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History Of The Crop Top

by Gabby D on May 27, 2022

A much-needed history lesson on one of the most iconic pieces of clothing ever: the crop top

 History of the Crop Top - The Young Hippie Blog

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Crop tops are everywhere. From a little store in your town to the biggest fashion brands in the world. The small cropped piece of fabric seems to be stepping strongly in the industry, and we thought we’d make an interesting article investigating its origins.

Below you can read about how the crop top became famous as well as how it changed from its original form to the one we’re used to today. Further, keep an eye out for our favorite crop top pieces from our shop so you can discover new styles and broaden your closet.

Crop Top Origins

The crop top trend we see today in many fabrics and techniques, like knitted crop tops and floral crop tops, were not invented out of thin air. The crop top took a long time to catch on in the West, partially due to the colder environment and partly due to the notoriously puritanical dress code of Western fashion history. Women's clothing in Europe and America used to be designed to hide and limit as much of the body as possible until recently.

However, it was a different scenario in sections of the East. It didn't make sense to cover up so much when the temperature was normally warmer. In India, for example, the traditional sari is usually paired with a short top called a choli. This style has been worn with saris for hundreds of years and is still popular today.

Also from the East are the midriff-baring costumes utilized for belly dancing. It's difficult to pinpoint the actual roots of the garment because it evolved over time and different regions, such as Egypt, the Middle East, and Asia, had distinct fashions.

A style known as the bedlah would eventually gain popularity, at least among Westerners. The bedlah was a two-piece costume designed by Egyptian cabaret owner Badia Masabni (who was seeking to seduce tourists), and it showed off the midriff for the purpose of dancing. Belly dancers performed at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, bringing the bedlah and the concept of the crop top to the West.

Whilst the crop top was intriguing, it would be decades before it became popular in the West. It was once seen to be too "foreign" and exposing to be included in their clothes, and unlike in the East, there was little need for it.

The Crop Top Through Time

By the 1940s, everything would change significantly regarding the crop top. Many things, including fabric, were rationed during WWII, thus in order to conserve basic materials, clothing designs had to be far more inventive. Cutting the bottom half of a shirt off was an easy but elegant solution for apparel designers who wanted to show off a little skin.

The crop top became a popular style in the 1940s. This style was frequently worn with high-waisted midi skirts and had a high collar and short sleeves. This combination established the famous hourglass form of the time. It was especially well-suited for summer vacations because it appeared stylish yet relaxed.

However, as with most new trends, not everyone welcomed the crop top into the fashion world with open arms. Many people still thought the dress was excessively exposing. In Central Park in 1945, a woman was penalized for wearing shorts with a midriff-baring halter-top.

Fortunately, the bulk of society was progressive enough to keep the shirt from being outlawed completely. Throughout the 1950s, this dressier, more conservative (by today's standards) crop top remained popular. The crop was popular in the 1960s, but it was more of a fringe trend, cut in hippie-style peasant blouses or as a collared shirt tied in the front. This gave room to different styles of crop tops such as granny square tank tops as well as matching knitted crop tops and skirt sets. 

Modern Fashion & Crop Top Evolution

The crop top's golden age would be the next two decades. The crop was ideal for exhibiting a toned body and sportswear, which were popular in the 1980s. The "aerobic" look, which consists of a cropped sweater teamed with a leotard or tank, is a throwback to the 1980s. 

Madonna favored the style and made it a part of her defining look. During that time, the crop top was seen on several renowned movie characters, including Baby from Dirty Dancing and Alex from Flashdance.

The crop top remained popular in popular culture throughout the 1990s. Low-rise jeans with "belly shirts" were popular, particularly in music and television. Cropped shirts were out of style in the early 2000s, but they've made a comeback in recent seasons. While current trends harken back to the 1990s, the present aesthetic is more subtle. Crop tops with a high waist are also popular, harkening back to the 1940s and 1950s and creating a good blend of fashion eras.

The History Of The Crop Top Wrap Up

The crop top has been around for a lot of time, but we just barely realized that. From European streets to American runways, the crop top has surely seen it all, and we’re here for it. Any decade you observe it has some sort of rustic crop top style, which talks about how versatile and comfortable the piece is to wear and combine with other items. 

Now that the 90s are back, it seems like crop tops are at the top of the world. On every runway and famous influencers and celebrity’s Instagram, the current fashion trend doesn’t seem to go away any time soon.

At The Young Hippie, we have a broad catalog of crop tops, with various fabrics and styles so you can choose what fits your style the most. But who says you have to buy an already-made crop top? Feel free to look at our t-shirt catalog and make your own crop top!

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