How to Upgrade Your Work Wardrobe Using Lingerie

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We all know it: outfitting yourself with a new or upgraded professional wardrobe is expensive as hell. And at this point, you probably have your favorite shortcuts to a badass look: thrift stores, eBay, your sister or best friend’s closet. Plus, there’s always the tried and true “dress it up with accessories.”

But what about lingerie?

Take it from a lingerie boutique owner: well-fitting underthings can make or break an outfit. Simply put, when you’re supported and comfortable, you’re more confident. Investing in high-quality undergarments that fit and support you can make that tank top from Target rock underneath that super-professional blazer. Shapewear can help create the look that you were really going for in that sale dress from LOFT. A quality pair of hosiery that you keep in your drawer for important meetings can immediately amp up any outfit.

Here are some tips and tricks for instant wardrobe upgrades–all courtesy of undergarments.


The first question: determining bra size. Experts recommend getting refitted every six months or so, because our bra size(s) easily fluctuate with weight gain and loss, as well as with hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause. However, I’m a big believer that you are the ultimate expert in the size(s) you feel most comfortable in. Your comfort is the most important factor, and no one should ever tell you differently. What I’ve provided here are a few suggestions on what some different bra styles to consider for your wardrobe:

The T-Shirt Bra
Ideal for providing a smooth fit underneath knit tops and dresses. It’s also, incidentally, the style of bra that we are the most used to in the US, courtesy of Victoria’s Secret’s ubiquitous molded contour cups. Here are some of my favorite styles:

Natori Feathers, 30A-DDD/F, 32-36A-G, 38B-G
Essential T-Shirt Bra by Nubian Skin, 32-36B-DD

Stretch-Cup Bra
This style of bra has many names, but it’s known for its stretchy cups, often made of mesh or lace, which conform to the shape of your breasts. This makes it ideal for those of us who have uneven breasts (which is: most of us) or breasts that fluctuate in size, e.g. with periods.

These bras are deceptively supportive and often work brilliantly under blouses and dresses. Stretch mesh tends to work better under knits than stretch lace or materials with applique and other detailing. Here are some tried and true recommendations:

Dessous Bra by Claudette, 30-34C-F & 36-38B-F
Curvy Kate Princess Bra, 30-38D-G & 40-42DD-G

Soft cups with no underwire? Yes please. These comfortable, uber-stylish bras are the bread and butter of independent lingerie designers–just check Etsy. They’re an especially great option for small busted folks who want some support and coverage but don’t want to deal with underwire. Good for knits, blouses, dresses, button downs, or showing off on their own: an incredibly versatile piece. Here are some favorites:

Kali Triangle Bra by Clo Intimo, S-L
Agatha Bra by Toru & Naoko, XS-XXL


Shapewear, perhaps more than bras, is regarded as an investment piece. It’s up to you to determine what kind of shapewear most suits your wardrobe and, indeed, if you will even wear it at all. I have some friends who regard shapewear as betraying the body positivity movement and still other queer- and trans-identified friends who see body modification as a means to self- and gender-expression.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what makes you feel comfortable, supported, and confident.

The Corselette/Garter Dress
Meant to be worn with a bra by day (though it doubles as one hell of a boudoir piece), this kind of piece performs all-over control shaping and smoothing for the torso, hips, and thighs. It also has detachable garter hooks for stockings.

Cupless Vargas Dress by Kiss Me Deadly, S-L

Shaping Camisoles
A great option for smoothing underneath button downs and blouses.

Try: Seamlessly Shaped Comfort Control Camisole by Yummie by Heather Thomson, S-XL

Shaping Shorts
Similarly, a great option for smoothing underneath skirts and dresses without committing to a full-on corselette or shaping slip.

Try: Featherlight Control Shorts by Commando, S-L


Everyday Hosiery
Because nude hosiery is for everyone.

Try: Matt 10 Denier Tights in Cinnamon by Nubian Skin, S-L

For the best classic black on the market try: Ultimate Opaque Matte Tights by Commando, S-L

Day to Night
For black hosiery by day and funky colorblocking hold ups by night try: Opaque Hold Ups by Pretty Polly, S-L

To lend a pinup vibe to any outfit, go with a fun retro-inspired back seam.

Try: Kix’ies Thigh Highs

So, ladypreneurs, what are your tips and tricks when it comes to lingerie and undergarments? What items help amp up your wardrobe?

Jeanna Kadlec

Jeanna Kadlec is the founder of Bluestockings Boutique, an online alternative lingerie boutique whose motto is "underthings for everyone." For the last four years, she has called academia home. You can follow her on Twitter at @BluestockingsBo.