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Womens vintage tank tops

March 30, 2015

Womens vintage tank tops can refer to a couple of different kinds of garments – what I think of when I hear the phrase is a woolly sleeveless pullover, but American Apparel et al would have us believe that a tank is a vest with wider shoulder straps.


The woolly ones are one of my favourite vintage garments ever. When I say woolly, I actually mean acrylic-y, because in my humble opinion, the best womens vintage tank tops come from Germany in the 70s, and are made of pure man-made fibres.

Tank tops for women

1970s womens vintage tank tops

Style out your tank top with a matching shirt

Style out your tank top with a matching shirt


Their raging colours and kitsch patterns encapsulate the era for me, and Womens vintage tank tops have a kind of playfulness that is eye-catching but also somehow chic. It adds an androgynous edge to an outfit that is Bowiesque but without the full platforms and glitter makeup.


You can wear these with jeans and a long-sleeved top, with plain back trousers and a white shirt, or look for polyester flare in matching shades, and a pointed Seventies collar to sit on top for the full monty. I usually just go for the subdued outfit and a jaunty tank top. I like them because the material is quite warm, but the fit is flattering, because they are stretchy and streamlined.

Two crochet 1970s tank tops

Two crochet 1970s tank tops


Something made of acrylic shouldn’t be glamorous, but womens vintage tank tops really can be. Don’t forget to check in the men’s section too, a small-sized men’s tank top is just as good as a woman’s. Unless you really like the fit and the pattern of one you find, there’s no need to buy one that’s gone bobbly or looks shabby – the idea is not shabby chic here.

1940s womens vintage tank tops

mens 1940 tank top

mens 1940 tank top


Another popular style of womens vintage tank tops are ones from the 40s. These have a totally different aesthetic – hand knitted, usually in sweet traditional Fair Isle patterns. They seem somehow innocent. They were popular with men – I’m guessing because you could still wear a tie and suit jacket with one without it being too bulky.


But women’s versions existed too, because they were practical. Land girls wore them – they were the women who worked on the land to grow extra food and help out during wartime. They were also popular for daywear – lots of patterns from the time describe them as “a chic little slipover for town” or something like that.

Womens vintage tank tops - 1940s tank top

1940s tank top


And you can get them for little boys as well, so if you’re particularly little a small boy’s vintage tank top might be the answer. You might find them also described as a sleeveless pullover, or slipover.

1990s Womens vintage tank tops

A band tank top

A band tank top


These are more the vest tops that I described earlier. Womens vintage tank tops from the 1990s can be full length or cropped, they can be plain or decorated, and some come with racerbacks.


The advantage of those that don’t is that they are great for hiding your bra straps. You can customize your favourite t-shirt into this kind of tank top, by cutting off the sleeves and also the neckline if you want to.


Just be aware that if you cut the sleeves off a baggy t-shirt, the arm hole will be quite low and so you’re risking the exposure of side boob – that is, you’ll be able to see quite a lot if you lift your arm. But of course, sometimes that’s exactly the look you’re going for.