most items. Does Boden generally run large? I used Banana, Loft, and H&M as my sizing comparisons.

    September 13, 2016/Reply
    • EH says:

      Boden sizes do tend to run a little on the larger size. I’m usually a 16 sometimes 18 but at Boden I’m usually a 14. They will let you exchange for a different size at no cost if find yourself with the wrong size. The quality of the clothes they produce is much higher, in my opinion, than a lot of similarly priced stuff. I’ve had really positive experiences!

      September 13, 2016/Reply
      • Belle says:

        I completely agree on the quality. It’s better than BR, for sure. The sizes for me are a little unpredictable, but I’m glad they’re doing size measurements for each item now instead of a generic chart.

        September 13, 2016/Reply
        • R says:

          Thanks EH and Belle for the feedback. That’s good to know re the quality! There’s a 20% promo code right now, so it might be time to give Boden a try!

          September 13, 2016/Reply
  6. MSB says:

    Club Monaco also makes great silk blouses. I got two silk tanks (black and white) on sale this summer for under $75 CAD each. The white one is completely opaque. Highly recommend!

    September 13, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Good tip, thanks.

      September 13, 2016/Reply
  7. Nora says:

    Thank you for (almost) always including a petite option! Us short-armed, short-legged ladies appreciate it.

    September 13, 2016/Reply
  8. NorCalGal says:

    Thanks so much for including tall sizes! I know they’re not easy to find. The Ann Taylor Split Neck Top is gorgeous. Apparently others thought so as well, as it’s sold out 🙁 Keep ’em coming! Love your blog!

    September 13, 2016/Reply
    • Kk says:

      Agreed on the tall sizes- most blogs dont include these and it’s wonderful to see.
      I have the cuyana tee and it was spendy but I wear it often- and I’m just getting more and more into Club Moncaco- they have gorgeous things!

      September 14, 2016/Reply
  9. CR says:

    I can already tell I’m going to love this series – thank you! I know you tend to prefer dresses/skirts, but I’d love suggestions on pants as well!

    September 14, 2016/Reply
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