Dresses/Skirts without Toppers - Professionally Appropriate?

Browsing through my WIW's I'm struggling to find any without toppers - I always have a topper with my outfits, and unfortunately, I find myself in need of appropriate professional attire without a topper :)

Is there anything I should be looking for when I wear sleeveless things? Underarm flab? Lack of underarm flab? 

And the rules stipulate that spaghetti straps are no-no's - so, would that mean straps should be at least 1" thick? I don't think I have very many things that are spaghetti straps, anyway.

Thanks for your assistance :)

ETA - lol; the difference in muscle in my arm between picture #1 and #2 - about 4 months.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • MsMary replied 4 years ago

    Honestly if there are actual rules and the rules say "no spaghetti straps," I would interpret that as "nothing that looks like straps rather than a sleeveless top."  In fact, to be perfectly honest I don't think sleeveless with no topper is a very professional look.  I'd go with sleeves.

    Why on earth can't you wear a topper?

  • lyn* replied 4 years ago

    The rules are bizarre. It's like - no spaghetti straps and no words on clothes - but things like shorts are allowed, and flip flops. T-shirts and jeans are okay. I have no idea what to wear for this.

    Also; it's in Palm Springs in 2 weeks - I looked at the temp - 36C - I can't wear a topper at 36!

  • MsMary replied 4 years ago

    Beware, though.  The a/c is likely to be frigid.  If you dress for the outside weather you may well find yourself freezing inside.

  • Nebraskim replied 4 years ago

    I think the shirt dress in 3 is the way to go. Because you are tiny and young looking, you want to project gravitas and serious. I think showing less decolletage is important to them. And I, too, wonder why no toppers. You might be uncomfortably cold with out some coverage.

  • lyn* replied 4 years ago

    GAH. This whole conference thing is driving me crazy. 

    Should I just plan to dress like in Hong Kong? Sleeveless for outside, and a cardigan or a blazer to throw on when I go into A/C? I know how to dress for HK - warm/humid - but warm/dry is making my brain go into overdrive.

  • Jules replied 4 years ago

    I was thinking that #4 was too bare, but then I hear Palm Springs and it seems appropriate, at least for outside! So it's a conference with a dress code? No spaghetti straps sounds like a high school dress code, especially if jeans and tees are allowed, because it sounds like policing sexuality rather than level of formality! But my personal preference for work-related would be sleeved or sleeveless with a high neck anyway. Unless there are outdoor fun activities, sitting by a pool etc.

  • replied 4 years ago

    # 2,3,5, & 8 all seem fine too me with the caveat that a light topper would be worn inside. These dresses/shirts seem warm weather appropriate while limiting skin. 6 & 7 are borderline and the rest no's IMHO.

    I agree with Nebraskim about too much skin can undermine seriousness.

  • Day Vies replied 4 years ago

    Of the sleeveless styles #2 is my favorite.

    My 2 cents - I have never been a fan of sleeveless in professional settings unless it's an after 5 affair. It just doesn't look appropriate to me and please know this is just my own personal bias. I think it shows more skin than is appropriate for the work environment. If it is warm short sleeves are fine #3 is my favorite length for summer.  I feel like the tiniest hint of a sleeve (#6) is more appropriate than no sleeve for heatwaves but the weather should reflect the necessity for showing so much skin. Should you go sleeveless a topper should be handy just in case of the unexpected important meeting.

    I also think showing arms vs. decollete in the work place is a lot like deciding whether to show leg or cleavage. You can do one or the other but never both.

  • MsMary replied 4 years ago

    Yes, dress like you'd dress for Hong Kong.  Definitely bring something to put on in the a/c.

  • cciele replied 4 years ago

    What Day Vies said :)

  • Gracie replied 4 years ago

    I favor 3 and 7. The cut and style seem professional to my eye. They both happen to be dark (navy?), but I think another color will work as well. And a topper will come in handy. I can't wait for your final packing and wearing post!

  • lyn* replied 4 years ago

    Thanks ladies - It's been a challenge trying to balance looking too professional vs. my colleagues with cuffed jeans and vintage t-shirts. :p

  • Kristin L replied 4 years ago

    I second Day Vies.

    Is your conference in Southern California? I was at a conference in Palm Desert (20 min from Palm Springs) and it was the way you described Hong Kong. It was freezing inside at our meeting and as soon as we got outside, the cardigans were off.

  • lyn* replied 4 years ago

    Yeah; Palm Springs - never been to California before, but it looks really fun! 

    I will have to pack like HK - lots of natural fibers and fabulous toppers! It goes down to single digits in the evening, so I'm bringing a scarf too!

  • Laura (rhubarbgirl) replied 4 years ago

    I was just about to say, Palm Springs is in the desert, so definitely bring warmer layers for mornings and evenings. I agree with others that sleeveless is not my favorite for professional wear, although I think that in this case since its a conference you don't need to be quite as proper as you would if it were a regular work environment. I suspect that anything you bring will be miles better than some of your colleagues!

  • JAileen replied 4 years ago

    I'm familiar with hot and dry. The two main things to keep in mind:

    1) The lower the humidity, the greater the temperature swing between morning and evening. Today our high was more than 30 degrees warmer than the low. That means layering every day.
    2) When the humidity is low, the temperature extremes don't feel as extreme. So whatever the high (or low) temperature is, it won't feel as bad.

    Also, don't forget lotion and lip balm!

  • Karie replied 4 years ago

    I like #3 with the sleeves, and of the sleeveless styles, I agree with Day Vies. Dressing like you would for HK is a good idea. The AC will make the indoors cold.

  • kkards replied 4 years ago

    if you pack like you would for hk, i think you shouldn't have any problem. i'm going to disagree with most of the others, if the others will be wearing jeans/shorts and tees and flip flops, i think that sleeveless, as you have pictured, would be totally professional. 

  • dizzys replied 4 years ago

    It's been cooler in Cali and not super hot so I would plan to layer for sure.

  • Windchime replied 4 years ago

    #3 is unquestionably professional. #5, #6, and #7 may or may not be appropriate, depending on what others wear. They would be fine with a topper. You will definitely want to bring toppers, in case the air conditioning is freezing cold. I think you will be the best-dressed person there, Dr. Anthropologie!

  • Freckles replied 4 years ago

    Gah!  If I remember correctly from your other thread they want you to be neat and presentable as well as fit in with the patients and families.  I think the flower print dresses do this remarkably well but irl perhaps they are a bit low cut and one of them the straps are a bit too narrow...
    In my mind it seems they want you to appear approachable and friendly.
    You have tons of gorgeous prints in your wardrobe.  Perhaps a skirt and blouse that have pattern in them?

  • carter replied 4 years ago

    I think 2, 3, and 7 would be great choices. Just take a cardi in your bag in case you get chilly indoors. It also cools off at night, so you'll need something a bit heavier then.

  • T replied 4 years ago

    I feel that #4 & #10 need a topper to be professional as they are strappy (as compared to the rest that cover the shoulder completely) and plus the print seems casual to me. I would personally wear all the other outfits as they are to office without toppers, but would carry one coz it is always freezing in my office - no matter the heat outside. Your arms look great to me & I don't think you need to worry about them. 

  • anne replied 4 years ago

    I have no idea about the Palm springs setting, but just wanted to say that in Australia, sleeveless (not spaghetti strap) is in my observation completely acceptable even in a professional services situation such as where I work. I suppose people may keep jackets in their offices and put them on when they see clients but they certainly walk around the office, use the lifts, do training etc in sleeveless outfits.

  • lyn* replied 4 years ago

    I just googled and found a pic of a bunch of students... doesn't look too exciting. 

    It gives me an idea what they want though...

  • unfrumped replied 4 years ago

    Agree skip sleeveless- and most of the scoops.
    Palm Springs has cold AC indoors and also cools down at night-- the desert.
    On your dress styles there is a tendency to combine sleeveless + fitted bust+ sharply defined waist and sometimes scoop neck. To me this tends to read more body-con and exposed, even though balanced below, so it can send a mixed message for professional women. The sleeves or cap sleeves work better. Sleeveless itself is not ideal but when it's done looser, higher necked, fluid or waist surrendering, or maybe with fluid trousers, then that mitigates the arm exposure somewhat.
    I'd still plan some outfits with a cardigan or light linen or cotton topper but its best if the look is still professional when removed.

You need to be logged in to comment