Monday, 5 January 2015

Crop Tops, and Other Small Things

Oh crop tops, oh crop tops, wherefore art thou crop tops? is a question Juliet probably never considered – too busy mooning over Romeo and making some very rash decisions. That and the fact that she was a fictional character situated in a century not really notable for midriff flashing or belly button showing off.  

Of course it’s a common misconception that ‘wherefore art thou Romeo’ means ‘where are you Romeo?’ – where it’s actually asking ‘why are you?’ or ‘why do you have to be Romeo?’ Substitute the name of a great tragic character for an item of clothing made from a scant amount of fabric though, and you can summarise the difference between two groups of people. The first are thinking “where are the crop tops? Let me get my hands on’em!” and the second group, myself included are slightly more inclined towards the “Whyyy are all these tops cropped? Do they have to be cropped? Where’s the rest of it? That looks chilly!” kind of approach.

I talk from pure, individual subjectivity here. I don’t really wear crop tops myself because they're designed to show an area of my body I’m more self-conscious about – the residual after-effects of scoliosis having left me with a more prominent rib cage than necessary. Of course, no one else might notice. But that’s why it’s called ‘self-consciousness’ – an aspect I’m aware of and feel dissatisfied by that few else would register.

However, I remain fascinated by the ‘comeback’ of crop tops. How have they so quickly become one of the go-to items, whether the activity is clubbing, exercising, going on holiday, hanging out in the office, or pretending you’re an extra in Clueless?

Perhaps one could point to how an item that was first the preserve of a handful of designers circa 2012 and 2013 then filtered down (as is always the case) to every high street chain going. What begins with Marc Jacobs ends up in Marks and Spencer, if you give it enough time.

Then there’s the well-established resurgence of the nineties, in all its jelly-shoed, spaghetti-strapped, backpack-toting regalia. It was a decade where crop tops were the staple of popstars, models and adolescents alike. Think grunge, think Britney Spears, think teen movies, think the Spice Girls, think Rachel from Friends (and then think of lots of other things too, because I didn't have time to collate a more comprehensive list…)

But first, a quick history for the uninitiated. Having first turned up in the forties and fifties, often to rather glorious, tailored aplomb, and adopted by more self-professed alternative communities in the sixties and seventies, the crop top hit the big time in the eighties – zest for exercise translating into items of clothing that could show off carefully toned muscles.

In plenty of ways, I think what we’re seeing now is – if I simplify it vastly - a mix of nineties aesthetic with eighties ethos. Often, crop tops today seem to have a kind of symbolic value. In a society obsessed with skinniness and body size and just how the Victoria’s Secret Angels got ready for striding up and down a catwalk wearing very little, is it any surprise crop tops are selling like (rather undersized) hot cakes? They’re a clever little item of clothing, a kind of social currency, a means of showing off your figure and/or proving that you’ve been racking up the crunches, gym sessions and green juice intake.  

Or maybe I’m over-thinking the whole thing, and they’re just worn because people enjoy them and want to have fun. Who knows? 

I wanted to wrap up this ending by making some very clever link between Romeo and Juliet, and Clare Danes – hoping that perhaps the 1996 version of the film had let a sneaky crop top pop up somewhere, so allowing me to suggest some marvelous circularity. Unfortunately, these hopes were in vain (although Danes did wear plenty of them throughout the nineties). However, do you know who does show off a fabulously impressive amount of flesh in the Baz Luhrmann adaptation? Mercutio – in a rather dazzling bralet. Look it up, if you're not already familiar. It’s quite something.

Here I'm wearing a cropped turtle neck top I nicked from my mum. I actually put it on for warmth underneath something else, then realised it would be interesting to shoot by itself. But what a palaver finding the accompanying outfit - skirt after skirt tried on and cast off again, deemed too unflattering or not quite right. Eventually I returned to the very first one I'd picked out, a leather skirt recently bought from a charity shop, then paired with heels from eBay and a vintage satin evening coat. And, of course, the photos chosen here have been carefully selected according to the merit of how they make me look. They're mainly the ones where I was breathing in lots, holding all my (very undeveloped) muscles in place. Note how in some of them my waist looks smaller - the black fabric of the sleeves creating an illusion of another shape that isn't mine. I include both those points for a reason, because I feel I should be questioning my own measure of 'flattering' - because in my head, that word is still mainly synonymous with 'looking slender', as silly, silly, silly as that is. 



Vix said...

You look stunning, that emerald green coat is something else.
I like a crop top 'cos it reminds me of Bollywood heroines and it seems a crime to do sit ups and not to show my abs off! xxx

Hannah McManus said...

Such an interesting post! It's quite entertaining to think about the way fashions come and go. Your coat is a brilliant colour too! Hope you have a lovely evening :)
Hannah x

Ivana Split said...

I didn't know about this misconception, that people think Juliet is saying where are you Romeo, because that really makes no people really don't know the meaning of 'wherefore'? I mean it's not that archaic.

Anyhow, I love cropped top as long as they are paired with high rise pants/skirts/shorts etc. I think that way they're a lot more flattering...and if done right they can look surprisingly sophisticated and elegant. I do like the fun versions too, but seeing a cropped top in a very lady like outfit fascinates me so!

I must admit it never occurred to me to wear cropped tops in this season...I never been good with enduring cold and I rely heavily on layering as soon as the weather gets Autumn or Winter like.

So, avoiding them's more a practical option for me, not so much feeling self conscious...but I did noticed today that my abs disappeared..must be because I've been sick and lost some weight lately.

Sure cropped tops remind me of the nineties and I'm fascinated how little time it took them to get to the status they used to have...and become all present really...just like they've been in the nineties.

Your outfit is quite gorgeous.I absolutely love the leather skirt...and the emerald green is always fabulous.

Another thing I really like are the accessories...the brooch and the necklace.

p.s. I think we all select the photographs that we find the most flattering...but occasionally I also like to select some that are not so flattering, just to remind myself that perfection is relative.

Faye said...

I love crop tops in the summer, which is probably weird when my belly and hips area is generally an area of myself that I hate and desperately try and cover up any other time. I'm neither thin nor toned, but I find that with a crop top it's high enough on the ribcage that with a good skirt it feels like it takes inches off me. I always love seeing the variety of girls that sport crop tops too, they seem to suit every body type and suggest a certain body confidence which is no doubt part of their wide appeal.
I applaud you for braving it in the current climate! I love how you've paired it with the green, you look stunning (as always!)

Melanie said...

Oh my dear, you just paint on your ab muscles and add highlighter to the shadowy bits and ta-dah! Stomach cosmetics I think they're called. Forget the green juice (ha!). I think you look beautiful in this crop top and your other pickings. I especially like the incongruity of the turtleneck and long sleeves whilst baring the midriff. I have a similar cropper which I love and lost in my clothes heap.

mariafelicia magno said...

stunning outfit..your emerald coat is fab

Sofie Marie said...

Great thoughtful piece, have to admit crop tops are not something I've thought much about- though I did wonder why this new sort of 'sporty indie' aesthetic has rised up recently? Maybe some a mixture of what you've talked about. I spose it's also a great piece to wear 'radically', a way to fuck with skinny standards if you wanted. I also think the crop top layered over another top is an interesting look.

Also you look fab as always! :)


Emma Corbin-Mckenzie said...

what a fantastic post. really witty and charming. love it! i am one of the same mind. I'm slightly bigger busted and recently tried a crop top on and looked ridiculous ha! nothing like my much more smaller sized friends. suit some and not others /9me!).

have a wonderful new year!

ps you look great too!


Pilgrim at Kerjacob said...

Prefer the crop top OVER another - you are so elegant but I find the skin detracts from the elegance - the eyes go there not on the whole form.
Maybe it's just me being an older fan of yours but there you go.

Josefine said...

Wonderful post! I think the green coat is really stunning and shiny in a good way.

Also, I like your thoughts on crop tops. I think they can look nice (you definitely look nice wearing the on in the post!) on most people but personally I just feel like I've put on a too small top..

I think it's interesting that crop tops are getting popular again, but then it isn't really a surprise when you think about this constant 90's nostalgia like sport socks, the colours and sometimes all the plastic fantastic stuff.

Jess said...

I love how crop tops were worn in the 1950s with a midi skirt or pair of shorts but I'm not yet brave enough to try them! Gorgeous photos, as usual!

Sarah Bartholomew said...

Visually stunning. Love that emerald shade of green
xx Sarah

Alex Banner said...

Looks awesome! Modern and vintage-looking at the same time, awesome...

Lola Byatt said...

haha I do remember mercutio wearing the bralet! I do absolutely LOVE this look on you, I have seen a few people in the cropped turtle neck and it always looks so (for lack of a better word) chic. I am yet to find one that suits. I'm sure the right one for me is around, somewhere. I'll be sure to cry out "did my heart love till now?" when I do finally manage to locate one that is perfect for me

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

hahaha I find this post really funny because I am actually really happy with the crop-top fever.
I don't have a define waist so I like the combination of crop top and high-waisted skirt, it makes my waist look more stylized.

But I agree with you about the cost of these pieces (by the way, I think the same about underwear). When I see minimalistic pieces of clothes with prices that seem to be value of gold per kilo (hehehe such a bad joke) I get mad.
But in the other hand, the good thing about the crop tops is that you can make them your self in half a minute :) Eventually I transformed all my t-shirts that were, in my opinion, undefined at the bottom area (or i didn't like how they did look on my body) I took the scissors and....ZAP.... a new crop top in my wardrobe!!!!

well well I talk a lot ...

Kisses dear Rosalind!

Willow said...

You are just the epitome of elegance here. Love these shots; with the wintery light, damp road, dark foliage, and black ensemble with that striking shimmer of green - just so stunning.
I really enjoyed this clever analysis, especially the Shakespeare analogy! I only really have crop tops for wearing underneath other things. I do like the look of them with high-waisted skirts/pants but have yet to own a crop top that suits anything I own! I'm sorry you feel insecure about your midriff, I know you said that these were carefully selected pictures/purposeful poses, but I still think you have a beautiful figure. I hope you overcome that self-consciousness.

Beautiful post on Christmas and I loved your New Year's article - such a brilliant piece of writing. What you said about resolutions is something I've been thinking about myself, and I really like that you make your resolutions throughout the year - really great point.

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