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What is a Halter Top?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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A halter top is a women's garment which uses a halter style neckline, involving a single strap around the neck, rather than two straps or sleeves over the shoulders. The design exposes a large area of the upper back and shoulder blades, and is generally worn during warm weather. This type of top is also considered to be a somewhat provocative garment, because of the large amount of skin which is exposed. A variety of materials can be used to make these tops.

The halter neck style is very popular for women's tops and dresses. The strap around the neck can be attached in a number of ways. Frequently, a halter neck is tied, but the strap can also be snapped or simply slipped over the head. The straps support the weight of the breasts. This is important for women who do not wear a bra with a halter top, since the straps of the bra would show. On tops designed for women with larger busts, the top may have additional reinforcement.

If choosing to wear a bra with a halter top, the bra is usually strapless. Women may find it helpful to bring a halter top along to a lingerie store while they try on bras, to determine whether or not they will work with tops of this design.

Materials used for this type of top are often stretchy, to allow for freedom of movement. Knits are the most common choice, usually from a natural fiber like cotton. Woven cotton halter tops are designed for more formal occasions, and synthetic fibers can also be used to create a desired look. Crochet and lace tops are worn by more daring women, and some knitters make their own for a custom fit.

The halter dress is a favorite variation on the halter top. Halter dresses can be full length formal gowns, or more casual knee length summer frocks designed for casual wear. A variety of cuts and waistlines are available to flatter various figures. Sashes and other accessories are sometimes sold with a halter dress as well.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SkittisH — On Jun 22, 2011

@gimbell - Wow, gelly straps -- I didn't even think of that! I get uncomfortable with my nipples showing in camisoles, including my halter tops, so I've been using some of those silly little nipple covering things you can buy at Wal-Mart.

You know, they're shaped like little flowers and you stick them right over the center of your boob just to smooth over the nipple area?

It feels kind of weird to be this self conscious, but I feel like if my nipples show people will assume I'm going braless, while if they're covered up, even if I don't look like I'm wearing a bra otherwise people won't judge. Silly, I know.

One other thing I experimented with to wear a halter top before was one of those self adhesive bras that stick on then strap together in the middle to create cleavage. It advertised itself as a way to wear halter tops, even.

When I wore it for a day, it stayed in place, but felt like I had glued something to my chest. The results looked pretty nice, but it wasn't very comfortable at all, and because it just pulled things together instead of pushing them up, it had zero support. The little nipple cover things don't provide any support, either.

Those days are over, though -- I'm going to give your gelly strap and convertible bra idea a try very soon. Thank you for posting this -- I was having to limit my halter top wear, but no more of that!

By VivAnne — On Jun 20, 2011

@yumdelish - Your sister and I have something in common! We're both plus sized, and we both love halter tops. My favorite is a black halter top that ties in front of the neck as well as behind.

There are two straps across the chest area. The little bows on my chest pulls the main straps that go behind my neck inward to create a nice round frame for cleavage -- playing up the good bits, as you said.

I've never had any trouble getting guys to focus there instead of on my waist, which isn't very skinny at all. I've tried to lose weight over the years, and I wouldn't mind being smaller, but honestly having a stick-thin frame doesn't sound at all appealing.

Have you seen models in fashion magazines these days? They have their bones sticking out, no bust lines, and butts like little boys! I'll take confidently curvy any time, and my black halter top shows that I'm not ashamed of the size and shape that I am.

And for people who think halter tops are just for skinny girls with small chests, think again. I always feel sexier when I dress how I want to -- no hiding under baggy clothes or thinking I'm too plus sized to do my hair up nice and wear great make up like some girls I know!

By hanley79 — On Jun 18, 2011

@Acracadabra - Don't give up on the halter top! As you found out, a lot of the halter top style shirts out there are very form fitting. This is probably due to the association that people have with halter tops being provocative.

They don't have to be provocative, though. In fact, they don't have to be shirts! One of the cutest and most accessible forms of halter top clothing that I've ever worn has been my halter top prom dress.

Many sun dresses are also designed with halter tops, because the exposed back and shoulders helps to get a nice tan without creating tan lines on your shoulders from straps. It also looks very summery and feminine.

Halter top dress skirts come in a variety of styles, and here is where you come in. If you are smaller chested and plus-sized, an empire waist halter top would be perfect for you.

Empire waist lines are placed just below the bust, which enhances the appearance of the size of your bust, while the loose skirt below covers up any problem weight areas such as large hips or a not so slender waist.

Finally, empire waist style is associated with cute fashion rather than slinky fashion. If you want cute, you've got it.

By Malka — On Jun 17, 2011

@Valencia - It sounds like what you need is a halter top with a sewn-in bra. I've had a pink halter top I got at Goodwill for a couple of years now that had bra pads sewn into it like some swimsuits I have had over the years, and so when I wear that shirt a bra isn't necessary.

One thing to keep in mind when you choose to wear halter tops is that the only straps for support will be hanging around your neck rather than your shoulders. For a well-endowed woman, this can cause shoulder pain. It can also cause a "cutting into the skin" feeling if all of the weight is placed on a very thin strap.

To prevent shoulder pain or any feeling of the fabric cutting into you, avoid halter tops with cord or string style straps and stick to one with wider straps. Just like the rules for choosing a bra when you are well-endowed, right?

For the well-endowed and just plain busty of us ladies out there, halter tops might seem like a style that isn't accessible, but if you love the style you should ignore what others think and dress to express yourself!

By gimbell — On Jun 15, 2011

@mabeT - I agree, wearing strapless bras constantly can get really uncomfortable, and ultimately they don't offer as much support as a regular bra anyway.

I am pretty small-chested, and my favorite halter-tops have always had an elastic band built in to make them into camisoles. Then one day I found this lovely silk halter top that I couldn't pass up. It had a built in camisole band, but the thin silk fabric sometimes made me feel self-conscious with how every little bit of my shape was visible beneath the thin layers.

That's when I tried wearing strapless bras beneath my halter tops, too. Just like you found out, it works fine at first, but it's not practical to wear them constantly. I took matters into0 my own hands at that point.

I bought a convertible bra with removable straps. I removed the straps, and then added on some of those clear gel straps that are sold to help hold up strapless dresses, and bingo: I could wear my halter top with the illusion of no bra, while still wearing a bra complete with support and straps!

Give it a try, it's quick and easy to put gel straps onto the bra and it looks great. Just make sure not to wash the bra with the straps on -- they're plastic-like material, and may melt.

By yumdelish — On Jun 15, 2011

My sister wears plus size clothes and she bought a lovely red halter top online. It's empire style, which she likes because it hides her stomach. The last thing you want is clingy material or close cut styles.

I think dressing a curvy body calls for confidence to make the most of what you have and highlighting the bits you are proud of.

By Acracadabra — On Jun 15, 2011

I don't have a very large chest so I could easily wear a halter top, but I would need to buy something in a plus size range. Everything I've seen in this style has been quite fitted, which is a disaster for me.

Should I give up on ever being able to wear cute halter tops?

By Valencia — On Jun 15, 2011

@mabeT - I have a really cute white halter top that I wear with a cotton shrug for evenings out. That's the only way I can get away with this style these days as I have a similar problem to you.

By Agni3 — On Jun 15, 2011

Did you know that halter tops are incredibly easy to make? Now, working with a stretchy knit fabric is not that easy a task, but making a halter out of other kinds of fabric is actually quite simple.

All that it takes is a piece of fabric that has been fitted around the wearer’s torso. This gives a custom sort of fit. So, those who need or want a little more room can get this easily enough.

Then, either take fabric that has been hemmed on either side (to avoid fraying) or even wide ribbon and sew it at equal intervals from the center of the front. This is normally going to be right over the center of each breast, and will vary according to the size of the woman.

Voila! There you have your very own custom made ladies halter top. Just do a little hemming and stitching to polish it off and you are done!

By mabeT — On Jun 15, 2011

I’m a coastal girl and I have always loved to wear halters during the summer. However, as I get older this is becoming a bit more difficult.

It’s really not very practical to wear a strapless bra on a regular basis. It doesn’t really seem to be helping as much as it is making me uncomfortable. But, I am at a point where a bra is quite necessary if embarrassment is to be avoided.

I have tried convertible bras as well, but these seem to give me a headache. I am fairly well endowed, or at least decently endowed, so maybe this is the source of the headaches when I where that type of bra.

Are my halter top shirt days really over? Is gravity really forcing me to move into a stage of life where my beloved halters are off limits? Rue the day!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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