I’ve been a fan of tube tops for most of my life.
In high school in Cincinnati, I wore them quite often, snatching them up at Bebe and styling them with flared jeans. When I graduated in 2000, my best friend wrote in my yearbook that I pretty much “came into the world in a pink tube top.”
While in college at New York University in the early aughts, I scoured Patricia Field’s boutique for stretchy sequin options and wore them regularly with miniskirts or elastic black pants (remember those?) for nights out dancing or even to a class, under a sweater.
But, like Uggs and low-waisted jeans, tube tops fell out of fashion as the decade progressed. I, however, never got over them, and now, thankfully, the fashion world is once again recognizing their greatness.
Designer Brandon Maxwell showed two on his spring 2018 runway. Tommy Hilfiger, Versace and Kenzo have also recently offered their takes on the silhouette.
Lately, I like wearing mine with everything from tulle skirts to high-waisted “mom” jeans. I love how the straight, no-fuss neckline works with a variety of bold accessories, from chokers to nameplate necklaces to huge earrings. And having exposed shoulders just makes me feel pretty.
The silhouette isn’t without its styling challenges: You have to go braless or find that rare comfortable, supportive strapless bra. Tube tops with a bit more structure and a zipper in the back tend to be more supportive and easier to pull off than those made of thinner, stretchier fabrics. For those who don’t want to bare it all, you can wear them under a cute jacket for an understated, stylish take on the trend.
Whatever you do, don’t knock tube tops until you’ve tried them — again.
It’s a strange time to be alive. Juicy Couture velour sweatsuits are back; clunky “dad” sneakers are being worn with ball gowns; underwear is sometimes made out of denim. And — to my continual amazement — people are kind of making these bad trends work. (Styling tip: It helps if your last name is Hadid or Jenner.)
But boob tubes? In 2018? What unflattering hell is this?
Sure, there’s a time and a place for every look. The time for tube tops was 19 years ago, and the place was Britney Spears’ torso, during the “… Baby One More Time” tour. No one has pulled off this tragic top since.
Nor should they try! Really, has there ever been a garment so diabolically unflattering? Its dark magic turns the most glorious Jessica Rabbit curves into a single, clunky uniboob.
And where are you even supposed to wear one? Not to work, unless your job is prancing around music festivals. Not anywhere dancing occurs — bust one wrong move and your bust is out; your top is now a waist scrunchie.
Then there’s the tube top’s defining factor: its straplessness. So unless you’re a sylphlike hippie angel (dear sylphlike hippie angels: I hate you), you need to wear a strapless bra with them.
Do me a favor real quick — ask the woman nearest to you how she feels about strapless bras. Go ahead, I’ll wait the 17 minutes she’ll need to rant about how unpleasantly the band digs into her skin, how readily the garment wriggles off-center during the course of benign daily activities, how its vicelike grip unsexily squashes the very appendages it purports to uphold.
The tube tops’ real-life origin story is even more pathetic: According to fashion legend, they’re the result of a fabric company’s manufacturing screw-up in the 1970s. Rather than scrap the tubular patches of fabric, the company decided to sell them. Designer Elie Tahari was the one to snatch them, and he proceeded to sic ’em on the world, because “fashion.”
There you have it: Tube tops were born a mistake. And a mistake they remain.
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