The search for a good blouse preceded the pandemic, and it has certainly waned with my lack of desire to curate the perfect outfit to hang out with my 4 and 6-year-old and maybe a neighbor or two. It’s not that I’ve given up completely on looking pulled together, it’s that I’ve reprioritized my entire wardrobe to fit into our seemingly endless lifestyle at home. I want to be comfortable, feel cute, low-maintenance, practical, and timeless. So, when I do add something to my now tiny wardrobe (girlfriend has been PURGING) I need to KNOW that it’s going to work on my body, for a long, long time without having to return it (which is virtually impossible up here). So, I have developed a formula that deserves sharing – especially for those of you with larger breasts that might struggle with tops (I used to before I developed my formula). Ahem.
There are five things I look for in “the perfect comfy but cute summer blouse”. Now, not all five boxes HAVE to be checked, but when they are …. oh girl … it’s worth every penny (and some can be lots of pennies, but I’ve worn them for YEARS).
- A voluminous sleeve detail (or at least roomy shoulders). This could be princess, ruffle, or flutter. Why? This gives the illusion of a smaller waist (hello shoulder pads) if you are into that, and draw attention away from your ladies. The sleeve becomes the statement, whereas otherwise, the boobs tend to garner the attention. Don’t get me wrong, I want to get them the attention they are due at times, but right now, for the occasional bbq with neighbors or nighttime walks with Brian, I like wearing something that I feel cute and attractive in but is more subtle.
- Boxy but not too thick or heavy (for summer, at least). I’m not talking crazy wide and boxy, and I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but in the blouse department, I’m not interested in something super fitted along my rib cage and down to my waist. That sounds like a lot of clinging and maintenance for me. I will not “work” to wear a shirt anymore. I mean, I tried to wear my 1 1/2″ Rachel Comey sandals that I’ve literally worn months on end in previous summers, but this year I felt like a toddler, needing to hold on to the coffee table in order to get around it. Will we ever go back to the way it was???
- Some sort of plunging neckline that breaks up the amount of fabric across your chest. This gives a peek of the secrets you hold under there but doesn’t feel crazy revealing or low-cut (not that anything is wrong with that, but just for summer with my immediate family I like it to be easier to wear – plus I’m not wearing real bras so I don’t want to reveal that secret). This neckline could be a slit with a little tie (my personal favorite) or just your basic button-up that you unbutton 4 down. V-necks also welcome. This is the Ulla Johnson formula – the princess or ruffle sleeve, with the secret, peek at what’s underneath. It’s the formula that I LIVE FOR and the reason why I’ve always splurged on her shirts. I wear them for YEARS, guys. YEARS.
- Easy to tuck and/or easy to drape (likely a thin fabric like silk or cotton). If you are lucky, a shirt will hit perfectly where it needs to – not be too long or too short (good luck, thus the front tuck). I’m short torso/long legged so most blouses are a bit long on me which is fine if they are easy to tuck in. Here is where you want something that doesn’t cling to the areas you might not want it to, and drapes really nicely.
- A small busy pattern. I have a ton of white blouses, too, but most days I opt for something colorful, busy or bright to A. give me a burst of color/pattern which makes me feel happy and almost like I’ve tried, B. Pattern makes it low maintenance when it comes to dirt/kids (I’m still working on my “white blouse” abilities), and C. The colors and pattern themselves draw attention from other things you might want to not have to think about – bra straplines, the beautiful shape of a two kid tummy, etc.
By writing this I’ve absolutely sold myself. This formula WORKS. If you are super petite and smaller up top these blouses might overwhelm your frame, but I am not, even though you might think I am (I actually have lovely, but fairly large and muscular arms in addition to boobs). When I see the “perfect tank top” roundup I don’t click because I know I likely won’t find one that I actually want to wear, so if you are like me and want the perfect cute blouse? HERE YOU GO.
1. Ruffled Sleeve Blouse | 2. Women’s Plus Size Long Sleeve V-Neck Blouse | 3. Pleated Popover Top | 4. Lace Blouse | 5. UO Dylan Embroidered Boho Top | 6. Puffed Shoulder Blouse | 7. Cora Embroidered Blouse Top | 8. Ruffle-Neck Keyhole Top in Stripe | 9. Women’s 3/4 Sleeve Prairie Shirt
1. Eyelet Blouse | 2. Moon River Ruched Sleeve Top | 3. Jacquard Frill Blouse | 4. Cotton Balloon Sleeve Blouse | 5. Scotch & Soda Shirt | 6. Saylor Mildred Blouse | 7. Rolla’s Stephanie Cost Floral | 8. Lourdes Blouse | 9. Free People Blouse | 10. & Other Storie Frill Blouse | 11. Tularosa Mae Top | 12. 1.STATE Trendy Blouse
1. Greg Puff Blouse | 2. Jaslyn Embroidered Lace Blouse | 3. Marrakesh Coal Blouse | 4. Joie Pollo Ruffle Long Sleeve | 5. The Great Shepard Stripe Cotton | 6. Wilfred Playa Blouse | 7. Daphne Peasant Blouse | 8. Sonnet Blouse | 9. Keepsake Ardour Top | 10. Antik Batik Nikki Blouse | 11. The Great Mare Plaid Top | 12. Stephanie Embroidered Blouse
1. Ulla Johnson Medine Ruffled Floral Shirt | 2. Doen Blush Etta Blouse | 3. Tikuri Blouse | 4. The Great The Lace Prim Top | 5. Ulla Johnson Liana Ruffle Blouse | 6. Hickory Top | 7. Rouge High Neck Draped Silk Blouse | 8. Colette Blouse | 9. Button-Up Bell Sleeve Top
There you have it. But in case you need a visual reminder of this very scientific formula, we made a super helpful graphic for you to use at your shopping leisure. I hope you found your perfect summer blouse and if you have more recommendations drop them below. Happy Saturday and happy shopping, folks. xx
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Veronica Crawford | From: A Fashion Review: New Clothing on My Body and How I Like Them (Or Not)
Those shorts. Hmm.
I just wanted to note that I accidentally upvoted this comment, and I can’t figure out how to undo it.
I’m happy for you to wear what works best for you!
This comment. Hmm. (I love the shorts and Emily looks fantastic in them.)
I was here to say how subtly sexy Emily looks in the first photo. Rock it, lady! Lord knows few of us, especially moms, are feeling hot these days so own your fire!
Well we can definitely say this post falls into the category of “things I didn’t know I needed to know.” Two of my favorite shirts meet all these criteria, and now I know why!
Mille has blouses that fit this bill perfectly…especially love their Thalia and Florian: https://shopmille.com/collections/tops
These are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the link!
I really like these shopping / fashion posts—- please do more! I was able to snag a few of the items highlighted but some are already sold out or already out of my size. I also really like the white blouse in the first picture…is there a link?
I am 5’10, E cup, broad shoulders, short-waisted and long legs. So, tank tops are out of the question because the “girls” are all you see. It took me years to figure out your formula. I appreciate your selection of shirts!!
me, too. honestly. It took a big wine fueled conversation with one of my best friends best friends who also splurges ulla johnson and we dissected exactly WHY these are the best shirts and we both have short torso/big boob combo. i haven’t bought one since last year because i’m still wearing my inventory from over the years – they never date.
But 5’10, broad shoulders…and ruffles on the shoulders…does that work out? I’m tall and broad too and every time I do an exciting shoulder I look like the defensive end (? I don’t follow football but I look like a player lol) in a football game.
Still love the looks, just not for me!
I’m liking the summary points in the last couple of posts. Great to help get those key points embedded into my tired brain.
I love these posts, being big boobed and short waisted myself. In fact, pre-Covid, I’d find myself lusting after exactly these kind of tops, due to your rec’s in previous posts.
Comfy. Cool. Flattering. Oh, yeah and pretty while helping males make eye contact instead of having a conversation with my ladies!!! Hahaha 🤣
Emily, I emailed Caitlin a couple of weeks ago re: The Insiders, but haven’t heard back. What’s the possibility?? It’d mean so much to me.
I feel like when I try on these voluminous tops I always look like I have “boob curtains” going on, but you really pull it off! Do you tailor the waist?
i agree IF it doesn’t have a slit down the middle (#3) and has to tuck in to show waist (#4). I think… maybe I need to do another round of scientific experimentation 🙂
Yeah – like I have a short torso, big boobs, wide hips, small waist/ribcage. Tight tops are too much boob, but define my waist/ribcage; but boxier and flowy tops make me feel like a BLOB because the narrowest part of me is completely lost and my hips make me look so wide. UGH. Any insight?!
That French/half front tuck thing works a treat!!
I think you are in my brain. One more tip, a small alteration can make a shirt perfect. I often have them shortened an inch or two to hit at the top of my hip.
I’ve totally done that, too. I’ve even taken a target shirt and done that for like $18 and it makes it look/fit like a fancy shirt.
This shirt, too!
Madewell Central- it comes in different materials and slightly different fits but all work in similar ways to what you describe.
As a breastfeeding mom with a bigger kid too (so I’m forced to be active and in the sun), I finally found this shirt in three different patterns and two pairs of denim shorts and that’s f’ing it for my summer uniform. The two times I’ve gone out to dinner in the last five months, I just traded the shorts for high waisted jeans.
A uniform, or capsule wardrobe, has changed my life.
ME, TOO. I have purged an obscene amount because i’m done (currently) curating “outfits” and just wearing jean shorts and blouses (or athleisure). Less is just SO MUCH EASIER.
Yep. Once I discovered what I actually love wearing–A line skirts! retro shirt dresses! overalls!–it simplified my closet and my shopping so much. I no longer have a bunch of stuff I don’t wear (or wear unhappily out of some bizarre sense of obligation), and I’m not tempted by things that look cute in pictures but that I will end up never wanting to put on.
Hannah, would you mind sharing favorites? What style shirt do you wear with your a-line shirts?
Hannah, those three shapes are what suit me best too! Was just thinking while reading this that I miss having an a-line skirt! Sounds like you have a v. cute pulled together wardrobe. Could you share your fave brands or sites? 🙂
A shocking number of my skirts come from Boden; they’re well made, classic, and fit me the right way (and they go on sale a lot!). All solid colors, so I can wear them with whatever on top, but usually I reach for a French sailor’s style striped shirt. I just feel like myself in simple, unfussy shapes and patterns.
Thanks for the rec!
I have 4 of these (2 in white) and they are the only thing I ever want to wear. Dressed up or dressed down, always looks cool!
I had to laugh at this post as it’s pretty much the opposite of any blouse I would buy. My rules:
1. A nice fit at the shoulder. Absolutely no puffs, poofs, gathers or ruffles, especially at the wrist.
2. Fabric with body to drape well – no thin fabrics
3. Jewel, square or boat necklines – no collars, no Vs, no plunging ever!
4. Either long tunic or cropped length – no tucking in
5. Solids or large graphic patterns. No small busy patterns.
I’d love to see what you’re talking about! Do you have a favorite?
What is the striped blouse Emily is wearing in her Instagram stories? Thanks
Where are the shorts from? Love them!
Katja, I think Emily has posted about these shorts before if I remember correctly! Check out this post from 2019, the caption under the first image. I think they’re the same shorts (or at least simliar), and still available!
Beautiful shirts. I’m going to try for more volume in the sleeve….
By the way, I noticed another commenter asking about the white blouse at the beginning of this post. I, too, would love to know the details on it…doesn’t matter if it is no longer available. I would just love to know.
Thanks, as always, for the great content on this blog. 🙂
Now I understand why I like some of my clothes more than others on me.
I wish those Ulla Johnson blouses came in plus sizes. I’m old, and it’s really haaaaaaard to lose weight when you reach a certain age (and shelter in place had NOT improved my diet). Most plus size blouses are so cheap and cheezy. I am willing to pay for quality, but I can’t find it. I have several Johnny Was blouses, but they’re more on the hippy chick side. Those Ulla Johnson ones are gorgeous.
Can anyone speak to how Ulla Johnson tops are sized/fit? If I typically wear a small in tops at Madewell (but often a medium in their more fitted sweaters) but think of myself more as a size 6 than a 4, due to the big boobs that must be accommodated for, would I be a size small, medium, 6, 8 in Ulla Johnson? I’ve never tried the brand but am intrigued…Thank you!
Ulla’s size run a bit big, at least for me. I’m a 32c and wear a XS on her brand. a S was huge. I’m 5.7 and weight 125 lbs.
OMG! this formula absolutely would not work for me (but I did enjoy reading it). I’m short- waisted, but relatively small waist compared to my hips and small breasted. Basically a pear shaped body. Flowy, boxy and ruffly make me look dumpy. But I do love this look on you.
I would like to point out that this formula also works if you have a long torso! I’ve got a small rib cage, large cup size, and a “muscular structure” according to the sales person at REI. And an aforementioned long torso. I hadn’t seen it spelled out like this, but this is absolutely the formula I use, and it’s wonderful!
Yes!! I love this and happy you’ve linked so many good options.
I’ve been trying to get back into finding some uniform for ME presently. Three kids down, still breastfeeding, and starting over in my wardrobe because the girls are sooo different now.
Feels like there’s never a still moment, always chasing kids and chasing after my aging boobs!
Ulla & Doen make the best blouses.
Such a great article!!
A few of my favorite tops are this style, although longer, because I have a long torso. This post makes me want more. I’ve been living in lounge clothes or denim shorts and a favorite top. I can also pull off tank tops around the house.
I love this- I want you to make one for my body type!
Sezane has a lot of blouses that would fit these criteria–it’s my favorite place to shop right now, even if I don’t actually buy anything all that often. My casual summer uniform consists of unwaisted or drop waist dresses and flat leather slides (or sneakers if I’ll be walking a lot). I decided a couple years ago that even shorts and skirts aren’t comfortable enough for Texas–when it’s hot outside, my goal is for my clothes to touch me as little as possible. Plus I can get dressed in about two seconds and still look like I put effort in.
Great post. I have the same issues. Have you tried tops by Sea or Xirena? They also have great pieces that fall into this category.
I am sorry. While your advice might be good, I did not see a single blouse that was on a LARGE BUSTED woman. Which is what you said the article was about. Please tell me what you consider a large busted woman. I cannot relate. It was disturbing enough for me that I couldn’t even read the article.
I’m an F cup and they work on me, if that helps. 😊
Now can we get the info about the bra that’s not really a bra but is supportive of a larger chest because… we need this info!
wow! it’s so cute!