Midriff Matters: The Grown-up Guide To Crop Tops

Forget plunging necklines - a flash of bare midriff is the new power move.

grown up midriff daisy Edgar jones Florence Pugh

by Laura Antonia Jordan |

Are you ready to bare the belly? Fashion might be in the throes of an obsession with all things Y2K, but no noughties trend elicits quite as much fear as the exposed midriff (and it's adjunct trends: the perilously low-slung waistband and visible thong). Surely no woman in her thirties and beyond would willingly wish to be that exposed in public, miles from the nearest beach?

Fashion can be persistent however, so like it or not the tummy is back. If you want to thank - or blame - one brand for putting the midriff back in the spotlight, it's Miu Miu. The viral S/S'22 collection saw those micro skirts teamed with equally tidily cut-off shirts and sweaters. But theirs wasn't the only take. The time around it's the prerogative of the rock-abbed and attention-seeking. Rather, the modern midriff is tantalizing not terrifying. It is surprisingly grown-up and, even more shockingly, easy. Honest.

There was Mona Tougaard, sexy and sophisticated, as she slunk along the catwalk in Pieter Muller’s debut Alaïa collection in a long-sleeved, stretched-knit plum top that swept just beneath her boobs and a matching maxi skirt that flared into an explosion of feathers at the hem. There was the reassuringly normal-sized Jill Kortleve, bringing some out-of-office spirit to a springy grey skirt suit with a bandeau at Max Mara. At Chanel, those ladies-who-lunch bouclé jackets were served with a side of sass courtesy of spritely cropped knits; at Altuzarra the midriff felt bohemian, as if designer Joseph Altuzarra’s wanderlusting women had semi-thrown on their clothes after a trip to the beach.

What differentiates the modern midriff from its Y2K predecessor is that you can now go as big or small as you want. ‘Style- conscious Browns customers are tapping into the trend in varying degrees; whether they’re brazenly going all-out with mega low-slung jeans and cut-off crop tops or testing the waters with a more subtle lower waistband on their oversized denim teamed with some chic knitwear, there’s something for everyone who wants totry their hand at Y2K style,’ says Browns’ head of womenswear Heather Gramston. ‘This trend seems to be going nowhere anytime soon, so yes, some may despair, but we can be thankful that, this time around, the low-rise look is actually a lot kinder and more refined than previous eras’ iterations.’

Anne Hathaway midriff Armani Price dress Cannes Film Festival

Should you veer towards the more tentative end of the spectrum, the key now is to go for a hint rather than a big reveal. Even a sliver will suffice. Forgiving, high-cut waistbands make even the weeniest of tops far less anxiety-inducing; the midriff might be back, but the belly button itself is hardly to be seen.

Consider cut-outs your soft launch into the look, like the lace Emilia Wickstead two piece Florence Pugh wore to the recent Tiffany & Co. party, complete with long opera gloves, or the white look Anne Hathaway sported for the 2022 Cannes Film Festival (also in Armani Privé). The Devil Wears Prada star's form understated take proved a sliver of stomach is now more than just appropriate on the red carpet, it's also seriously chic.

Should you be wishing to try a tummy flash, your best friend could well be a gently oversized blazer. Try it. Even a barely-there top can feel less intimidating when under the comfort blanket of a tailored jacket. Admittedly, you might not see that look in the House of Commons anytime soon, but look at Daisy Edgar-Jones wearing a Del Core black top and trouser co-ord. The sliver of midriff was so slight that it just becomes part of the ensemble. Keep things super high-waisted to give a glossy grown-up take on the belly top.

‘Wear it in an elegant way that keeps some mystery for yourself and the beholder,’ advises designer Michelle Duncan, whose S/S ’22 collection included a hot-pink bralette worn with a matching double-breasted blazer. Whether you’re into Miu Miu’s micro proportions or the teeniest tummy glimpse, the only non-negotiable addition to your bralette/bandeau/bikini top is confidence.

‘When it comes to showing skin, I think it always comes down to attitude,’ says Huishan Zhang, whose own elevated aesthetic doesn’t dissuade him from a tease of tummy. ‘I never think it is essential to do so, but when someone shows skin with confidence, it can be extremely elegant.’

And perhaps that’s why the new midriff matters. It signifies something bigger: we won’t be resurrecting Y2K’s problematic fetishisation of size zero, when jutting bones were pursued as hungrily as the Chloé Paddington bag. Your proof of how far we have come? Those pics of the ever-resplendent Rihanna proudly showing the glorious swell of her baby bump in a twisted Coperni bra top was all the evidence we needed.



SHOP: The Best Grown-Up Crop Tops

grown up midriff Faithfull The Brand, Black Shirred Linen Cut Out Crop Top, £159
1 of 10

grown up midriff Reformation, Cole Floral-Print Cropped Top And Belted Midi Skirt Set, £300
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Cult Gaia, Annie embellished embroidered linen-blend top, £190
3 of 10

Miu Miu, Logo-Waistband Cropped Blouse, £570
4 of 10

Zara, Cropped Satiny Shirt, £27.99
5 of 10

Mango, Striped Cotton Shirt, £29.99
6 of 10

Bershka, Fitted Poplin Corset Shirt, £22.99
7 of 10

& Other Stories, Fitted Lace Shirt, £65
8 of 10

Jacquemus, Capri Cotton And Linen-Blend Cropped Shirt, £300
9 of 10

Miu Miu, Check crop top, £375
10 of 10

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