When I first heard that the Crop Top was back in style, I walked straight into my bedroom, stood in front of the mirror, lifted my shirt, turned to the side and stuck my gut out as far as it would go. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of, per se, but it definitely wasn’t anything to write home about, either.
I felt guilty, even a bit ashamed, that I was actually sizing my stomach up and even remotely considering if it was “okay or not” to wear a half top. After all, the last three years had been a major buzz kill on my body beauty-wise.
I had been diagnosed with a major neurological disorder that almost killed me. I went through an agonizing year of intravenous immunoglobulin treatments and drug therapy that left my body thin, pasty, weak and gaunt. Then, after all of that, I went and did something I wasn’t supposed to do: I SURVIVED.
I beat the odds. I somehow, by the grace of God, the greater powers of the universe or the luck of the health lottery, bounced back from the brink of death. Believe me, I was just as surprised as everyone else.
I had already written out my will, made my own funeral arrangements, asked for and gave forgiveness to family and friends. I took long walks on the beach, wrote in a diary so people that loved me could remember me after my touch and smell had faded from their memories.
I even made a special video for my mother, who had a hard time dealing with my illness and couldn’t bare to see me sick. I also spent a lot of time with my dad. He’s my favorite person on earth and he took care of me through the majority of my treatment. Alone.
So, for all intents and purposes, I shouldn’t give a flying flip about some stupid Crop Top. In complete and utter frankness, I should have been running through the streets of Miami, naked, twirling the barely-there blouse over my head: laughing, living and loving every-single-splendid-bloody-blessed-moment-of-my-life! I was alive and for the love of God, it should’ve felt great, but the thing was, it didn’t.
I had spent so much time and energy on accepting my final farewell, that I had no clue whatsoever on how to deal with my new found fate: LIFE. The thing is, when I was sick, everything was black and white and I do mean everything. People, places and things were either right or totally wrong for my life. What’s more, I had no problem telling the difference. Despite the fact that my body was completely falling apart, I had never felt so together. I was clear, present and totally devoted to my ultimate divinity, whatever that was going to be.
What’s more, when I was sick, I never, ever, once worried about the way my stomach looked, in anything. Matter-of-fact, I was beyond grateful for the days that my body worked halfway normal and when it did, I was in awe of what it had been able to endure. I had grown to respect myself and my physicality in the deepest, most profound way.
Yet, three years later, after living through a life altering, long suffering illness, there I was, standing in front of the mirror, judging myself in a grey Crop Top. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Things weren’t black and white anymore. They were officially a muted silver. I hadn’t exercised in years (besides physical therapy.) I would do a novel “walk” now and then, but I saved my energy for the demands of my career, not the the frivolous desires of my femininity.
The next day, after my Crop Top body inspection, I started working out. Sure, I wanted to do it for my health, but as shallow as it sounds, I wanted to do it so I could wear a tiny top, too. My body was soft, mushy and frail. My doctors had urged me to start working out months ago, but I worried.
I worried that I would get sick again. I worried about injury. I worried about getting hit by a truck. The latter wasn’t altogether possible on the Surfside beach path where I used to exercise, but I was a fairly young woman who had been stricken down in her prime. So, stranger things had already happened.
Despite all of my issues, I made myself a schedule and stuck to it. I also looked up the history of the Crop Top for mid-baring motivation. Belly dancers in Egypt are said to be some of the first females to flaunt their midriffs in beautiful Bedlehs (that’s a belly dancing costume, consisting of a beaded bra, belt, skirt and body stocking.)
The fashionable trend wouldn’t make its way to the states until the late 1800’s, when a group of Far East dancers shimmied their way into Chicago’s World Fair. The Midwest looked away, but Hollywood took notice. Soon after, Tinsel Town started imitating and recreating the cool cutouts of belly dancing costumes for the big screen. Fashion followed suit, but the fad would eventually fade away until many decades later, when a superstar was born.
Madonna Louise Ciccone is said to be single-handedly responsible for “The Return of the Crop Top.” In the 80’s, she literally gyrated the fashion trend back into popularity. Her prodigy, pop princess Britney Spears, would thrust the belly baring torch straight into the 90’s. By the early 2000’s, it seemed like everyone was half-naked and showing their navel. Which is why it makes sense that…
Suddenly, being overexposed just wasn’t special anymore. It became predictably passé. At least, until about a year ago. Couture fashion designers started subtlety and respectfully bringing the trend back to the runways. This time, though, “The Return of the Crop Top,” was minimal and streamlined.
By 2014, as the trend seeped down into everyday fashion, it became fun and somewhat functional. That’s why I wanted to wear it and write about it. I just loved that it was a blast from the past that could be really pretty when paired down and polished.
What worked best for me when styling my blog look was a sweater Crop Top with sleeves and a high-waisted matching skirt. The thicker material helped hide my imperfections and the high-waist helped close the gap between my rib cage and hips, showing less skin and making for a more comfortable, age appropriate fit.
The South Florida Fall/Winter take on the trend (pictured in the blog) is from Koko and Palenki. It’s the kind of look that should never be messy; that’s what the 80’s were for. This time around, “The Return of the Crop Top” is a mix of “Mad Men” elegance and “Sex and the City” sophistication.
By the time my photo shoot came around, I wasn’t exactly Crop Top ready, but I decided to embrace the topic anyway. After all, sometimes in life you gotta fake it til’ you make it. My “Shireen’s Favorite Things” team had a good laugh watching me squirm around on the floor (like a crazy person) trying to find the perfect flattering position. I thought laying down on the ground would make the look a lot easier to model. NOT.
Eventually, I gave up. Instead of sucking and tucking it all in, I just smiled, laughed and let it all hang out. I was happily living in the moment. That’s when I realized that “The Return of the Crop Top” wasn’t just a trend, it was symbolic of everything that I was going through. I, too, was making a comeback of sorts.
I was finding my way back from a long road of hurt, bad health and heartbreak. I was trying my best to shed the old and embrace the new. I’ll never forget what happened to me. I’ll never take life for granted and I’ll probably never fit into a Crop Top the way I really want to, but it’s okay, because I’m learning to live and love myself again.
I’m learning that letting the black and white of life fade into grey is okay. Holding the complete essence of humanity on ones shoulders is no way to live your life. Unless, of course, you’re the Pope or the Dali Lama. Matter-of-fact, I don’t want things to just be grey either. I want my new healing journey to be in color. All of it…
The good, the bad, the worse and the better and I want to do it every-single-splendid-bloody-blessed-fashionable-moment of my life, and that’s why “The Return of the Crop Top” is one of my favorite things.
Crop Top outfit, accessories and shoes: www.kokopalenki.com
photography by tod p/t4twophotography
styling: Shari Bloch
FB Styling by Shari
Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Editor: Matthew Auerbach