The retail gods must have been smiling upon me, because within a one week span I picked up the Rachel Zoe "Lara" blouse I've been drooling over for months and its Banana Republic knock-off, the "Laura" blouse -- both at unbelievable price.
Of course, the question is: are either of them good enough to deserve a place in my wardrobe? The hole I'm trying to fill is "blouses with a silky fabrication that can be layered under sweaters, cardigans, and jackets"; a nice-to-have feature is if it can be worn alone as weather gets warmer. ETA: Both of these blouses are sheer enough that I'd want to wear a camisole underneath, which isn't quite my style -- I have a minimalist style, and adding a semi-visible layer runs counter to that.
Banana Republic (photos 1-3):
-- Sheer! I'm wearing a white camisole underneath both pictures, and you can see all of the lace detail on it. ETA: I would wear both blouses with a nude cami; the white is just to give you a sense of how sheer both blouses are.
-- No need for major alterations.
-- Cheaper, so if the experiment with sheer blouses doesn't pan out, I've lost less money.
-- Cheaper: the piping doesn't extend to the bottom half of the placket or collar, so it doesn't look as nice with an open collar.
-- No shoulder detailing, which can be a plus (IT shoulders) or a minus (not as charming as the RZ).
-- No detailing on the cuff, which is a minus.
Rachel Zoe (photos 4-5):
-- Almost-as-sheer! I'm wearing the same camisole, and you can see almost as much as the BR blouse -- though you'll have to work harder to see it.
-- The sleeves are ludicrously long and poufy. If I were to keep this, I would have to take the sleeve up, probably at the shoulder (the cuff piping makes it hard to reattach down there). Taking up the excess sleeve length will help with the second problem (ie, poufiness) but won't alleviate the "YAAARRRR! I BE A PIRATE" sleeves altogether. In short: I have some risky and expensive alterations ahead of me.
-- Better quality: both blouses are silk, but the RZ's silk is just luscious.
-- Better quality: the piping detail extends through the collar, onto the bottom placket, and through the cuffs. This will look better when worn open.
-- Shoulder detail: does it make my shoulders stand out too much? My thought is that I'd wear this under a cardi/jacket/etc ~60% of the time, and on its own 40% of the time.