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August 1, 2012


By Chris Boyle

It’s crunch time, ladies! Designers have sliced away the center of their ensembles to leave the midriff exposed this summer, so slap on that SPF 50 and take this hot weather wear out for a spin.

While the idea of wearing an outfit that leaves most of the torso exposed to the elements may seem risqué—raunchy even—these designer looks are a far cry from music video getups or Coachella concert costumes. That said, this season’s midriff trend was interpreted in a variety of ways, with inspiration stemming from the hot and sweaty world of sportswear to 1950s lingerie to boho gypsy style.

Taking the activewear track, the up and coming New York-based French designer Joseph Altuzarra unveiled a signature collection that paired semi-sheer mesh crop tops, which were cut high up above the clavicle, with gossamer-thin white nylon windbreakers, making for a streetwise gym style that American designers have down pat. The sporty slate was also embraced by Anthony Vaccarello, whose sexy “Ace bandage” style of trussing up a torso made his collection a favorite with the models who walked his catwalk and leading fashion editors alike.

But it was the Italian brands that really got behind the bare midriff idea. Miuccia Prada showed just how versatile the style can be with her Prada and Miu Miu collections. At the former show, elastic-edged silk tube tops, which sashayed down the catwalk with slim skirts, had a very linear look that exposed a lot of bare skin but were still able to convey a retro 1950s vibe via evocative prints. Her Miu Miu collection, on the other hand, exposed just a sliver of skin, giving the outfits a more modern slant. Everything from long-sleeved gray shirts to broad-strapped “sports bra” tops were covered up with knee-length jackets or shrugs to give a peek-a-boo appeal to the skin on display.

The retro exposed midsection was a key component of the Dolce & Gabbana show as well. The charming collection, which uses vibrant fruit- and vegetable-print fabrics, could have stepped right out of the 1950s. Sophia Loren would have felt right at home in a red hot tomato patterned ensemble that paired a wide bra top with a matching full skirt, as well as the pencil skirt version featuring a pattern of lovely purple eggplants. Over at Pucci designer Peter Dundas seemed to have taken Brigitte Bardot as his summer muse. Her boho beauty was infused in every cropped, off-the-shoulder peasant top and flowing skirt that glided down the catwalk. But one particular all-white outfit, with a white lace top under an hourglass-cut jacket, proved that the look could be simultaneously classy and sassy. Donatella Versace implemented the trend in its most widespread interpretation, that of a bandeau bra. It worked particularly well with her sea-inspired show featuring a widespread use of starfish and clamshell prints.

The key to pulling off this fit fashion, be it a cropped top from Preen or a 1950s-style bra top from Nina Ricci, is getting the proportions right. If the top is on the tiny side, think of pairing it with a well-tailored jacket. If it has a retro feel, embrace the look from head to toe with a full skirt and wedge heels. But the most important thing to remember— if you want to keep this summer look from turning tawdry— is to sport a tummy that’s taut and trim.




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