No sensible woman likes splurging on summer clothes. We figure that “it's a short season.” So how come we're all snapping up new tees, blouses and shirts this year?
Blame five reasons that we can all relate to: looking good on Zoom and FaceTime is a waist-up deal (no one knows you're in old leggings either); a standout top stands out in a crowd (it's easy to lose your individuality wearing a mask 24/7, right?); we gain weight when stressed, and it goes right to our chest and belly; we stained last year's tees eating pasta and drinking wine in isolation; and last but not least: It's hot! These top 10 tops will get you through anything.
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Ann Taylor; Old Navy; ModCloth; Everlane (2)
1. A bra-friendly tank top
Before you say no, hear me out. Even if your biceps are not super toned, the benefits of a tank now outweigh any old fears. Relaxed styles with a subtle A-line shape, high neckline and wide racerback or indented straps make your shoulders appear stronger and your upper arms look slimmer. The tanks offer more substance than a camisole and they smooth bulges and fill gaps as layering pieces, making them a seasonless buy. Choose casual tanks like Everlane's The ReCotton Racerback Tank ($25, everlane.com), Modcloth's Endless Possibilities Tank ($15, modcloth.com) or Old Navy's Luxe Scoop-Neck Tank for Women in Calla Lily White ($12, oldnavy.com). Or choose polished versions in white or black, like Everlane's The Japanese GoWeave High-Neck Tank ($68, everlane.com) and Ann Taylor's Mixed Jersey Tank ($40, anntaylor.com).
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: H&M; J.Crew; Zara; Banana Republic
2. An airy linen tee
T-shirts are forever (see number 10), but linen turns this sporty look sophisticated and sweat-resistant with natural fibers. The appeal of crisp linen tees — like the H&M Linen V-Neck T-Shirt in Dusty Rose or Black ($18, hm.com/en_us), J. Crew Linen V-Neck Pocket T-Shirt ($40, jcrew.com), Zara Linen Tee in Beige ($20, zara.com/us) and the Banana Republic Linen V-Neck T-Shirt in Indigo Fog ($28, bananarepublic.com) — is all about the relaxed fit that floats and drapes over the body instead of clinging. Linen is amazingly effective at helping perspiration evaporate, so if you're a sweat-er, bothered by hot flashes, steamy temperatures and clammy clothes (aren't we all?), add this linen to your lineup. Yes, linen does wrinkle, but it gets softer with every washing and is supposed to look a little rumpled now — like tousled hair, it just looks more modern. Forget the iron and just go with it.
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: LOFT; Target; Walmart; Talbots
3. A cool white blouse
Make a white summer top your new best friend. It works like a reflector, beaming light on your face to erase fatigue, brighten every skin tone and soften the look of wrinkles and dark circles. While classic white button-down shirts and tees are totally fine, blouses with extra details — flutter sleeves like the Como Blu Women's Short Sleeve Eyelet Wrap Top in Cloud Dancer Combo ($14, walmart.com), embroidery like the Talbots Flower Embroidered Gauze Top in White ($80, talbots.com), and puff sleeves like the Prologue Women's Balloon Long Sleeve Blouse ($28, target.com) or Loft Cinched Waist Top ($60, loft.com) — really say 2020. Let it glow.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Walmart; Ann Taylor; ELOQUII
4. A bare-shoulder top
Showing shoulders is always a better public alternative to showing cleavage at 50. Though one-shoulder tops are trendy, off-shoulder styles with bell or balloon sleeves — like the Scoop Women's Printed Off-the-Shoulder Top in Yellow Paisley ($20, walmart.com), Ann Taylor Matte Jersey Smocked Off the Shoulder Top in Blue Majesty ($60, anntaylor.com) and Eloquii Off the Shoulder top in Best Frond ($60, eloquii.com) — are easier to wear. The elasticized neckline keeps the top securely in place so that all you really need is a good strapless bra to make this work for any body size or shape. If your summer plans include more socializing and trying a few outdoor restaurants, an off-shoulder top will bring back the glam effortlessly.
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Gap; Kohl's; Madewell
5. A boho blouse
If you live in jeans or just love the hippie vibe of vintage clothes, check out this season's popover tops with a funky flea market one-of-a-kind look, like the Madewell Striped Gauze Drop Shoulder Popover Top ($80, madewell.com), Women's LC Lauren Conrad Banded Neck Peasant Top ($30, kohls.com) and Gap Gauzy Popover Shirt in Cotton in Pink Orchid ($36, gap.com). The roomy cut of these “bohemian” or “peasant” blouses, worn loose and untucked or semi-tucked at the front, provides plenty of secret camouflage and a go-with-the-flow attitude. Look for split necks, lush sleeves and a light gauzy fabric.
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: Old Navy; ELOQUII; Banana Republic
6. A peplum top
The throwback style of fitted tops with nipped waists and flared hems has become a seasonal staple. Count on it for a shapely look, belly coverage and the polish of a structured dress without actually having to wear one. The key is choosing a hip-length style with enough torso space between your breasts and waist, like the Eloquii Flutter Sleeve Peplum Wrap Top in Love Potion ($60, eloquii.com), Banana Republic Print Puff-Sleeve Wrap Effect Top in Brown Animal ($60, bananarepublic.com) or Old Navy Twist-Sleeve Plus-Size Peplum Hem Top in Pink/White Floral ($20, oldnavy.com). Be picky, since peplums designed for younger women are often too short waisted on us — the waist seam should sit at your natural waist, not at the midriff.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Talbots; J.Crew; Target; Walmart
7. A boatneck tee
We fell in love with this top a few years back when striped versions with three-quarter sleeves were everywhere. Though actually harder to find now, styles like the Hanes Women Stretch Cotton Raglan 3/4-Sleeve Tee ($12, walmart.com), Talbots Cotton Bateau Neck Tee in Maliblue or Daisy ($40, talbots.com), A New Day Women's Plus Size 3/4-Sleeve Boat Neck T-Shirt ($13, target.com) and J. Crew Structured Boatneck T-Shirt in Icon Stripe Khaki Navy ($50, jcrew.com) still deliver the same neck-elongating, bracelet highlighting chic look that's universally flattering. A perfect example of fashion meets function: a boatneck will work year-round and is a good choice for more than one season's wear. Stock up!
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Target; Alex Mill; Old Navy; Banana Republic
8. A blue striped shirt
When you want to look energized and trim on wilt-worthy days, nothing does it better than a fresh blue-striped shirt. You don't need a traditional button-down to get the classic slimming benefits now that long-sleeve tunics — like the Old Navy Vertical-Stripe Split-Neck Popover Tunic for Women in Blue/Gray Stripe ($12, oldnavy.com), Alex Mill Keeper Popover in Striped Cotton Gauze ($98, alexmill.com) or Lee Riders Plus Size Women's Long Sleeve Striped Pleated Tunic Top in Blue/White Stripe ($20, walmart.com) — do the same thing. Or for a trendier effect, try a camp shirt, like the Universal Thread Short Sleeve Button-Down Camp Shirt in Blue ($18, target.com) or a puff-sleeve style like the Banana Republic Poplin Puff-Sleeve Blouse in White Stripe ($63, bananarepublic.com). Just add white jeans or a white skirt and you've got it.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: ELOQUII (2); Banana Republic; LOFT; ModCloth
9. A wrap top
Blouses with a diagonal wrap front are pretty effective shape-makers. There are two major styles in this category. For a full bust, choose a waist-length crossover style with a blousy fit — like the Eloquii Crossover Top With Collar in Plava ($50, eloquii.com), Eloquii Crossover Top in Yellow/White ($80, eloquii.com) and Loft Lou & Grey Striped Wrap Shirt in Willow ($80, loft.com) — for separation and lift. It will make all the difference if you have a short torso. For hourglass curves, choose a longer hip-length wrap with a defined waist or belt tie, like the Banana Republic Ecovero Wrap Top in Navy Blue Ikat ($74, bananarepublic.com) and Modcloth's The Surplice is Right Faux-Wrap Top in Red ($35, modcloth.com).
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: L.L. Bean; Walmart; Target
10. A tie hem shirt
Hiding muffin tops and fudging a waistline just got easier. New tops that tie at the hem with a loose forgiving fit at the midriff right where you need it most — like the Universal Thread Short Sleeve V-Neck Button Down Relaxed Fit Shirt in Green ($18, target.com), Zac+Rachel Women's Plus Size Roll Sleeve Button Down Equipment Shirt in Poppy Red ($19, walmart.com) and L.L. Bean Women's Signature Short Sleeve Linen Top in Dark Marine Blue Stripe or Tawny Peach Multi Stripe ($69, llbean.com) — are a dieter's dream come true. No need to suck in your stomach or skip the ice cream.
- 11 of
PHOTO BY: Old Navy; Target (3)
11. Cheap white tees
Yes, the ones you own are stained, hole-y or dingy gray from repeat washes and wears. Here's the truth: In my humble fashion editor opinion, you should never spend more than $10 for a white T-shirt. Look for styles that are not too loose and not too tight, and that are soft and lightweight yet opaque, like the Universal Thread Women's Short-Sleeve V-Neck T-Shirt in White ($8, target.com) or Old Navy EveryWear Plus Size V-Neck Tee in Calla Lilies ($8, old navy.com). You're aiming for a relaxed fit — not slim, not oversized either. Now here's my extra secret tip: There's a lot to be said for picking up a six-pack of Hanes or Fruit of the Loom men's V-neck T-shirts for under $20 — exactly what I (and a lot of stylists) do in a small size. Try it, you'll like it!