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Spring/summer 2014 fashion: Oh no! The crop top is back

Along with the wardrobe-friendly trends that emerge from the runway, each season ushers in some of the more challenging ones too.

Thanks to their shapeless silhouettes, maxi skirts have long sat in that camp along with peplum pieces and playsuits. But one of the most striking recent examples is Birkenstock-type sandals.

Once universally accepted as among the least appealing footwear, it took months for them to catch on after Phoebe Philo thrust them back into the spotlight when she sent models down the runway in fur-lined versions at Celine’s spring 2013 show.

Joining that group this spring is the crop top. Designers have been flirting with them for a while but this season they’re everywhere and played a big part in the 1990s revival that’s dominating the fashion agenda right now.

‘The decade was huge on the runway but in a clean, pared-back way,’ says ShopBop style director Elle Strauss. ‘The return of dungarees gives a nod to that and with it comes the crop top.’

Before you go writing it off altogether, the charm of the crop top’s latest incarnation is that it’s shaken off its girl-band connotations.

‘It doesn’t feel clubby or Spice Girls any more,’ says Strauss. The new versions are infinitely more grown up and don’t require washboard abs to pull them off. The secret to nailing the look lies in subtlety.

‘Experimenting with a crop top doesn’t mean exposing your midriff,’ explains Matches buying manager Suzanne Pendlebury. ‘But it can be the perfect way to show off high-waisted jeans or skirts to achieve an ultra-feminine, nipped-in silhouette.’

Gone are the slashed T-shirt styles of yesteryear and in their place are crop tops that are less about the stomach and more about the waist.

Styles that sit comfortably at the end of the ribs are important, second only to getting your proportions right at the bottom. The trick is to wear them with skirts and trousers that come over the navel to reveal just a hint of skin.

At Dolce & Gabbana and Michael Kors, for example, crop tops were teamed with ladylike A-line skirts that felt like a modern twist on the summer two-piece.

At Diane von Furstenberg, they were styled with voluminous skirts that emphasised the female form and oozed glamour.

‘The silhouettes now are much more sophisticated,’ adds Strauss. ‘It’s all about knowing your figure and drawing attention to the best bits.’

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. From luxury online retailers such as FarFetch and Avenue 32, to high-street stores Topshop and H&M, everyone is getting in on the action.

But no one taps into the zeitgeist quite like Zara and this season it has covered all bases. From bold embroidery and lace details to some of the more sporty varieties, the choice there is endless, and with prices averaging around the £19.99 mark, they won’t break the budget.

If you’re thinking of investing, Net-A-Porter offers every style you can imagine, from easy day wear versions from Kenzo to more evening wear options from Tibi.

The hemline index dictates that the higher the hemline, the better the economy and with the British Chamber of Commerce reporting that it is set to hit a pre-recession peak by the end of the summer, it’s safe to say that crop tops aren’t going anywhere any time soon.