In Paris, there are sun-drenched bellies strolling through Saint-Germain and tanned bellies climbing Montmartre. Up and down the Rue de Rivoli, one can spot shrunken T-shirts, top and crop two-piece sets and backless bodices strung with thin cobweb ties. And en route to one of this week’s haute couture shows, airy women took to the subway in linen shirts tied above the navels.
Outside the Dior showroom at the Rodin Museum, crop tops appeared in fashion fan queues hoping to catch a glimpse of celebrities such as Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. One guest arrived on a motorcycle wearing head-to-toe silver sequins (with a break at the waist), another in a cut-out top of which apparently 90% had been left on the studio floor.
“The crop top situation wouldn’t have happened five years ago,” said Paris-based journalist and TV presenter Philippine Darblay, speaking to me outside one of the haute couture shows. She wore a black & Other Stories crop top, a black Prada skirt, an oversized Rails shirt and chunky biker boots, also from & Other Stories. “I’m happy that Paris is opening up a bit in terms of style. I have lived in the UK for a long time as well as in other cities in Europe, and sometimes the Parisian style can be seen as boring. It’s certainly not eccentric, but I think [Parisians] have an understanding of their body and how to play with it. Now things get a little more fun – we’ve come a long way!”
The classic conservative Parisian summer formula of cotton shirt and casual denim has been pared down to something rarer, regardless of body shape. Balance is key for Darblay, who prefers to pair the season’s crop leanness with an oversized suit — most often her boyfriend’s jacket.
Generally, the French way to indulge in the trend – as with desserts – is with restraint. Crucially, it’s not the pubic-bone-grazing, ab-mileage of the 2000s à la Christina Aguilera. It is played a little higher, just below the ribs, worn with a medium or high rise, which makes it more appealing and accessible to a wider age group.
The trend is also traction on the catwalks. At Miu Miu’s Fall/Winter 2022 show in March, the previous collection’s extreme torso exposure was toned down, while Jacquemus’ spring show saw a statement bodice worn with high-waisted trousers that only revealed the upper abdomen. Similarly, Marine Serre’s Spring 2023 collection offered a demure combo and pants under a matching sheer long-sleeved blouse. And at Patou, crop tops were worn with high-waisted pants or paired with flared skirts.
“This season, the focus is on being pretty sexy. The idea is to push everything [to be] very small: mini-dresses, mini-skirts, mini-tops. All brands have developed a bra,” explains Maud Barrionuevo, director of global purchasing at LVMH, e-merchant 24S. “These kinds of pieces sell quite easily because they are not very expensive, they are entry-level,” she adds, citing Céline, Tom Ford, Versace, Jacquemus, Nensi Dojaka and Mugler as bestsellers.
“We’ve been locked down and now that we’re allowed out, it’s a way of being free,” Barrionuevo continues. “We are women, we are proud of our bodies, no matter the size or shape, and we want to show it off and be proud of it.”
“You feel sexy and powerful. And because you show your skin without showing too much, you feel free and elegant,” says Valentino model Lise Pierron, who tells me she wears a black crop top and high-waisted shorts when we talk on the phone. “You can’t see my navel and the cut is not very short – it’s very French to show the skin without showing too much. If you show a little of your belly, cover the rest! It’s the same than makeup – you can have red lips, but please be cool with your eyes The Parisian approach to crop tops: just be cool.
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