I recently embarked on an annual adventure that has, historically, left me disappointed: summer clothing shopping. As a larger-chested person, finding tops and dresses that are cute and trendy while also consisting of enough material to cover my upper body is a challenge. And this year has proved no different—in fact, it’s been worse. Tops seem to have shrunk to ridiculous proportions.
After scrolling through what seemed like endless pages of absurdly tiny tops, I stopped abruptly at this one from Princess Polly. Certainly, I thought, even people with small chests would be skeptical of something like this. I mean, one stiff breeze and it’s all over—full nip exposure. Online retailers aren’t the only place I’ve noticed the tiny top trend running rampant, either. A lot of influencers are prancing around in barely-there crop tops that are, of course, perfectly situated for photos.
There are plenty of celebrity examples as well. As we are all well aware, the Kardashians love a nearly-nude outfit, but this button-down shirt seen on Kim is confusingly cropped. And this black sweater worn by Hailey Bieber for a Vogue shoot is literally being held together by a safety pin, albeit probably a designer one. At least she’s wearing a jacket over it? Camila Cabello wore this orange top that might as well not be there at all.
TBH I first found myself wanting to emulate these styles, but then I stopped to think: Truly, where would I wear this? How would I wear this? Why would I wear this? I certainly couldn’t run around New York City in these kinds of clothes. There’s no way I could comfortably walk up stairs or hail a cab or carry home groceries dressed like this. But then again, I have breasts that are notoriously difficult to dress. So, maybe it’s just me?
In an effort to better understand the tiny tops trend, I took to social media to ask my smaller-breasted friends and followers if they would wear something similar to the Princess Polly shirt above. The answer? A resounding no. “Absolutely not,” one replied. “I think it’s a Gen Z thing.”
This is a plausible explanation that I definitely considered, though as demonstrated on Instagram, the look isn’t limited to Zoomers. In fact, according to Who What Wear, such skin-baring tops are one of the biggest trends of 2021. And I worry that it will become so ubiquitous that we’ll soon be hard-pressed to find anything that covers our stomachs, let alone our chests.
Because as one friend pointed out, “Boobs still move—and so do shirts.” This is excellent logic that I feel is being deeply ignored by large swaths of the garment industry. “Wouldn’t wear this. What would I even do with my nipples?” another friend mused. Are cute, comfortable tops too much to ask for? Is striking the perfect balance of function and fashion really that hard to achieve?
I’m using this one shirt to prove a point, because it was merely the last straw in my fruitless search for summer basics. But rest assured, these tiny tops are absolutely everywhere. Like this one—I feel anxious just looking at it. And this one—my boobs would literally fall out of the bottom. This one is labeled as a “crop top,” but it’s actually just a bandeau bra. And what is this? A doily? Whatever it is, it’s burned in my brain.
Listen, I love showing a little skin as much as the next person—especially in the warmer months—and this is not to shame anyone who chooses to flaunt what they’ve got. But shirts this small are impractical for most people, and they’re certainly not the easiest way to embrace summer’s sultrier weather. Honestly, in some twisted way, it almost seems as if our generation is being punished. Tops are getting tinier, low-slung pants are back, side parts are considered out…It’s as if we’re being told to dress like Christina Aguilera circa her “Dirrty” days.
But seriously, Y2K fashion is back, and women (myself included) are rightly freaking out. While trends from the early aughts, including tiny tops, may photograph well on models and influencers, they don’t take into account our everyday lifestyles—not to mention the huge emphasis they place on thinness. So are we no longer dressing for actual life? This is not a rhetorical question. As a “geriatric millennial,” or whatever we’re being called these days, I’m genuinely confused. My DMs are open.
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