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“Help! What Are Good ‘Going-Out’ Tops?”

Going Out Tops

A reader named Shannon reached out with this pressing question…

“Help! I have to confess that I don’t know how to dress for a casual ‘going out’ look! What to wear to work? Check. Fancy black-tie wedding? Check. Brunch? Check. But concert at a bar on a Tuesday night? I’m clueless!”

Never fear, Shannon. We’re here for you. And so are these going-out tops.

Going Out Tops

Going Out Tops

Lacy black tank; plus size. (Alternates: Lace tee and scalloped blouse)

Whether it’s drinks with friends or the aforementioned dive bar concert, the little black top has got you covered. Much like the little black dress, this wardrobe heavy hitter can be dressed up or down. Drink at a schmancy cocktail bar? Wear it with heels. Playing pool at the local bar? Wear it with jeans.

Going Out Tops

Going Out Tops

V-neck camisole. (Alternates: Ruffle top and linen cami.)

The camisole is a chameleon that works well for weekday dates. It’s sexy on its own, or perfect for layering. Throw a blazer over it for the workday, then lose the blazer once evening hits.

Going Out Tops

Going Out Tops

Button-down blouse. (Alternates: Animal print and navy dot.)

A silky blouse works for everything from a Wednesday-night movie to a friend’s birthday drinks. (Doesn’t this print remind you of the dress from Pretty Woman?) Meeting your future in-laws? Button it all the way. Going on a second date? Undo one (or three).

What about you? What’s your go-to look for a night out? I also love this neckline.

P.S. My sister’s awesome dating tip, and 12 spring dresses.

(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. Modeling by Shoko Wanger. Thanks to Elsa, one of our favorite neighborhood spots, for letting us take these photos there. This post is sponsored by Nordstrom, one of our favorite places to shop for clothes, where shipping and returns are always free. Thanks for supporting the brands that keep Cup of Jo running.)

  1. Kathryn says...

    I read through the comments to see if anyone else had put it, but didn’t see so maybe it’s British phrasing – if we are going out and not “out out” enough to fully dress up, it’s “jeans and a nice top”. That can mean anything on the bottom, really, especially with comfy high waisted peg leg trousers a thing, but it’s the ~nice top~ distinction that immediately describes the tone.

  2. Ali says...

    yes!!! hi shoko!!!

  3. Grace Wierenga says...

    My sister and I always call each other before events to check in on wardrobe and the answer to the “going-out” question is always black high rise pants and a “party top”— the shirt that called to you from across the store that just screams “you” but doesn’t quite fit for work or the supermarket. You need a couple “party tops” that make you feel like a million bucks.

    • rachel says...

      totally!

    • KONSTANTINA HRYSANTHAKOPOULOU says...

      Oh that is pretty! What’s the material like? H&M have been killing lately.

  4. Lauren E. says...

    I have “going out tops” and then EVERY time I go out (which is not all that often…) I end up wearing that exact same top. It’s so boring! Love the polka dot, though. Looks like I’m adding another GOT to my wardrobe :)

  5. Hannah says...

    I have very few clothing items that could be considered “nice” for going out and I always struggle to find tops appropriate for a 38-year-old. I suppose it has something to do with being a stay at home mom of 4 boys and living in a tropical climate, but function trumps fashion for me right now. Funny enough, the only two tops I have that I do consider “nice ” look almost identical to two of the tops you posted! So, I guess I’m doing okay. :)

  6. Michelle says...

    My best going out tops are boho. The minimalist look is too much like my work look and can seem too casual with the flats I prefer. I have a Joie, a nice airy gauzy one in black with a kind of vaguely South American look to it. Kind of like a blend of this https://poshmark.com/listing/Joie-blouse-in-black-cherry-print-5931ad3e4225be52c500d735 and this https://www.shopbop.com/jaya-blouse-joie/vp/v=1/1567527307.htm. I got it at TJ Maxx, but Poshmark and Tradesy are good options for these as people get rid of them before they wear out.

    Also LOVED the cami/nipple/bra convo. I love the look but even with modest B cups find the wardrobe malfunction fear overcomes any feel of sexiness they create. I am pro visible bra strap, esp if it is pretty and narrow. But I also agree – who the hell decided nips are to be hidden at all costs?? Kinda over that. Might try the nip pasties to earn a woman of the world experience badge. thanks for sharing!

  7. Shannon says...

    Ahh this was my question! Thank you so much for answering. I love these top ideas! Cup of Jo is the best and my continued go-to for all things!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yay!!! hi shannon! :)

  8. Lacey says...

    It made my day to see Shoko’s glowing face here!

    • Ali says...

      yes!!! hi shoko!!!

  9. Alexa says...

    What about suggestions for cold weather climates? I feel like this conundrum is even worse when I’m trying to be warm and cute!

    • meaghan says...

      fitted black v-neck sweater, jeans, booties. repeat repeat repeat

    • Stefanie says...

      Hi Alexa, I totally hear you. My go-to for colder temps is a loose fitting black merinowool sweater with a v-neck. Pairs beautifully with larger earrings or necklaces and keeps you warm. If it’s really cold I’ll throw a cardigan or blazer on top. Love the ideas cup of jo team! But for me they are only wearable in summer *typing while drinking tea and snuggling closer to my hotwater bottle xD

  10. K says...

    Another cami related question…I know that lots of people wear blazers over them, but when I try that my blazers end up smelling like BO under the arms. I wear deodorant and am not a super sweaty person, but it’s still noticeably smelly (maybe it’s the lining of the blazer that picks up smell easier?).

    I get my blazers dry cleaned, but honestly that doesn’t always help with smell. Does anyone have any tips? Thank you!!

    • Brianna F says...

      I had the same issue and what I’ve started doing is sticking a panty liner in each armpit of the blazer on days when I’m wearing just a cami underneath. I find this helps to absorb any excess sweat (or smell) caused by the lining of the blazer. No one knows they are there and it works great for me!

    • Care says...

      Sprinkle baking soda in the armpits of your jackets between wearing!! If able, dab it/rinse it out later so the baking soda doesn’t irritate.

    • KA says...

      Gosh, I have the same problem. You can buy stick-on underarm liners that do work pretty well—but, I’ll admit I’m lazy about buying and using them. I did find out about another trick that works pretty well if you’ve already gotten sweat in the garment. You can try using pet stain and odor remover (just make sure it’s the kind with enzymes). The enzymes break down the bacteria and their byproducts to get the smell out. I use OUT! Pet Stain and Odor Remover (the blue label, with “pro-bacteria and enzyme formula”). I’d be careful about using this on delicate fabric (definitely patch test), but it does work on the polyester lining of my winter wool coat.

  11. Ahhh! Thank you! The best post to the “Just wear a cute top and jeans”

    xx
    Hagen Carmichael

  12. NN says...

    Second what A Martin says! My chest is fully loaded and no one wants to see thick nursing bra straps under a delicate cami! Oh the agony!

  13. Maura says...

    (Cup of Jo favorite) Sezane has such great “going out” tops. If money were no object, I would buy half the store :) I linked a few summery ones available right now, but worth checking back through the year! I have two in my closet that I find I always reach for on date night.

    https://www.sezane.com/us/product/summer-collection/aretha-blouse-16832?cou_Id=1139

    https://www.sezane.com/us/product/summer-collection/isa-top?cou_Id=1493

    https://www.sezane.com/us/product/summer-collection/paloma-top?cou_Id=1761

    https://www.sezane.com/us/product/summer-collection/angele-top?cou_Id=1422

  14. Lindsey says...

    In college we called going-out tops “jazz tops” LOL. The jazzier, the better!

  15. Ros says...

    Can we do an investigative report on strapless bras? For ALL type of breasts–small, medium, large, perky, smushy, and floppy ones?

    And the kicker, reasonably-priced. This has been a problem of mine for the longest time and, as much as I would LOVE to be the girl at the bar wearing a sikly, blush camisole without the obvious, wirey, overly push-upped bra , I cannot fulfilly this dream until I find a good strapless [minimizing] bra.

    HELP!!!!

    • MJ says...

      Ditto! I see so many cute shirts and even dresses but I need a bra. I have yet to find a strapless bra that doesn’t end up around my hips by the end of the night or feel like it’s crushing my ribs.

    • Julia says...

      Yes please! Just generally what kind of bra can you wear with the cute spaghetti strap tops! I never know

    • Sophie says...

      I don’t know if this will help you (or maybe someone else) but i’m a small but busty girl 6F (aus sizing) an I find either the freya deco strapless https://www.bravalingerie.com.au/lingerie-strapless-bras/132107-freya-deco-strapless-bra-132107.html which is very supportive but not as good for super low rise (whether at the front or under the arm) or my favourite https://www.debras.com.au/koko-moulded-plunge-strapless-bra?utm_source=google_shopping&m=configurable&124=62&125=491&aid=42982&gclid=Cj0KCQjw2v7mBRC1ARIsAAiw348SwQMj52d0Z6xIxM2X5qH2iT6XmPIH55Oafo5bblmMAnj3vr9lxngaAvs8EALw_wcB which has a much better plunge front but works well for me because my breasts are pretty perky.

      I love and wear a lot of camisole style tops and because I have bigger breasts all my normal bra straps are super wide so I always wear a strapless with them.

      So if you’re after more support and uplift- the freya is good (and the normal deco bra is the perfect t-shirt bra) but if you want something that ‘hides’ under more things the panache is wonderful but it doesn’t really give you much in the way of uplift.
      (That said I wouldn’t call either of these options affordable but with good care I have gotten many many years out of both of these)

  16. Amanda says...

    I feel like the idea of a “going out top” just sort of disappeared from my radar but recently I’ve been thinking I need something cuter than my usual vneck tee shirts for date night or girls night. It’s like y’all read my mind – how do you even do that?

    Great post – love the first two tanks.

  17. Charli says...

    Hahaha this is perfect! My friend and I were just talking about this the other day but for dresses and tops. Our brains immediately go to “something shiny I guess???” This is helpful!

  18. Chloe says...

    Suggestions/recommendations/tips for bralettes much appreciated! If it hasn’t been done yet, a bralette how-to post would be wonderful! I want to get into them but have so many questions – how do you handle the nipple situation? What about those bralettes with lace/seams that show through shirts? Where to buy bralettes in large/non standard sizes (30DD here!)?

  19. Nigerian Girl says...

    Ooh yes, the print on that button-down blouse reminds me of Julia’s timeless dress in Pretty Woman. I like the red camisole, but I can’t rock a camisole on its own without feeling self-conscious. Let’s just call it a top-heavy thing. Anyway, I don’t go out much these days, which means I now wear my ‘going-out’ tops to top. Luckily, I work in advertising and I live in Lagos, the most stylish city in the world (Hear hear, NYC and Paris) so I never look overdressed or out of place. This inexpensive, woman-owned clothing brand is one of my favourites: https://shoptnldesigns.com/product-category/clothing/tops/

    • Nigerian Girl says...

      I now wear my ‘going-out’ tops to work, I mean.

  20. E says...

    Button down blouses scream WORK for me! Love the other options!

  21. catie says...

    I love this blog v much but I’m also disheartened by how often the clothes/beauty/life tips apply to skinny white women. How are we (others) supposed to have a nice ‘going out top?’

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! we strive to be inclusive in all ways (budget, body shape and size, sexual orientation, location, marital status, family structure, race and ethnicity, etc), and i really appreciate your feedback. these particular tops can be a great fit for all different races/ethnicities, and there are plus-size options included in the links in this post. in terms of focusing specifically on plus sizes, we actually have a post coming up about the best size-inclusive brands out there right now. it’s written by our regular contributor Kelsey Miller, who is an advocate for size inclusion and author of The Anti-Diet Project (she’s wonderful). i really hope you enjoy it, and i’m looking forward to sharing with you and others.

      we are also thrilled to feature a diverse group of women in our week of outfits and beauty uniform series:
      https://cupofjo.com/category/style/beauty-uniform/
      https://cupofjo.com/category/style/fashion/week-of-outfits/

      if you have other ideas or feedback on how we can continue to grow more and more inclusive, i would be all ears! thank you again, catie xoxoxo

    • K says...

      I think CoJ does a good job of being inclusive. I especially appreciate that when you do a post without original pictures that are pictures from the retailers you choose a variety of photos that show different looking models. I literally cried the first time I went to the J Crew site and they showed an item both on a size 2 and on a size 12. I could finally get an idea of how something may look on me. It also made me realize that my brain is totally wired to think that everything looks better on a skinny person.

      That being said, maybe on these posts where you take original pictures you could consider including multiple models that cover a range of sizes/looks? Or just vary it from post to post? Apologies if you have done this and I just don’t remember.

      Thanks for always taking a thoughtful approach to these issues and being willing to consider ways to improve even more!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we would love to feature more models, great idea. it’s typically not affordable for us to hire multiple models for a single shoot, but we will definitely work to feature a wider range of models as we cast for future shoots. size inclusion is something we could work on here. here are the latest, if you’d like to see:

      https://cupofjo.com/2019/05/going-out-tops/
      https://cupofjo.com/2019/03/spring-trend-pearl-jewelry/
      https://cupofjo.com/2019/03/best-baby-registry-items/
      https://cupofjo.com/2019/03/nordstrom-spring-fashion/
      https://cupofjo.com/2019/02/brooklinen-best-sheets-discount/
      https://cupofjo.com/2018/11/how-to-style-a-scarf/

      thank you again!

    • Le says...

      My problem with most of the going-out styles is the bareness. I’ve got freckly hairy arms and not-great, 39-year-old skin that make me super self-conscious. What do you wear to look cute and not bare all that? It’s depressing seeing all these women who are so glow-y and somehow knew to use sunscreen and care for their skin growing up. I guess I need to get over it–but it would be easier if skin perfection wasn’t always on display.

  22. Hali says...

    Whaaaat?! This is such a current (very minor) issue in my life! Whenever I’m shopping with my best friend, we repeat to ourselves: “must get tops for going out… tops for going out… silky tops. blouses. sheer-ish. or maybe show some shoulders… just find something for going out.”

    Because the… er… 4 times a year we do “go out” casually, we realize we don’t own such tops. (Last time I ended up wearing an embroidered Mexican mumu-style dress that is normally a favorite but did not work at all for me that night.)

    Inevitably though, we both always buy linen pieces that are decidedly not “tuesday night cocktail attire.” But the pull of linen on our hearts wins every time.

    I’m just going to order that orange cami! In a few months, I’ll be so glad!

    • I feel you! I typically wear day dresses when “going out” and end up looking so out of place, haha.

  23. Lauren says...

    Perfect timing – I am going on a date at Elsa in half an hour (which I think is where these photos were taken, no?) and in need of some “casual weeknight going out” outfit inspiration! Going to go with a silk cami!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oooh have fun!!

  24. C. says...

    maybe layer it with another cami that has complimentary shape and straps? or one of those that is an underlayer and has built-in support? I’ve also seen people wear a cami over a short sleeve t-shirt or blouse and that can also look very pretty.

  25. Sherri says...

    Target also carries breast petals. They’re my summer staple for $6.99!

  26. A moto leather jacket is my fave going out “top” seeing as I’m insecure about my arms!

  27. Hannah says...

    I literally came to your site this morning to see if you all had advice on this issue, ha ha. I was a few hours too early. :)

  28. Jessie says...

    Does anyone else get cold in just a cami?? I love the cami look but always need a jacket if I wear one. And then I end up looking like I always wear the same thing because I only have a couple cute ones (looking at you, denim jacket). I do like the long sleeve blouse, though!

    • Yessss!!! Story of my life. I fear being cold when I’m out, so I always take a jacket with me which inevitably ends up covering any “cute” thing I wear. Looking for recommendations on stylish cover-ups….

    • Liz says...

      also have this issue. I need a “what to wear fall, winter, and spring” guide because I have lots of cute tops, but I’m always freezing in them, so they all get covered up by sweaters or my two bleh jackets

    • Katie Larissa says...

      Jessie, invest in some beautiful pashminas!

    • Courtney says...

      A silky kimono-style top is perfect for that. I’m currently travelling long-term so have like 10 items of clothing, and I’ve got a colourful printed wrap dress that does double duty as a light jacket with a plain black cotton tank on going-out nights!

  29. Amber says...

    I always buy “going out tops” like these, but then end up wearing a v-neck tshirt when I go out (the cut of these cute dressy kinds of shirts never fit my short torso + curvy hips as flattering as a nice tee) and then I eventually konmari the going out tops (and then repeat the cycle).

    • Mari says...

      Oh that’s so me! I tend to buy nicer pants/skirts to compensate the fact that i’m always wearing t-shirts. White t-shirt + black pantacourt + nice jewellery. Black t-shirt + black jeans + nice jewellery + heels, and so on.

    • Christina says...

      Amber, THIS right here!!!! konmari the going out tops and then repeat the cycle. :)

  30. Kristin says...

    I love Shannon’s plea for help! I think a going out top is whatever you feel best in at that exact moment. For me, sometimes it’s just a gray t-shirt other times it’s a top with a wild pattern or a lacy blouse.

    I did a little spring shopping and just bought these, which I love (and would wear out any night!):
    Zara embroidered number – https://www.zara.com/us/en/openwork-embroidery-blouse-p01821240.html?v1=7889039&v2=1180376
    Wild Batsheva bib blouse – https://www.batsheva.com/shop/n4a7580?color=Patchwork&size=2
    Need Supply black cotton blouse – https://needsupply.com/jolee-pleated-blouse-in-black.html

    • Kristin says...

      Hmm, maybe I should mention I am 38. I am 300% sure no 21 year olds are wearing these out! HA. Definitely varies by age… :)

    • ML says...

      The Batsheva blouse is insane and I LOVE IT. Signed, a 36 year old.

    • C. says...

      Really pretty stuff! That black one is my fav. (I really like tops with sleeves)

    • Tara says...

      You have such good style, Kristin! Love these.

    • Jssatx says...

      Hey K. Love your style!

    • I love the white one and have one similar from J Crew that was a thrift find years ago. I never thought about wearing it to go out though! Maybe at 37, it’s time to rethink that! Thanks!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      these are so cute, kristin!!!

    • Kristin says...

      Aw thanks, Ladies :) And, Liana, you should totally rock that top at night!

  31. Brooke says...

    Shoko! She is glowing in these photos. I LOVE her blog! Miss her posting, but hope she is happy and thriving. Thanks for the going out top ideas :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, she’s the sweetest person. she’s actually getting married this weekend!

    • Rasheeda says...

      Shoko!!!! Omg! I miss her so much over on her blog!!! She’s getting married! Sending so much love her way :)

  32. mb says...

    This is going to come off as snarky, and I just want to say that I don’t mind your sponsored posts (in fact–I like a lot of them! You make them come off like a pretty natural-sounding post!) but this photoshoot of the woman by herself is a bit strange–it kind of reminds me of this: https://www.thehairpin.com/2011/01/women-laughing-alone-with-salad/

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha you’re right! that’s so funny. caroline was at the photo shoot and kept making shoko laugh — but the bar behind her was empty because they opened early for us to shoot there. :)

    • Caroline says...

      This!!! Made me laugh! All the tops look cute 😊

  33. Melanie says...

    I love the orange cami! Is there a link for it??

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! the credits are under each photo. for ease, here it is: http://bit.ly/2GRw4Sb

      (then just click on the orange color)

    • Melanie says...

      Doh. Thank you! For some reason the link didn’t appear on my phone.

      What a bargain!

  34. Christina says...

    Immediately reminded of this fun piece in Elle. ;) https://www.elle.com/fashion/news/a19761/rip-going-out-top/

    But seriously – if I were going to a concert at a bar on a Tuesday night, I think I would wear a v neck tshirt. These are all so cute though! And much better than the complicated versions of the early aughts.

    • A says...

      The Elle article is amazing and so spot on! lol.

    • Jessica says...

      That Elle article is 4 years too late! And 4 years too early for the “now more minimalist” going out top revival.
      And isn’t it a relief?
      I mean, we all really just want to wear jeans to see bands or get cocktails with friends or whatever – because woe be the woman on a group date who looks like she tried too hard! – but without the GOT jeans just looked like you didn’t bother to get dressed.

    • Courtney says...

      Right! I like the cami, but I would way more likely be wearing an old, worn black concert T-shirt and jeans to a show!

    • Courtney says...

      Also, the Elle article reminds me of a time a former roommate and I decided to go to a jazz show in Hanoi for the evening. Another woman had just moved in with us, and we invited her out. She asked how long we’d need to ‘get ready’, an idea which clearly hadn’t occurred to us, and we were like, “We are ready! We’re dressed, no plans to do any more filling up.” She was astounded and giddy about the idea of just…going as we were. It was like a moment of liberation.

    • Courtney says...

      *dolling up

  35. These look gorgeous. Personally I love folding up formal shirts to the elbow and combining that with slim fit jeans. Deffo need to start learning what my girl’s into.

  36. Kate says...

    That must literally be “giggle juice” she’s drinking, since she’s obviously reacting in laughter to whatever it just whispered…

  37. Young Directionless says...

    Oooh, where is the link for the orange camisole? Love it! It’s actually really hard to find a good one, and especially in such a great color.

  38. caitlin says...

    Question on this question — what bras do people wear with camis? I love the look, but really struggle to wear it myself! I’m not a fan of strapless bras bc they usually negate the whole extra comfort of wearing the cami in the first place. Regular bras feel unpolished having your straps show, and going bra-less is great if I’m feeling brave (my nipples tend to be obvious no matter the weather). Anybody have a solution? A good strapless bra? Nipple stickers?

    • FGB says...

      I’ve always loved camis but can’t go braless and won’t wear a strapless. I recently bought some cute comfy lacey bralets. I dont think I’ll ever go back. It looks cute and intentional if it shows and SO MUCH BETTER than underwire!

    • A Martin says...

      OMG I was going to ask the same! I really dislike strapless bras and pasties won’t work on my supple mom boobs. I can’t wait to read what recs you get!

    • Amanda says...

      I hated strapless bras because they always dug in and exacerbated my flabby back while providing no support for the DDs…until I got the Wacoal Red Carpet Convertible Bra. I sometimes choose to wear it even when I don’t need to. Nearly 5-star average from over 1000 reviews at Nordstrom, so I’m not the only one who thinks so.

      https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/wacoal-red-carpet-convertible-strapless-bra/4976069

    • Trish O says...

      I tend to wear a strapless. I found ONE very well fitting comfortable one from TJ Maxx. It better never wear out etc.

      On another note, I decided that I am NO LONGER going to care if my nipples are obvious. Really, who decided that we can’t have obvious nipples? We all have them. I am over it! I am serious about this….always trying to hide a perfectly normal part of me. Done!

    • liz says...

      I have a really comfortable strapless bra from Aerie of all places that works well for me. No padding, which I think is essential for a “more casual boob look” haha — but prob also depends on your shape!

    • Grace says...

      I’ve started going with bras that have straps that are meant to be seen! I got tired of never wearing camisoles for fear my giant beige bra straps would show. This is a fave: https://lonelylabel.com/products/new-br58cb?taxon_id=40

      I often wear it with a black cami so the straps look like they might be part of the shirt.

    • JS says...

      I can’t go out without a bra with underwire (so jealous of women who can) and when I don’t want to deal with the discomfort of a strapless bra I wear my Natori Feathers T Back Bra. It has a pretty lace T-shaped back that’s still sexy when it shows with camis.

    • Caitlin says...

      ooo! thanks for all these recs y’all! im going to look into both the target and shopbop nipple cover things, and see if i can try out the strapless bras too. maybe theyll actually be comfortable!

      and trish-o…i feel you! free the nipple! it shouldnt matter right? but sometimes there is unwanted attention as a result and that just takes a certain extra strength to deal with that i don’t always have.