Fun Tops: A Tutorial

Sundresses are the easiest way to get through the summer. But if you aren’t a dress enthusiast, or if you want a little more variety than wearing a dress everyday, an interesting top and neutral pants are the simplest alternative.

The pants will present no challenge if you collect a small set of options. For me, the relevant colors are: white, black, tan, and army green.

You will, however, want a few silhouettes to accommodate a selection of fun tops.   

Slightly flared tan pants (Prana Halle 2) with blue-and-white striped Rosie Assoulin top

Skinny pants (Prana Halle 2 Straight Leg) with an enormous Brogger top (which was actually an even bigger dress that I shortened to make a top); wear the skinny pants with the full tops and the longer tops

I posit that one could get through the whole summer with just two pairs of white pants (one wide-legged and slightly cropped, the other straight or slightly flared, slightly cropped or full-length) and two pairs of tan pants (one full-length straight-cut and one boot-cut or slightly flared).

I leave the army green and black pants to your discretion.

What makes a top fun? Asymmetry, a whimsical silhouette or beautiful dressmaker details.

I have bought many of the ones shown here on The RealReal. The labels I look for are Marni, Sacai, Brogger, Rosie Assoulin, and Isabel Marant. I’ve also had good luck over the years with JCrew and three brands carried by Shopbop and Nordstrom: Ganni, English Factory, and Endless Rose.

Please note this beautiful handmade necklace, a gift from my best friend; lick nom nom

For tops, I favor white, black, and blue-and-white stripes because these colors generally don’t show sweat. As you will see below, however, I do occasionally like a chili red.

Skinny pants with another blue-and-white striped top; this one by Sacai has a high-low cut and a fun detail on the back

Fun back was fun until it was confounding, then exasperating, to TSA

This top and I ran afoul of TSA at BWI airport several summers ago. The grommets set off the metal detector and the agent kept telling me to step to the side, when she actually meant for me to step back through the detector. We were facing one another such that side, front, and back should have had the same meaning.  It was no “stage left” situation.

Read on, Directorate. There is more valuable information below.

Please note: The photos in this post are from 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 and my hair looks almost exactly the same in all of them. Consistency! May The Directrice be at least one constant in our rapidly changing (devolving!), frightening world.

Minor variations in hair probably reflect differences in humidity. Also, the eagle-eyed may notice more grey. It’s happening.

Fitted through hip and thigh, slight bootcut pants pair well with this voluminous Endless Rose top; pants like these are the most versatile because they provide balance for more shapes on top

Same pants, even better with Marni peplum top; contrast top-stitching, pleated peplum, and oversized button are the winning details
Different pair of pants — wide-legged, full length in off-white — with a black Ganni top worn over a white tank top; wear the wide-legged pants with cropped tops, tops that hit at the hip bone, and fitted tops

Chili red JCrew tank with fringe details must be approaching 20 years old at this point; a fun belt creates shape
White-on-white is always chic in summer; skinny, cropped jeans with slight flare complement a long top like this one by Marni

Same top, Prana skinny pants (Halle 2 Straight Leg) in a color that is more acorn than tan; high neck, pleats, asymmetry make this Marni top interesting
Slight bootleg is so flattering; some may remember the odyssey of creating this top from two identical Isabel Marant tops purchased on The RealReal 

Wide-legged, slightly cropped white pants with yet another blue-and-white striped top
Same Vanessa Bruno top with the skinny cropped jeans that flare slightly at the hem

4 thoughts on “Fun Tops: A Tutorial”

  1. This is so revelatory – the outfit completely changes with the different pant widths! I really love that Marni pleated peplum sleeveless top – so sharp. Thank you for putting so many photos together. It’s educational.

    And thank you for your constancy. Much appreciated.

  2. I can’t help it, whenever I see that red-and-white bag, it’s all I can think about for days! Though now I’m also obsessed with the nom nom necklace. So many treats!


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