Experts say if tank tops are styled properly, they can not only be worn for casual occasions but also formal events. Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: Istock
As the temperatures soar in Mumbai, the heat brings with it sweat, grime, and stickiness - a by-product of the summer season that is almost impossible to ignore but not hard to navigate. Dressing up during the season can be quite a challenge but wear cotton, and half the job is done, especially for formal wear or office attire. So, while experimenting with office attire can be limiting, there is a lot more that people can do with their casual wear as they can play around with different colours and clothes. Tank tops can be worn during any season but are particularly a favourite among people during the hot month and automatically become a favourite not only for men but also women. Undoubtedly, city experts say it's the best time to wear them because they have seen quite an evolution over the last hundred years -- from first being worn for different purposes to becoming a fashion statement today.
Evolution of tank tops
Jeevita Tyagi, founder of city-based sustainable athleisure brand Aastey says tank tops have emerged as a timeless classic but have evolved in terms of design and cultural significance. "Originally, tank tops were worn as an undergarment by men in the early 20th century and were called "A-shirts" or "undershirts". In the 1950s and 1960s, they became more popular as a casual piece of clothing, worn by both men and women for sports or exercise."
From there on, it only kept getting bigger and better, as the 1970s brought with it the rise of disco culture that saw flashy and sequined tank tops. "They also gained popularity as a staple of beachwear and by the 1980s, became a popular choice for punk rockers, who paired them with leather jackets and ripped jeans. In the 1990s and early 2000s, tank tops became a staple of hip-hop fashion, and were popularised by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, who famously wore a tank top on the TV show "Friends"," she reminds.
Amol Kadam, head designer for denim designers at Spykar, in agreement with Tyagi, adds, "Tank tops have evolved from being a basic piece of gym wear to a trendy fashion item and can be considered a timeless piece of fashion." The sleeveless and usually collarless piece of clothing is not only suitable for all ages but also provides the option of being paired with all kinds of clothing. The amount of comfort they provide when it gets hot and their versatility means that they can help you stand out even on a regular day, with the help of a few hacks that elevate your look.
So, what is the current trend? Kadam says it has changed over the years from being a basic piece of clothing in mostly solid colours, to being designed with different fabrics, prints, and cuts that feature different graphics too. "They can also be found in various styles, from classic ribbed tanks to flowy, bohemian-inspired designs. Some fashion-forward brands have even experimented with avant-garde tank top designs, such as asymmetrical cuts, back slits, and oversized silhouettes," Tyagi adds.
Busting myths about tank tops
However, with every piece of clothing comes its own set of misconceptions, and one that may often come in the way of people choosing to wear them, and tank tops are no different. One of the most common ones is that they are also suitable for casual wear or athletics. However, Kadam busts that myth by simply saying that with the right styling, tank tops can be dressed up for various occasions. "They can easily be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. From beach parties to semi-formal business events, there are many ways to style a tank top that goes beyond athletic wear," iterates Tyagi. She adds that while it is true that some tank tops may be too casual for formal events, many dressier styles can be paired with tailored pants, skirts, or blazers to create a polished look and ace the occasion.
The fact that it has been worn by men and women over the years is proof enough to remind people that the piece of clothing is not limited to a specific gender. However, it may often be a deterrent for those who are conscious about their body type, but the city-based entrepreneur reminds us that the popularity of this top style is very closely associated with the fact that it is gender-neutral and can be styled and worn across ages. "Tank tops have become a staple item in most gender-neutral and unisex clothing lines."
Yes, in the past, tank tops were mostly associated with men's fashion, and were worn primarily as undershirts or athletic wear but over time, Tyagi says they have become more versatile, and women have started wearing them in a variety of settings, from casual outings to formal events in a wide range of styles, colours, and designs. "While certain types of tank tops may be more popular among one gender or the other - like form-fitting or cropped styles for women or loose-fitting and graphic-printed styles for men, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing tank tops. Ultimately, it comes down to personal style, comfort, and the occasion," she adds.
Even Kadam reinforces the fact that both men and women can pair tank tops easily and says the latter have a bigger advantage. This is a reminder for those who have always wanted to wear tank tops but are hesitant about pulling them off. "In the past, tank tops have been mostly preferred by men as workout attire. However, women have more options for pairing them with skirts and dresses," he shares.
While men and women can wear them, Kadam says that many people may believe that tank tops are only for younger people or those with a certain body type, but that's not the case at all, and simply shouldn't stop people from wearing them. "They are mistaken to be appropriate for only young people or only certain body types. However, this is not true. Tank tops can be worn by anyone, regardless of age or body shape. It's about finding the fit that makes you feel confident and comfortable," Tyagi adds.
Styling tips and elevating looks
So, how does one style tank top that can not only be trendy but also look good? Laying out the most basic ways in which people can make the most of tank tops, Kadam shares, "To wear tank tops to parties or during the summer, people can pair them with dressier pants or skirts, add statement jewellery, and wear heels or dressier shoes instead of sandals. Tank tops can also be paired with blazers or jackets. For a casual summer look, they can be paired with shorts too."
For men who want to wear tank tops but don't know how to pull it off, Kadam says they can simply start by pairing them with shorts, jeans, or casual pants in neutral colours such as black, white, or navy blue. If the tops are solid coloured, then with denim or chinos. The city designer explains, "Women can wear tank tops with skirts or pants, high-waisted pants in bright colours or with fun prints, paired with sandals or sneakers depending on the occasion. Printed tank tops can be paired with neutral bottoms to balance the look." He adds that with bright colours and bold prints being popular during summer, it's essential to balance the outfit's colours and not go overboard with prints or accessories.
On the other hand, Tyagi says it is important to remember to wear easy-going and breathable fabrics that not only flatter your body but are also suitable for the occasion, especially those with a dress code. "With the right pairing, tank tops can be versatile and stylish summer staples," she says. For example, neutral-coloured tank tops, such as white, black, or grey, can be paired with almost anything and are a great wardrobe staple, according to her; for a pop of colour, tank tops in a bright hue, such as red, yellow, or blue are ideal. "Patterns, such as stripes or floral prints, can add personality to a plain outfit. When pairing prints, it's important to choose patterns that complement each other rather than clash. Don't be afraid to mix and match different colours and prints to create your own personalised look that reflects your style statement," Tyagi shares.
Tips to style tank tops by Jeevika Tyagi
Pair with tailored trousers, jeans, or a skirt: Tuck a tank top into a pair of high-waisted trousers or solid-coloured top with jeans. If you have a breezier tank top, then a midi skirt with heels would create the perfect party look and a perfect balance between casual and formal.
Layer with a blazer or a shrug: A well-tailored blazer or a classy shrug can add texture and polish to a simple tank top, especially if you dress for a semi-formal event.
Add statement jewellery: Accessorise with bold statement jewellery, such as a chunky necklace or oversized earrings to add a touch of glam to your basic tank top look. This pairing is ideal for summer parties.
Wear with a maxi skirt or dress: A flowy maxi skirt or dress can create a romantic bohemian-inspired look when paired with a simple tank top which can be ideal for beach parties or a casual summer look.
Choose the right footwear: The right footwear can make or break an outfit. Pairing a tank top with heeled sandals or pumps can create a dressier look while pairing with sneakers or flats can create a more casual look. It all depends on the occasion and your style.
All about colour: Pair a graphic tank top with shorts and sandals for a casual summer look or pair a brightly coloured or patterned tank top with neutral bottoms to create a balanced look.
Classic looks: Men can pair a plain white or black tank top with denim jeans and sneakers or pair a solid-coloured tank top with a blazer, dress pants, and dress shoes for formal attire.
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