How to Wear a Crop Top: Full Guide with Pointers for Every Combination Possible!

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Crop Top Outfits: What to Wear with a Crop Top
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Last Updated on January 6, 2022

If you are anything like me, chances are that your credit card saw quite a bit of action this past week. As the shopping spree ends and your packages start to slowly trickle into your hands, you might also realize that you got way too many crop tops.

It’s really no wonder since crop tops are trending absolutely everywhere, from Shein to Chanel and anything in between. With all of those amazing new tops now in your hands, you might be thinking…How can I style them with the clothesI already own? 

Not to worry.

Continue reading for the most comprehensive crop top guide of all time. I’ll be covering different styles, different pairings, and a ton of handy tips to get the most out of what you already have in your closet!

A crop top is a shirt or top that ends around or above the navel and exposes your midriff. Sleeves may vary and necklines may plunge, but the very essence of a crop top remains.

The muddy origins of this item can be traced back all the way to the 70s, when bodybuilders started cutting off the bottom of their tops to work around their gym dress code that didn’t allow them to go without a shirt. 

Undoubtedly, its media presence has served to showcase it and promote it all over the globe, but what makes it resonate with so many young women today? First of all, it might have to do with the inherent sensuality of an item that showcases the midriff.

It’s both appealing and not overtly sexy, achieving the perfect balance between a baggy t-shirt and a lingerie top. There are also many types, like this lowkey sports crop top with scrunched-up sides or this dressy crop top akin to a reverse bustier like the one Lorde wore on her new video Solar Power. 

Lorde Solar Power video
Lorde in “Solar Power”. Crop top and skirt by Collina Strada

During the pandemic, lingerie dressing became unexpectedly popular. The reason behind why is very simple. We had no one to dress up for but ourselves, so it was a confinement indulgence that we could have fun with and be as daring as we wanted.

That said, as we all started emerging from our hidden dwellings, lingerie tops were not something we felt confident enough to wear outside. 

Brands were quick to capitalize on this and lingerie tops quickly turned into crop tops: perfectly safe to wear outside and alluring enough without the sexual connotations of lingerie.

Tank top vs tube top vs belly shirt vs crop top… Which is which?

The tank top:

The tank top resembles a shirt, with either a crew or V neckline, but it has no sleeves. A cropped tank top is basically a sleeveless t-shirt with no midriff. 

The tube top:

The tube top is a strapless rectangular-shaped piece of cloth that covers the breasts and circles around the back. It usually has a wide elastic band on top to keep it in place, but some models have a ruched elastic back instead.

Belly shirt:

A belly shirt is basically a shirt with no midriff. Styles vary mainly in how tight the shirt sits against the body, and how high the lower edge of the t-shirt rises. Some of these styles go as far as showing quite a bit of underboob. 

Bra top:

A bra top can be considered a type of crop top. However, it tends to differ from a classic bra both in shape and construction. Typically a bra top won’t have an underwire or padding and will be sturdier, offering more coverage. It will also differ in the use of adjustable straps and fabrics, avoiding lace. 

Crop top:

A crop top is any type of shirt or top that leaves the midriff uncovered. The term can be applied to many fabrics, including knits as in a cropped knit sweater.

Outfits by Crop Top Style

Spaghetti crop top outfit

A spaghetti strap crop top is one of the easiest styles to pull off because it goes well with literally anything. It is a neutral basic that will allow lots of combinations and never look dated, particularly if you go for neutral colors like black, white, and navy. 

Spaghetti Strap Crop Top Outfit: Levi's Tan Suede Jacket, Plaid Ankle Pants in Black Plaid and Vans All White Low Tops

In this case, pair up a basic black Spaghetti Strap Crop Top with a pair of black plaid Ankle-Length Pants with Pockets, add a pair of Adidas Hoops 2.0 Sneakers, and top it off with Levi’s Faux-Leather Belted Motorcycle Jacket. This look can double as business casual if you swap the low tops for a pair of strappy sandals and the leather jacket for an oversized blazer.

Loose crop top outfit

This trendy type of crop top has been seen quite a lot on a wide variety of celebrities lately. Maybe it’s because of how classy it looks, particularly in matching ensembles like Dakota Johnson’s. It favors long torsos and slims down the shoulders because of the wide straps.

Cropped button-down shirt

Shirts have a reputation for being kind of strict and old school, so a cropped Long Sleeve Button-Down Collared Crop is the perfect choice to keep your business attire easy-going but looking polished and crisp. Options to complete this ensemble are very varied!

Long sleeve crop top

Long sleeves don’t have to automatically mean winter or serious looking! Case in point this yellow gauze crop top that Gigi is wearing, with its puffed-up sleeves and ruched tube body. This look can be either party-worthy or a chill option for a night out with friends. Either way, it will definitely turn heads wherever you go!

Striped crop top outfit

There is something inherently maritime about striped shirts, don’t you think? Maybe that is why they always look so good with shorts and with denim in general. For a polished vibe, match your accessories to your crop top’s color and go with thigh-high boots for a savvy street style.

Crop top combinations with other clothing

With high waisted shorts

Tank Top Crop Top Outfit: Levi's 501 Original Shorts, Boston Leathers Belt, Long Sleeve Flannel Shirt and Hawkwell Combat Boots

The key for this effortless look is to pair the Stretchy Crop Tank Top with neutral Levi’s Women’s 501 Original Shorts and add a Casual Loose Plaid Button-Down Shirt tied to the waist. The block of red and black plaid serves to disguise the short length of the shorts while making your legs appear longer.

For the perfect combination, go for a matching 1.75in. Garrison Leather Belt and black Hawkwell Women’s Combat Boots. The rough and sporty elements of the outfit combine to make this one of my favorites, perfect for Coachella or Burning Man!

With pants

One of my favorite trending looks right now is patched denim so I couldn’t resist to through this denim tube Slim Crop Top with a Flared Patched Jeans Bell-Bottom. I am a huge fan of sets since they look super polished when put together but also create a ton of options when combined with other stuff. 

Baggy pants are another safe bet (think cargo pants or loose chinos) and for an easy combo grab your favorite Tommy long-sleeve crop shirt and pair it up with a pair of bell-bottom jeans. And Voila!

Denim Bikini Crop Top Outfit: Tommy Hilfiger baseball cap, the rop addison soft volume handle bag, baggy denim pants and vans sk8-hi unisex casual high top skate shoes

Speaking of baggy pants, a summer crop top outfit with wide-leg pants is the perfect chance to wear a bra top. Go for a Halter Crop Denim Top with matching baggy Wide Leg Pants. Complete the easy-going street style outfit with a Tommy Hilfiger Baseball Cap and a pair of VANS Sk8-Hi Unisex Casual High-Top Skate. 

If you’re looking to fully complete the outfit, you will also need an Addison Soft Volume Handle Bag and thick gold hoop earrings with a matching golden necklace. 

Read:

How To Wear Hoop Earrings Better Than J.Lo

90s Bell Bottom Outfit Ideas for the Now

23 Styles of Earrings that were soooo … 90s

Polo crop top

If you’ve been following our recent articles, you might have read that Polo shirts are a huge classic. Well, think of this Short-Sleeve V Neck Polo as the 2.0 reloaded version. The cropped polo feels like a breath of fresh air. Would totally look amazing with a white tennis pleated skirt, don’t you think?

Matching shorts

I cannot get enough of neutral matching sets! Especially when it comes to a stretchy crop top and sport shorts under a long plaid blazer in Clueless style. The fact that the chain on the crossbody bag is golden is the icing on the cake.

The only thing I would change would be the shoes. I’d much rather pair it up with black Doc Martens for a business casual outfit!

Read: Doc Martens Looks: How to Style Doc Martens with Versatility

With leggings

I couldn’t miss this chance to include a Satin Silk Corset Crop Top. The bustier crop top type is super hot right now, so score yours before the trend runs its course! It might be a great Xmas option if paired with faux-leather leggings and a soft cashmere cardigan with rustic buttons. 

With a skirt

Crop tops are versatile clothing items. They can be minimal, classically neutral, rock n roll, or sporty, worthy of the red carpet, a wedding reception, or a friend’s reunion… 

But, they can also be sweet and romantic like this beautiful flowery crop top with a heart ruched neckline and translucent gauze ham ¾ sleeves. The matching skirt with soft fringes and crochet detailing is absolutely perfect for this top. 

For the winter crop top outfit version, go with a knit Long Sleeve Sweater crop top and pair it up with a High Waist Knot Side Wrap Leather Midi Skirt. Thick tights and high boots with a furry coat will complete the outfit and make it weather-ready for the cold.

With a jacket

Tank Crop Outfit: long black blazer, high waisted faux leather pants and steve madden howler boots

If I had to choose one look from this article, it would be this. The oversized Long Blazer and black Leather Pants make me instantly nostalgic about the late 90s and early 2000s clothing.

The contrasting white Racer Back Tank Top serves to highlight the outerwear and makes both stand out more than if a matching or darker color had been used. The Steve Madden Boots add a touch of roughness to the outfit, completing the badass vibe to utter perfection!

Tank under a crop top

Long Sleeved Sporty Crop Top Outfit: Champion reverse weave cropped hoodie, under armour notion ankle leggings, ugg women's nylon puffer jacket and fila womens memory sneakers

Wearing a Long Sleeve Crop Top under a Reverse Weave Cropped Cut-Off Hoodie is the perfect idea for a relaxed sporty outfit. Match your tank top’s color to your Ankle Leggings color for a dashing look, and keep other items of clothing in a contrasting shade like white for your Fila Memory sneakers.

Think of it as adding layers of color, first the red or any other bright color, then the white for the outer layer, and another contrasting color for the jacket. In this case black for the UGG Women’s Izzie Puffer Jacket Nylon. The same recipe works no matter the base color. Substitute it for any color you already have and go for neutrals on top to make it off-duty model-worthy.

Read:

Brand Overview: FILA has Carved a Niche as a Real Cool Brand

15 of the Best FILA Sneakers (You Won’t Ever Want To Slip Off)

We Tried 11 Best Puffer Jackets for Women (And This is What We Found)

Puffer Jacket Outfits: How to Wear a Puffer Jacket The Right Way

How to feel confident in a crop top

If you’re thinking crop tops are not for you since you don’t have a six-pack, let me tell you that is most definitely not true! Anyone can wear a crop top successfully, six-pack or not. Same for being busty or not, it is all in knowing what to choose.

The trick lies in how you combine your ensemble and make it work for you, not the other way around.

What is the perfect crop top length?

Crop tops can vary a lot in length. There are some so short that they show considerable underboob, whereas others extend until almost covering the belly button. Truth is, there is no perfect length. The right length will depend mostly on what the top is paired with and the type of body the wearer has.  

How to wear a crop top according to your body type

Check this…

How to wear a crop top without a six-pack

Generally speaking, tops that reach the navel tend to elongate the torso and hide any back love handles or underboob extras you may have. But this effect can also be achieved by wearing a top that is shorter but has ties that extend its visual length up to your waistline. Pair it with an A-line skirt or a denim miniskirt to balance the volume on the sleeves.

Tie Crop Top

Denim Mini Skirt

Pro tip: Visual length and real length should not be confused.

A top with fringes can extend to your belly in visual length but be really short in reality, covering only your breasts. Visual length is a nice trick that elongates any body part.

Sometimes very short people use very high heels and cover them with a long skirt, giving the impression they are taller. This is also another great example of how visual length can help you achieve certain looks.

If you’re wearing high pants, you will want the top to show at least a finger or two of skin above the beltline so that the thinner part of your waist is on display, showcasing a perfect hourglass figure. Baggy pants are a perfect fit with a short tank top and a cropped jacket.

Always balance the volume to make your figure appear slimmer, if all parts of the ensemble add visual “bulk” the impression will be that the person itself is bigger, whereas if you take care to showcase the form underneath, you won’t be swallowed by the clothing. This works particularly well if you are pear-shaped or an inverted triangle! 

Cargo pants and a cropped cardigan are the perfect 90s combination to showcase your thin waist and delicate arms while hiding away your tummy safely under a belt. You can also add a bra top under the cardigan to complete the look and big loop earrings for added glam. 

Read: Baggy Cargo Pants Outfits (Forever in Style)

How to wear a crop top for a long torso

If you want to shorten your torso, your best bet is a middle-length crop top with a plunging neckline like this Summer Basic Sleeveless Stretch Crop Top. The ruffled bust adds volume to your breasts and the plunging neckline makes your neck look slimmer, adding a sense of delicacy.

Stretch Crop Top

The tight, relatively long bottom of the top in a solid color gives the impression that the torso is shorter, especially with a high-waisted pair of jeans that conceals the start of the hips. The effect can be replicated with a skirt or a similar top as well.

All about Bras in a crop top world

Bra-like crop top outfit idea

Bra tops come in many shapes and colors so there is plenty to choose from. My favorite style for bra tops is as part of a matching set, either with a pencil, pleated or half-circle skirt (all preferable quite so they sit at the waist).

Matching sets with cargo pants also look amazing and you can add a solid-colored cardigan to the mix for added warmth. Regarding accessories, I am not a big fan of being all matchy-matchy, so I would pair the bag and shoes in a different color, unlike Taylor here. 

What bras to wear with crop tops

There is nothing as tacky as a peeking bra, so depending on the crop top, you have to check which bras fit the style best. When in doubt, go for a strapless so that no straps end up showing up repeatedly and bothering you all day long.

Some people swear by those sticking bras…I have never mastered that art. I would rather either stick with a strapless or with a plunging neckline bra. 

How to wear a crop top without a bra

There are two key things to keep in mind here. If you want to show some underboob, you will definitely have to go braless. Second, depending on the type of top, you might need some nipple covers if you want to go bra-free.

That being said, it is pretty much a case of to each its own. You can potentially wear any type of top without a bra, so if you want your girls to be free, go for it!

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Lorena Lombardo is a fashion designer specialized in trend forecasting and fashion journalism. She studied at the UAL (University of London), ORT (Universidad ORT Uruguay), and taken various courses about traditional craftsmanship while living in Tokyo. Some of her favorite memories during the 90s include wearing bucket hats and trying to copy Rachel’s hairstyle. Her absolute favorite show was Buffy: the Vampire Slayer but she was also a huge fan of Clueless because of its amazing fashion choices. Her top track of the decade is currently disputed between How soon is Now? by the Smiths and Here with me by Dido. Both also happen to be the opening songs for two great 90s shows: Charmed and Roswell. Coincidence? I think not!