The going-out top: a staple piece in the wardrobes of sorority girls, New Years Eve partygoers, and Paris Hilton circa 2002. While there isn’t a strict definition for the garment—it could be a tube top, a sequin halter, a backless tank—you know it when you see it. Ideally, it’s worn to parties where they serve Jägerbombs and play Nelly (then) or Pitbull (now), worn with low-rise jeans, a mini skirt, or, in the warmer months, denim booty shorts.
In my head, the archetypal going out top is the one Keira Knightley wore in “Bend It Like Beckham”—sparkly, slinky, and totally impossible with which to wear a bra.
In fact, Knightley was a master of the form back in the day—remember this red-carpet crop top?
Of course, that was 2003, and in the intervening decade-plus, the going-out top has become an object of scorn, not to be worn by any self-respecting, sophisticated, more-than-a-year-out-of-college woman. In their place, we’ve embraced bodycon dresses, fancy jumpsuits, rompers, and leather leggings, letting our strappy tanks and cowl-neck tops languish in the backs of our closets.
But, inevitably, as we (hesitantly) welcome the return of stretchy chokers and Von Dutch trucker hats, the going-out top is likewise making a triumphant comeback. Today, however, they look a lot different than they did in our youth—they’re far less spangly, for one, and tend to be more about the body they’re showing off. Naturally, Instagram stars are the ones carrying the torch: Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Hailey Baldwin—you know the names.
In the gallery, we’ve let them be our spirit guides to the going out tops of the modern age, and picked out shopping options should you wish to follow their lead.
By their nature, these shouldn’t be investment items—ideally, you want to pick them up in a last minute scramble a few hours before your party from somewhere cheap and easy like Zara or Forever 21. Since there’s a good chance they’ll smell like stale cigarettes and regret the morning after, you probably don’t want to spring for Saint Laurent unless you’re an actual Hollywood scion.