Style Trial: Cropped tops

Girl in white crop top vest

Cropped tops: they let you crop it like it’s hot. Apparently. (Get this one at ASOS)

Who loves cropped tops?

Judging by the responses we’ve had when we’ve asked this question in the past, the answer to that question would be NO ONE. NO ONE loves cropped tops: or not anyone we’ve met, anyway. Someone out there must absolutely love them, though, because, once again, our officers have noticed a dramatic upswing in crop top sightings: in fact, we’re starting to think we might need some kind of special ops task force in order to deal with it.

Cropped tops, of course, are one of those things that come in and out of fashion fairly often: about as often as 80s fashion does, come to think of it. That’s not surprising: they were a mainstay of the 80s look (We blame Madonna. For most things relating to 80s fashion, actually), so naturally they’d be a mainstay of all of those 80s-inspired collections which just WILL NOT DIE, no matter how often we keep arresting them.

Now, we know many of our readers are big fans of 80s fashion. Would you ever wear a crop top, though? Let’s take a look at the evidence…

Collection of cropped tops from Mickey to Polka dots

Cropped tops: all available at Topshop

Why do people hate cropped tops?

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to be able to work out why lots of people dislike cropped tops. For one thing, they require better abdominal muscles than most of us are prepared to spend the time acquiring. We’d like to think that, when it comes to fashion, anyONEcan wear anyTHING, regardless of their bodyshape, but that’s not always the case.  The fact is that cropped tops put a whole lot more flesh on display than your average top:  that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need the “perfect” body to wear one, but it does mean you’ll have to have a body that you’re confident enough to put on display. Either that, or the ability to suck in your abs for long periods at a time…

For another thing, they’re not exactly the most versatile items of clothing around. Sure, there are ways to layer them to make them a little more appropriate for certain things, but for the most part, they’re the kind of thing that will work only in the most informal situations. They’re also a very YOUTHFUL look. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, obviously – especially if YOU happen to be very youthful too. While we’ve never been big fans of the so-called “rules” surrounding age-appropriate dressing, however, we can’t deny that cropped tops create a very “young” look, and one that can sometimes be downright juvenile, depending on the top itself. (We’re looking in particular at the Mickey Mouse and “yes!” tops in the image above here…)

All of this makes for pretty problematic dressing. They’re just not the easiest of things for most of us to wear. But can cropped tops be worn in a grown-up, flattering kind of way, we wonder?

How to wear cropped tops – if you REALLY want to

This may come as a shock, but we do actually think there are ways to wear cropped tops without looking like you’re en route to an 80s fancy dress party. This isn’t the way:

Woman in stripy crop top and denim shorts

Missguided. (That’s the name of the store, by the way, not our assessment of the look. Although that too.)

This, however:

Woman in black crop top with black skirt

…is getting a little closer. This image is from River Island , and the outfit on the right, although not necessarily something you’d want to wear to work, say, is a lot more sophisticated than the typical “disco pants and neon” look that so often seems to accompany the cropped top. To make the look more wearable, we recommend…

1. Choosing a longer-length top

All cropped tops are not created equally. The ones in the collage above will all hit just under the bottom of your bra, which is a hard length to wear. Something like this one, however, which is also from Topshop, will hit nearer the belly-button, and while that won’t exactly make it EASY to wear, it’ll certainly be easiER, especially when combined with step two…

long sleeved cropped tops

2. Wear it with high-waisted bottoms

This might seem counter-productive, but the aim here is to make the gap between waistband and crop-top small enough that you’re exposing just a hint of flesh, as opposed to a handful. Actually, the combination of short top and high-waist can be surprisingly flattering, especially on hourglass figures, where the shorter top will really help to define the waist.

3. Go for long sleeves and/or high necks

As with the “boobs or legs” rule, if you’re going to be exposing your stomach, you might want to consider keeping the rest of your look a little more covered up. In the River Island look shown above, for instance, the model is actually a lot more covered up than she might be in a dress which covered her stomach, but the overall look is still “sexy” thanks to the figure-hugging shape and exposed waist.

With all of this said, however, cropped tops are always going to be the kind of thing many people just won’t want to wear – and for good reason. If that sounds like you, the good news is there are so many other options out there for you to never need to give crop tops another thought. Before you forget about them completely, though, we want to know:

What do you think of cropped tops? Would you wear one, and if so, how?


  • February 4, 2013


    It’s a fashion crime to most people. The only ways you can wear it, in my modest opinion, are:

    – You’re under 25 or you’re someone like Gwen Stefani.
    – You have an amazing belly.

    If you don’t fit this rules, don’t use it. Maybe you can layer it and use a tank top underneath, but no.
    Personally I wouldn’t wear it. I don’t have abs and I only find this tops aesthetically appealing in women who are fit (and as fit I mean with some weight, but with muscles, because extremelly skinny people look weird with these tops.)

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  • February 5, 2013


    If you don’t have abs like Claudia Black, don’t.

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  • February 5, 2013


    I like crop tops– but I guess I’m in the minority, because I’m still a teenager and I’m a dancer. I’m relatively confident about my belly, I have to wear revealing clothing all the time in dance class anyways, so I’m used to it.

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  • February 6, 2013


    Were I live is pretty hot all year round so I have a couple crop tops (loose) that I wear over sleeveless (long but fitted) shirts and tops to have some layers without sweating to death or to cover up if it gets a little cool I also like them with high waisted skirts, they can dress them down a little. But I’m a dancer and that requires me to wear pretty casual clothes pretty much all the time wich is so SO sad 🙁

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  • February 10, 2013


    I don’t have nice abs by any means, but I’m fine wearing them with something high waisted. (I am only 20, though) I think anyone can wear one if they’re confident enough about their abs.

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  • June 1, 2013


    I think its a cute look and a good alternative to havIng ur boobs hanging out. I wear them often and don’t follow the rule that only a peak of skin should show. I let my belly button hang out n it amazes me how many women young and old just glare @ me. None of my crop tops are low cut n I always wear a long skirt or pants n it still seems I’m some how offending them. Its funny too because most of them are showing a lot of leg or cleavage so exactly what’s the difference? The fact their only confident n their chest? Well I’m confident in my midriff so deal with it 🙂

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