Crop Tops

Donna Cosmato
Asian girl

For all intents and purposes, a crop top, also known as a half shirt, is any top with a hemline that exposes some portion of an individual's abdomen. Hem lengths can range from super skimpy to just barely above the natural waistline and may be finished, unfinished or cut-off and ragged. Crop tops are experiencing a fashion revival and top designers are featuring them in their runway fashions.

Styles and Types

There are three basic types of half shirts: sleeveless, short or three-quarter length sleeves, and long sleeves. However, within these three types, there are plenty of options in styles and design features to suit even the most discriminating shopper, like button front, pullover or tie front. Here are some style ideas to consider:

Sleeveless

Wearing teeny cropped camis with skinny spaghetti straps, sleeveless tees and tank tops or any half shirt sans sleeves are the perfect way to beat the heat in the summertime. As a plus, these breezy, comfortable tops can do double duty under jackets and blouses as layering pieces or be worn over swimsuits and dresses.

Other Sleeve Options

From tiny, just-barely-there cap sleeves to short sleeves to arm-baring three-quarter or long sleeves, the type of sleeve to choose for your top could depend on how much skin you choose to expose. If you are leaning toward a more modest look and your half shirt bares your midriff, selecting a sleeve length that conceals all or most of your arms is a good way to add coverage.

You can also use sleeve options to visually alter your silhouette to create a desired effect. For instance, taller women who want to look shorter can use short sleeves to draw attention to the arms and make the profile look shorter, while petite women can push up sleeves or roll up cuffs to elongate their profile and look taller.

Fabrics

While many half shirts are made of sweater or tee shirt knits, you don't have to limit yourself to just these fabrics. If you want an ultra casual look opt for textiles like denim, cotton/polyester blends, linen or rayon; to dress up your look, try feminine laces or luxurious silks.

How to Wear

Cropped tops look great with skinny jeans or pencil skirts, shorts or mini skirts. If you have a less-than-perfect waistline, pair high-waisted garments with your half shirts to conceal any figure flaws.

These tops can be worn solo or used as clever layering pieces to create a multitude of wardrobe looks that can range from sweetly simple to seriously sexy. Typically, the half shirt is considered a casual garment that is inappropriate attire for the office, school, religious or formal occasions.

Try these styling ideas for starters:

  • Beach Bound: Pop your favorite shorts and a short sleeved cropped sweatshirt over your best bikini when you head for the beach. Finish the look with a straw tote, flip flops and a chunky bracelet. The Crochet Trim Tee is a cute example of this type of shirt.
  • Jeans: Wear logo cropped shirts with jeans, jeggings, shorts or leggings. Dress it up with high heels or down with ballerina flats or sandals; boots always look sexy and can make the legs look longer and leaner depending on the style.
  • Date Night Dress-up: Enjoy admiring glances when you get dolled up for that special date night in a sultry off-the-shoulder crop shirt and pencil skirt. Stiletto heels are optional but guaranteed to ramp up the sex appeal of the ensemble. Check out Shop Style's selection of sleek cropped shirts for ideas.

Where to Buy Crop Tops

While you will probably find the largest selection of cropped shirts in spring and summer at your local brick and mortar stores, don't be shy about picking up a bargain off season if you find a cute style on the clearance rack or at your favorite thrift or secondhand shop. However, if searching the racks and locating a parking spot seems overwhelming, you can always shop online at retailers like these:

  • Flirt Catalog: You'll find plenty of options for adding some new tops to your wardrobe at Flirt Catalog. If you are looking for a sexy top that's contemporary and flirtatious, consider their teal tie front long sleeve top, which contains just enough spandex to give you the sleekest silhouette.
  • Just for Kix: Choose from a wide selection of neckline and sleeve options in fun fabrics and colors that will add the perfect punch to create high impact, memorable ensembles.
  • American Apparel: Just like every woman needs a little black dress, every wardrobe needs a little black crop top. This long sleeve design with its wide boat neck has enough style to stand on its own but is versatile enough to be used for a layering staple.
  • Polyvore: Shopping at this virtual site is like shopping your favorite outlet mall without the hassle. You'll find styles from many different designers and vendors conveniently gathered into a one-stop resource for all your cropped shirt needs.

Whenever you shop online, check out each website for special offers that reduce the final garment cost. Many sites offer web-only specials, customer loyalty programs or a substantial discount for subscribing to their e-mails.

Make Your Own

You can save money by making your own cropped shirts; the process is easy and does not require any expert sewing skills. All you need is:

  • Top or tee shirt
  • Sewing needle or fabric adhesive
  • Straight pins
  • Scissors (regular or pinking shears)
  • Thread to match the color of the garment
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • Iron

Here's what you do:

  1. Turn the garment inside out and lay flat on a hard surface.
  2. Measure from the shoulders to the point where you want the hemline to end (allow one inch for hemming).
  3. Use several straight pins to mark a cutting line; cut with scissors or pinking shears.
  4. Turn the bottom of the garment up one inch all the way around; measure it occasionally using the tape measure or ruler to be sure the hem is even. Turn the cut edges under and use straight pens to hold in place until you are ready to finish the hem.
  5. Iron the hem but don't iron over the pins as it may mark the fabric.
  6. Finish the hem by hand using a whipstitch, by machine using a zigzag stitch or serger or with fabric adhesive or fusible web.

Note: If you are cutting tee shirt material, you may want to iron the cut edge to prevent it from curling. Using pinking shears will prevent fraying.

If you want to try a more elaborate project, and you knit, you can download a free crop shirt pattern from Vogue Knitting.

Whether you opt to purchase some new crop tops or make your own, these comfortable tops are an inexpensive way to revitalize your wardrobe.

Crop Tops