It’s almost hard to believe that a tiny, seemingly inconsequential stretchy piece of cloth could hold enough power to impart sentimental value and leave a substantial impact on both pop culture and fashion—and yet, the tube top has done both. And while the triumphant return of the “boob tube,” aka the preferred look during the early-2000s reign of going-out tops, may have been the result of the industry’s exhausting obsession with the aughts, its creation was less than expected. The tube top was discovered completely by accident.
But first, let’s begin with the tube top’s abbreviated counterpart: the bandeau, a garment that dates back to ancient Greece (it had different names, including “apodesmos,” “stēthodesmē,” “mastodesmos,” and “mastodeton,” all Greek for “breast band”). During this time, the bandeau was crafted from either wool or linen and was wrapped across the chest for support (think of it as makeshift brassiere). The bandeau also appeared to have been worn during the Roman times on several occasions, like a mother goddess portrayed in a bandeau bikini during the Chalcolithic era (5600 BC), women athletes illustrated in similar fashion in the Greco-Roman world, and women depicted in Diocletian mosaics (286–305 AD) at the Villa Romana del Castale in Sicily engaged in various activities, like discus-throwing and weightlifting, in bandeau-style tops.
It wasn’t until recent history that bandeaus reemerged in the 1940s as the top of a two-piece swimsuit. These swim styles (bandeaus of different lengths, crafted from different fabrics and blends, and in different colors and prints) became the precursor to tube tops.
But tube tops didn’t officially become a thing until 1971. Not unlike the Post-It and other accidental discoveries, the tube top was birthed from a mistake. Legend has it that a manufacturing error resulted in a heap of fabric bands sans sleeves, which were then sold by Murray Kleid, a garment trader who owned a New York clothing store, for each. Then-newcomer Elie Tahari, who after having just arrived in New York with less than 0 to his name, found them, bought the whole stock, and resold them for .
“Murray Kleid didn’t know it was fashion,” said Tahari, recalling the reaction from those who purchased the tops. “It was an East Village happening. ‘I am not wearing a bra! I am a modern hippie girl!’ “
Knowing that he struck sartorial gold, the designer snuck into a trade show to set up a display of his tube tops, along with imagery that illustrated how to wear them, in the hall. They were such a hit that by the end of the day, he had thousands of orders. In 1973, he began to manufacture tube tops, with orders coming in from all over the globe. A year later, at the height of “Saturday Night Fever,” Tahari began to draw inspiration from nights at Studio 54, crafting dresses, halters, and, of course, tube tops—all of which soon became synonymous with disco fashion.
As Tahari’s designs evolved to a more elevated aesthetic, the designer eventually parted ways with the garment responsible for his rise to fame. But even though the tube began with Tahari, it didn’t end with him.
In the ‘90s and early aughts, the midriff-baring top and low-slung baggy pants became the It-girl combo, spearheaded by musicians ranging from TLC to Britney Spears—albeit with varied aesthetics (tomboy glam for TLC; sweet and girly for Spears). Victoria Beckham took a different approach and made the black tube dress her official Posh Spice uniform during the entire six-year span Spice Girls was active from 1994 to 2000. And when Sarah Jessica Parker played the sartorially driven Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, costume designer Patricia Field outfitted her in one tube top after another.
The tube top fixation extended to the fashion set, too. Versace and Calvin Klein both sent out little black tube dresses on the 1997 runways. During the Spring/Summer 1999 season, tube tops, monochromatism, and minimalism went hand in hand: Prada showed a pale asymmetric version with a pleated skirt in a similar shade, while Calvin Klein went for a more dramatic contrast with a skin-tight mustard top and a pale yellow draped skirt.
In 2018, the tube top is more or less the same, though today’s most photographed It girls have found bold, creative takes on the style, like a completely see-through one that gave Bella Hadid’s pantsuit a hit of sex appeal or a flirty fur-lined top that Kendall Jenner wore to pet a giraffe. On the Spring/Summer 2018 runways, designers got the fun tube top memo as well: Brandon Maxwell introduced belted tubes in hot pink and emerald green leopard print, while Angela Missoni put a dramatic spin on the brand’s signature knits with party-ready tube dresses and jumpsuit crafted from shimmery Lurex threads—a neat full-circle moment, as it turns out, for the beloved tube top and its disco roots.END
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createdAt:Thu, 16 Aug 2018 00:11:48 +0000
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