The Tunic

It may feel like the tunic has been around since the dawn of time – and it kind of has. Here’s a brief history lesson and some tips on how to style it for our day and age.

The tunic is one of few garments that have been around since the first famous human civilizations. It was a part of both the Roman, Greek and Maya attire, and was an important garment during the Middle Ages. However, in those times the garment was primarily made for men and came knee-length with a waist belt.  

The tunic is a really old item, we know that, so let’s skip the next thousand-something years and land in the 20th century when it first claimed its place as a modern fashion item. With movements for women’s rights and free love beginning in America and Europe in the 1950s, loose and unusually shaped garments began replacing the less comfortable clothes that had been in style previous decades. It was during this time that legendary designer and master couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga began experimenting with shapes – and the tunic became an item on people’s lips. Balenciaga created the tunic dress and shortly after Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Balmain and other couture houses began making modern updates to the ancient garment. These late 50's and early 60's versions often came in thick woollen materials – contrary to the sheer tunics with floral maxi-prints that blew up in the 70s. 

1970s-inspired clothing is the biggest trend this spring and the tunic is, just like the flared trousers, yeti-jacket and maxi-dress, a key item. Defining parameters for a tunic can be a bit tricky to keep separate from those of the mini-dress, but we’ve put together some keywords: The tunic is a loose-fitting shirt that covers the hips with long sleeves, commonly made from light materials – but that’s no must. 

H&M Life stylist Columbine Smille styled this very clean-cut tunic in the simplest way: by itself. This is a perfect look for a warm day in the city or at the beach day on a summer day. If the weather isn’t allowing wearing the tunic by itself, we love to match it with a pair of jeans.

“It seems the 70's trend is here to stay and the tunic will definitely be in style for more than one season. Therefore I would recommend wearing a clean-cut version in a sheer material – in a colour from the light end of the palette.”


Photographer Tobias Lundkvist’s favourite items are the classics: a black t-shirt and Chuck Taylors. Stylist Columbine Smille’s favourite item is the perfect black silk dress. Our model is the lovely Chiharu Okunugi. Hair by Mette Thorsgaard and makeup by Josefin Scherdin.

Classic tunics on Princess Diana, a pregnant Meryl Streep, Brittish models Caroline Munro, Nikki Ross and Lula, actress Joanna Lumley, the Olsen twins, Swedish Bond girl Britt Ekland and Erykah Badu, Getty Images.