The Best Work-Appropriate T-Shirts

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Sure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We just rounded up stylish blouses for work, but I thought we’d take a look at that other versatile layering piece: work-appropriate T-shirts, aka business casual T-shirts for women, dressy T-shirts for work, or your basic layering tees.

Which are the best tees for layering under blazers, cardigans, and more? What qualities do you look for in a work-appropriate T-shirt, how many do you own, and how long do you expect your tees to stay looking new? In general, what do you think are the most office-appropriate T-shirt styles?

{related: do check out our regularly updated list of wardrobe essentials for work!}

Why Work-Appropriate T-Shirts are a Wardrobe Essential

Business casual T-shirts are great for days when the temperature is in flux (or the office radiator is on the attack), as well as a way of injecting some color into your wardrobe to mix up the sea of neutral basics.

Try them belted, tucked, untucked, or layered (I especially like a simple tee under a suit), and remember — if you’re wearing them to work, T-shirts should be in impeccable condition.

They’re also generally very easy to care for — machine washable, and they generally don’t require ironing. (As a bonus, if you wear a T-shirt as a layering piece beneath a blazer or a sweater, it can help you save on your laundering needs for the piece layered on TOP as well, because the T-shirt will catch most of your body sweat.)

{related: stylish tops for under suits}

What to Look For in a Great Business Casual T-Shirt for Women

In my mind, the perfect work T-shirt:

  • is opaque
  • is thick enough to not show the outline of your bra
  • keeps its shape throughout the day (and after several washes)
  • retains color evenly after numerous washes
  • looks like a perfect basic — not too memorable or trendy

{related: how to elevate a simple T-shirt}

Furthermore, a work T-shirt should be something designed to be seen — you should be able to take your blazer off during the day without worrying that it’s see-through, clinging to your bra, too low cut, tattered or torn, or otherwise too casual.

Which Business Casual T-Shirts Aren’t Dressy Enough?

Personally I think any pockets will usually make a tee too casual for a conservative office, as does a wider rib trim at the neckline. I love my relaxed slub T-shirts for the weekend, but I think a slub knit or linen blend would make it too casual for work, as would a pattern like a space-dye.

Finally, while a tank top can be great for certain situations, it isn’t always the best for layering for two reasons — first, it won’t necessarily be appropriate to wear by itself at your office (see our last discussion on whether going sleeveless is professional — know your office!), and second, it may necessitate more laundering and dry-cleaning than a T-shirt would because a T-shirt would cover your armpits and protect the top layer from sweat.

(But: If you want a seamless look and just want to add opacity/raise a neckline, a camisole for work, demi-camisole, or tank top is definitely the look for you.)

What Are the Best Shirts to Wear Under Sweaters?

The Best Layering Tees for Women

If you want to wear an easily washed shirt under a sweater so that your sweater needs less laundering, any of the cotton or jersey sweaters below will work great (especially the ones at the top of this post!). I’m particularly fond of options with lower necklines like scoopnecks or squarenecks because they usually don’t interfere with sweater necklines. (But you should always match the two necklines as closely as possible.)

How to Get That Preppy Layered Look with Sweaters

If you want that preppy layered look with a collar, cuffs, or shirttail hanging out beneath a sweater, we would recommend either going for a silky button-front blouse, a twofer sweater, or a fake collar.

Hunting for great fake collars for layered work outfits? As of Jan. 2024, Amazon has a zillion options for fake shirt collars as well as faux turtlenecks; also check out Etsy seller bloominglace as well as others. On the fancy side of things, it’s hard to beat Lele Sadoughi’s faux collars. (Amazon also has a number of twofer sweaters, with that layered look built in!)

Our Latest Favorite Work Appropriate T-Shirts

The Best Dressy T-Shirts for Work in Regular Sizes

The Best Professional T-Shirts in Plus Sizes

Easy Sweater Tees for Work Outfits

Where to Find Business Casual T-Shirts for Women in Sophisticated Prints

Looking for T-shirts with fun but professional prints for 2024? Some classic brands to check include Ted Baker, Boden, and The Kit. These may be on the more casual side, but also look at Sanctuary, Caslon, and Tommy Bahama.

The Quest for Silk T-Shirts for Work

As of 2024, some of our favorite silky silk T-shirts include Quince, Cuyana, M.M.LaFleur, AmourVert, and Brooks Brothers, and Reiss. Silk-blend knits are harder to find; LilySilk and J.Crew both have them.

Interesting & Feminine T-Shirts for Work

These no-button styles are all just a little bit different, interesting, and generally fabulous. Some of our latest favorites are below!

collage of 4 women wearing fancier tees you can wear under suits: 1) has draping details, 2) has a wrap detail at waist, 3) has a twist detail at the shoulder, 4) is a cowlneck
As of 2024, some of our favorite fancier tees for under suits include these: one / two / three / four (also this and this). In general, keep an eye out with brands like Boden, CeCe, and Tuckernuck, as well as the smaller workwear designers like the brands pictured above. (Also: J.Jill has a few long-sleeved ones as of Jan. 2024!) Some great fancier sleeveless tops include options from Loveappella and this high-necked option from Amazon.

The Best Opaque T-Shirts for Work Outfits

Hunting for opaque white T-shirts for work? As of 2024, we’d suggest checking the double layer lines from Boden, Express, Old Navy, and Hobbs, as well as great sources for basic Pima cotton such as L.L.Bean, Uniqlo, Everlane, and Talbots. (This $268 tee also gets great reviews for opacity, and Elizabeth swears by this tee under $30!)

As of 2023, the best spots to check for nude-for-you undergarments are Gap, Old Navy, or Nubian Skin for tons of options — Victoria’s Secret also has a bunch!

The Best Sleeveless T-Shirts for Work

Sleeveless tops can be tricky for work (and you’ll always have to launder your blazers and sweaters LESS if you wear shirts with sleeves). That said, some of our long-standing sleeveless T-shirts and shells for work include these options.

Work-Appropriate T-Shirts: Reader Favorites for Business Casual T-Shirts for Women

The Best Cotton T-Shirt for Work: Everlane

gray scoopneck tee

Everlane makes great basics for work, and this basic cotton scoopneck tee has a sophisticated look. I especially like the elbow sleeves! The top is $40 full price in six colors in sizes XXS-XL at Everlane.

Some of our other favorite professional T-shirts in cotton include some from Caslon, Theory, and J.Crew.

The Best Long-Sleeved Dressy T-Shirt for Women: Banana Republic

woman wears dressy t-shirt for work; her outfit is all black and she is wearing her blazer over her shoulders styled like a cape or robe

Banana Republic’s line of “refined” t-shirts all look great for work. They have a number of shapes, including a shrunken T-shirt, a crew neck T-shirt, and a scoopneck T-shirt, but we like this long-sleeved version as one of the best dressy T-shirts for women.

The Best Business Casual T-Shirt in Plus Sizes: L.L.Bean

pima tops in light blue, illustrated with a skinnier model and a plus-size model

L.L.Bean has long been a reader favorite for substantial, quality cotton T-shirts in plus sizes. The exact styles change from time to time, but the readers sing the praises of the thick material, easy care, and wide variety of colors.

Also keep an eye out at Universal Standard, Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren, Talbots, and Amazon Essentials.

The Best Silk T-Shirt for Work: Amour Vert

blouse in pretty print from L'Amour Vert, washable silk popover in black with blue abstract blocks on it

We just did a big roundup of the best silk blouses for work (100% natural fibers can be so hard to find!), but one of our long-standing favorite silk T-shirt blouses for work is the pictured one from Amour Vert. It’s washable silk, comes in a bunch of beautiful prints, and there are notch-neck styles as well as crewneck styles. Love!

Some of our other favorite silky silk T-shirts for work include Quince, Reiss, Cuyana, M.M.LaFleur, and Brooks Brothers. Silk-blend knits are harder to find; LilySilk and J.Crew both have them.

The Best Dressy T-Shirts for Work with a Sophisticated Print: Ted Baker

a dressy t-shirt for work in a sophisticated print from ted baker, shirt shown has swirl of colors including teal, purple, burgundy, and coral

Ted Baker has always made absolutely beautiful dressy T-shirts for work in sophisticated prints. If memory serves, in some years the shirt was a mixed media style with a silky back but jersey front — but the most recent iterations are cut from a soft stretch jersey (95% cotton, 5% elastane). The washing instructions say “dry clean,” which of course means you can machine wash on delicates.

You can find them at Nordstrom as well as TedBaker.com.

Other brands to check include Boden and The Kit. These may be on the more casual side, but also look at Sanctuary, Caslon, and Tommy Bahama.

The Best Sweater T-Shirt for Work Outfits: Quince

woman laughs while wearing a light blue, short-sleeved sweater tee in Mongolian cashmere from Quince

Newer budget brand Quince has been around for a few years, and readers really like their stuff — they’re known for affordable cashmere and silk, as well as affordable but luxe loungewear. This Mongolian cashmere T-shirt is under $50.

Other options include Ann Taylor, J.Crew,* and this Amazon bestseller. (* plus sizes too!)

If you’re hunting for something fancier, check out Kule or The Reset. (Try code CORPORETTE10 for 10% off.) As of 2024, Nordstrom and Anthropologie both have a huge selection of sweater tees.

The Best Dressy Tank Top for Work: Banana Republic

woman wears dressy tank for the office; she wears a white sleeveless tee with beige pants and a brownish blackish belt bag

I can’t remember the last time I saw a true cotton tank top that is dressy enough for an office — but Banana Republic’s sleeveless tee looks perfect. There’s a number of colors, but they all have that incredibly smooth, luxe look to them.

The Best Interesting Work-Appropriate T-Shirt: M.M.LaFleur

professional woman leans against wall; she wears a short-sleeved white top from M.M.LaFleur with draping details and dark green pants.

M.M.LaFleur has had a lot of beautiful pull-over styles in a variety of fabrics — the Nejvi top, pictured above, is in a polyester. (Is it more of a short-sleeve blouse? A polyester tee? It’s a fine line… I’m including it in this roundup because at base it really is just a fancy T-shirt — I think of blouses as having buttons, and popover blouses being a bit more drapey (but maybe that’s me?)).

Other favorites in this category include options from Modern Citizen, Amour Vert, Saint & Sofia, and Spanx. Boden, CeCe, and Tuckernuck all have good options occasionally as well. If you’re looking to splurge, definitely check out The Fold.

The Best Opaque White Tee for Work: Boden

professional woman wears opaque, double-layered v-neck top from Boden; she is lounging on an olive couch next to a navy pillow, and wearing beige pants

There are four ways to find opaque white tees for work…

The first way is to go for brands with double-layer lines — the extra lining in the front makes the top that much more opaque. This tends to be the sleekest, most polished look. Look to brands like Boden, Express, Old Navy, and Hobbs, all of whom have great double-layer lines.

Another option is to go for a thick, quality cotton such as basic Pima tees at L.L.Bean, Uniqlo, Everlane, and Talbots.

The third option is to go for white sweater tees instead of simple T-shirts — because the fabric is naturally heavier, a knit also tends to be more opaque.

The fourth way is to go from word of mouth. Our morning writer, Elizabeth, called this eco-friendly tee at Amazon one of her favorite low-cost clothing basics, and she calls it her “ride or die” tee for when she wants an opaque white tee. You can find it in relaxed, classic, scoop, and crewneck cuts.

(This $268 tee also gets great reviews for opacity.)

The Best T-Shirt Bodysuit for Work Outfits: Soma

woman wears a work-appropriate t-shirt bodysuit for work with a square-neck and short sleeves

There are a lot of great bodysuits for work right now (they look so perfect with wide-leg pants!), but in my opinion a square neck is hard to find and looks especially sleek as a layering option. I like this square-necked bodysuit from Soma, but Everlane and Amazon seller MangoPop also have some that look great.

In general, some of our reliable favorites for minimal work-appropriate bodysuits include Everlane, MangoPop, Soma, Commando, SKIMS, Madewell, and Wolford.

I’ve rounded up some of my favorites below — but readers, which are your favorites?

{related: here’s our much older poll on asking readers: how casual of a T-shirt can be worn beneath suits?}

Like this feature? Check out other recent installments!

Stock social media photos via Pexels / SHVETS Productions.