How to Wear the Must-Have, Off-Shoulder Top This Spring/Summer 2017

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The off-the-shoulder top has pretty much unofficially been named the be-all, end-all of trends for spring/summer 2016. If you’ve been in a popular clothing shop lately, you simply cannot turn around without seeing one.

While I absolutely love the idea of off the shoulder tops, the reality is that a lot of the time, they can be sort of fraught with worry; there is always that little voice in the back of your head warning you against the ever-present possibility of a wardrobe malfunction. This is even more of a concern for those of us who don’t really feel comfortable wearing spring and summer’s lightweight fabrics without any kind of bra or other support underneath.

Luckily, there are solutions, and I’ve looked them up, so that you don’t have to. Here are a few of my favorites.

Preventing Overexposure: Keep It From Slipping Down. Or Up.

As the popular website Refinery29 points out, it only takes about a fraction of a slip of the neckline in either direction to either expose more of you that you would otherwise want. A slip of few centimeters to the south, and you’re having a full-blown wardrobe malfunction; your top is probably a size or two too big for you.  A slip of a few centimeters to the north, and as Refinery 29 puts it, you are suddenly sporting the “where’s my milking cow” look.

To keep your off-the-shoulder top, well, off-the-shoulder, you should first and foremost purchase a top in the correct size. However, keeping it from riding-up is another matter entirely. Even with perfect sizing, you can’t change the laws of gravity and elastic.  However, don’t worry if you don’t want to look like the village milkmaid; I’ve scoured the net and found this nifty little styling trick that you can employ (again, courtesy of Refinery 29), that uses nothing more than a couple of coated hair elastics and four medium-sized safety pins.

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Stretch the hair elastics a bit so they have a bit more give to them than they do when they’re brand new. Now attach one safety pin to each end of the elastic, taking care to thread the elastic through the fat part of the pin without slicing the elastic.

Next, attach the safety pins (with elastic attached) through a thicker part of the shirt, just about where your armpits would go. Be careful not to catch or snag delicate cotton or linen material.

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When you go to put the top on, simply slide your arms over the top of the pinned elastics. You can adjust where the elastics sit if you need to.

To test how you did, simply wave your arms over your head to see how well your top stays in place. It’s really that simple!

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Style It Like You Mean It: Proportion, Accessories, and Variations on the Theme

Because the off-the-shoulder top is such a recognizable, unapologetically bohemian piece, styling it to really get the most out of it’s laid-back 70’s appeal is the key to pulling-off the look.

Despite what you have always been told about balancing the proportions of a look (i.e. a fuller top should be paired with a skinny pant, a fitted top with a fuller pant, etc), off-the-shoulder tops (even though they would be considered “fuller”) actually work really well paired with a fuller pant that either has a bit of drape to it, or gives the illusion of drape. The key here is to pair a fuller pant with an off-the-shoulder top that gives you a bit of waist definition.

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You can play with accessories a bit with an off-the-shoulder top, as the open neckline and vast expanse of skin will support just about anything from a small, delicate chain and pendant to a statement choker. Personally however, to keep the look from skewing too “retro”, forgoing the necklace altogether and going with a pair of dramatic dangling “duster” – style earrings is the way forward. With your hair down and these earrings sexily grazing your shoulders, accessorising any more than that will clutter the nice clean lines of the look, giving you that “renaissance festival” look that is best left for dancing around a Beltane fire with a tambourine in your band.

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If you really, positively, cannot see yourself in an off-the-shoulder top, or really feel that you need that little bit of extra support that is offered to us all by the presence of a traditional (in other words, not strapless) bra, you can still participate in the trend. Try a cold shoulder, cutaway, or asymmetrical blouse, or layer a tank top underneath an oversized shawl-style top. The effect is essentially the same, and you will be able to go about your day without the worry of a major malfunction.