Best sleeveless knitted tops for over 50’s

In Style over 50 by Joni6 Comments

If there’s one item you should buy for Fall 2022 it’s the knitted vest top. Long or cropped, wide-cut or neatly shaped, V-neck or round neck, buttoned or pull-on. This sleeveless top is everywhere this year.

If you looked at my Spring 2022 Capsule Wardrobe you’ll have seen the cream waistcoat I raved about six months ago. As soon as I saw it I loved it. Sadly it’s no longer available but it was a great hit and now most retailers have a version.

I’ve picked out my selection of these easy-to-wear tops at a range of prices.

Can I wear this fashion when I’m over 50?

You’ll notice that most of the models shown are very young. That mustn’t put you off the style. It’s ideal for women of all ages. Just note that whereas many sweaters are shown with no under layer, us older ladies will definitely be wearing a shirt, blouse or dress under all of these tops this Fall.

You’ll find the fast direct links to my suggested tops all together if you scroll down. These pictures are affiliate links so if you click then buy I’ll likely get a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for helping me meet the costs of maintaining this blog!

Relaxed fit crew neck tops

Sleeveless vest tops are designed to be super casual or neat and refined. Let’s start with the casuals.

You’ll find many of these are worked in cable stitch which is the other big story of Fall 2022.

Madewll sleeveless knit
Madewell

The cream cable-knit from Madewell is a great example. It’s the right length to tuck in jeans at the front or to leave out with plenty of space below to have your best shirt hanging out. It’s doing the job that we love with layers. Adding interest and often warmth but, for us older women, layering is also about taking the eye away from the clear outline of our body.

Years ago we might have looked fabulous in fitted sweaters, today most of us alas do not.

Jcrew cable sweater
Jcrew

JCrew do a similar sleeveless cable knit top in merino wool – though I don’t like the way they’ve styled it. The blouse looks too fussy for the chunky structured top. I love the knit though!

Boden sweater vest
Boden USA and UK

Boden’s take on this look is not quite so chunky and more feminine.

But it’s still got the all-important dropped shoulder which spells relaxed weekend wear.

The hem draws the wide-cut top in to make a squareish silhouette. The boxy top with the big shoulder-line is today’s look. It harks back to the eighties and nineties where a slouchy shoulder was usual.

The plus for us, if we carry extra weight on our hips and thighs, is that the bigger the top, the smaller our lower body looks by contrast. So wear this with fitting jeans or a midi-length skirt that hangs straightish.

The casual V-neck sweater vest

marksandspencer.com sleeveless tunic
marksandspencer USA and UK

I like this slightly longer top by Marks and Spencer. It still has the wide shoulder so works well to big up your top compared to your lower half. It’s too long to tuck in to make a boxy shape but it has a V neck which immediately elongates the silhouette.

Just be sure you buy it big enough to be slouchy not trim. In my post on cardigans I explain how a longer knitted top has to hang to make you look your best.

The neater sleeveless cardigan

If casual is not your style, or you’re building a set of clothes you can wear to work, then boxy with a shirt hanging out is not for you.

You’ll be looking for a slightly less extended shoulder line and a straighter or slightly fitted hang.

Macy's cable knit cardigan
Macys

The V-neck cable cardigan by Macy’s with its on-trend large buttons could be a wardrobe staple for you.

Notice the sleeve edge sits just on the tip of your shoulder but not beyond. This is a more traditional look. If you wear a contrasting shirt under the cardi you’ll see a nice straight line from shoulder to hem, which can be very slimming. If you don’t wear a contrast layer beneath then you’ll miss out on this advantage.

The V neck lengthens your upper body and the longer hem means you now have a smart rectangle above your lower half.

It’s your decision whether to continue that rectangle downwards with neat pants or to add a bit of extra stylishness by wearing an over the knee or longer skirt (or dress) that has a skirt that hangs wider than the top.

There are lots of knife- pleated elastic-waisted frocks and skirts in the shops right now. If you go for this style of cardigan try on one or two skirts too.

The neater round-neck top

Boden navy sleeveless sweater
Boden USA and UK

Boden’s less casual take on the sweater vest is a cashmere top that is just slightly shaped to the waist. The armholes just reach past the edge of the shoulder but not so much that they look too relaxed. This type of top could take you from the office with a pretty shirt beneath, to an evening with friends with a long-sleeved dress beneath.

To balance the narrower lines the sweater is designed to be longer. If you have the waist for it, this is a very slimming look. Make sure your shirt or dress layer contrasts well so that people see a long narrow rectangle from shoulder to hip.

The sleeveless tunic

This makes for a great weekend outfit. Think jeans or a midi-dress.

Macy's long knit tunic
Macys.

Macy’s tunic in cashmere comes in some useful Fall shades – I especially like the bordeaux red. This is not a thick sweater so you can wear it as a layer between a shirt and a jacket. It will define a long central area of your body, even if you have a bit of a tummy these days.

The armholes are cut very wide so even a gathered sleeve will sit easily under this top. This also means that you won’t get a thick bunch of fabric at the shoulder – perfect if you want to add a jacket.

Marks and spencer chunky sleeveless knit
marksandspencer USA and UK

Marksandspencer.com also do a sleeveless tunic. It’s incredibly good value! It’s a bit thicker knit that the cashmere tunic but could still take a jacket on top as long as the jacket is fairly generously cut and heavy so that it hangs straight down over the tunic.

A simple staple sleeveless knit

Madewell simple brown boucle vest top
Madewell

The sweater vest in boucle by Madewell is perhaps the most versatile of all these tops.

It’s got the square boxy lines that look good as a casual top or, with a dress underneath or a jacket on top, can be styled up easily.

It’s got the wide shoulder line that marks it as on-trend.

And it’s got lower cut armholes for even the puffiest of sleeves.

Colors this Fall

I think you’ll immediately notice that most of these sleeveless knits are in earth tones – stone, a range of browns through to greys, and russet red. This defintely seems to be the look this autumn. Rather than strong contrasts making dramatic style statements, the vibe is gentler and nearer to nature with tones on tones.

So when you’re looking for a contrasting under-layer think small patterns in autumn shades or a much lighter or darker tone of the same color as the sweater – stone under brown or dark grey under cream for example.

I’ve include one navy top as so many of us have navy as our base color in our wardrobes. With this top you could honestly wear any color or pattern and look good. But if you choose to add a dress or shirt that includes even a tiny bit of navy it will make the outfit look more stylish and chic, and less dramatic.

How you wear these tops is very much dependent on your personality. Classic or unique? Casual or stylish? These sleeveless layers are an ideal wardrobe addition this season.

What size to buy?

Unless you can try on the top in store I would suggest you order two sizes online and be prepared to return one. When trying on, get out a couple of under layers you’d like to wear with it – perhaps a shirt and a dress. Note how well the armholes sit with each item. They shouldn’t be tight or stretched.

Is there too much of a bulge at the waist? Then you need to size up.

Always stand side-on to a full-length mirror as well as straight on. If your tummy looks too much in evidence then try slipping a cross-body bag (shoulder bag) on to disrupt the line.

Now pop on a jacket and see if all looks OK or does it all look too chunky?

Some of us will look good with a fine knit that hugs us closely, others of us (including myself) will look better with a larger size that gives a relaxed fit.

I hope you decide to try this trend. I think you’ll find a sleeveless sweater vest an invaluable addition to your closet.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I’ve seen these in the stores and need to take a second look. I live in a climate that does get chilly and this would be an excellent layer to keep the torso warm.

  2. How to make this look work with wide shoulders and big chest area I can’t work it out Seems to emphasize those features I want to downplay Your thoughts please?

    1. Author

      Hi Lia. Yes, this style is for women whose waist and/or hips are larger that they want. The wide shoulder is designed to big-up your top so your lower half looks in better proportion. However, if you have a heavier top half and smaller waist/hips this fashion is not right for you. I would suggest you consider wearing a fitted underlayer (e.g. a teeshirt) with a straight top that hangs well, such as an edge-to-edge cardigan or non-fitted jacket. Make the top layer dark and plain. Make the fitted under layer white or bright or patterned. Now continue that underlayer colour in your pants or skirt. The idea is to make the focus a narrow rectangle from the neck, widening to a wider area below the waist – a sort of inverted T. Exactly where you position the wider part will depend on your exact shape so try on jackets that stop on the waist, stop at top of hip, stop at thigh and half-close your eyes to see which silhouette looks best. Joni x

    1. Author

      So happy you find the blog interesting Jenna. Thanks for the nice comment. Joni x

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