Dare to go Bare?

Banish thoughts of '90's belly shirts; the new crop top is chic and, yes, demure.

Even with the blustering winds and freezing temperatures of winter winding down, it’s still hard to imagine wearing anything but sweaters and boots. But a burgeoning trend will have you peeling off those layers in no time, even showing some skin. And we’re not talking about a deep neckline or a little leg — spring is all about the bare midriff.  

Crop tops popped up all over the runways this past season, along with the requisite toned abs for such revealing attire. But unlike the shortened shirts worn by the pop stars of the late 1990s (hello, Britney!) showing off six packs and pierced belly buttons, the 2012 version takes a more demure approach by channeling the modest 1950s. 

Whether the bandeaux at Prada, the bra-top at Dolce & Gabbana or even Alexander Wang’s neon tanks, today's styles are paired with high-waisted skirts and pants leaving just a peekaboo of skin, usually above the navel.   

According to Harper's Bazaar senior web editor Joyann King, these cropped tops are a direct reference to the many Beat Generation-inspired clothing items reappearing on the runway. Spring collections saw a resurgence of stomach-baring tops paired with '50s jackets and high-waisted skirts and pants. These bra tops are much more pretty pinup than '90s grunge, says King. 

Which isn't to say the new crop doesn't add a subtle sex appeal. Designer Charlotte Ronson’s spring 2012 line was peppered with gentle, loose-fitting cropped tanks and long-sleeve sheer blouses hemmed at the ribs. "Worn loosely with high-waisted bottoms, the crop top helps to emphasize a slim waist," says Ronson.  

There's still plenty of time before spring to prepare to ditch the jacket and show off a hint of skin. For inspiration, click through our picks for the top spring crops: