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The newest trend in fashion is a wardrobe staple you probably own

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

And now we have some fashion advice for the heat wave - white ribbed tank tops - seriously. Our next guest says they can help you stay cool while looking cool. They're actually showing up on designer runways, on the feeds of social influencers and on city streets. Christian Allaire is a senior fashion and style writer at Vogue. He's here to tell us about it. Hi, Christian.

CHRISTIAN ALLAIRE: Hi, how are you?

PFEIFFER: Good. So we are talking about a piece of clothing that is traditionally an undergarment. But you're actually seeing people wearing it by themselves for fashion reasons.

ALLAIRE: Oh, yes. It's been actually a huge trend for spring. You know, I think of a brand like Bottega Veneta. We saw them show it with a flannel shirt and jeans. We saw a brand like Dion Lee do a more asymmetrical white tank top with cutouts and with a maxi skirt. Really all sorts of styling treatments were shown on the runway that make the case for a tank top being sort of a statement.

PFEIFFER: And for people who are trying to make a statement, what do you think that says about the wearer?

ALLAIRE: Well, I think someone who's embracing the tank top trend - you know, you think of a white tank top - it's a very simple, almost basic garment. But those who successfully wear it - they have a fashion eye and can think creatively. You know, you layer some gold jewelry with it. You pair it with a miniskirt and stilettos. You really can tailor it to your personal style and make it a moment. And I think those who embrace it shows they can really do a lot with little.

PFEIFFER: I actually saw a picture of someone with dress pants and a tank top. So this is not just athleisure.

ALLAIRE: No, no. We're seeing the tank top almost become sort of a dressy staple. You know, I think of celebrities on the red carpet. You know, I think of someone like Paul Mescal or Austin Butler. Both of them wore white tank tops underneath suits during award season.

PFEIFFER: I understand there's a bit of a history about tank tops in the U.S. - how they've emerged, how they've been worn.

ALLAIRE: Tank tops really go back to sort of the early 20th century. They're actually first worn as part of a bathing suit. So men and women would wear these sleeveless, low-cut tops as a way to sort of cover the torso. And they would wear them with bathing trunks or a one-piece or whatnot.

PFEIFFER: During a more modest era.

ALLAIRE: During the more modest era. And they were actually called tank suits because swimming clothes were referred to as tanks in England. For me, it's really in the '90s when we saw the tank become a real fashion staple. You know, brands like Calvin Klein were doing minimalism and showing long tank dresses or silky tanks with a silky skirt, and we really saw it become a wardrobe staple.

PFEIFFER: You know, I cannot help but think about what I consider one of the most iconic white tank top photos of all time, and that's Marlon Brando, "Streetcar Named Desire," movie from the early 1950s. Does that mean that, like many fashion trends, this is just an old one cycling back?

ALLAIRE: Well, yes. Fashion is cyclical, and it loves a comeback. The hip-hop world in the '90s - we saw the tank top really have a moment. Aaliyah, I think of - you know, she wore tanks with leather pants and low-rise jeans and these - you know, this look might feel very '90s, 2000s. But it goes to show that you should always hold on to your clothing because it may go out a fad, but as we see now, it's coming back with a vengeance.

PFEIFFER: Right. You found in your research that it is somehow possible to spend up to $890 on a single tank top. But is it also just good enough to pick up a package of cheap ones at Target or Walmart?

ALLAIRE: That's one of my favorite things about the tank top trend is you don't have to spend a lot of money. Of course, you can find, you know, a $900 Prada white tank top. And if you want to do that, go for it. But I buy them in bulk for $20. You know, you can go into any department store and find the perfect white tank top. You just have to think about the fit and the material and something that flatters your body.

PFEIFFER: Christian, you went on a quest for the perfect white tank top, and you wrote about it for Vogue. And that, of course, made me wonder, what have you been wearing yours with?

ALLAIRE: The key to pulling off a white tank is, you know, it's quite a form-fitting garment. And so I like to counteract it with a baggier pant. I feel this silhouette feels fresh. It's kind of how I've been enjoying wearing it. And pile on the jewelry, and don't discount a good shoe - you know, a great heel, a great loafer. That'll help it make it feel really expensive and fresh.

PFEIFFER: If we are talking about white tank tops here on NPR on a Sunday morning news program, maybe that means that really cool people have already moved on beyond the white tank tops.

ALLAIRE: I think it's at least going to last, you know, until the end of the summer. So we still have a few months' wear out of it.

PFEIFFER: That's Christian Allaire of Vogue. Thank you very much.

ALLAIRE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIGHT SAID FRED SONG, "I'M TOO SEXY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sacha Pfeiffer is a correspondent for NPR's Investigations team and an occasional guest host for some of NPR's national shows.