Ah, the humble cami. This sleeveless wonder is one of the most hardcore workhorses in the closet despite its lightweight design. It’s long been a must-have as a standalone top, a layering piece, or even an in-a-pinch upgrade or outfit concealer for the occasional wardrobe malfunction. That means it works as a casual, dressy, or formal accent, and yes, it's also a great fit for a too-lazy-to-find-PJs pajama top when you finally hit the hay after a great night out. So are all support camisoles created equal? Definitely not – it’s like saying that skinny jeans and bootleg jeans are the same because they’re both made of denim. Sure, there are similarities, but it’s the subtle differences that really make them stand out. For cami lovers everywhere, read on to learn more about the benefits of camis, the best camisoles for layering, and why owning more than a few camis is a good thing!
So What Are Camis?
Slang for “camisole,” this easy-to-wear piece is an evolution of the unisex medieval garment the chemise, a shirt or nightgown generally worn underneath other clothing by both men and women. These days, cami undershirts are still worn as undergarments, loungewear, and sleepwear (depending on fabric and style), but they’re far more likely to make their way into daily outfits than be hidden beneath them. Some camisoles offer light support and adjustable straps; this style is ideal for smaller-chested folks who would prefer to go sans bra (and perfect for a hot night out paired with a sleek blazer).
Modern fashion has introduced quite a few modifications to the basic shape of a camisole, but in general, a cami will have:
Solid construction: Buttons, zippers, and snaps are usually decorative Slender straps: May or may not be adjustable; wider straps become a tank top
Sleeveless style: Too much fabric would weigh down this easy-to-wear piece
Lightweight material: No wool or leather here, think micromodal
The basic cami is designed to be worn as a shirt on its own, but also pairs up nicely with other wardrobe pieces. To find the perfect cami for your personal style, you’ll need to decide on a few factors for versatility’s sake:
Overall Length: While most camis fall at approximately waist length, shorter or longer styles are available as well. If you plan on tucking your cami into your waistband or prefer additional coverage, opt for styles with a more generous length. If your outfits du jour tend to be more midriff-flaunting, cropped length camis will be your new best friend. Helpful tip: If you have a bust, you’ll need to factor in the length that the curve will “eat” – on a large-chested wearer, a cropped style may end up laying shorter on the torso than intended.
Neckline: Like length, it all depends on how much you’d like to cover and how much you want to show off. A boatneck neckline sits at or just below the collarbones and forms a clean line that works well with business casual. Crew or scoop neck styles are a little more casual, but easy to dress up or down with the right accessories.
Backline: The view from the back can be just as important as the view from the front style-wise. A too-low back can expose a bra back and make an outfit feel inappropriate for the office. Higher, A-shirt styled camis cover this area while still maintaining a polished look, Bonus points: cami coverage comes in handy for avoiding back sunburns during the summer, too.
Hemline: The traditional camisole was usually hemmed in lacy trim at the bottom edge and occasionally the shoulder straps as well. As designs lean away from undergarment intentions and strictly gendered wear, modern style embraces self-fabric hemming and leaves the lace behind in favor of outfit versatility.
Color: Colors depend heavily on fashion cycles, and the best way to make sure a cami stays in heavy rotation is to opt for timeless neutrals. White, grey, or black camis will always be the go-tos regardless of your personal style: they can be paired with just about anything – last season, next season, or ten seasons in the future – whether that’s measured in fashion weeks or Netflix binges.
Material: If you’ve ever muttered about cotton after the dryer ruined a favorite top, or sworn off polyester after a hot, uncomfortable day, you know how important choosing the right fabric can be. Camis are designed for frequent wear, and that means durable, comfortable fabrics like moisture-wicking micromodal are where it’s at.
Care: If you’re the type of person that washes colors and whites together and just kind of hopes for the best – well, let’s just say that you’re in very good company. Pick a cami with care instructions that are forgiving and be honest with yourself – when was the last time you actually read a care tag while doing laundry?
Why Camis Are The Real MVP
The staples of the modern wardrobe aren’t just made to look nice: they need to perform, hold up, and keep stride with a potentially-insane daily schedule. That means that re-adjusting straps, re-aligning buttons, tugging waists up, or necklines down isn’t in the cards.
Comfort-wise, camis are about as close to wearing socially-acceptable pajamas as you’ll ever get. They’re super soft, easy to wear, can be dressed up or down, and live for layering. They’re perfect for a day at home, a night out, or your next road trip–the possibilities are endless! They also stay looking sharp – no matter how often they’re hastily grabbed out of the hamper after hitting your snooze button one time too many. Below, just a few of the benefits of this double-duty supergarment:
Notice that your blouse shows a little too much plunge for that work meeting, but you still want to rock it? Cami to the rescue.
Has the weather lost its mind and threatened to melt the sidewalk outside? Goodbye tee-and-jeans, hello cami-and-shorts.
Love that new blazer but all your work-ready blouses are patterned and clash? Slide on a cami before the blazer and you’re good to go.
Vibing on a billowy, opaque top but not keen on showing skin or a dark bra underneath? Your cami has you covered – literally.
Hitting the road and low on room in your suitcase? Pack a cami, a button-up blouse and your go-to jeans and boom: three outfits ready to go!
Very few clothing pieces last all year – long sleeves give way to short sleeves, lighter fabrics give way to heavier ones, and necklines creep up and down. Camis, however, are one of the few layering pieces that feel just as comfortable in the summer as they do in the winter, and look great with or without coordinating layers. Put it this way: you’ll never hear someone lament that they have too many perfect black camis hanging in their closet or waiting in their drawer.
Micromodal Camis: Soft, Stretchy, & Superior
In terms of clothing fabric, you already know that cotton comes from cotton plants, and polyester from woven plastic, but what is micromodal made from – and why does it feel so good?
Sustainable business practices are as fashionable as runway clothing styles, and that means that the provenance of what you wear is just as important as how good it looks. While polyester and polyester derivatives are the norm for most “fast fashion” found on department store racks, this material isn’t breathable, nor is it easy to recycle or biodegrade at the end of its useful lifespan. Cotton, while considerably more sustainable and eco-friendly than polyester, shows signs of wear and tear very easily, and can potentially shrink dramatically when put in a dryer.
Micromodal is created with natural fibers sourced from beech trees; this results in an incredibly lightweight, butter-soft finished product that is up to twice as effective at wicking moisture than its cotton counterpart. When blended with a touch of spandex, it creates a form-fitting cami top that hugs curves without overheating, can survive a trip to the dryer without shrinking or pilling, and feels like a dream.
Camis: A Work Wardrobe Staple
If your office is business casual, a cami is a lifesaver for busy mornings – a pair of slacks, a low pony, and a pair of stylish yet sensible heels or flats are all you’ll need to pull it together. If you’d like to cover your arms, a blazer or jacket works well, and a colorful scarf can be used to elevate the look, if desired. And as a bonus, if Andrea in accounting has bullied maintenance into turning the air conditioning off again, you won’t need to stay physically attached to your desk fan to stay cool.
If your office is a little more formal, support camis can double up as both shapewear and layering pieces. Simply slide on your cami of choice, tuck the waistband into a pair of slacks or a pencil skirt, and enjoy the lifting, flattening power of what looks to be a normal undershirt. Unlike more elaborate shapewear pieces, support camis offer a more subtle silhouette that looks natural – no bulges or uncomfortable seams to worry about. Even if your cami isn’t expressly designed as a support/shapewear piece, sliding on a slimming black cami can have the same flattering effect.
Keeping a cami in the trunk of the car or even a desk drawer can come in handy as well. The next time your morning desk yogurt betrays you with gravity and ruins your blouse, you’ll have a backup layering piece so you won’t have to live with the stain of shame all day. Impromptu department gathering for drinks after work? Don’t mind if you do!
Camis: An Everyday Go-To
While picking out outfits for the week can be fun, some days (we’re looking at you, Sunday!) are for relaxing and charging up your mental batteries for the week ahead. If your agenda has zip on it except a snack excursion to the grocery store, a comfortable cami keeps things uncomplicated. It might not officially be pajamas, but if you wanted to power nap in your ridiculously soft micromodal cami and athleisure shorts on the couch, not a soul would blame you. One pair of sneakers and you’re ready to go from catching some zzz’s to hunting down the perfect bag of chips. And if you run into your ex while you’re at the corner store – hey, you look amazing. Their loss.
Pick your camis wisely and you’ll always have a go-to top in your closet. Look for simple, neutral colors, clean hemlines, straps, and necklines, and imprints over physical tags – no one likes a scratchy neck, after all. If you and your partner or roommate are roughly the same size, you’ll want to hide your camis in the back of the closet for safekeeping. Comfy, attractive pieces like the perfect micromodal cami have a way of – ahem – hopping closets when your back is turned.
Strength In Numbers: Camis For The Win
Like that amazing cardigan you’d live in if you could, or that pair of shoes that feel like they were made for you, finding a perfectly-fitting cami is no small feat. These relatively inexpensive style pieces are an anchor for just about every other piece of layer-ready clothing, and shouldn’t be underestimated. If you try on a cami and it looks feels like it was designed for your body, don’t let hesitation rob you. Get a couple of the same camis, preferably in a few different colors, to stash in a drawer. That way, if your roommate does pull a cami heist on your closet, you won’t be scramble-searching for it the next time you want to pull an outfit together.
Camis may be lightweight in material, but they’re decidedly heavy hitters when it comes to style. If your wardrobe is missing its fair share of micromodal camis, it’s time to remedy the situation with a little spaghetti-strap goodness.