By Nancy McKeon and Janet Kelly
THE HEADLINE in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal read: “It’s Peak Crop Top. Even Tweens Wear Them.”
My two cents: Maybe those are the only people who should.
Talking to you, Gwyneth Paltrow.
I, Nancy, may be the last person on planet Earth to notice that there has been an onslaught of bare tummies over the past couple of seasons. Well, of course I noticed, but I didn’t know it was Official Fashion. I thought that the well-aerated women I saw on the street had gained weight during the pandemic and didn’t realize that all their parts didn’t fit inside their clothes anymore. Slowly I came to understand that I was witnessing what the WSJ called Peak Crop Top for Adults, and the passers-by knew what they were doing.
But did they really? Did you see that picture of Paltrow a couple of months ago in the outfit with the bandeau top (see above)? Very I Dream of Jeannie, right? Here’s a woman whose physical presence (and odd ideas about crystals and other Goop cures) are her claim to fame and fortune. Yet there she was, looking pasty and untoned, for all of her followers to see. Slim? Yes, of course—you can see her ribs, like those of an underfed dog. But bare-able? Hmmm.
Picking away at a woman’s physical attributes is not a sisterly thing to do (besides which: Oh, hi, Pot. I’m Kettle!). But La Paltrow must have a small army of stylists, none of whom apparently fought the urge to have her look like a hip tween.
That same urge not to remain all hidden away is no doubt behind the “cold shoulder” blouses and dresses that have plagued us (and begat cheaper and cheesier versions) ever since Donna Karan introed them to the public on First Lady Hillary Clinton (yes, it was that long ago). But I digress.
Full disclosure: MyLittleBird may be an outlier here. London’s Hello! Magazine called the “upper midriff reveal” the “most flattering styling hack of the moment.” But we both agree it’s better than belly-button baring.
Nonetheless, the general croppiness afoot creates a dilemma: Our eye for the updated proportion naturally wants a piece of it, but how to achieve it without revealing That Which Should Not Be Revealed?
In search of answers, I turned to LittleBird Janet Kelly, whose eye is keen and whose taste is trusted and true. How can grownup girls get a cropped look without really cropping?
Janet’s answer is the selection of styles that follow. All of the tops are on the short side, but none betrays a muffin top or a belly button.
As I, Janet, have mentioned before, I’m not a fan of maxis, but when this almost-ankle-length skirt is paired with Massimo Dutti’s denim bomber jacket ($129), my perception changes. The top of the high-waisted skirt meets the hem of the jacket so there’s no chance of a muffin top hanging out. Moreover, wearing the jacket open over a white T-shirt draws the eye up to the center of the body for a slimmer silhouette. This model doesn’t require the help, but most of us would be pleased with looking taller and slimmer.
Made from lightweight ramie, Dôen’s Flute ladylike blouse ($200, Net a Porter) hits just at the waist of these high-rise, straight-leg jeans and billows out a touch. The wide Peter Pan collar and puffed sleeves with ruffled chiffon trim add to the illusion of volume at the top to balance the elongated line of the bottom half. Although they’re the same color, the difference in texture between the fabric of the blouse and the jeans makes the combination more interesting—and attractive.
A mid-rise jean paired with an embroidered wool cardigan ($195), both from Alex Mill, strikes the right balance between top and bottom. The cropped sweater, worn open, layered over a white blouse, just brushes the beltline of the jeans without clinging to it. To play well with the sweater, the jeans are cropped at the ankle (with a slight cuff), and the sleeves of the blouse are rolled up, too. The black loafers pick up the black embroidery of the knit to complete the picture. Even the model’s hair coordinates! If you have a sweater that’s a little too cropped (shows a slice of belly), layer a long button-down shirt under the cardigan and leave the bottom half of the shirt hanging out. Personally, I like to pop the shirt collar for a sporty vibe.
Drawstring pants require cropped tops. End of argument! These silk-blend jacquard Alumnio trousers by designer Emily Bode Aujla were inspired by an 18th-century style. For a perfect pairing, unite the yellow, purple and green cropped trousers with the olive, purple and green of Bode’s wool cardigan with intarsia-knit swans and a grass-and-fence-post pattern running along the hem. The vintage-look children-inspired sweater sells for $1,080 at Net a Porter.
The combination of the red hue, v-neck and gold buttons on J. Crew’s wool-blend lady jacket makes an unexpected but cheery choice. The one quibble I have is that the jacket just barely hits the waist of the jeans, and the underlying T-shirt doesn’t give tummy coverage either, so the risk of an exposed midriff is high. Maybe that’s kind of okay in the summer, but come on, people, it’s fall and it’s cold. Wear a longer T-shirt underneath. The “Maritime” jacket sells for $189.50.
Instead of the usual lady jacket with its buttons and decorative trim, I prefer the look of Ba&Sh’s zippered motorcycle-style plaid jacket. Wear it open over a slim-fitting toasty brown funnel-neck sweater in a cashmere blend. The two make a pretty pair, hitting precisely at the waist of slightly cropped, straight-leg jeans—to hide that which should not be revealed. Accessorize with the same-color boots or loafers and a braided belt, and voilà, you’ve got balance. The jacket sells for $485.
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