If I had to pick one outstanding trend from last summer, it would be the crop top. With all of the 90s nostalgia trending right now, it was unavoidable that the crop would make a comeback. Of course, today’s modern take on this look has its own distinct flair, and the crop top has been popular for much longer than the 1990s.
The crop top had a long time to emerge in the West, partially due to the colder environment and partly due to Western fashion history’s notoriously puritanical dress code. Until recently, European and American women’s designs were frequently designed to cover and constrain as much of the body as possible.
However, it was a different scenario in several sections of the East. It didn’t make sense to cover up so much because the weather was generally warmer. In India, for example, the traditional sari is usually worn with a short top underneath called a choli. This look has been around for hundreds of years and is still worn with saris today.
The midriff-baring garments worn for belly dance are also from the East. It is difficult to pinpoint the actual roots of the garment because it evolved over time and different regions such as Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia had their own fashions.
Eventually, a look known as the Goddiva would gain popularity, at least among Westerners. The Goddiva wore a two-piece outfit that exposed her midriff for the purpose of dancing. Belly dancers performed at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, introducing the Goddiva and the crop top concept to the West.
While the crop top appeared appealing, it would be some decades before it became popular among Westerners. For a time, it was seen too “foreign” and revealing to be included into their styles, and unlike in the East, there was no demand for it.
This would change by the 1940s, at least in terms of necessity. Many things, including fabric, were rationed during WWII. In order to conserve raw materials, clothing designs had to be far more inventive. Apparel designers took advantage of the opportunity to show off some skin, and slicing off the bottom half of a shirt was an easy yet attractive answer.
The crop top became a signature look of the 1940s. This style had a high collar, short sleeves, and was typically paired with high-waisted midi skirts. This combination established the famous hourglass form of the time. It was ideal for summer vacations because it appeared stylish while being casual.
However, like with most new fashion fads, the crop top was not universally embraced. Many people nevertheless thought the dress was far too exposing. In 1945, a woman was punished for wearing shorts with a halter-top in Central Park.
Fortunately, the bulk of society was enlightened enough not to completely outlaw the garment. This dressier, more conservative (by today’s standards) crop top style was popular throughout the 1950s. The crop was a fringe fashion of the 1960s, sometimes cut in the peasant blouse style prevalent in hippie culture, or as a collared shirt fastened in the front.
Crop tops made a resurgence in the late 1970s, albeit in a totally different fashion. The hemline of the garment began to increase, but the bottoms with which it was paired were cut lower. Crop tops became a glamorous sex symbol, worn by celebrities such as Cher. Its popularity grew, and by the 1980s, the top had become the trend we know and love, and are currently attempting to mimic.
The crop top would be in vogue for the next two decades. The crop was ideal for displaying a toned body and sportswear, which were popular in the 1980s. A cropped sweater coupled with a leotard or tank is a classic 80’s outfit. Madonna favoured the style, which she incorporated into her characteristic appearance. The crop top was popular on the silver screen at the time, and it was worn by many renowned movie characters, including Baby from Dirty Dancing.
The crop top remained popular in pop culture throughout the 1990s. Low-rise jeans paired with “belly shirts” were popular, particularly in music and on television. Tops were regularly worn by pop stars such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the Spice Girls.
Cropped shirts dropped out of favour in the early 2000s, but they have made a strong comeback in recent seasons. While current trends harken back to the 1990s, the present aesthetic is more subtle. Pairing a crop top with a high waist is also popular, harkening back to the 1940s and 1950s and providing a wonderful blend of fashion eras.
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