Cream of the crop

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Baring your midriff is big this season. Get in training now, says Harriet Walker, while Gemma Hayward shows you how it's done

Gemma Hayward: How to wear the tops

The crop top comes in many guises, from body-con to retro and from sporty to floaty. As long as it stops above the navel, anything goes. The most brave will be attracted to bra-style tops, as seen on the Dolce & Gabbana catwalk, which have the look of a 1950s foundation garment about them. It's the style which requires the most confidence to wear as the underwear as outerwear detailing doesn't leave much to the imagination.

Bandeau tops are just as skimpy, while a cotton option with gathered edges is more sweet than brazen. Miuccia Prada prints her bandeau tops with cartoon hot rod cars and cuts them in luxurious matte silk and broderie anglaise. For those with more conservative taste, just as fashionable is a T-shirt or vest with a high hem and a width of 1980s proportions. This style is meant to be worn baggy and looks best when printed and bright. And just because it's a crop top doesn't mean it has to be so short it's exposed: cuts which fall to just below the waist are more than acceptable.


The perfect pairing

Lessen the need to hold in your stomach when wearing a crop top by thinking carefully about what to wear it with. What works with these barely there separates? Skirts in all guises come to the rescue here. Prada and Dolce & Gabbana both pair their crop tops with knee-length, figure-enhancing pencil skirts and the result is pleasingly 1950s pin-up poster girl. If that's too overtly sexy, a Sixties style, A-line skirt as seen at Miu Miu and Marc by Marc Jacobs is a less curvaceous, more playful and youthful alternative. High-waisted Daisy Dukes will also ensure a retro vibe, but only the super-confident (and super toned) need apply.

For those concerned about baring too much flesh, a crop top paired with a maxi skirt is less exposing – they look best cut in a casual material such as denim or cotton. For those who prefer to wear the trousers, a block- coloured, wide-legged cut with a simple bandeau or leather vest makes for a modern, high-impact look or skinny printed trousers with a retro bra-top is a sassy look.

If you can't be brave, be bold

Not everyone wants to bare their middle – even those in possession of a perfectly toned stomach don't necessarily want to show it off to everyone. Layer a crop top over something longer and rest safe in the knowledge that the new season's proportions are yours while modesty is in tact. Opt for a loose-fitting, cropped T-shirt style – Urban Outfitters does a great range of fun printed tees and simply wearing one over a longer length vest will save any blushes. This has the advantage of also appearing less try-hard than look-at-me bra tops.

Cropped outerwear is also an option and a trend that looks set to dominate the forthcoming autumn season too. A modern leather bomber, biker jacket or clean-line blazer cropped to just above the waist will be a welcome addition to any wardrobe. For those really wanting to get ahead of the times, meanwhile, the cropped Puffa jacket looks set to be popular in the near future.

Harriet Walker: How to get the body

Every season there comes at least one trend that you know won't work for you. It's usually something colourfully faddish or involves the sort of peacockery that only adolescents can get away with. So the rest of us smile indulgently – nostalgically even – and move on.

And for summer 2012, one of the most prevalent looks also happens to be the hardest to pull off: the bare midriff. There are few grown women who'd be comfortable wearing a bandeau top with a low slung pencil skirt, but if Miuccia Prada wants us to, then maybe it's time to heed the directive.

But you don't send troops into battle unarmed, and you don't show off a stomach that has spent winter gurgling and expanding happily beneath knitwear without taking it to task first.

The workout

"Performing a great number of crunches and other abdominal specific exercises does not provide you with a flat stomach," trainer Vicky Smith tells me when I visit the headquarters of the Matt Roberts (he who is responsible for the sveltesse of Naomi Campbell and David Cameron) chain of fitness studios. "Intensity during training is preferable to duration – you should be performing full-body sessions to get the biggest energy expenditure."

She then takes me through a circuits routine that includes leg squats, 40 seconds bursts of high-impact work on an exercise bike and cross trainer, and a horrible thing called the "plank with reach", where you hold your body straight, supported by your toes and forearms and then stretch each arm out in turn. By the end of the session I am walking bent double, and the next day my torso resounds with the aftermath of hard work.

An initial consultation costs £185; one month of six sessions is £400,


The science bit

Feeling somewhere between a mother-to-be and a microwavable ready-meal, I lie back and think of bare midriffs for the "EF Ultra" treatment. This claims to work by firing ultrasonic waves into the stomach (and can be used to target any wobbly area) to break down the membranes of cells and make them less good at their job of storing fat. The second phase is a blast of radiowaves applied to the same area, which apparently tighten the skin and stimulate collagen production and the metabolism.

In theory, it's a bit like waking up your flabby bits with cold water and then making them go on a 10-mile run. In reality, it's tingly without being unpleasant – and rather more palatable than a sweaty session in the gym.

£300 per session, six to eight sessions recommended,


The embarrassing one

It isn't necessary to go into the particulars here but having a few litres of water repeatedly sloshed around your colon and sluiced out again isn't as unpleasant as it sounds. The procedure is painless, takes around half an hour and is morbidly fascinating. As well as claiming to expel molecules that irritate the gut and cause bloating, this left me feeling cleansed and wholesome and less willing to taint my whitewashed colon with any junk food either.

Colonic hydrotherapy £90,

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas