What Makes a Going-Out Top Good? An Investigation

Things can’t come back if they never left, but Going-Out Tops (GOTs henceforth) got the boot sometime in the mid-2000s after the expiration of Paris Hilton’s status as not just a but the style icon. Good news for her, though, they are being ushered into this new era of splintered style segments where metallic napkins masquerading as halter tops can live beside a prairie skirt, modest enough to wear to church, large enough to hide an entire family of elves underneath it. But what makes a GOT? And what determines whether you’ll know it when you’re wearing one?

First, we should get a thing straight. If you can answer “Yes” to the following three questions: Is it night? Am I out? And am I wearing a top? Then congratulations! You are wearing a going-out top. But this is different, you know, from a Going-Out Top. A Going! Out! Top! And I don’t want to tell you how to dress, particularly if you like how you look and GOTs aren’t part of that agenda. The best I can do is crack open my own head, let the words spill out like beads on a terrazzo floor and tell you that I am intrigued by GOTs, I am committed to getting them right, and so I am going to investigate how, and then go deeper until I’m practically a method actor loitering on the street where Bungalow 8 once was in order to break down the anatomy of what makes a good GOT in 2019.

First order of business? Instagram sleuthing.

Behold Emilia Petrarca, a fashion writer for NYMag’s The Cut (and! fun fact! a former intern at Man Repeller), forwarding chain mail from neck to shoulders to denim waist-line in a classic mesh halter top reported as having retailed for a neat $17. By the tales of her caption, it disintegrated soon after acquisition. Therefore we know what makes this one good has nothing to do with quality or even taste but earns a spot on the checklist for the immediate associations it draws: the aforementioned Hilton, South Beach in Miami, Jacquemus’ collection as inspired by South Beach and the heyday of table dancing. In sum:

Classification #1: Must offer a twinge of nostalgia for an era bygone.

But this doesn’t have to date it, and it doesn’t have to be interpreted so literally. As proof, I invite you to evaluate the below linen tank top.

The spaghetti straps conjoining the triangle boob cups and the peplum may not have been the flavor of a South Beach night club, but they are a mainstay of the early 2000s (think, a balmy Saturday evening stroll through New York’s Soho as depicted in the movies) and thus strike a chord of nostalgia, to be sure. Given the brand (Brock) known for its deep investment in and attention to material, the assumption is that it will not break in 16 minutes, so in good faith, I’ll offer it the seal of quality too. But this top is particular in that you must maintain a relatively small bust to wear it comfortably, so:

Classification #2: must appeal to more body types than just one.

Then there’s the question of comfort. That is, can you wear a mesh top in a hot room without accidentally burning yourself, can you really stand up straight without expecting your boobs to hang out no matter your cup size, are you really supposed to wear your GOT to a club? Are there still clubs? Can you get me in?

Classification #3: Imagine this top as your most reliable wingman — there for you wherever you’re going, so long as it is after dark. 

The final thing I’ll say is that the greatest GOTs can serve as the sum of your outfit — that is, they require little if any joojing, can be worn with virtually any garment you might liken to bland bread and still zest you up as if a blood orange on a mission. Some picks and accompanying logic below.

The aqua metallic crop ruffle top, replete with puff sleeve and ambitiously high neckline is a perfect antidote to a sarong that you have elected to wear as a skirt on the kind of fateful evening that you’re sure your intended plans (movie ticket for one, please!) will somersault into a grand soirée.

You might select a silk scarf-print top with a blousing neckline should you regularly find yourself in high-waist, straight-leg denim. A perfect star for Aperol Spritz hour, nose up, or !Margaritaville!, head down.

And finally, the dramatic tank with boob cups and a sheer yellow underlay: I might recommend pairing this with a bias cut silk midi skirt like this one or styling it over an existing dress that could use a lesson in both layering and the art of transitioning your day clothes into evening. Speaking of which: G’night.

Photo by KMazur/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli via Getty Images. 

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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