A-dressing “going out tops”


Linnea Leijon ’27 is a sociology and gender studies double major from D.C. who is passionate about reproductive rights and social justice advocacy. Contact Linnea at lbleijon@wm.edu.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. 

Going out is fun, but going out looks very different for girls compared to guys. Girls get ready hours in advance, dress up, get together and take pictures all before we even leave for the function. But why? Why do guys show up in t-shirts and jeans but girls wear corset tops and skirts? Why do we scour the internet to buy ‘going out tops’ when the most a guy does is buy himself a Hawaiian shirt? What even is a going out top? In my opinion, there’s no such thing, and the whole concept is misogynistic. 

A ‘going out top’ is generally understood as something dressy and sexy, but too scandalous for every day and too revealing to be considered classy, so its only purpose in your closet is for ‘going out.’ But what does that suggest? That sexualizing yourself is inherent to the dress code for college parties. The reality is that this resurgence of the ‘going out top’ reinforces the attitude that women should objectify themselves when in the company of men. There’s nothing wrong with wearing something sexy that boosts your confidence, but why does it have to be separated from everything else you wear? Why is the most ‘scandalous’ thing in my closet reserved for when I go to a frat? 

Buying ‘going out tops’ is investing in the idea that you are an object for the night. It is committing yourself to a piece of clothing you wear for one reason, and that is to attract the male gaze. Nothing about a ‘going out top’ even seems to be for the benefit of the girl who wears it — other than the attention it might get you. They’re usually uncomfortable as hell and pretty revealing, which makes them really inconvenient if it’s cold out. You’re spending more money than usual on something ‘too sexy’ for class, so you keep it in your closet and wear it once, and maybe a few times more if it’s really a hit. But by the end of the year, you’ve barely worn it and if you’ve already posted in it, it’s time for something new. Thus the quest for new ‘going out tops’ begins again. 

But why can’t our ‘going out tops’ also be a staple in our closet? If it’s too much to wear day to day, why buy it? For most college students, clothing is an investment, and none of us want to spend money on something we know we’ll barely wear. Instead, we should be buying what we look good in and will wear whenever we want. Without a strict dress code on campus, what you wear is largely up to you and how you feel. So why not wear a ‘going out top’ to places besides parties if it makes you feel good? Maybe the reality is that it doesn’t. Even if you ‘look sexy’ you might not like what you’re wearing. That could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s not your style or it’s out of your comfort zone. It can be ‘too much’ or too uncomfortable, so you don’t even bother to try it on for anything else. All of those reasons perplex me. Nothing you wear should put how others perceive you above how you feel in it.  

The resurgence of going out tops as a separate category of women’s clothing is yet another way in which clothing brands capitalize on our insecurities while further contributing to the notion that girls should objectify their bodies. Women should not have to center their outfits around arbitrary expectations for dress. There is no dress code for going out, but the notion of going out tops sets an expectation for what women should wear. If men had an equivalent to going out tops, maybe this would be less of an issue. But it’s clear: The revival of the ‘going out top’ pits women against each other, in competition for the attention of men, continuing to put their own wants and needs second to those of men.


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