Crop tops are a summer must-have — or so I hear. Wearing crop tops has always been a love/hate event for me, since I'm a plus-size girl. This means that not only do I have a lot of trouble finding crop-tops in my size, but that I have to deal with the body shaming and fatphobia that often come with it. I often receive disapproving glances from strangers when I decide to show off my belly, which often makes me feel self-conscious myself about my outfit. I carry my weight in my stomach and yes, even a body positive activist like me sometimes doesn't feel great about the way I look.
That's why I was both hesitant and curious about this experiment. I figured it would bring up a lot of emotions and also force me to live a bit outside of my comfort zone. It's not that I don't like to show my skin, but I think emphasizing my stomach in particular always gives me a little anxiety, since it's what's considered the most unattractive part of my body by society — and probably by me, too. I wanted to learn to love my stomach for everything that it is and does for me. Wearing crop tops everyday for a week seemed like a sure way to help me to do that.
The experiment itself was simple enough; I just wore a crop top in some way, shape, or form for seven days in a row. I tried to incorporate the tops into outfits that reflect my everyday style as much as possible.
Below, a one week documentation of my adventures in belly shirts.
I wore this outfit for a day of coffee-shop hopping, since I had a lot of work to do and needed a lot of coffee and pastries for motivation. I felt really confident wearing this outfit. It's very reflective of my personal style but also felt really daring, with the tight pants and barely-there crop top. Walking around on the street, I felt like a rock star.
When I was waiting for the bus, a woman who was also at my bus stop completed me on my pants. "They're so '70s. I love them!" she said. I smile because I was glad someone appreciated my vintage aesthetic. Clearly, this woman has good taste.
I had a really strange experience later that afternoon. I was sitting outside of Starbucks, reading a book on a work break. A guy rode past me on his bike and we made eye contact. He looked back at me, staring to the point that I thought he might fall off of his bike. I was getting ready to walk home and went back inside of Starbucks to return the plate I'd use to eat my chocolate croissant and when I came back out, the bike guy was parked there waiting for me to return. He stared me up and down, clearly checking me and my outfit out. It didn't actually feel flattering at all. I was getting really creepy vibes from the dude. "What's your name?" he asked me. I didn't know what to do, so I just mumbled "No," and walked in the opposite direction.
Despite the encounter with the creepster, this outfit made me feel like a total badass. A lot of strangers gave me a second glance on this first day of the experiment, which only made me more excited for crop top number two.
This crop top is a recent purchase and has slowly turned into one of my favorites. The fringe and suede are out-of-this-world cool. Paired with these faux leather shorts, I felt like an off-duty celebrity. Here, I am standing outside of a construction site for The World of Beer they're building across from Ohio State University, which happens to be next store to Cold Stone Creamery, where I'd gone for ice cream.
On this day, I'd decided to take myself out on a solo date to see Mad Max: Fury Road. Although the theater was dark and no one could really see my outfit, I knew everyone in the theater was thinking I looked cool enough to be sitting shotgun with Charlize Theron. Probably.
After the movie was when I'd decided to get some mint ice cream and sat outside of the store to eat it. A random guy that was sitting close to me turned to me when he got up to leave and said "I don't know your name, but have a nice weekend, OK?" I thanked him and although I'm guessing he was trying to flirt, I didn't really react. I normally don't have this much interaction with male strangers, so it seems that this crop-top experiment might actually come with more guy attention. Do with that what you will.
I decided to wear this neutral crop top again, along with a pair of black leggings and my favorite flower crown. I kind of felt like a dancer from the '80s in this outfit. I'm not one to usually go for simple looks, but I was really into this outfit's straight-forwardness.
I went out to lunch with one of my good friends from college on this day and when we were walking back to her car, a valet outside of a restaurant was noticeably staring at me. He greeted us and as soon as we passed him, I looked at my friend and asked "Did you see that guy checking me out?" We had a laugh about it which then turned into a discussion about street harassment. I thought about how so far in the experiment, I'd felt more anxiety about being potentially harassed on the street, especially with all of the attention I'd been receiving from guys.
It definitely also made me feel self-conscious and this outfit in particular made me feel like my stomach was very visible. I realized looking at myself in the photo I took for that day though that my own insecurities weren't that reflective of reality, since here you can't really even see my stomach.
This was the most casual outfit of the bunch, chosen because I planned to stay home for most of the day.
I honestly ended up kind of feeling like a slob in this outfit after a few hours. My idea was to put together a look that was athletic and cute, but to me, the end result just looked slovenly.
I went out during the afternoon to CVS and the grocery store to pick up a few things and felt like people were definitely judging my outfit. No one made any direct comments to me but I could feel the glances. I didn't really feel cute in this outfit, so I didn't really blame them for giving me the side eye.
In terms of proportion, however, I actually loved how this crop top looked on me. I also loved how the pants were fitted, even though yes, they hit above the largest part of my stomach. I looked good in this silhouette and definitely loved that aspect of this outfit, so it was more the super casual fabrics I wasn't feeling.
This was another work day for me and I was planning to do a little (OK, a lot) of shopping afterwards, so I knew that I would be gone for most of the day. After yesterday's casualosity fiasco, I wanted to look cute but also be comfortable enough to sit at Starbucks for a few hours and focus. I always find that if I don't feel comfortable, I spend most of the time I'm supposed to be working distracted by what I'm wearing.
I loved how retro I felt in this look and I had to rock my favorite flower crown with it. These Forever 21+ shorts are a dream to wear and almost feel like pajamas they're so comfortable. Several sales associates I encountered during my shopping complimented my flower crown and a fellow shopper actually said she liked my crop top! I couldn't remember the last time I'd been complimented on a crop top I was wearing, and it just made me feel really validated in this experiment.
I definitely experienced a lot less attention and street harassment from men this day, which I considered to be a plus. Was it because I was more covered on top? Looking professional? Either way I was content.
I had purchased these leggings for $6 at Target the day before during my shopping and fell completely in love. I thought this crop-top matched perfectly with the bottom sunset print of the leggings and was really digging the whole look. I felt like an artsy hipster when I wore this to the Columbus Arts Festival. I blended right in.
However, I did not feel at home on the streets. When I was walking there, I felt a lot of anxiety about what people might say or think about me in this outfit. It's obviously bold and I felt like you could clearly see how large my stomach was. Even though I'm a huge body positive activist, I still have moments of fear and internalized fatphobia and this definitely brought that on. A few people gave me a second glance on the street but only one person actually commented. "Don't you have a nice outfit on," a random man said to me. I didn't respond and wasn't sure whether to take it as a compliment or an insult. Was it street harassment? A genuine compliment? An aggressive dig? Whatever the case, I moved on without reply.
This was the final day of the experiment and also the weekend! If you cant tell by my smile, I was really enthusiastic about this look. It's very '80s which in many ways is opposite of my almost everyday aesthetic of the '70s. Still, I've noticed that I tend to gravitate towards '80s-inspired clothing when it comes to prints and bright colors. In looking back, I realized that three of these outfits were kind of '80s, so maybe my personal style is a bit more diverse than I thought.
Saturday was kind of a quiet day for me though, as I met up with some friends for brunch and then went to find some new reading material at Barnes & Noble, followed by a night of eating takeout and watching Netflix. That's pretty much my idea of a perfect weekend! My friends didn't seem phased by my outfit, but were complimentary of this necklace. At the bookstore, the guy who rang me up at the checkout said he liked the color of my eyes... even though he was staring straight at my chest. In his defense, I am pretty short, so maybe he really was trying to look me in the eyes.
This is definitely a boobilicious top and I think that's part of why I loved this outfit so much — the focus was not on my stomach. The bold jewel print of my leggings and the tight top don't lead your eyes immediately to my mid-section, but rather towards my breasts. I love my boobs and thought they also looked amazing in this top, so I held my head up high all day.
On Sunday when I sat down to put this post together in its entirety, I felt somewhat strange without wearing a crop top. Right now, I'm sitting here typing in a crochet tank top that flows at the bottom paired with some black micro-mini shorts. I'm showing a lot of skin, but what is concealed is my stomach. Even if a crop top isn't going to become a daily habit of mine, I definitely don't feel the same level of anxiety when I think about wearing one in public as I did before the experiment. Doing something seven days in a row (and living to tell the tale) definitely proved I could handle it.
My other major conclusion is in regards to all the street harassment. It doesn't matter what I'm wearing; it's never okay for you to harass me. With a more revealing outfit, I noticed a lot more clearly how street harassment gave me anxiety and caused me to avoid certain people and places. That made me very, very sad, and very, very pissed off. Women shouldn't have to change their route to work just because they want to wear a crop top.
I'm glad I pushed myself and did this experiment. I came out of it learning that it's OK to be a work in progress and that my stomach is a lot more beautiful than I thought it to be.
Images: Erin McKelle