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Help me shop?

Jenny in Florida

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I work in an environment that requires me to dress "business casual," but I tend to err on the side of a bit more formal. I'm short and rather overweight (usually a size 16 on top) and among the oldest folks in the place. So, I feel better when I dress nicely.


I've discovered that I really like outfits that include an outer layer. I have four open-front cardigans (of the type sometimes called "cascade") in different colors and materials that I mix and match with dress pants and reasonably dressy blouses throughout the week. They are similar to this one, although not exactly the same: http://www.dressbarn.com/detail/roz--plus-size-open-cascade-cardigan/102070317/A98


The problem I'm having is that, as the weather warms up, those cardigans are just too warm. Even the ones that are not exactly sweaters are made of 100% polyester and are like walking around in my own personal sauna when I wear them.


Most of the blouses I wear underneath are fairly lightweight, and many are sleeveless. So, I can continue to wear those. But I need to find some outer layers that look reasonably professional that I can substitute for the cardigans during warmer months. My existing work wardrobe is mostly black, white, brown and navy, and I would want to stick with that palette so that I can continue wearing most of what I already own.


A couple of things:


1. I'm extremely self-conscious about my upper arms. Unless it is the most casual occasion imaginable and/or I am among only family and close friends, I do not set foot outside my house without having my arms covered to the elbow. So, whatever I buy must have at least 3/4 length sleeves. (Also, as a sort of 1.5, one of the reasons I am self-conscious about my upper arms is that they are really large and flabby. So, those 3/4 length sleeves need to be loose enough and/or stretchy enough to accommodate that.)


2. I'm cheap. I don't have a lot of money to spend on this project. I will need to buy at least two or three of these, and I really can't spend more than about $75 total, maybe $100 if you all can point me toward something truly fabulous and I could buy three of them.



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Jenny, I bought similar cardigans to the one you linked in a very lightweight cotton knit last summer, but they ended up being too clingy in all the wrong places and the fabric was so thin that it didn't hold its shape well at all after I had it laundered. (I washed the first one at home and the side seams ended up on the diagonal, so I sent the second one out to the cleaners and that one didn't fare much better.) I threw them away and I can't remember what brand they were, but I was very disappointed that the knit was so flimsy, so if you order any online, make sure the ones you get have a lot of positive reviews!


If I think of the brand name, I'll post it for you, so at least you'll know what to avoid. :)

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I have exactly your same situation - business casual, overweight, among oldest, and ALWAYS hide my upper arms.

I also use open front cardigans to layer with everything. I have long sleeve cardigans in the fall and winter and 3/4 sleeve ones for the spring and summer.

I've found most of mine at JC Pennys and Kohls. They are both always having sales so I can get a good deal on them. I haven't looked at clothes yet this year, but I would think that they would start getting their warmer weather clothes out now. My 3/4 sleeve cardigans are very light weight and breathe well. I do work in an air-conditioned office and that definitely helps. I layer them with sleeveless/cap-sleeve or short-sleeve tops. 

Kohls always has button front cardigans - long sleeve in winter and 3/4 sleeve in summer. I stock up on those in all kinds of colors. I don't button them.

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