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Classy crop tops hit the scene in Charlotte

Midriff-baring tops are all over the runways and red carpets. What’s turning out to be one of the summer’s hottest trends was seen on singer Rihanna, recently named Fashion Icon of the Year, when she wore a white crop top and long skirt by Stella McCartney to the Met Ball in May.

And just look around Charlotte. NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s girlfriend Amy Reimann wore a refined crop top with a high-waisted skirt to a fundraiser in May, and the tops were seen at the Mint Museum of Art’s annual Derby Days fundraiser, also in May. The style was also all over the runway at Northwest School of the Art’s annual fashion show that features the designs of students.

Despite all the recent attention, crop tops are not new. They started showing up on starlets in the 1930s. Ingrid Bergman looked alluring in an Edith Head-designed crop top with sequins in the famous 1946 Hitchcock film “Notorious.” (Movie fans will remember when her co-star Cary Grant’s character offered to cover her midriff with a scarf so she wouldn’t catch a cold.)

And Marilyn Monroe was photographed wearing a crop top with high-waisted shorts in the 1950s. The style took a different turn in the 1980s when Madonna created a controversy by wearing a mesh crop top over a black lace bra in her video for the song “Lucky Star.” The last time the trend turned mainstream involved Britney Spears and belly button rings.

What makes this new crop of tops fresh and modern is that they’re more structured, made of more luxurious fabrics and they’re meant to be paired with high-waisted skirts, pants or shorts.

And it’s caught on with a young set, as well. At 16, fashion blogger Carson Goodwyn of Charlotte says she she sees them everywhere on high school girls and college students on weekends.

“They look great during the day with high-waisted shorts, and at night with a maxi skirt,” she says. Her closet is filled with multiple crop tops, but her two favorites are by Parker and Zara. She wears them whatever the season, but in cooler months she layers a shirt underneath. “I think they look great on all ages,” she says. “My mom wears them.”

Midriff can stay covered

A recent New York Times article on the trend by Shivani Vora echos that the look appeals to a wide range of ages and body types because it’s about refined elegance, not overt sexiness.

Coral boutique on East Boulevard owner Sormeh Hafezi says there is such a demand for crop tops that she has to constantly restock them. “Some customers are hesitant at first to try one on, but they end up loving them,” she says. She carries them in long sleeve, short sleeve and sleeveless styles in a variety of fabrics.

She also stresses that you do not have to bare your midriff to wear them. “My favorite for the summer are by Rachel Comey and they’re linen with embroidery.”

Hafezi describes herself as a “crop top fan for life” and says they will continue to be in style. “It has become a go-to piece in women’s closets,” she says.

Young designers at work

Teacher Barbara Biesak Wesselman, the instructor who oversees Northwest School of the Art’s Apparel/Costume Design program, likes the more demure crop tops that some of her students showcased this spring.

“When Madonna came out in her crop tops, we were shocked, we had never seen anything like that on TV,” says Wesselman, who was a college student in the early 1980s. (She laughs that her current students refer to the 1980s as “a historic period of time.” )

Even though the students are inspired by that period, their take on crop tops, which are actually not allowed at school because they violate the dress code, is much more conservative.

For the school’s fashion show, rising 11th grade Apparel II student Devin Pinnix created a collection that included a crop top made of silver iridescent leather.

“I don’t think the crop top is just a trend, I think it’s a classic,” he says. “So many of my favorite designers are doing crop tops now – Alexander Wang, McQueen, Lanvin and Raf Simmons for Dior. They’re taking a simple silhouette and making it versatile and unique. It’s a look that can immediately add interest to your outfit.”