The Great Cold-Shoulder Top Debate

Cold shoulder tops and slit sleeves are all the rage right now.  In fact, I went shopping for basic ivory t-shirts and they were nearly all I could find.

When they first came out, it was like a breath of fresh air after endless sleeveless looks.   And the first tops I found were quite flattering.  But then I started hearing from other women who found them hideous – and I looked around and said, “Hm.  There *are* a lot of bad shirts happening, so what’s going on?”

Here’s a great cold-shoulder top.  The shoulder cut-outs are balanced with the neckline, and the fabric works with the line.


Here’s a rather sad version – but why is it sad?


  1. The sleeves are short
  2. Fabric choice
  3. Visible seams around the shoulder cut-outs
  4. Neckline doesn’t work

When you’re looking at cold-shoulder tops, the look that’s being evoked is either this:


Or this:


Both of those looks are glorious – but you can’t walk the middle road.  Either you are sporty and sweatshirty and about to sing along to Flashdance… or you’re wearing a silk chiton and reigning.   Fabric – about 75% of this problem is fabric.

Another problem is line.  I picked up the following top on my foray for ivory t-shirts (mine required replacement – required being the operative word, which is why these shirts came home with me).  I’m heavy, but I lift weights – my shoulders are not flabby.

We see the problem with the first top immediately – it’s the line.  The holes create a horizontal line right across my bust.  That’s not somewhere I need more volume or attention.

The second shirt is better, because the drape does evoke the chiton – but again, line is the problem.  I don’t need a horizontal line just under my bust either.  (If I wore the latter top over dressy jeans, rather than tucked/belted, it would be better, particularly with the statement necklace).

There are some great new silhouettes coming out, and I’m thrilled that sleeve interest is en vogue once again – but you still have to watch your personal proportions and you have to take the fabric into account.  Knit jersey just isn’t silk.  If you’re going to have something more complicated than the very basics, it’s better to use a higher quality fabric.



1 comment on “The Great Cold-Shoulder Top Debate

  1. Good post. I never could figure out why the short sleeved ones bugged me so much. I see exactly what you mean.

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