Oversized Top

AKA: big shirt, boyfriend shirt

How to say it:  oh-ver-sahyzd

Traditional Features: 

Oversized Shirt



  • any style of top that has intentionally oversized features – e.g. dropped shoulder seams, extended length, wide through the body, long or wide sleeves, big collar, enlarged buttons and pockets
  • can have some or all of these features, but should have more than one to classify as an oversized garment


…of the style: Women have been wearing oversized garments as fashion since at least the 1920s. During this period the post-war fashion aesthetic markedly changed women’s fashion from corsets and hobble skirts to shapeless, oversized garments which were infinitely more comfortable and less containing than the pre-war designs.

Since then the intentional oversizing of clothing has popped up in women’s fashion in one way or another in every decade – even through the depression and WWII when women had to be particularly inventive with fabrics and cuts to create their desired look. However, the oversized top reach the height of its popularity until the 1990s thanks to the Hip-Hop movement.

The oversized top was a definite part of the Hip-Hip culture uniform and there are several theories as to how it came about – one source said that it started in the poorer neighbourhoods in the areas from which the Hip-Hop movement originated. Families in these areas often didn’t have enough money to buy new clothes for their children and so the younger kids ended up wearing pass-me-down clothing that was too big for them. This, apparently, turned into the oversized, baggy look of Hip-Hop. Another theory is that it started in the Los Angeles County Jail. Apparently the inmates were given prison uniforms that were too big and when they were released they continued wearing oversized clothing, bringing the look to the streets of LA.

Wherever it came from, the oversized style was embraced by Hip-Hop artists, and in turn flowed down to the fans who wanted to emulate their favourite rappers and MCs, and to those who identified with the Hip-Hop culture. As the popularity of hip-hop spread, so did the trend and by the end of the 20th century oversized clothing was so popular that it was being worn by men and women outside of the Hip-Hop movement, and influencing high-end designers.

The oversized top all but disappeared from mainstream women’s fashion in the early 2000s, but has recently been revived in the form of the Boyfriend shirt. Boyfriend clothing is, not surprisingly, inspired by men’s clothing and is designed to be oversized whilst still being flattering to the female form. The introduction of the trend is attributed to Katie Holmes, who literally took a pair of her husbands jeans (Tom Cruise) and wore them whilst in New York in 2009. Other female celebrities followed suit and boyfriend inspired shirts, top, blazers and jeans were soon hitting the high-street fast fashion outlets like H&M and Forever 21. By 2012 high-end designers were featuring boyfriend clothing in their collections and the comfort and ease-of-wear of boyfriend or oversized clothing has kept the trend alive to the current day.

…of the name: This style of top is intentionally oversized, hence the name.

For more info on Oversized clothing try here, here, here, here, here or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

21st Century Oversized Tops

The oversized tops on the market today come in all shapes and sizes, but they are all carefully designed to give the oversized look without overwhelming or completely hiding the female figure. A lot of designs oversize certain features of the top, while keeping other parts a regular size to ensure balance and that the wearer does not become lost in the garment.

asos calvin klein collection

ASOS, Calvin Klein Collection

rick owens giambatista valli

Rick Owens, Giambattista Valli


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