Also known as a “belly shirt” or a “cutoff shirt,” a crop top is a top which falls just above or around the navel, exposing the midriff section. Crop tops have gone in and out of fashion since the 1980s, and have also become a symbol of sexuality. Crop tops are often worn to draw attention to some aspect of the midsection, whether it be a navel ring, toned abs, or a pregnant belly, also known as a “baby bump.”
During the mid-1980s, pop star Madonna caused a controversy when she gyrated in a mesh crop top in her video for the song "Lucky Star." Also during this decade, cutoff crop tops became a popular fashion item thanks to the aerobic craze and popularity of the movie Flashdance. It became common for girls to crop off sections of their workout wear, such as sleeves, collars, and the hem of the shirt to create a loose-fitting top which was often worn over a body suit or tank top. Crop tops were also often paired with low-slung belts in the 1980s, angled at the side of the hip.
As mesh fabrics and oversized aerobics gear went out of fashion by the 1990s, the crop top reappeared in the form of the bustier, a lingerie-styled shirt which revealed the midriff and was typically worn under a blazer or shirt. By the mid-1990s, the crop top took on the form of the baby doll shirt, a cropped, tight-fitting t-shirt which often featured graphic logos. Long-sleeved crop tops and even crop top turtlenecks also became fashionable for the first time, popularized by such public figures as country singer Shania Twain. By the late 1990s, crop tops had become so mainstream that many schools began banning the garment in their dress code.
While pop singers such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera popularized the crop top for teeny boppers in the 1990s, others were making a crop top fashion statement for pregnant women. Certain members of the all-female musical groups All Saints and the Spice Girls wore crop tops on stage during their pregnancies, ushering in the trend of showing off one’s baby bump rather than hiding it. Since the beginning of the new millennium, cropped jackets and blazers have become popular fashion items, while the hemlines of shirts have mostly remained longer.