Whether you call it a camisole or a cami, these sleeveless shirts come in lots of colors and styles, so they're ultra-versatile. You can wear them on their own, or pair them with your favorite jacket or blazer. Discover why camisoles are an essential addition to your wardrobe.
The first time I bought a camisole, I thought the only way to wear one was under another shirt. But I started experimenting with other ways to style them. I initially tried this when I was just hanging out around the house so I wouldn’t have an audience if something didn’t look right.
Sometimes I wore camis by myself. Other times, I paired them with a button-down shirt, similar to the way you’d wear a T-shirt under a jacket. I found camis to be really comfortable and fun, not to mention functional.
A women’s camisole is an essential component of her wardrobe. They come in so many colors, you can match them really well with various outfits. They’re super-versatile, as you can wear them under a shirt or as regular tank tops. Since they usually have spaghetti straps, those straps are easy to conceal when you’re wearing something over a cami.
And some clothing brands make shopping really convenient by including a cami with a shirt – either as a separate piece or built-in. That’s especially handy for low-cut or see-through tops. If you’re new to wearing this all-purpose garment, here’s a run-down of all the different types of camis so you know what to look for on your next shopping trip.
- What Are the Different Types of Camisoles?
- Ideas for Sporting a Camisole
- Where Did Camisoles Come From?
- What Are the Different Types of Bras?
What Are the Different Types of Camisoles?
The body-hugging camisole is probably the most common type. It’s usually made of cotton or a stretchy material like rayon or nylon. As its name implies, it’s made to be form-fitting. This kind of cami works well with a layering shirt.
Made of soft cotton, these are popular because they are really comfortable and breathable. Their “sleevelessness” and softness make them great for summer and a top choice for workout wear. You can don a cotton camisole by itself, or layer another shirt over it.
A silk camisole is meant to be especially feminine. Because they feel so smooth and cool against the skin, many women opt to use them as sleepwear — pajamas or lingerie, it’s entirely up to you. You can definitely don a silk cami during the day, too.
They’re elegant enough to be worn as dressy tops. But they look good with layers too. Wearing one under a sweater will give you plenty of insulation when it’s chilly. You can also top a silk cami with a blazer or a formal jacket for a highly chic style.
Like silk camisoles, the lace camisole has some sensual appeal. These camis will add sophistication and femininity to whatever you pair them with. Some are lacy throughout, while others have lace trim. Whichever one you have, you can layer a low-cut shirt or sweater over it. Lace camis go well with dresses, too.
This is exactly what it sounds like: a camisole-bra combo. The bra is built-in so you don’t have to keep up with two different articles of clothing. Some women wear camisole bras like regular shirts. Another option is to wear a jacket over it.
When it comes to camisole bras, there are several styles and colors to choose from. Some of them are designed to blend in with your skin color. They’re a good choice if you want to wear them discreetly under another garment. There is a considerable assortment of other color options for these camis, too, including neutral hues.
Bra camis come in different lengths. Some are modeled after the bare midriff style of tops, while others are long, resembling a chemise.
Another helpful feature of these camis is that they come in different cup sizes to accommodate a range of body contours. Some of them have an underwire sewn in if you want some extra support.
Plus, there are all kinds of different options for padding, so you have all the advantages of a padded bra (or unpadded if you prefer) without having to wear a separate piece of clothing. It’s ideal when the bra is designed just for the cami. Sometimes, pairing the two is awkward otherwise.
Need a special-occasion cami? You can get one with a built-in bra, too. These “upgraded” camisoles are embellished with beads, sequins, and the like for extra elegance and style.
Shapewear is intended to flatter your physique to minimize bulges and other imperfections. This kind of body shaper provides lots of support. Because it has a slimming effect, it can give wearers more confidence. You might think that since body shapers flatten muffin tops and other “filled-out” places, they would be constricting. But they are surprisingly comfortable and a great way to “sculpt” your body.
Sometimes it can be difficult to find the outfits and styles you want when you’re browsing plus-size selections of outerwear and underwear. These types of camis also have a slimming effect to help balance your body. They look great underneath dresses and formal attire, as they give your body a more streamlined look. Plus, many of them come with a built-in bra to give you extra support and save you the hassle of having to buy one separately.
Cami tops are super trendy among the younger set, although I don’t see why older women can’t get away with wearing them, too. Camisole tops smooth out your curves while providing plenty of support. Distinctive traits of these garments include crop tops and plunging necklines. They usually have stringy backs, too. These lend themselves well to casual wear, but with a chic touch. They’re just as functional as they are fashionable.
Ideas for Sporting a Camisole
Camisoles are so versatile and varied — long enough to extend past your waist, or short enough to leave a bare midriff. If you’re not exactly sure how and when to wear a cami, here are some styling ideas for inspiration. Once you’ve tried these out, you may come up with some of your own.
A Day Out with Friends
Meeting friends for brunch or some time at the mall? Try pairing a cami with dark jeans or dress pants. This is also a good idea if you’re going to be outside in the heat and don’t want to layer anything over a cami or deal with a heavy, clingy shirt if you get sweaty. This combo works for evening wear, too, like if you’re having a night on the town with the girls.
Getting ready for a night out with your special someone? Try an elegantly-styled cami with jeans and a light jacket. What’s great about a style like this is you can pull it off with boots or heels, whichever fits your footwear preference and the occasion. For more formal date nights, you can always wear a cami under a chic dress.
If you’re going to be out and about and spending a lot of time on your feet, comfort is of utmost importance. Try a floral cami — or whatever style you like — with some leggings. This outfit works especially well with longer camis.
You can pair a camisole with a business-style jacket and pants or a skirt for a more professional look at work.
If you have a skirt and a cami that matches it exactly, wear them together. It will look like one piece instead of two. I tried this and people thought I was wearing a dress or that I had bought the skirt and cami together, neither of which was the case.
This is great for a summer style. If you have plus-sized camis, wear one with a pair of leggings. The two will complement each other, especially if the cami is on the more elegant side. Plus, this outfit is super comfortable.
Where Did Camisoles Come From?
You may be curious where camis came from. After all, it’s hard to imagine a wardrobe without them. Camis can most likely trace their origins back to France (which boasts the invention of the bikini too, by the way). The word camisole probably derives from the Spanish word camisola or the Italian word camiciola. Both of those terms come from the Latin word for nightgown or shirt – camisia.
You might be thinking that this Latin word looks more like what we call a chemise. If that’s the case, you’re correct. Hundreds of years ago, both men and women sported chemise as underclothing. But, for women, these became inadequate as corsets made their way onto the fashion scene as early as the 1500s. Although they originated in Italy, corsets became wildly popular in France.
Camis didn’t really become a “thing” until the Victorian era (circa 1820-1914). And those undershirts were not as versatile as today’s camisoles. They were short, lightweight, and only meant to be worn as underclothing.
Because of advances in fashion during the 1920s, camisoles evolved to something more like the modern-day ones we’re familiar with. It was at this time that women started wearing the shirts as stand-alone pieces that didn’t necessarily have to have something layered over them.
What Are the Different Types of Bras?
If you’re wearing a camisole that doesn’t have a bra built-in, you’ll need to select one that’s comfortable and also a suitable fit for the cami. Keep in mind that some bras don’t work well with certain types of camis.
If a bra has a lot of lace or padding, the outlines of these features can be more conspicuous than you would like under a tight-fitting camisole. If you’re wearing a cami as a tank top, you probably don’t want to have bra straps visible alongside the spaghettis. So, here’s a quick look at some of the most common types of brassieres.
Any bra that doesn’t have constraining cups or wires fits this description. These bras are really comfortable, and you can wear them under anything. They’re not the best option, though, if you need extra support.
These are great for wearing under strapless shirts or dresses or anything with spaghetti straps. Some of these bras come with removable straps that you can hook on for extra support.
Made with an elastic base for extra support, shelf bras are usually built into a tank top, cami, or swimsuit.
Mastectomy bras have a hidden pocket (usually on both sides) to accommodate prostheses or breast forms. Before the invention of mastectomy bras, women had to sew these pockets into a regular bra themselves, which was a huge headache.
These are a must-have when you are recovering from breast surgery, as they can accelerate recovery and help you avoid complications. Compression bras help reduce the risk of lymphedema and infection, cut down on inflammation, and increase circulation around the surgical site.
These come in low, medium, and high-impact levels to give you the support you need according to the intensity of your workout. Made without wires or cups, they are worn under workout clubs or sometimes as a stand-alone top with leggings — very comfortable for relaxing at home.
With their crisscrossing straps, these sometimes take the form of sports bras. The straps are designed to help the spine stay properly aligned.
These have adjustable straps that either crisscross over the back or go over the shoulder. They come in a variety of styles. You can pair them with a cami, especially if you’re layering with a jacket or blazer that conceals the straps.
Maternity and Nursing bras
Maternity bras are made of stretchy material to accommodate fluctuations in breast size. Nursing bras allow for easy unclasping for breastfeeding.
Ideal for women with rounded breasts, these enhance a woman’s natural bust shape. Balconettes work well with casual clothes and formal attire alike.
Full Coverage Bra
This type gives you maximum support, often with the help of an underwire, and keeps the entirety of your breasts covered.
Demi cup bras don’t cover breasts entirely. Low-cut cups have a seam around the edges to accentuate breast shapes.
These give you extra lift through padding and angled cups.
Underwire bras have a wire sewn into the cups for support. Some women find them constraining, but that’s usually because they’re wearing the wrong bra size.
This is any bra that comes with padding that’s either built-in or in the form of removable inserts. Not all padding is meant to increase bust size. Sometimes it’s there for extra support and shaping.
Bralettes don’t usually have wires or molded cups. They’re often designed with lace or stripes and pair well with tank tops. Some bralettes are worn as crop tops.
What is a spaghetti top?
Spaghetti tops are what you might call an “upscale” version of the camisole. They’re chic enough to serve solely as outerwear. They get their moniker because of their dainty “noodle” straps. You can wear them with jeans, skirts, or shorts. Like camis, they’re great for layering, too. Wearing a jacket or blazer over them adds extra style and gives you more opportunities to get creative.
What is a crop top?
We mentioned earlier that some of the elegant “young” styles of camis have a crop top. So just what is a crop top? Crop tops are appropriate for any age, as long as you feel comfortable wearing one. You can think of these as conventional shirts with the bottom literally cut off, revealing a bare midriff.
Admittedly, some crop tops reveal more skin than others. They are a bit of a throwback to the 1990s when celebrities like the Spice Girls made them popular. Crop tops come in many styles, and can be sleeveless or not. These short shirts originated in warm-weather places, especially India and the Middle East.
What’s the Difference Between a Chemise and a Camisole?
Modern-day chemises have a more delicate look than camis and, in most cases, are more revealing. Like camis, they are sleeveless and have loose-fitting waists. Typically, chemises are worn as lingerie or undergarments.
As lingerie, a chemise is a lot like a babydoll, but the latter is looser-fitting in the hips. But “chemise” also describes a short, spaghetti strap dress that hangs down straight from your shoulders and fits loosely at the waist — not unlike a short variation of a slip dress.
As already mentioned, camis are sleeveless and usually extend to the waist, although some are longer or shorter. Even at their longest, camisoles are usually shorter than chemises. They are typically made of fabric that allows for a loose fit (except for shapewear and some other form-fitting styles). These materials include cotton, nylon, silk, satin, spandex or lycra, or some blend thereof.
When should you wear a white camisole?
If you’re wearing a white or cream-colored top that’s see-through and therefore requires something underneath, this is the time for a white cami. You might be inclined to tuck the cami in so it’s not visible, but sometimes this creates a weird line below the waist where the cami ends. To avoid that, untuck the cami. For a really seamless look, you can then match the color of your skirt or pants to match the camisole.
What is a bustier?
This is a form-fitting top that gives some lift. Traditionally, these were worn as lingerie. They extend to the ribs or the waist. Today, women can wear them as push-up bras under an outer-wear camisole or a dress that has a low back. Bustiers can also be worn as something of a half-slip under see-through shirts when you don’t want your midriff exposed.