Speaking of warm weather and sunscreen, today I ventured forth into Cambridge wearing this outfit:

I think it's adorable. The same sort of belly-baring idea was also popular when I was a teenager, but I wouldn't have worn it then. It was not a problem with my body -- I've basically always looked like this -- or with the environment -- the good ol' boys had better things to harass me about at the time -- but rather, with the specifics of what seems to be two very similar looks. Details, sometimes, make all the difference when you're dealing with fashion trends.

(I cannot state too strongly, incidentally, that if you and a particular look do not get along well, it's not because you are shaped wrong. It's because there's some detail about that particular style that's not making you look like you want to. The flipside of this is that you should never, ever wear an outfit that you feel uncomfortable in, if you can possibly help it. If you're constantly tugging on it because it doesn't fit right, you'll look silly. If you're constantly tugging on it because you're afraid it doesn't fit right, you'll also look silly. The solution to this is to only wear clothes you like. It really is that simple. Finding them, on the other hand...)

The reason I didn't do the crop-top thing fifteen years ago when it was hot is that this interpretation of the outfit, and the interpretation that was popular then, are only superficially the same idea. Christina Aguilera here, on a cover to one of her singles, is wearing a typical version. Note where the shirt and waistband of the pants hit her. The hem of the shirt skims her body a couple of inches below her narrowest point, stopping just short of covering her navel. The waistband of her pants hangs quite a bit lower, below the points of her pelvis, and stopping just short of requiring a Brazilian wax for public wearing. The specific strip of skin meant to be bared by this outfit goes downward from the navel, and this is a strip of skin which simply does not exist on me -- it requires a long torso, with a good handspan of room between the natural waistline and the hipline, which I just do not have. A shirt that hit me that low wouldn't look like an intentional crop top; it would look like I shrunk a normal shirt in the wash.

There is an additional problem with the jeans, particularly on me. Low-rise jeans at the time were so low that they were essentially meant to rest, usually on the bottom edge of the waistband, right at the widest point of the hips. Keeping them from falling down as you walked required them to either be very tight, or the use of a wide belt snug against the hips. Ready-made clothing is often poorly-designed as a rule, and it's even more so for petites and people with a large waist-hip difference; the super-tight ones result in muffin top if there's no space for them to ride between the top of your hipbone and the point at which they would get you arrested, and if you have an extra-small waist and an extra-short torso, any unshaped belt more than about half an inch wide digs in at the bottom and gaps at the top. You have no idea how much I hated low-rise jeans as a teenager.

The overall lines of what I'm wearing are closer to this, which is a vintage example of what used to be called a "playsuit". The waistband of my pants there are much lower than was was popular in the 1940s, but the effect is the much the same, as the idea there is not to add any horizontal lines between the natural waist and the top of the hip curve. The button-down shirt is tied at the narrowest point of me, and the pants hang loosely just above the widest part of my hips, thus allowing me to walk around without flashing everyone my underpants, like a civilized human being.

(Jeans in the 2000s were so low rise they forced the invention of, I am not kidding you, backless thong panties. Answer to question one: They didn't have a waistband, they were held on by two elastic straps that went around the hips/thighs instead, and attached directly to the back of the gusset. Answer two: No, it evidently did not occur to anyone that if you were wearing jeans so low that hipster thongs stuck out the back, you might want to either re-think those pants, or re-think your insistence on wearing underwear with them.)

I've been running into a similar problem with skinny jeans, which is that the initial popular interpretation all landed whack on the same uncomfortable muffin-top point on my hips, and didn't fit right down by my ankles. (I have ludicrously small ankles. I can wear ladies' medium wrist bracelets as ankle bracelets. If the non-scrunch kinds of skinny jeans are sized properly for my ankles, my calves are squashed, and it's hard to force my feet through.) I don't mind jeans that look painted on, but ill-fitting sausage casings that squash bits of me out the top are right out. Now that the details of the look have relaxed a bit, and they've evolved from strict drainpipe trousers to things allowed to have some extra room at the bottom, I have a fighting chance of finding a pair that don't make me look like I've borrowed jeans from someone else in a pinch.

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