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ICYMI, ‘going out tops’ are back — stylists weigh in on the trend

Why the 'versatile' and 'accessible' piece deserves a spot in your wardrobe.
Old Navy; Reformation; ASTR

Picture this: It's the early 2000s and you're getting ready for a night out. Your friend calls you and asks what you're planning on wearing. Your response? "Jeans and a going out top."

Well, now in the year 2023, if you were to pick out an outfit for drinks with friends or a dinner on the town, there's a good chance that you might be wearing the same thing. Because the going out top is officially back. Searches for "going out tops" reached an all-time high this fall, and retailers like Old Navy and H&M have entire sections of their websites dedicated to those statement tops that pair perfectly with your go-to jeans.

But what exactly defines the going out top? And why are they having such a resurgence right now? We spoke with two stylists to get the details.

What is a going out top?

If you were to ask a group of people to think of their go-to "going out top," you might get some varied responses. For example, we polled our staffers about what their going out tops looked like in college, and they ranged from long-sleeved options with criss-cross necklines to cold shoulder tops and ones with puffed sleeves.

But at its core, a "going out top" is simply a blouse or shirt that you wear in the evening for dinners, parties and other social events, explains fashion stylist Naina Singla. "It will often be a statement-making piece integrated with embellishments like sequins, beading, or embroidery," she says. It also will typically be form-fitting and feature an interesting element like an "off-the-shoulder, crop style, or an open back" or be made from materials like satin, silk, velvet or metallics, she adds. Basically, it has something that sets it apart from the shirts that you would wear every day.

Why is the going out top making a comeback now?

Right now, we're seeing a fascination with fashion staples that were popular 15 or so years ago, shares stylist Christina Stein. Things like cargo pants and claw clips have made their way back into the mainstream, so it seems only natural that the going out top follows suit.

There's also a simplicity factor to it. "It’s the idea that you can make a statement by choosing one simple item to elevate your entire outfit, without overthinking the rest of the look," Singla says. Because these tops tend to be versatile and easy to style, "it’s accessible for women with all body types and styles to apply this idea," she says.

However, the tops we're seeing now aren't the same as they used to be. "They're not as business-like," Stein says.

(As one of our editors put it, "My friends and I were literally out there wearing business-casual outfits. In college!")

Now, we're seeing tops made from high-quality fabrics, with options ranging from "cropped and tucked in styles to sheer bodysuits, corsets and off the shoulder and asymmetrical looks," Singla says.

"We're combining a lot of urban elements with a lot of tailored elements," Stein says. "I think now people are realizing that the juxtaposition of pieces are important for personal style."

How to style a going out top

The whole idea behind the trend is about making the top the center of your look, so you don't want to detract from that in any way.

"Usually one of my rules for my clients who are just getting started in building their wardrobe and are afraid to go out of their box, is to pick one thing, which would be the going out top [in this case], to make the centerpiece of your look," Stein says. "Keep the rest of it either one tone or two tones that are neutral that go with that top."

That's why the going out top and blue jeans pairing is so classic — it's an easy formula that you know will look good together, and the denim lets your statement top shine.

Though Singla says that jeans aren't your only option. You can also pair the top with leather pants or a leather or satin skirt.

Below, we asked our editors to share some of their current favorite going out tops. Plus, we added a handful of other affordable shopper favorites.

Best going out tops, according to editors

Zara Metallic Thread Knit Crop Top

"I always love it when other girls wear sparkly outfits when going out but I’m not always that bold," says production coordinator Isabella Druckman. "This top is subtly sparkly, which means you can wear it for most occasions without standing out. It’s also flattering without being too tight."

A New Day Women’s Short Sleeve Side Ruched T-Shirt

Editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger says she loves this top, "because of the ruched sides, which make it look and feel a lot more flattering." It comes in a range of shades, from neutrals to bright colors like Navy or Pink that will really make it the center of your look.

Abercrombie & Fitch Long-Sleeve Lace Slash Top

"I’m going to a concert on Saturday and just ordered this top for the occasion," says production associate Audrey Ekman. "It checks all of my 'going out top' boxes: it’s comfortable, easy to pair with any bottoms from jeans to skirts, and very flattering. I’ll wear this sheer lace number with a tank top, bralette or a corset underneath!"

Abercrombie & Fitch Long-Sleeve Wrap Bodysuit

One of my personal favorite going out tops is a long-sleeved velvet wrap top from Abercrombie & Fitch. While it's no longer available, I found this similar one from the retailer, which has so many of the same details that I love. It has a flattering wrap fit, long sleeves (which is key this time of the year) and a a V-neck design.

Reformation Dusk Knit Top

"I find it really hard to find cute tops when your boobs are bigger," says social editorial assistant Annie Shigo. "This one is very flattering and goes with just about anything. You feel secure and chic!" It comes in plain options as well as velvet and metallic styles.

Astr The Label Twist Front Cutout Sweater

"My go-to going out top has certainly changed with the trends over the years but the essential components remain the same: It has to be black with some sort of fun flourish, like a unique neckline, texture or cutout," shares senior partnerships editor Francesca Cocchi. "Right now I’m all about the Rylee Twist Front Rib Sweater from ASTR the Label, which I rented on Nuuly but am debating buying so I can wear it pretty much every time I leave the house after sunset."

Affordable going out tops

Old Navy Fitted Off-the-Shoulder Top

Show some shoulder in this cute top from Old Navy! It's designed to hit right at your waist and be fitted throughout to flatter your frame.

Old Navy Fitted Twist-Front Top

With its sweetheart neckline and twisted front accent, there's plenty to love about this top.

Ekouaer Women's Silk Satin Tank

This shirt is made from a satin-finished material, which gives it a silky look and feel, making it a "going out"-worthy option.

A New Day Women’s Slim Fit Ribbed Long Sleeve Cut-Out T-Shirt

The asymmetrical neckline and cutout detail makes this top an eye-catching choice. "As a bigger girl it made me feel so cute and comfortable!" one shopper wrote. "Loved it!"

Ava & Viv Women’s Sequin Cowl Neck Tank Top 

You deserve to shine! And with this sequin top, you will, for dinners, holiday parties and so many other occasions.

Miholl Women’s Long Sleeve Lace Top

If you prefer something a little less revealing, this top is a great pick. The lace details on the sleeve make it feel more dressy than your average top, and it allows you to show off your arms without showing too much skin.

Meet our experts

  • Naina Singla is a fashion stylist and style expert. She specializes in curating capsule wardrobes focused on simplicity and versatility.
  • Christina Stein is a personal stylist and image consultant based in Pittsburgh.