When I first spotted the trend at New York Fashion Week a season or two ago, I thought it would never last. Sure, midriff-baring styles are a great way to show some skin, but in a society where muffin tops far outnumber taut abs, I wondered, how many women would clamor to expose their midsection — even if it's in the name of fashion?
Apparently a whole lot.
An argument raged after the mother of a Houston high-schooler posted a photograph of herself in a midriff-baring outfit she wore to a school function.
At just about every recent social event in Houston, from gala balls to casual patio parties, stylish women have turned up in a modified crop top look with outfits that show a hint of skin at the waist or just above.
One reason the trend seems to have taken a life of its own is that there seem to be a million variations. Styles can range from a bra-like crop top and low-waisted leggings exposing several inches of skin (see photo of actress Jennifer Lawrence in New York above) to tiny cutouts or triangles on the front or side that reveal just a little flesh (see photos above of several Houston women showcasing the look).
The style has been known to cause some Instagram flareups, as I've heard of at least one argument that raged on social media after the mother of a Houston-area high-schooler posted a photograph of herself in a midriff-baring outfit that some considered showed too much skin at a school function.
To get a primer on crop top etiquette, I visited with designer Lela Rose on the subject after she presented her fall collection at the Children's Assessment Center luncheon and made a personal appearance at Neiman Marcus a few months ago. Rose is a favorite of chic twentysomething women but also has a clientele that ranges into the 50s and sometimes beyond. Her past couple of collections have featured dresses with cutouts at the waist and two-piece outfits, usually a high waisted-skirt and an open top, that give the illusion of showing the midriff.
"I definitely think there's a chic sophisticated way to wear it," Rose says. "But do it with a high-waisted skirt or a wide waist. It's not about showing skin; it's the idea of separates in a classic way."
"I do think it's fine. It just has to be strategically done," says Rose.
"I will do crop tops and I will do them as evening wear," Rose continues, "but I love to do it with a high waist or something so that it's the illusion of showing your skin but it's not really showing your skin. I do think if you're going crop top with a low-waisted pant, I don't know who's not too old to wear that. Anyone over a 14-year-old, even 14 (is too old for that)."
At the luncheon, Rose wore a dress from her collection that has a small triangle cutout just below the ribcage (see photo above). "It has a very wide waistband, so you're not showing your belly or your stomach. I've always said I haven't wore a bikini since I was 15. I don't go showing gobs of skin. But this is just this very interesting part that I still think is OK to show."
"I've never been a girl who's about letting too much skin come out," says the Dallas-born-and raised designer. "I'm much more about being tasteful, being chic and sophisticated, but not crossing that line. And I do think it's fine. It just has to be strategically done."