History of the Crop Top

The crop top. This tiny piece has become a major staple item over the last few years, but is by no means a new trend. Since the 1940s, the crop top, and all of its various forms, has had successful comebacks time and time again. During the early 1940s, the everyday crop top was often collared and short sleeved, a more conservative approach to showing some skin. 

However, this trend was not just reserved for weekend picnics and poolside parties. The crop top was also donned as a part of a glamorous ensemble as pictured below. All of the silhouettes were designed to accentuate a woman’s hourglass shape; the crop top and high-rise skirt combination was perfect for this fashion.

While the crop top made its grand entrance into the fashion scene in the 1940s, it wasn’t at its peak until the ’70s and ’80s, courtesy of pop culture. The hippie movement of the 1970s highly popularized the “au-natural” look; hence, the cropped top. One of the most popular ways women created the crop top look was by tying their blouses in the front. Then came the ’80s with all of its aerobics, “Flashdance,” “Dirty Dancing” and Madonna. The defining characteristic of these iconic popular culture moments is the fashion, all of which included the crop top. Can you imagine Baby without her infamous series of crop top dance uniforms? Or, how about an aerobics class without the colorful cropped sweaters on top of neon leotards? The fitness craze had women all over wearing crop tops in and out of the gym. The punk, rebellious style that began in the ’70s took off during the ’80s, and with it came an explosion of crop tops galore.

While the crop top has been around for a long time, it seems as though the ’90s kids just knew exactly how to rock the crop top. Cher Horowitz showed us how to style that preppy cropped sweater in “Clueless” and “Saved by the Bell’s” Kelly Kapowski flaunted her abs in her countless collection of crop tops but no one rocked the cropped look like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Young teens might think Miley Cyrus is edgy and cute with her crop top obsession but we, current collegiates, know that the original reigning queens of baring their midriffs are Britney and Christina.

After decades of non-stop flaunting of steel abs, there was a brief break in the crop top trend. This break quickly ended in 2011 and 2012 when designers like Salvatore Ferragamo, Phillip Lim, Dolce and Gabbana and Prada featured a sophisticated twist on cropped tops on their runways. There are many variations and uses of the crop top, ranging from tailored pieces that can be worn as part of an evening wear to edgier, crisp, minimalistic attire.

The main take-away from this history lesson of the crop top is the driving influence of pop culture. High fashion and runways had less of an impact on the trend than the movies, fashion icons and artists of the time. So perhaps Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and others who seem to have forever “lost” their bottom-halves of their shirts are simply fashion icons that we should be proud of. Perhaps.