One of my all-time favourite films, fashion-wise, is 2008’s The Edge of Love in which Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller, portraying poet and writer Dylan Thomas’s lover and wife respectively, prance around on windswept Welsh beaches in wellies, dresses and knitwear. They are the perfect advert for an artfully cobbled together boho wardrobe that works 365 days a year, add or subtract a layer or three.
Now the specifics are a bit foggy, but if there’s one item I bet appears in the film, layered over a floral tea dress and, at times, under a big wool coat, it’s a knitted tank top.
We don’t yet seem to have landed on a definitive name for the knitted tank, which is alternatively called a sweater vest (a name that may conjure images of Chandler in Friends, who was endlessly teased for his penchant; though the US definition means his are more waistcoat than tank), or a sleeveless jumper, but whichever moniker you prefer, it’s having a moment.
Why now? It doesn’t always seem like it, but I think we are all becoming smarter with our shopping choices, and the tank has the ability to suddenly pull lots of other options together.
This year, in particular, there’s a feeling that we don’t want to let go of summer too soon, so extending the life of your favourite frocks with a cosy tank is a soothing solution – look to the Insta feed of Bethany Rowntree, founder of boutique etailer Studio B, or the Dior Cruise catwalk for styling inspiration. The sweater vest offers useful in- between warmth for those times when a full-on jumper is too much, but you need a bit more than a shirt or T-shirt.
Don’t assume that this is a look reserved for the Edge of Love impersonators among us, either. On the catwalks there have been variants for everyone: at Cecilie Bahnsen, homespun tanks were layered over jacquard dresses and paired with trainers to grungy high/low effect; at Fendi, Bella Hadid showcased a sleeveless argyle knit, modernised with wide-legged leather trousers (add a white shirt for back-to-office impact) and at Jil Sander, a slouchy cream knit was worn with a long white skirt for a minimalist approach to the look.
If you’ve invested in one of this summer’s Zoom-ready statement blouses, then a Fair Isle tank à la Brora is the way to transport it into autumn – frilled or oversized collars look excellent poking out from the neckline, while puffed sleeves become extra dramatic if they explode from a neat knit. The only thing missing is that Welsh beach.