The Critical Top

professional dress women - blouseA top/blouse for a woman is like a tie for a man. It is your signature, the opportunity to express your individuality and to add sparkle to your outfit. Remember that eye contact centers on the oval made by your face, the lapels of your jacket and the upper part of your blouse. This frame must send the right messages of quality, coordination and taste. Blouses/tops  give your suits, jackets, pants and skirts a finished look and, like suits, should be made of natural fibers or top quality blends such as silk, crepe, challis, cotton and linen. The new washable fabrics are a good choice since caring for them is easy and economical. 

The Right Look

You may choose blouses with handsome detailing to make the basic pieces of your wardrobe look new and updated. Sometimes your blouse/top can make a conservative suit look fresh and sophisticated. The neck styles that work best with most jackets are the jewel neck and high collars. Always invest in a good quality white blouse or top, and a white that is complementary to your coloring could be an ivory, off-white or pure white. A white blouse combines well with most colors of suits and jackets and gives you the option to use accessories--scarves, necklaces and pendants--to set your outfit apart. Sweaters and knits add another dimension to your jackets. Select a turtleneck, a cowl neck or a jewel neck that complements your face shape and neck length. Wearing a knit top with a suit makes the outfit less formal. A career camisole is another option, and a silk or satin camisole can take your suit into the evening for a dressy occasion. Remember that in this case, you will not want to remove your jacket.

Remember the Neckline

When selecting the right neckline remember that  the least flesh shown, the more powerful you look. Two inches above cleavage is considered a conservative neckline. This rule applies to blouses as well as dresses. In addition, with the new policies on sexual harassment, you want to be sure that your clothes elicit only thoughts of respect and professionalism.

Are You Looking at My Face?

You want attention focused on your face not on your chest, so wear appropriate undergarments or a slip-camisole when wearing light-colored blouses and tops. Make sure their are properly fitted with at least one inch of fabric on each side of the bust line, so it looks loose and comfortable. Buttons must remain closed without pulling. When trying on a blouse or top, do all the arm movements that you usually use on the job, so that you know that they are comfortable. 

Checking the Fit

Here's a tip from an accomplished seamstress. When fitting a blouse, top or dress, take your right hand, bend your thumb and put the four fingers together; then place the hand in between your underwear and the garment being fitted. If there is enough space for your hand, the fit is right; if not, the blouse, top or dress has to be altered. Your blouse should also be longer than your hip bone so you can tuck it in between your underwear and your pantyhose, which helps keep it secure and neat. 


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