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When I started this blog in 2005, I made a capsule wardrobe of staples for every woman's wardrobe and in it, I had a Going Out Top. That was a top that was shiny, sparkly, beaded, and not too risque. For example, I had a blush sequined top back in the late '00s; I could wear it with bootcut jeans to the bar with friends but also styled it with ivory trousers for an afternoon wedding. I wore it under a black suit to glam it up for a company cocktail party, and with white jeans for one night on a cruise.
I truly felt that such a top was timeless and would work for any woman, regardless of size and age. And I still think that was great advice… in 2005. But my friend, we are no longer the people we were in 2005. We don't live in the same world, and it's expected that over 15 years trends would change enough that what seemed timeless in 2005 is passe in 2021.
For a while, it seemed the Going Out Top was a thing only for those under 30 who still staggered home in discount heels after Dollar Draft Night. As a Grown Woman, it was hard to know what to wear out. While we may not want to head to the dive bar for rail shots and shimmying until dawn, we still love to have a good time and look good doing it. I spent many years in silky camisoles with blazers and jeans and dresses.
But times have changed and the Going Out Top is back for all of us. The Going Out Top is a top that isn't for work, it isn't for Sunday morning brunch, it isn't for a networking event.
What is a Going Out Top?
The Going Out Top is for a night out on the town. Your anniversary dinner at a Michelin-rated restaurant. A weekend with the girls in Vegas. That night at the beach when you all head to the karaoke bar. Celebrating your bestie's birthday at the chic nightclub in the city. Your neighbor's Saturday night get-together when t-shirts seem too little and dresses seem too much.
A Going Out Top is not made of t-shirt fabric, unless that’s the base and it’s embellished with dressier pieces. Sure, dressy tees and fun tops in knit jersey have their place, but their place isn’t a fancier restaurant, bar, or club. Think less the pub down the street and more a Las Vegas weekend. Less neighborhood Italian restaurant and more anniversary dinner at that buzzy restaurant in the city.
And with that, work clothes stay for the office. That silky teal shell you wear under your gray suit does not become a Going Out Top when you pair it with jeans. Anything with a bow, a standard or notch collar, breast pockets, epaulets, or is called a “shell” should be reserved for either the daytime or evening networking events.
Going Out Tops in 2021 and Versatility
While my original advice in 2005 had a Going Out Top able to go from company holiday party to the theater to a nightclub to a dive bar, fashion isn't quite the same anymore. Going Out Tops are FUN. They should not feel that with a pair of velvet palazzo pants that you could wear it to your niece's Bat Mitzvah.
When it comes to a Going Out Top, this is not a piece that goes into a capsule wardrobe of 33 items and can be worn to 50 different situations. Don't expect that kind of versatility. The Going Out Top's versatility comes from the different ways you can style it for going out.
Can your Going Out Top look good with white jeans? Rinse jeans? Black ankle pants? Winter white menswear-inspired trousers? A black midi skirt? Black leather jeans? Under a Le Smoking? That's as far as your Going Out Top should go in regard to versatility.
Going Out Tops for Grown-Ass Women
But what kind of Going Out Top is great for grown-ass women? I'm glad you asked. I've been analyzing my wardrobe, the wardrobe of celebs and influencers, perusing the New Arrivals at apparel retailers, and have curated a collection of fun, sexy, chic, demure, elegant, edgy, and cool Going Out Tops for grown-ass women in a variety of sizes, styles, and pricepoints.
Grown-Ass Woman May be MOBs but they Don't Look Like MOBs
If you notice in these collages, there are no sequins, no beading, no sheer overlay, no sharkbite or high-low tunics. These details were in style in the past, but now they are pretty much only seen on MOB fashion, which is NOT what we want for a night out.
What is MOB fashion? Mother of the bride. You know what I’m talking about, those cape-like sleeves, layers of chiffon or metallic lace, the delicate beading, and everything in shades of navy, plum, smoke, mauve, and champagne. We may be seeing our children get married, but that doesn’t mean we have to dress that way when going out for cocktails with our friends or enjoying a night out on the town with our partner.
I have also steered clear of extreme trends for this season. When you see a trend absolutely everywhere… it’s likely one that will look passe in a year. My hope is your going out top is one you can wear now, and at least a year from now if not more. So no “cottage core” florals, corset-inspired lacings, smocked bodices with ruffled straps or puffed sleeves, faux leather, or anything that is a super fitted piece in a skintone.
Does Every Grown-Ass Woman Need a Going Out Top?
Heck no! I cannot think of a single garment that every grown-ass woman needs in her wardrobe. We don't all have lifestyles where such a top is necessary and you don't need to have one in your closet “just in case.” As my 2005 capsule wardrobe proves, trends change and that “just in case” item may be out of fashion by time you have a chance to wear it.
For some, a dressier t-shirt or a silky blouse may be all the Going Out Top you need. For others, you feel way more confident in a Going Out Dress or a Going Out Pantsuit. And if your style is graphic tees and vintage jeans or bomber jackets and capri pants or overalls and poet blouses or caftans and clogs or whatever else… keep doing you because there is nothing more stylish than knowing yourself.
The Categories of Going Out Tops for Grown-Ass Women
Not everybody loves a bodysuit, but for those who find such a piece great for their wardrobes and lives, you’re in luck this season. The bodysuit is back, only if you like them. They’re fantastic for reducing bulk, looking great with high-waisted jeans, wide-leg trousers, and breezy skirts. They’re also available in a range of styles and cuts; some are thongs, some are a full back, and plenty come in plus sizes.
Unlike a jumpsuit that requires one to strip down in a public restroom, a bodysuit has the convenience of a snap crotch to keep your look literally intact. Also, you don't have to worry about your blouse untucking as you sit or bend over.
Shop Going Out Bodysuits:
A bodysuit is so sleek and clean, you can have fun with other parts of your look. Try a pair of faux leather joggers, or wide-leg trousers in a beautiful fabric, or a high-waisted pair of flare jeans. Wear those statement earrings that you haven’t found the right time to finally wear, pile on the chains, have bangles all the way up to your elbows, just pick one (or maybe two if OTT is your thing) and rock it!
The camisole has been a Going Out Top mainstay for decades, and it is still a classic choice. In a drapey fabric, especially one that subtly catches the light, it’s a piece that tucked in our left loose will give casual chic vibes to jeans and trousers of most any silhouette and style. Look for ones with adjustable straps or take your cami to the tailor to get a perfect length strap that will cover what you want covered and showcase what you want to showcase.
Camisoles require the right (or no) underpinnings. Nothing will ruin the vibe of a chic look than your old bra peeking out. And while having a little pink or clear bra strap peek out of your Going Out Top was cool in the 2000’s, now, especially when being a grown-ass woman, it’s not going to add cool points. Unless your personal style aesthetic is already rocking the exposed bra, your Going Out Top is not the time to embrace this detail.
Strapless bras have come a long way baby, and are your best bet for thin-strapped camisoles. I highly recommend getting fitted for a strapless bra; each time I have been I’ve found I wear a different size in strapless than in standard bras. Black strapless bras look less like underwear if they peek out of a camisole; also consider a bit of Hollywood Fashion Tape to hold your cami and bra together so things don’t shift and slide on the dancefloor.
The Architectural Detail Top
Like my beloved cashmere one-shoulder sweater which is my go-to Going Out Top, these are Going Out Tops that have some unique detail that makes it a LOOK even though it’s just a solid-colored knit top. Cut-outs, creative necklines, asymmetry… this is a quick way to make your favorite stretchy jeans look edgy and cool.
With such a top, you don’t need a lot of accessories. A pair of statement earrings, or a cuff, or a bold lip, or none at all. Keep the look clean so those cut-outs and interesting details look modern and fresh.
Shop Tops with Architectural Details:
While you may consider a cold shoulder top to be an architectural detail, unless you already own one of the most unique and cool cold shoulder tops already in your closet I don't recommend purchasing another. This trend was so overdone it is now a bit of a joke… especially when they are worn by grown-ass women. Keep the interesting cutouts elsewhere to look more modern.
The Statement Sleeve Top
I am hesitant to share this because it can quickly go into overly trendy of the moment and feel dated by fall. But for the past years, though the silhouette and fabric have changed, statement sleeves have been a thing and they do add quick drama and fun to an ensemble.
My tip is to have the sleeve be the thing, and not just one of many things. If you have a statement sleeve and a statement collar and buttons down the front and a low back and lacings it will be something you will be donating within a year. Keep the rest of the top simple and let the sleeves steal the spotlight.
Shop Statement Sleeve Tops:
Like with architectural details, keep accessories and styling simple and fresh with statement sleeves. Balance the voluminous sleeves with cleaner lines below the waist and small or no earrings.
The Wrap Top
Like a wrap dress, a wrap top (whether real or faux/surplice) can accentuate curves and just add that bit of drama needed for a Going Out Top. Wrap tops are great for those who don’t feel comfortable having their stomach on display as they look great untucked and give a subtle peplum effect. But because of this detail, they look best with straight or slim bottoms.
A wrap top can look amazing with a pair of hoops, or a delicate bit of sparkle on a chain around your neck. I think of all these styles of Going Out Tops, the wrap top is the one that if in the wrong fabric, could skew too office or casual. While Going Out Tops aren't as blingy as they were in the past, a wrap top is one category where you can go shiny or lightly embellished to distinguish it from your everyday clothes.
Shop Wrap Tops for Going Out:
Since wrap tops have been popular for over a decade, the way to keep the look fresh is to have less and more delicate of jewelry, a fresh face, and consider switching out the dark denim for a pant or white jeans.
The Halter Top
A halter neck screams, “I am not for work” and that is a good thing. Whether it's a plunging neckline with a neck strap or a high-necked top with exposed shoulders, a halter can make any jeans or pants in your closet suddenly feel ready for a party. And a halter is a relatively classic look that should stay stylish for more than one season.
Like camisoles, halter tops require special underpinnings and may also benefit from a trip to the tailor. Remember, grown-ass women use tailors so their clothes work with, not against them. a little nip and tuck can hide your bra under your arms, not balloon so much below the bust, and be a better fit at the neck.
Shop Halter Tops:
A halter top does not need a necklace, and unless you don't feel fully dressed without them, doesn't even need earrings. With such a dramatic silhouette, you can keep makeup and hair simple too to keep the look modern, chic, and elegant.
Other Types of Going Out Tops for Grown-Ass Women
The above categories are not the only categories for Going Out Tops for grown-ass women. While putting together this article, I found many more tops that didn't fit a category but were just too cool not to share.
I mentioned above that often I have resorted to a cami and blazer with jeans, a dress, jumpsuit, or a pantsuit when going out. Those options are not out of fashion, continue to wear them with joy. The focus for this specific article is on the Going Out Top, and offering some options and letting you know that they are back and way more fun than before.
Shop More Going Out Tops:
There is nothing you can no longer wear because you are a grown-ass woman. It's just that with age comes wisdom, and the reduction of f*cks you may have. You may no longer want to deal with special undergarments, or feeling restrained by your clothes, or even needing something so specific as a Going Out Top in your closet. Trust your gut, respect your vibe, and wear what makes you happy. And if that includes a Going Out Top, I hope this article was helpful!
I’ve been hoarding going out tops through the pandemic in anticipation of actually being able to go out again! There have been deep discounts as obvi comfort schumps have been bigger sellers than date clothes for the last year. Banana Republic has been an absolute treasure trove for satin halter tops and sequined camis (I don’t think they qualify for MOB!). Very much looking forward to trading the t-shirt emblazoned with my province’s public health officer’s portrait for something that required uncomfortable underthings.
I ordered the Loft black v-neck. Can’t wait to leave my house again!
Talk about timing. I’m planning a cruise, I have a closet full of solid colored tees, and I was wondering what to wear with slacks for a dinner on a cruise ship. You have the answer. Thank you. You have given me ideas galore. Thank you.
Alison, you are the best. Even though a going out top is not on my list right now, you described our closets perfectly! I have tried to take a “shell” that works under a blazer for work and make it work for something slightly more glamorous or fun and its just NOT. This was informative and fun – and when life requires a going out top, I’ll return to this page.
Thanks for providing so many great ideas. And, I think you’ve covered every single counter-argument possible — I don’t go out, I hate my arms/waist/boobs/neck, I only wear cotton, I don’t like lace/silk/satin/rayon, I don’t need a going out top, I like my caftans (LOL), and pretty much every other push-back imaginable to womankind. You’re a genius!
Agreed. I was saying, “nah, not me” until I got to the wrap tops—friend to my tummy and arms. I just have never felt good going sleeveless or halter.
Alas, the champagne plissé is sold out!
Fun read, thank you! I’m on fence if I need a going out top but this makes me be able imagine wearing one.