Two ways to wear a knitted tank top (sweater vest) — That’s Not My Age

Photo: Claire Pepper for a recent Seasalt Cornwall collaboration


Americans call it a sweater vest, but growing up, in the north of England, in the 1970s, I’ve always referred to this wonderful, sleeveless garment as a tank top. Often described as the decade that style forgot, this much-maligned era was a time when some of my favourite fashion items were born: the pull-on-and- go jumpsuit, the elegant kaftan, the versatile tank top, the khaki utility jacket –  do I need to go on?

The sleeveless knit is a multi-talented addition to any wardrobe and makes the most excellent layering piece. I’ve been wearing one non-stop over the last few weeks, dressed up and down. Perfect over a Breton top or striped, cotton jersey roll- neck and slouchy cords. Team a tank top with indigo or faded jeans and a denim shirt for a nod to modern-day Celine. Or keep things classic by styling yours over a crisp cotton shirt, pulling out the collar and shirt tails to add interest.


Photo: Claire Pepper


For evening, try a tank top over a statement blouse, wide-leg trousers and heeled ankle boots. I’m quite partial to blending different fabrics and textures, and will often ‘Mitford’ things up with the addition of an embellished or patterned fabric, velvet, tweed and a pair of shiny shoes. The sleeveless-ness is one of the best things about the sweater vest; simply slip one on under a statement jacket or decorative coat without the usual struggle.

It is a superb way to keep warm without the bulk, as knitwear designer Jo Gordon points out, ‘It’s important to keep the core of your body warm. If your core is warm, the rest of your body feels warm and the wool tank is the perfect garment at this time of year. In Japan they wear a Haramaki, in the UK we wear tank tops.’ Gordon is a long-term, tank top lover and currently developing a new range to be made in Scotland and launched next year.


Time to get tanked up:



The first outfit is from a recent collaboration with Seasalt Cornwall. A couple of readers asked for details (this is the outfit I’m wearing under the statement coat), so here you go: Sailor Top, East View Vest and Asphodel Trousers in  rich olive. See my autumn knitwear edit over on the Seasalt blog HERE.

Second outfit: the knitted marl tank top is from Toast (this season). Jumbo cord trousers from Brora (this season). Leopard print blouse is Mother of Pearl from a previous John Lewis collaboration. And my old velvet ankle boots.

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