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At What Age Should You Stop Wearing Crop Tops?

Belly up!
At What Age Should You Stop Wearing Crop Tops?
ILLUSTRATOR Marge Melendez
Belly up!

The last time I wore a cropped top it was called a half-shirt. I remember that it was long-sleeved, from DKNY and striped black and white (very graphic and so Spring/ Summer 2013, come to think of it). I paired it with high-waisted black leggings and chunky woven Joan & David shoes. That I wore this teeny thing with leggings as pants makes me cringe today, but I was so stick-thin then (those were the days I had to try really hard to gain weight), there were neither hips nor thighs to ruin the line of the outfit. Quickly riffling through old photos made me realize how much of a closet staple the cropped top was in my high school and college years, and I felt a frisson of nostalgia for the likes of the logo-laden mint-green 22 B.C. t-shirt that I would wear with a white mini skirt, scrunched-down athletic socks, and Spartans.  

Paraphrasing Oscar Wilde, I’m glad that fashion wasn’t wasted in my youth and I got to play with tricky trends like this while my body allowed. Now, unfortunately, even if the mind is willing — Lord knows what I would give to actually wear the Balenciaga number my icon wears in this month’s fashion illustration — the body is unable. Three kids and a decidedly undisciplined commitment to working out have led to a problem area around the midsection, which I’ve managed to camouflage with fabric and the occasional assistance of Spanx. So, yes, I thank God that I’m over and done with that trend.

Halt. Wait a minute. Now that I really think about it, the half-shirts I was able to wear way back then offer little consolation knowing that those looks were the t-shirt (in other words, cheap) version of the cropped top. It is, I believe, one of life’s little ironies that just when you are old enough to afford designer — or at least good-quality — merchandise, your figure or your skin tone shows telltale signs of being past its prime, and instead of being able to indulge in the fashion trends of the day, you have to develop your personal style and stick to classic, sensible clothing.

Lest you think I have a secret hankering to be a hubadera...What the hell, I might as well admit it, deep down inside, not counting the fact that I have a husband, one preteen, and two boys waiting at home, I would probably love to be her. As a matter of fact, if I were coming of age today, I would probably wear cropped tops, plunging backs, and see-through garments until I am blue in the face or until I catch pneumonia — or whichever comes first.

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What I am trying to get at is that fashion — the trend-setting, rule-breaking, raise-your-eyebrows kind — is obviously meant for the young. But now, more than ever, we are free to make our fashion statements no matter how old we are. Now, more than ever, too, we have the tools to stay in tip-top shape, whether it is for fitness and/or beauty. There really isn’t an excuse for self-pity, which reminds me that I must make that appointment with my trainer.

This story was originally published in Preview April 2013.

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