Off-the-shoulder tops are the summer’s number one trend for day to night. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to get the look right.
The shoulders are having more than a moment in the sun as tops and dresses that allow them to be decorously (or sometimes not so decorously) displayed fly off the shelves for summer.
These are Bardot tops, named after the French dancer, model and actress who became an international icon in the fifties and sixties with films such as And God Created Women and Contempt.
This is presumably because Bardot wore such a style of top at least once during her film stars days, perhaps at Cannes or in Paris, although I have been quite unable to find one we can use here. Still, you get the idea. Off-the-shoulder tops, as worn and popularised by Brigitte Bardot. Plenty of other films stars of the fifties, sixties and seventies wore them too, of course (I’m thinking Grace Kelly, in Rear Window, pairing a V-neck black wide shoulder top with a full Dior skirt) but Bardot gets the accolade and the name (and I bet she wishes she could capitalise on it somehow, to benefit her animal charity work).
We could all learn a thing or two, still, from Brigitte Bardot, especially if we would like to become a style icon. Kate Moss has certainly picked up quite a few tips. Rule number 1: Create a signature hair and make-up look (preferably tousled long blonde-ish locks, heavy black eyeliner and nude lips) and keep returning to it, always and forever.
There are tips too for daring to bare your collarbones and shoulder blades in a Bardot top. Most of the High Street and online stores have dozens and dozens of styles to choose from, ranging from boho peasant smock tops to sleek body-conscious pieces.
The seventies’ inspired boho versions are perhaps the easiest to wear, ideal for weekends and holidays with jeans, and simple to dress up at night.
Be careful, however, with the Bardot at the office. There is quite a lot of flesh on display, which can be alarming and distracting for onlookers and chilly for you, if you have air conditioning.
However, many of the season’s Bardot tops are designed so that they can be worn on the shoulder too, especially if they have smocked elastic or a drawstring around the neckline, and these make for a perfectly acceptable summer office top, perhaps with a tailored skirt or trousers, for a smart but easy take on a summer trend.
Team tight-fitting Bardots with wide-leg culottes or full midi skirts, to keep the proportions flattering and pleasing.
Bardot herself always kept it simple, pairing her off-the-shoulder tops with with everything from full midi skirts to cropped pencil trousers pants with ballet flats – a classic look, as fresh today as it was in the 1950s.
If you don’t want to do full-on shoulder-baring Bardot, try a style that has slim shoulder straps – very effective at slimming the shoulders and adding structure to the neckline and upper body. There are wider shoulder straps too, although these tend to be on more Lycra-infused, body-conscious styles.
Contouring can work wonders on collarbones that refuse to stand fashionably proud. Simply take your bronzer and sweep it across them, adding a pop of highlighter across the boniest top part, so they glisten and attract the eye.
There are quite a few Bardots that feature a deep flat fronted frill all around the neckline, and quite often, wide fluted sleeves. These really do need trying on before you commit to them. The sleeves get everywhere (they are impossible to cook in) and you might feel obliged to hold your arms away from your sides or place your hands on your hips all the time, because the amount of fabric furling about your middle can feel and look a little overwhelming. So strike a pose.