Women's Tops Buying Guide

(This woman didn't get the memo)

1 Women's Tops Buying Guide
    1.1 Tops and T**s 
        1.1.1 If you're well endowed:
        1.1.2 If you're less endowed: 
    1.2 Basic Shapes
    1.3 The Button Down
    1.4 Trendsetters
    1.5 Special Necklines
    1.6 Related Guides and Products

Whatever your style, if you're a women, you're probably not walking around half-naked. So congratulate yourself on knowing enough about tops to have one on. But if you still feel clueless about what sort of shirts go with what trousers and skirts, or what to wear to work versus a work out, then you're in the right place--read on! 

Tops and T**s 

Confused as to why some shirts look like crap on you? Search no further than your chest for the culprit. Because something like 80% of women are rumoured to be wearing the wrong size bra, getting properly fit for one (and checking out our guide to bras) can make all of your clothes look and feel much better--especially tops. That said, the bigger your boobs, the more you have to worry about, so let's start with the big busted gals for a little top advice.

If you're well endowed:

  • Don't try to go braless. Ever.
  • Don't try to wear a top that looks ridiculous if you wear a bra with it. 1. You'll be tempted to remove the bra (NO!), and 2. Well, that just looks stupid.
  • Actively seek out tops with straps that will hide your bra. Not only will you look neat, but thicker straps will flatter your chest by keeping it looking in proportion to your shoulders. 
  • Wear a halter (with a halter bra) only if you're prepared for a literal pain in the neck. Same goes for strapless and a constant pulling motion (although a long form bra  may just be a solution to that issue). 
  • Invest in a few camisoles. They'll conceal your bra with lower cut tops and give you a streamlined look under clothes.
  • Be appropriate. It's great to have cleavage, but your co-workers may not appreciate yours. Keep things under wraps until night-time, please.
  • Don't ignore empire waists that cut your bust or darts that you overflow. Yes, people notice. 

If you're less endowed: 

  • Go braless with caution. Only if you're really, really tiny chest-wise, the shirt requires it, and no one can see your nipples.
  • Don't try to wear a top with darts you can't fill. You'll look deflated, and smaller than you actually are.
  • Embrace your bra options. You know that Victoria's Secret bra that you can supposedly wear 100 different ways? Well, girls with big boobs will be bouncing around in about 87 of them. Enjoy the ridiculous variety novelty bras (and the tops you can get away with wearing them with) that were created especially for you, the girl who needs virtually no support.
  • Invest in a Wonder Bra, or gel inserts. You never know when you'll desperately need to fill something out, and they'll come in very handy. Just don't try them on a third date. That could get awkward.

Now onto the main attraction: Tops. For the sake of time (yours and mine) and space (ShopWiki's), jumpers, suits, jackets, blazers, etc. will not be included in this article. But notice that some are highlighted--that means they have guides of their own, so don't feel too sorry for them and be sure to give their guides a gander when you're finished here. 

Basic Shapes

If you don't know these, you're really in trouble.

Boob Tubes 
Strapless Bra 

Technically, this is the simplest of the tops. Think of it as a sock for your body, without the toes.

  • The most flattering versions glide away from the body after hugging the bust, like the one pictured.
  • But beware; they're more complicated than they seem. Big and small busted girls alike may have trouble keeping them up, and the dreaded Uniboob is ever threatening. Approach with caution. 

Tank Tops 
Sleeveless T-Shirt 

Like a boob tube, but with straps!

  • So called "sleeveless" shirts are just that--they look like T's with the sleeves chopped off.
  • Tank tops can be a whole other country; some have thick straps, some spaghetti straps, some boat necks, others scoops.
  • Shells are fancy sleeveless shirts, and undershirts are as casual as it gets.
  • Avoid these if you have issues with showing your arms, or better yet, check out our related guides for some great cover up ideas.  


Oh, the beloved T-shirt. Basically a cotton shirt with short sleeves, the T-shirt is classic, comfy, and surprisingly versatile.

  • Use a solid colour one to tone down fancy pieces, or even dress up plain jeans with an embellished one.
  • Wear an oversized band T with skinny trousers to look rocker, or a tiny baby T with relaxed fit jeans to look cute and effortlessly feminine.
  • Watch out for VBL though--they make "T-shirt bras" for a reason: these shirts are thin! Check yourself front and back to be sure your bra isn't showing through. 

Long Sleeved Tops 

Possessing the most fabric of the shirts, the long-sleeved top is... um... a top with long sleeves.

  • They come in many varieties; a classic scoop or v neck, a boat neck, a turtle neck, and any of these can be combined with a three-quarter sleeve.
  • Long sleeves can be a great layering piece, either under tanks or Ts or jackets and blazers. They can even work under dresses, to transition them into fall. Just pick up a few different colours of them in a thin material and experiment! 

The Button Down

So versatile, it gets its own box!

These are basically the female version of the classic men's button-down.  But don't head to the guys' department just yet; they differ from men's shirts in a few very important ways:

  • The shoulders are cut smaller to fit and flatter your more petite frame.
  • They have darts for breasts (more on this later).
  • They nip in a bit at the waist and come out and the hips to provide a slim--not boxy--fit. 

But back to the bust: especially if you're wearing it to work, ladies, you need to make sure your buttons aren't pulling at the chest. Not only will this give many people a free show from the side, it looks unprofessional and uncomfortable from the front, and there's a great possibility you'll lose a button. They best solution to this problem is to buy the next size up and have it taken in at a tailor. Or, wear a cami  in a coordinating colour underneath and leave the first few buttons undone.

Once you find a button-down that fits, you've got a lot of wearing options:

  • Short sleeved and sleeveless button downs are great for casual work wear in the summer.
  • Tailored (cut for a women's body) blouses look great with our without a suit over them. Try them tucked into wide leg trousers for a work look, or undone over jeans on the weekend.
  • French cuffs are wider, diagonally cut cuffs that are often in a contrasting colour and require cuff links. They're a great way to get a pop of color and accent to your look, and may inspire the addition of matching accessories. Have fun!


Get 'em while they're hot.


Empire waists are a big trend right now, and when with paired high, ruffled necks, they create a sophisticated nod to the Victorian era.

  • This is a great trend to keep confined to your upper body; in other words, head to toe ruffles isn't good. Pair a romantic top with a sturdy bottom, like a good pair of bootcut jeans.
  • Ruffles tend to fill out your chest, so if you're busty, the extra bulk plus the emphasis Victorian styles put on arms may make you look top-heavy.
  • Avoid this and other high-neck tops if you're less than swan-like. Covering your neck will only make it look shorter and draw attention to the area. 

80's Themes 

Oversized tops are in keeping with an '80s trend we're seeing. But bigger isn't always better.  To ensure the look looks good,

  • Mix fitted with flowy. If you go big and loose on top, be sure to go tighter and weightier on bottom.
  • Be mindful of your bust. Although they'll have plenty of room, boobs don't always look great in potato-sack tops; they can look matronly. Make sure that if you've got a chest you do a low enough neck to show you've got a shape. Or, wear a belt to define your waist.
  • Layer. A tight, solid colour shirt peeking out the top and bottom of a billowing top can help it look more deliberate and put together (and keep your bra your secret). 

Sheer Black 
Black Tank Top 

Available in all cuts and styles, sheer tops are a sexy and versatile evening piece. Just keep in mind:

  • They're definitely an evening piece, unless you're wearing it to the office for a social experiment.
  • Your undergarments will be on display. Wear this with a top underneath, and if you go the tank top route, do it with either a tank and bra in the same colour or the bra in a nude colour--in both instances with straps overlapping.
  • Everything else should be more toned down; sheer can be quite tarty, so if that's your choice for the evening, low necklines and high hemlines are out.

Tunic Tops 

Tunics and Bohemian tops are loose, airy, and comfy. To make sure you look as good as you feel:

  • Choose a focal point. If your top is plain and white, try some chunky, colourful jewellery to look more put together.
  • Or, wear a top with special details like embroidery, especially at the neck, to draw the eye up and to your face.
  • If you're wearing your tunic to work, be sure the rest of your outfit is all business, as this top can look a little more vacation than vocation.

Empire Waist 

These tops keep coming (and staying) back in style for a reason: they're so flattering!

  • A band that comes in just under your bust highlights the narrowest part of your torso and makes you look smaller all over.
  • Pair it with close fitting trousers for balance.
  • Be sure that the band actually hits under your bust and not across it.
  • Great for camoflauging a tummy.

Special Necklines

We'll consider this section extra credit.


This neckline has been around for a long time, but was especially popular in the very feminine fifties.

  • This neckline is simultaneously modest and sexy; you won't see any cleavage, but the décolletage is emphasised, and the bust exaggerated and flattered.
  • Try it in an airy fabric and colour, then pair it with beaten up jeans for a sweet country girl look.
  • Or, go edgy and vintage with dark colours and shiny fabrics for a rockabilly vibe.

Off the Shoulder  

A boatneck top is great for making peace between wide hips and narrow shoulders.

  • Try it with an A-line skirt for a classic, curvy look.
  • Or, mix it with close-fitting pedal pushers or cigarette trousers to channel an outdoorsy Audrey Hepburn.
  • Look out for bra straps; they may peek out of with this style, so either go clear, match the straps to your top, or choose a bra in an accent color that matches something else in your outfit, like purse or shoes, so it looks on purpose.  


The halter has probably remained popular (despite its difficulty to wear) because it's considered a classic sexpot piece. If you'd like to try it, keep in mind:

  • It bares a lot of skin; probably too much in the office, unless the neckline is very high and you wear a sweater or blazer over it.
  • Skip the mini or short shorts, or you might get some would-be solicitors.
  • The bra is half the battle for making this top look good; choose either a strapless or convertible style that will stay hidden (and is as tug-free as possible--fidgeting is not sexy!).


This flirty little top features a sneaky peak of skin, but is still relatively tame.

  • How modest this top comes off depends on the amount of cleavage you've actually got, and how low the keyhole is situated. Adjust the places (and times of day) you wear it at accordingly.
  • Bras may be an issue here again, depending on where the keyhole lies on the top. Check out our bra guide for a look at your options.

One Shoulder 

Consider this a boob tube with fall-down insurance. But:

  • Treat it like a boob tube, bra-wise. You'll need a strapless or convertible that can be worked to stay up with one strap.
  • Keep the rest of your outfit low key and symmetrical (no diagonal hemlines on bottom).
  • Avoid the figure skater look with natural fabrics and grown-up embellishments.

Now that you know the basics about shirts, combine with blazers, sweaters, and jackets for endless outfits. Have fun and happy shopping!

Related Guides and Products

A great excuse to buy something else.

Women's Blazers

A great piece that can take a shirt from business to night-life and back again.

Cardigans ,Wrap sweaters 

The no-brainer version of the blazer (and a great way to sneek all your warm-weather tops into Fall!).


The ultimate essential item.


Clothing with a conscience.

Clothing for Men

Because men can walk around half naked doesn't mean they should.