Whether boxy and ladylike, tied at the waist, or sexy and midriff-baring, there’s no getting around it: Fashion right now is all about the crop top. The particular style, which hasn’t been popular since the 1990s, is enjoying a serious comeback, although it remains a polarizing sartorial choice for women—some of whom are applauding the crop top’s versatility, while others are having a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of showing their midsection in any way.
Peruse recent street style photos and everyone from model Hanneli Mustaparta to casting agent Natalie Joos seem to be on board with crop tops. Take a stroll through a department store, and the item is displayed prominently, having been produced by everyone from Derek Lam to Carolina Herrera. Celebrities from Emma Watson to Kristen Stewart have worn them on the red carpet.
“I’ve always loved the elongating effect of long and lean pants and skirts, paired with cropped jackets, blouses and shells,” designer Lyn Devon said of the crop top. Devon showed both boxy crop tops with short sleeves and sleeveless crop tops in her Spring 2014 collection—all with a ladylike sensibility. “The bottoms must be high-waisted because we don’t want to bare our midriffs,” she said of her take on the trend.
To be sure, today’s version of the crop top is a departure from those favored by Britney Spears at the start of her career, and are more about creating an elegant silhouette than showing as much skin as possible. Retailers are pushing the item as something for the everywoman—a strategy that seems to be working. Both Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor have reported that the item is one of their top sellers in their contemporary departments.
Still, the item remains divisive—showing off your midsection isn’t necessarily the easiest fad to embrace, but there are a surprising amount of fervent advocates.
“So what if you’re not particularly proud of your stomach? Fake it,” fashion blogger Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller said.
Stylist and public relations consultant Nneya Richards attests to wearing a crop top four to five times a week favoring brands like Alexander Wang and Tibi. “I really do love crop tops,” Richards said. “I wear them with either a full skirt, or high-waisted pants, and they show off just the right amount of skin. They can be both sexy and classy.”
Richards, who is petite, is quick to point out that the trend is actually flattering for her body type. “I was never a big fan of the long tank trend.”
“I totally think a lot of women can wear one,” Sara Pashmforoosh, a New York City-based architect shared. “It shows off the narrowest part of you waist. Why do you think Kim Kardashian is always wearing one?” Pashmforoosh favors styles by Reformation and Isabel Marant and wears them with everything from jeans to pencil skirts. Her one crop top no-no: “I don’t believe in showing off my belly button.”
Not all women feel up to wearing crop tops though, all too apparent when actress Mindy Kaling sported a high-waisted pencil skirt and crop top to an event, and was quickly called “courageous” by the press, all because she isn’t a typical Hollywood size zero.
She responded on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” saying: “I am the recipient of a lot of backhanded compliments about it, where people are like, ‘It’s so nice that Mindy Kaling doesn’t feel she needs to subscribe to the ideals of beauty that other people do.’ And I’m like, ‘I do subscribe!’…Some people were pretty mean about it, but then some people were like, ‘She’s just so courageous!’ Aren’t surgeons courageous?”
It isn’t just body issues preventing women from scooping up crop tops—some simply aren’t ready to embrace showing off that much skin.
When Augusta Falletta—an editor at StyleCaster’s sister site Beauty High—needed a new outfit for a recent birthday party, she scooped up a sweater crop top at Urban Outfitters.
“I thought, you know what, I’ve been hearing about these, let me just get one,” she said. Still, Falletta wasn’t sold that crop tops are for her. “All night at this party—and it was like a grandma crop top, it was a sweater—I just felt like I was being way too revealing. You know when you feel like people are looking at you in a piece of meat kind of way? That’s how I felt.”
If anyone should be proud to show off her stomach it is celebrity workout guru Tracy Anderson, who herself is no stranger to the crop top (Anderson recently wowed on the red carpet in a short red top and jeans combo). “I think it’s really sexy when there’s the opportunity to show a little something while covering up the more obvious bits,” Anderson said. “It’s also more flattering than I think many women would think.”
As for Anderson’s advice to women who might be ready to go cropped: “Personally I like a woman’s stomach to look like a woman’s stomach … It’s just about balance and proportion, not about getting ripped.” No surprise, some of Anderson’s most famous devotees, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, are also crop top enthusiasts.
So, where do you stand on the crop top debate? Are you a fan or are you ready to see them fade away for another decade or so? Weigh in below!