PSA: Going Out Tops Are Back, Here's How to Style Them
What Is a Going-Out Top?
At its core, a going-out top is a blouse or shirt that is worn in the evenings for dinners, parties and other social events. Unlike basic tees and shirts, it typically had an element of glamour: sequins, gems, ruching, lace, or a striking neckline. Originating in the ’40s and ’60s, when matching sets were swapped out for mix-and-match separates, the going-out top represented expression – a playfulness that couldn’t be achieved in daytime outfits. We saw it in the early noughts when Cindy Crawford wore a Versace corset, Density's Child at the Teen Choice awards in matching green halter tops, Britney at the 2000 pre-Grammy party in a silver sequined crop, the list goes on.
As it continued to gain popularity, the hero product began to solve an essential dilemma: what should I wear tonight? From college girls to 20-somethings and women in their thirties, we all had this piece in our closets. Dressed up or down, it was the solution for many decades, typically accompanied by friends, cocktails and a late-night pizza slice.
How Has the Going-Out Top Evolved?
With the variations of jumpsuits and dresses taking over the standard nighttime attire, true going-out tops saw a decline in the 2010s. But fear not. As fashion is cyclical, resurging every 20 years, the going-out top is back. “Trends do come back like every 20 years,” fashion historian Sara Idacavage, an instructor at the University of Georgia told the Washington Post. “There’s been enough distance that you no longer have these really close memories and associations. So it’s like, familiar, but it’s not so familiar that it still causes you embarrassment.” And with other Y2K styles making their way back (think cargo pants, claw clips, and the like), it’s no wonder that the going-out top follows suit.
This year's version, however, is different. The staple takes a chic, modern approach that is positively stylish. Meaning, no babydoll or bubble hems a la 2004. No, this year's It-item will make you feel confident, sexy and in-charge. Or as SSENSE put it, ‘it has the power to change your mind from ‘I’m not going’ to ‘let’s do this.’’ It’s your after-dark wingman. And Natalia Levsina, a New York City-based fashion influencer agrees: party tops have transitioned from a focus on tight and revealing styles with excessive embellishments to a more diverse range of silhouettes, fabrics, colors, and prints, allowing for more comfort and versatility.” Today, you’ll see assortments featuring corsets and bustiers, thin straps or cutouts and mesh affixed to the décolletage.
Can Anyone Wear the Modern Going-Out Top?
Although the going-out top was a supporting character among millennials, now 30-somethings, that doesn’t mean it has age requirements. In 2023, the throwback staple can be worn by all ages. Today, they range from lingerie-inspired bustiers to halter and cutout necklines worn just as boldly during the week as on the weekends. Going-out tops, then and now, are used to make a statement. Often paired with blue jeans, they elevate an entire outfit without overthinking the rest of the look. “I can spend all day wearing WHBM going-out tops and feel comfortable wearing them,” Levsina continues. And because they are accessible for all body types, as long as you’re interested in making a statement, the style has no age limit.
What Are the Different Types of Going-Out Tops?
There are four main categories that satisfy the going-out top resurgence: ruffle tops, corsets and bustiers, halter tops, and prairie or flowy blouses — all of them which are included in our edit. A callback to the early ‘00s, ruffle tops offer bohemian and wispy ethos. They are lightweight and packed with dainty details like bows, tassels, and prints. Corsets and bustiers, like our plaid version, on the other hand, provide a polished structure to any outfit.
Halter tops with their crisscross neckline are available in bold and colorful prints with keyhole details for added oomph appeal. And lastly, prairie blouses gained momentum with the cottagecore trend where flowy and air fits reigned supreme. Classified with their billowing sleeves and eyelet embroidery, these going-out tops tend to have ruffle shoulders and lacy frill details.
What Do You Pair With a Going-Out Top?
The idea behind the trend is making the top the center of the look, which usually means being quite relaxed with your bottom of choice. Which is perhaps why a going-out top and blue jeans is such an easy formula to show off the statement top. Of course, if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also wear yours a ton of ways for all occasions (quite possibly deeming it your wardrobe MVP). Our edits are versatile and can mix-and-match with any bottoms, offering various silhouettes, necklines, colors, and fabrics. Whether you’re dancing the night away, grabbing drinks with friends, hitting a concert…we have a going-out top for you.
Ready to shop? Here, a few of our favorite styles.