How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Prep up your look with this season’s Power Tank

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Prep up your look with this season’s Power Tank

  • The tank top we’re talking about — call it a sleeveless sweater if it helps — has come a long way since its Bay City Rollers days 
  • Shane Watson says that the tank top has managed to shake its quirky retro image
  • UK-based fashion expert advises using the item to show off statement sleeves

Sometimes the name of an article of clothing goes by, puts you off. I wouldn’t wear culottes, for example, but I’m happy in cropped trousers — culottes by another name. 

I don’t mind ‘tank top’ (I loved the 1970s), but I know it’s a trigger for many women who wore theirs, first time around, with a pointy collared nylon blouse, bell bottoms and a mullet. And that’s a pity because they’re missing out on one of the most useful items you can have in your wardrobe today. 

The tank top we’re talking about — call it a sleeveless sweater if it helps — has come a long way since its Bay City Rollers days and even since it bounced into the fashion top ten last year. 

Now it has shed its quirky, retro image (you can still get a jolly patterned tank top, but they’re the exception) and neatened up, and evolved into a smart, layering piece. 

Kendall Jenner pictured wearing a black tank top, matching skirt, and silver heels. Jenner proves that the tank top is shaking its quirky retro image

Kendall Jenner pictured wearing a black tank top, matching skirt, and silver heels. Jenner proves that the tank top is shaking its quirky retro image

More and more of us are wearing tank tops as we’ve discovered they are an instant sharpener — you look more pulled together in a trim sleeveless sweater over your shirt — not to mention ideal for inbetween seasons, when a third of a sweater is needed.

For work it can be hard to look smart in sweaters, jackets can be too hot, shirts on their own, too under-dressed, but all of the above issues are solved by a lightweight tank. 

Whitney Port is pictured here in a grey tank top, acid wash skinny jeans and flip flops in LA

Whitney Port is pictured here in a grey tank top, acid wash skinny jeans and flip flops in LA

I like the way a tank gives an ordinary shirt a preppy punch (a dash of preppiness is a shortcut to looking smart this autumn), but also how it contains you. The reason we all love a gilet in winter is they give us a bit of definition; the same is true of a tank top, only it’s a lot more versatile and, providing it comes in a midweight knit — not too flimsy but not bulky either — tank tops can be very flattering. 

This is once again the autumn of the show-off sleeve and the smart tank allows you to reveal the balloon sleeves of your blouse while keeping the look neat and work friendly. 

The tank top we¿re talking about ¿ call it a sleeveless sweater if it helps ¿ has come a long way since its Bay City Rollers says Shane Watson (pictured)

The tank top we’re talking about — call it a sleeveless sweater if it helps — has come a long way since its Bay City Rollers says Shane Watson (pictured)

It also means you can wear all your pretty summer tops well into the autumn. For this you simply need a tank that finishes neatly on the shoulders — nothing with slim straps and certainly not cutaway scoop shoulders. Cos does a black V-neck vest (£59, cos.com). The same rule goes for oversize shirts: wear the tank top longer in the body, with side slits, and let the shirt tails peep out underneath. 

TANK TOPS: THE RULES 

  • Look for side splits. 
  • Lace stitch adds texture. 
  • Wear over a puffsleeved shirt. 
  • Or alone under a jacket. 

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Marks & Spencer does a long-line V-neck style in cable knit camel (£29.50, marksandspencer.com) and a cream crew-neck style with cap sleeves (£22.50), while Kin has a looser-fit shape, also capsleeved, in navy (£45, johnlewis.com). 

Cap sleeves make the look a bit more elegant and grown up and work well with wideleg trousers — though not if you’re planning to wear a jacket. 

Round-neck tanks look best in shorter lengths, wear them with waisted trousers or skirts. A tank top that drapes softly over a waistband prevents you from looking too tucked in. 

Tanks also add texture — so you’re not all shirt and suiting — as well as colour. I wouldn’t wear a bright pink shirt with my trouser suit, but I might wear one of Zara’s bright knit tanks (£19.99, zara.com) this winter when colour is a way of making tailoring look new. 

Don’t worry, though, you don’t have to go that far to reboot your look: La Redoute’s ecru tank top would lift a dark shirt and trousers (£25, laredoute.co.uk) and a roundneck cream tank always looks smart with black or navy.

When it comes to the evening (no reason to stop wearing your smart tank after dark), a tank is a clever way of tidying up a creased work blouse. Or you could wear a textured one like Cos’s boucle cream vest (£45) on its own, under a jacket, with gold chains. 

I like Cos or Boden for the casual end of smart casual and Me+Em when you need to look smarter. Me+Em does a range of tank tops from clean edge V-necks (£115, meandem.com) to more luxurious lace-stitch vests to wear over a satin blouse with midi skirts and boots or wide-leg trousers. If only everything were this simple.

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