Dressing Professionally if You're More Marilyn than Jackie by Kat Griffin of Corporette
Founder and editor of corporette.comKat Griffin helps her readers dress stylishly (yet appropriately) for work. Stay tuned all week here at Lucky Right Now, where this former lawyer will be guest-blogging about everything from her current office-girl obsessions to her favorite 9-to-5 fashion tips.
A lot of women think it's particularly challenging to dress professionally if you're busty or have an hourglass figure. And while it can be challenging, it isn't impossible...so here are some tips if you've always identified more with Marilyn Monroe and less with Jackie Kennedy.
1. Know your bra size. If the girls are multiplying throughout the day (and your bra is giving you the dreaded quadra-boob effect) then your cup size is too small. Alternatively, if your straps are digging into your shoulders, your band size is probably too big. Go and get fitted at a reputable place like Nordstrom or a local lingerie boutique that carries a lot of sizes, particularly band sizes smaller than 34 and cup sizes larger than E. (If you have any trips to London coming up soon, be sure to stop into a department store and get fitted--not only has the fitting advice I've received been spot-on, there is such a huge selection of gorgeous lingerie in all sizes.) You may find that you're a 30F instead of a 34D.
2. Wear appropriate bras for work. Trust me on this: You will have a better career if people can focus on YOU and not, say, your bra. To that end, I'm a huge fan of the molded T-shirt bra for the office. This way, you don't have to deal with seams, lace or, um, headlights showing through your top (whether it's a T-shirt, a blouse, a dress or even a sweater). Some favorites include:
3. Minimize if you still feel uncomfortable. If you're wearing the right size and an appropriately modest bra for work, and still feeling too busty, you may want to look into a minimizer. My two cents: In my own experience, these are uncomfortable for a day when it's going to be a long haul--and they give an unfortunate "squished" look to your chest. But it may make you feel better, sartorially speaking.
4. Know your neckline. The Jackies of the world can wear the crewnecks and the mock turtlenecks--those styles are just not flattering on the Marilyns of the world. If you fall into the latter camp, you still have a wide selection--V-necks, scoopnecks, boatnecks, cowlnecks, and--if accessorized correctly--turtlenecks. (A button-down shirt, open at the collar, creates the effect of a V-neck.) Most of these look great beneath suits (the exception being the boatneck, which looks better on its own). This relates to some other great fashion advice that I've read: know what decade your body shape was in fashion, and try to find outfits inspired by that decade.
5. Raise the eyeline in artificial ways. If you're well-endowed and trying to be professional, the last thing you want is to draw anyone's eye to your cleavage. If you're wearing a V-neck that dips a bit low for work, first add a camisole. Go for something plain--not lacy--that will raise the neckline and cling to your chest (and not gape open).
LOFT makes some good ones; I'm also a fan of Old Navy's simple cotton camisoles. You can also use accessories to draw the eye upwards--an 18" set of pearls, a brooch placed on your shoulder or even a great statement necklace (such as the Kenneth Jay Lane one pictured). Avoid pendants or long necklaces that hit you at your bust's widest point.
6. If you're busty, you may find that you prefer tops that have no buttons. T-shirts and sweaters don't gape open, after all. If you find that sweaters hug your curves a bit too much, try for a silky camisole beneath them--it makes everything lay better. (A cotton camisole will just stick to the sweater.)
7. When buying things, buy them to fit your bust. If a button-down blouse is gaping at your chest, it's never going to look right--just buy the next size (or two) bigger and then get it tailored. Similarly, with dresses, if your bust is smooshed then the dress will never look like it fits properly. (You can try it with a minimizer, but I'd just get the next size bigger.) Some brands that are forgiving in the bust include Carissa Rose, Rebecca & Drew, Shoshanna dresses, David Meister dresses, Tahari and Ann Taylor. (On Corporette we just had a great discussion about which brands and stores fit different body types--please come by to check out the discussion.)
8. Know your proportions. If your figure is an hourglass, do your best to work within that shape--even if you long to wear A-line skirts, a pencil skirt may be more flattering. Similarly, if you're more of an inverted triangle--large on top with slender hips (or not much of a waist) you may want to try to wear an A-line skirt, to balance out the top. You may find that outfits of entirely one color are more flattering.
9. Buy suits with multiple buttons. When suit shopping, look for suits with at least two or three buttons on them--a higher closure will mean your bust is more covered. Avoid suits with a single button in the middle. (If you're considering a double-breasted suit, please put it down, and stop shopping until the urge passes.)
10. Try to find a professionally dressed woman with your body type and watch her. This is both to get inspiration for outfits for yourself, as well as to learn which things don't look good.More Corporette on Lucky Right Now:
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