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My Mom and Crop Tops

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My Mom, Her Midriff

Having been born in 1987, my memories of how my mom looked when I was a kid are very much rooted in the ’90s. She had a perm and bangs that she curled even more and then sort of teased. She had a bright blue long-sleeved velour shirt that I’m pretty sure she still owns and wears today. She also had a lot of crop tops.

I say crop top, but in the mid-’90s she definitely called them midriffs, short for midriff tops. A few of these were parts of sets — a midriff top with some sort of matching pant. She wore them around the house mostly, to do housework on Saturdays, a weekly routine you could hear and smell from a mile away: the vacuum roaring, the entire house Clorox-scented.

My mom and I look alike. We have similar hair (medium length, brown, usually worn parted on the side) and body shapes (pear). My mom, though, has something I’ve never really had: abs. She has the quintessential ‘90s abs, which she got from doing the quintessential ‘90s workout video 8 Minute Abs.

Everything about abs are indeed so ‘90s to me. If you look back at photos from that decade into the early aughts, every single pop star is wearing low-rise jeans and some sort of crop top. It was my understanding as a kid that more people had actual abs than didn’t. It seemed like abs weren’t a hard thing to get. How could they be, if so many people, even my mom, had them? And they only took eight minutes to achieve!

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When I was quoted in this Playboy article about underboob and the resurgence of very-cropped tops in celebrity culture, I sent it to my mom. She texted back and told me that the whole point of ‘90s midriff tops wasn’t to show the underside of your breasts, but to show off what great abs you had. I loved her trying to wrap her head around Rihanna and the underboob resurgence of 2016. I also loved the mental image that gave me of my mom, flaunting something.

My mom doesn’t wear midriff tops anymore; they’re a relic of her past. She says it’s a “weight and age thing,” even though despite always wanting to lose exactly five pounds, she still has those abs. I’m still fairly ab-less, but I’ve begun to adopt her aesthetic of crop tops with high-waisted shorts or jeans the last few years.

I find it flattering to my body shape (which makes sense, since I’m built almost exactly the same as my mom, albeit less toned), but there’s also a nostalgia factor that appeals to me on a couple of levels. Not only is it a retro look that’s easy to romanticize on an aesthetic level now, it also feels like a passing of the torch. I like the idea of adopting a look that my mom has grown out of, as if a midriff top were a family heirloom to be handed down through generations. 

This summer, my mom and I are taking a short road trip from San Diego to Los Angeles, stopping at different Southern California towns along the way. I know she won’t, but I’m definitely packing a midriff top or two that flaunts my stomach — even if I don’t have my mom’s abs. Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director

Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Big Little Lies’ Character Is Supposed to Look Like She’s Trying Too Hard
Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley

To say that HBO’s new miniseries Big Little Lies is an A-list production would be a dramatic understatement. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz as a quintet of mothers with major secrets, the show (which is based on the Liane Moriarty novel of the same name) packs major star power. It doesn’t hurt that it looks beautiful, too.

Set in posh Monterey, California, the part-suburban melodrama, part-whodunnit series follows overbearing alpha mom Madeline Martha Mackenzie (a phenomenal Witherspoon) as she befriends town newbie and single mother Jane Chapman (Woodley) while grappling with her ex-husband’s decision to take up with beautiful, free-spirited yoga teacher Bonnie (Kravitz). Meanwhile, former lawyer Celeste Wright (Kidman) is quietly struggling with domestic abuse, and cutthroat CEO Renata Klein (Dern) is vying for the position of top mom at Otter Bay Elementary. Oh, and by the way, all of the moms are also prime suspects in a murder case.

It’s a lot of characters and plot lines to keep straight — but for Big Little Lies costume designer Alix Friedberg, it provided ample opportunity for sartorial storytelling. Friedberg began by choosing a distinct palette for each key player comprised of colors that reflected her personality — and hinted at her hidden struggles. “Colors are really important when you have five different characters who are often all in the same room,” she explains.

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I went to J.Crew a dozen times over the course of a couple months in 2012. Not because my college student discount was about to evaporate (although that is true), or to attend weekly prayer sessions in the basement to the #menswear gods when J.Crew was at the peak of its powers. No, it was to stare into a small glass case holding these Han Kjøbenhavn Timeless Amber Sunglasses ($180) and break down the idea of spending almost $200 on sunglasses on a fresh-out-of-college budget.

Making a big-ass purchase like this is the kind of thing you have to work up to. It starts with a museum mentality: look but don’t touch, and peer at the price tag more out of curiosity than actual consideration. Start talking yourself into it: These are “timeless” (it’s literally in the name!), so I’ll have them forever; they’re sunglasses, so I can wear them all the time and with everything. I need a pair of sunglasses! I was tricking my brain into believing this was a reasonable thing for a person to do.

And I wasn’t wrong. Five years later, I still have, wear, and love these sunglasses. The circular shape’s just different enough from the ubiquitous Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and the tortoiseshell pattern makes me feel like an old Hollywood leading man. They’re the type of sunglasses that make you hate a cloudy day — a wasted opportunity. They make this indoorsman look forward to summer and pull reasons to go to the park out of thin air. —Cam Wolf, menswear editor

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