What happened to the “Exit Top”?
Today’s style trends encompass a range of evening wear options, from dresses and matching sets to comfy sweaters (or tracksuits and loungewear in the age of coronavirus pandemic lockdown). COVID-19). But in the early to mid-2000s, a nighttime look reigned supreme: jeans with a “going out top.”
The going out top was a staple at house parties, bars, clubs, red carpet events and beyond in the early 2000s. For millennial women, the term conjures up images of halters , tube tops and jeweled numbers from retailers like Forever 21, Express, Bebe, Charlotte Russe and Wet Seal.
“As someone who was in high school and college in the early to mid-2000s, I definitely feel a lot of nostalgia hearing the term ‘going out on top’!” said Sara Idacavage, a fashion historian who currently does research in the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors at the University of Georgia.
“This period coincided with the meteoric rise of fast fashion retailers, so I remember it was very easy to buy a lot of great outlet tops for a relatively small amount of money, which was very exciting for a young student like me at the time,” she said.
The lure of the exit top
Affordable going-out tops were the natural association of it-jeans from designers of the day like True Religion, 7 for All Mankind and Citizens of Humanity, which seemed like necessary investment pieces.
“Denim was the fixed part of the uniform back then, so the top and shoes were where you could experiment,” said Kate Kennedy, pop culture commentator and host of the “Be There in Five” podcast. , which sells sweatshirts that read “going out”. top” in its merchandise store. “The back pocket of those jeans was a status symbol, and you spent so much money on your jeans that you had about $20 left for your shirt.”
A going out top usually had an element that made it a little fancier than a regular top, such as sequins, gemstones, lace, ruching, a bubble hem or some other neckline. Cash-strapped young women could purchase a variety of low-cost options to reflect changing styles, so these were certainly not high-quality, enduring choices. But they were fun and somewhat versatile.
“I think the silhouettes of these tops were often more loose and forgiving,” Kennedy recalled. “The low-rise jeans left so much room on the torso, so these tops were longer and often empire-waisted and flowy. When I lived in my sorority house, women of different sizes swapped out tops — they lent to different body types, while pants were harder to figure out.
The rise of Facebook and the trend of posting photos from each party further contributed to the importance of mixing up your release highs, as each would be documented on social media. Fashion-forward celebrities of the time certainly understood this.
“When I talk about release highs in a pop culture context, I always think of the height of paparazzi outside nightclubs like Les Deux problematically search for cloudy-eyed photos of famous women on the party scene, like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie but also Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Mischa Barton, even Ashlee and Jessica Simpson,” Kennedy said. “The tube tops, bandanas, or high-end clothes they wore caught on and served as a model for the tops that ‘normal people’ bought.”
The origins of the outlet top
“Like so much in fashion, the going out top wasn’t new to millennials, nor was it a phenomenon exclusive to women’s fashion,” said Cassidy Zachary, fashion historian and co-creator of the “Dressed” podcast: TheHistory”. of fashion.
She pointed to the Youthquake cultural movement of the 1960s as an early iteration or potential origin for the exiting tops that flourished in the early years. Youthquake fashion was revolutionary, as rebellious youth and young designers rejected both social and sartorial conventions.
“These acts of defiance are reflected in men’s incorporation of bold patterns and colors – often across shirts – into their wardrobes and women’s adoption of slacks and miniskirts paired with a separate top” , said Zachary. “Youthquake designers like Betsey Johnson were selling blouses specifically designed to shine on a night out on the town.”
“It continues into the 70s and beyond,” she added. “Look at all the nightclub pictures of the era to see these going out tops ― sequined, sequined, hand crocheted! ― were an asexual expression of individuality chosen specifically for this evening. This legacy extends to this day.
Idacavage looked back a little further, highlighting the versatility and mix-and-match capabilities of the output tops.
“This concept is certainly not remarkable to us today, but the advent of mix-and-match separates in Western fashion in the 1940s and 1950s had a significant impact on the fashion world,” said she explained. “Initiated by American ready-to-wear designers like Claire McCardell, the mix-and-match concept allowed women to dress for a variety of occasions and activities without having to completely change outfits or to buy a whole new look.The concept of chic, comfortable, mix-and-match pieces is the philosophy of American fashion design.
The mid-20th century concept of mix-and-match typically involved casual wear rather than ensembles for a night on the town, but Idacavage thinks that changed in the 1970s for a number of reasons.
“When it came to dressing up and going out, music and dancing definitely had an impact on the type of clothing worn – just think of Studio 54 clothing versus what was worn in punk venues “, she noted. “The 1970s were also when designer jeans became popular, initiated by a licensing deal between socialite Gloria Vanderbilt and Murjani jeans in 1976. This led to jeans being seen as fashionable items. fashion and social status markers, leading to more jeans being worn, going out to clubs and the need for special going out tops to go with those jeans.
The disappearance of the output signal
If the outlet top developed in the 20th century and flourished in the early 2000s, why is it no longer the benchmark today? Or does it still exist in one form or another?
Kennedy believes there was a shift during the 2010s that elevated fashion and beauty to a point where people decided to dress for both day and night.
“I think people wear formal wear outfits now,” she said in reference to trends of the past few years (aside from our period of pandemic sweatpants where no one was going out at all). “In the past, expensive jeans with a specific silhouette were the norm, and the flexibility you had was with your top. Now people like to match sets or wear dresses or experiment with what they wear down, d especially since influencers have kind of democratized the people we look to for style inspiration.
In the age of Instagram, we can show off our ensembles anytime without having to go out in public. But back then, going to a party or a bar was an opportunity to be seen, so there was a sense of novelty and the need to leave an impression with your going-out jeans and top combo.
“Today there are a lot of creative people with amazing taste for young people to look up to, so we’re not limited to watered down versions of what celebrities are wearing,” she continued. “People still wear clothes to go out, but it’s not really a ‘Mad Libs’ of jeans and tops.
Idacavage thinks that the exit top still exists today, even if the term is not used as much anymore. She pointed out that how we describe clothing depends on “socio-cultural factors unique to particular times and places,” so the meaning of terminology can vary across contexts.
“What was once considered an ‘exit’ top in the early 2000s might be considered a ‘regular’ top today, and the same is true for different social groups, geographies, etc.,” a she noted. Style changes during the COVID-19 pandemic support this theory, as people are finding ways to express their creativity while dressing comfortably and casually.
“I think the pandemic has definitely led a lot of people to invest in clothing that provides visual interest from the waist down, which is certainly true for me! I have a whole selection of interesting tops that I wear for dates or Zoom conferences, which I often (secretly) pair with sweatpants,” Idacavage explained.
As a doctoral student in a college town, Idacavage also observed contemporary iterations of top dating among Gen Z.
“I see a lot of cheap and flashy tops sold in stores in the city where I live, and I notice that they are also worn by many younger students who go out on weekends,” she said. declared. “I’ve also noticed that groups of girls often wear the exact same bottoms — like a certain style of jeans — but seem to express themselves more with what they’re wearing over them.”
For millennial women, nostalgia for the going out top may have less to do with its absence from today’s fashion and more with the evolution of their lives and personal style.
“The older I get, the more I wear what I want, instead of following a formula for what’s cute or how to look good,” Kennedy said. “And I think the lives of a lot of millennial women change dramatically when they have kids.”
“I don’t go out to bars in large groups anymore or get reservations for 12 people anymore,” she said, “so thinking about ‘top going out,’ it’s less about the top itself- even but no longer the spirit of what it meant and how fun it was to be in large groups of women trying to look cute and not knowing what the night had in store for them.
The Huffington Gt