7 ways to style crop tops because the cutest summer look is also the trickiest

Can we all take a moment and say how excited we are that this is officially popsicle time? And that popsicle weather always begets summer weather? The jingles of ice cream trucks mingle with the sound of summer breezes and conversations on the patio, pink lemonade is poured into tall glasses, pretty freckles are convinced to hide and the beaches are filled with colorful umbrellas. That’s it, everything we’ve been waiting for for the past nine months of winter is here!

And the exciting part? It’s now officially time for summer fashion trends. Cheerful striped dresses the color of beach balls are zipped up and every style of sandal imaginable is carefully considered and weighed. Floppy hats are skipped over the beach waves and bohemian tops are tucked into flirty little shorts. But with all of our time-tested classics come exciting, if somewhat daunting, new trends. All of them are fun, some are puzzles and a few are intimidating wild beasts.

One of them is the crop top. Some women swear by it, some fear it, and some are just confused by it. Styling crop tops can be a tricky thing, but if you’ve always been intrigued by the trend, why not learn how? It’s not as hard as it looks, and it’s surprisingly versatile! Below are seven ways to style the crop top and make the trend your own.

1. Pair it with high waisted jeans

The number one thing that makes a lot of women unsure about trying the crop top is that it shows a lot of skin. Balance that worry by forgoing mini skirts or cropped shorts and teaming the piece with high-waisted pants instead. The covered legs will make the exposed crop skin less outrageous, and the high waisted pants will eliminate any Britney Spears flashbacks to around 2004. Note that the pants don’t just have to be jeans, they can be any size pair high !

2. Find one in a puffy or square shape

When most of us think “crop top,” we think of tight little numbers that stop right at the underwire of our bra. While these can be fun to play, keep in mind that it’s not the only style! If you’re a little nervous about trying the trend, dip your toe in the water opting for a longer, puffier version. There are plenty that strike fair above the navel if you want more coverage, and many come in bohemian, loose shapes like this Hawaiian print, or boxy, structured silhouettes if you want something more elegant.

PS I totally made this crop top from an old thrift store find of Hawaiian shirts. If you can’t find a crop top you like, make your own!

3. Pair it with a cardigan

Just because you’re wearing half a shirt doesn’t mean you have to bare it all if you’re not comfortable with the idea. Have fun finding ways to layer the piece, like pairing it with a cardigan or a casual blazer. This way you get more coverage, but you can still enjoy the playfulness of the trend.

4. Let it be an accent, not the star

Use the crop top as a layering piece rather than the star of your outfit. For example, layer it under overalls for a cheeky summer look, or under pinafore dresses for a playful, girly vibe.

5. Crop Top, Meet Midi

Go for a more feminine and softer vibe with the crop top by pairing it with a midi skirt. Whether it’s a pencil shape like this or a full A-line number, the longer length will help balance out the proportions of the smaller top.

6. Layer it over a maxi dress

The top shouldn’t just be paired with pants and skirts, you know! You can use it as a fun layering piece, playing with the proportions and wearing it over a long dress. Pair a puffy maxi with a fuller top for a casual look, or pair a full-skirted maxi dress with a tighter cropped top to really make the skirt pop. It would also look cute with skater silhouettes or A-line dresses since the top would bring more attention to the volume of the dress.

7. Use it to transform an old room

Do you see this dress here? Yes, it’s a dress. And besides, it’s a dress that I almost threw away because I felt like it no longer matched my style. I still felt pretty in it with its long, floaty hemline, but the top was so… dated. As I looked at it in my hands, I squinted down at the neckline. Fucking spaghetti straps, why did you have to turn my pretty dress into something Friends the cast would wear in the 90s? But then I thought, what if we hide those straps? So I grabbed my trusty cropped turtleneck top, threw it over the dress, and voila – I got a cute new maxi skirt myself!

As you can see, crop tops aren’t as scary as you once thought, and they open up a world of styling possibilities. It’s not just for “skinny girls with washboard abs” – any body type can do it any way. You can decide to go all out and pair it with flirty little skirts or hot cropped shorts, or you can use it as a layering piece and tuck it under overalls or over dresses. You can tone it down with cardigans and long skirts, or just change the shape and go for a longer, looser piece. Whatever you are most comfortable with, give it a try!

Images: Marlen Komar