Fashion Experiments: Wearing A Crop Top As An ‘Older’ Mum

Lately I’ve been feeling a little more experimental when it comes to clothes. If last year was all about finding a uniform and working with capsule wardrobes, then this year I feel like taking more risks and simply having more fun. I may not always nail my daily outfit, but taking risks and having a bit of fun is worth the wrath of the fashion police.

In a weird way, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the constant push-pull of identity that is being a mom: constantly balancing and calibrating my mom duties and self with the parts of me that existed and thrived before parenthood. On a fashion level, sometimes I need a mom uniform because it’s a particularly zoomy errand-y kind of day, and sometimes I’m like, “Screw you, mom uniform! I’m wearing sexy boots!”

Beyond sartorial restlessness and experimentation, though, part of me is just an eensy tired of ideas of what mothers are supposed to do, feel and look like. Even before I was a parent, I was very against the idea of telling women what to wear, overtly or not. Social orders control women’s appearance by telling them what’s “classy” or “appropriate” — which is why I’m instantly allergic and suspicious of those words when it’s applied in fashion (or many other kinds of) discussion. Yeah, my own personal sense of propriety means I’m not going to run around with a g-string peeking out of my skinny jeans. (I don’t even own a g-string, actually!) And yeah, sometimes I’m like “WOWZA!” when I see a daringly dressed lady. But I’ll defend to the death any woman’s right to wear what she wants and fight political perceptions and judgments that would label her as ‘less than’ in any way for her appearance.

(And it’s not just moms who get “shoulded” on for their appearance, of course — it’s good girls, older women, professional women, smart women, ‘real’ men, etc.)

Which brings me — well, after a bit of a feminist detour — to crop tops. They are a thing now; I see them everywhere, on people and in stores. And the truth is, I kind of think they work really nicely with the longer, midi-length skirts now in vogue — they make that length seem a lot less dowdy and offers a nice visual balance.

But I was feeling a bit shy about trying a crop top. I’m in my forties, after all, and my abs are definitely not rebounding after birthing my Budge. (Hypothyroidism doesn’t help as well.) And there’s that stupid insidious inner voice that is like “Older moms don’t wear crop tops!”

Well, whatever, insidious inner voice! I’m going to find a way that an older mom with a non-skinny body could wear a crop top, even just to prove the inner voice wrong and to push myself just a little.

Of course, I have limits. I personally couldn’t wear a crop top like the carefree twentysomething hipster girls about town, who wear them with super short skirts or skinny jeans. And granted, there are some body types that might find this trend hard, no matter where they are in life — the long-torsoed might have to work a little harder, perhaps, although I’m sure some genius out there has made it happen.

But this little experiment is less about “making it work for you” and more about taking a person risk, even if it’s just a fashion one. Moms are always trying to “live up” to something, even if it’s their own expectations of themselves. But it’s always good to expand your sense of self and daring — because even small ways of being courageous can lead to bigger ones.

Don’t think “crop top,” think “cropped top.”

The easiest way to try out the trend, of course, is to find a longer crop top, or ease into it with a short, boxy top that stops just a wee bit short of your natural waistline.

I do have some short, boxy tops in my wardrobe that I like wearing with higher-waisted items in my wardrobe — I’ve worn the Everlane box-cut t-shirt with midi-length things and it turned out well, and as the weather gets cooler, the Everlane street fleece sweatshirt I hemmed is modestly abbreviated — though I wouldn’t call them “crop tops” but “tops that are cropped.” The trick, I think, is the boxiness — crop tops definitely do feel scarier when they are clingier. If you’re looking for a way to experiment with a shorter top and a higher-waisted or longer bottom, this is a good way to go. (The slideshow at the end of the post has TONS of the ‘semi-cropped top’ options — I do find these are more forgiving and versatile, and pair well with higher-rise jeans.)

Get all boss lady

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The truth is, it’s easy for me to wear the short, boxy top. They work naturally with my body shape and comfort level, so I have more than a few of them. But my point was to challenge myself, no? So I ended up buying a midi-length sports bra from Fabletics and embarking on the next phase of my little experiment. (I figured once I was done with this experiment, I could use it as part of my workout gear.)

Now, I am just not daring enough to wear just a sports bra — however long — on my own, even if my pants or skirt are high enough to reveal only an inch of skin. Honestly, I’m just not confident enough about my body, and that’s just something that I’m still working on. (Sometimes there is the place you want to be, and then the place you actually are, if you know what I mean?)

But I did wear it with a pencil skirt, a nice Lauren Conrad blazer I got from ThredUp (Lauren Conrad is like my secret source for a reasonably priced blazer that works remarkably well on my body) and strappy sandals. This definitely felt way out of comfort zone, but ended up being super-fun.

And well, I felt really awesome in this! It’s a very sexy outfit — thanks to the formfitting pencil skirt — but very structured and covered up. (I wore it out with my Everlane pencil skirt, but I switched to a different one for the pic because all black doesn’t photograph super well unless you get all super-professional, I find…and I don’t have time for that, wah!)

The formality of it would feel probably a little too “workwear” for some, but the formality functioned as a nice mental armor with the crop top. (And the crop top, of course, made the ensemble much less office-y.) If I went out more often, this would a great night option for me. I know ’empowering’ is a real cliche, but this outfit felt like that, and I do recommend the general template of it — longer pencil skirt, blazer, midi-length top — if you are so inclined.

Layers, layer, layers

Maybe, deep down, the trick for making it work for the modest and/or shy is throwing a jacket over the crop top? Or layering something over it? I’ve seen where people layer a looser crop top over a longer one, and that looks great. To make it easy, you can buy a top that is a layered crop top, like the one I’m wearing below, which features a cropped layer with a longer see-through layer over it. That’s what I did, here, though I was shy and covered it up with a jacket again:

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(I also see it the other way — layering a crop top over a longer top — but that way made me feel stupid and I deleted all photos of it.)

This is kind of the more casual, relaxed version of the trend, I suppose, and I like how it feels very Lisa Bonet in the early 90s, which is one of my long-term style ideals. I felt very comfortable and chill in this outfit, mostly because I was covered up — but also kind of funky and fun. (I ended up swapping out the Nikes for ankle boots, but didn’t get a picture.)

Anyway, these might be fashion fails for some. But from my vantage point, trying this out felt really fun. I might not be doing this next year, or even next week. But the point is — I came, I tried, I conquered, at least in my little brain. Conquering the crop may be evaluated only in the eye of the beholder — but conquering that nagging little voice of what women should or shouldn’t wear is definitely something that can only be judged from within.

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