Dispatches from NYC
What Does It Take to Find a Cute Top Around Here?
By Pauline Millard
Oct 18, 2007

It was rough shopping on Saturday afternoon. In the interest of saving time, I headed to Macy’s, where I figured I would be in and out in an hour.

If only life were so neat. I am only 30 years old and as I browsed from collection to collection in the women’s section, I found myself saying out loud, “What is it with clothing nowadays?” Almost every top, from the juniors section right on up to misses, was some variation of an empire waist. The prints were bold and colorful, some were straight Pucci and Diane von Furstenberg ripoffs. But those tops -- in rayon and polyester, some even silk -- would make even the thinnest woman look pregnant.

I know this first hand. Last weekend I was getting my nails done, and was wearing a wrap-around kimono top that tied around the ribs. While the manicurist gave me a quick massage when I was under the dryer, she asked if I was expecting. Granted, one should never ask a woman this unless it is obvious that she is. When I looked down at my outfit, I laughed and couldn’t blame her for her question.

The trend of the pregnant shirt started a few years ago, when Juicy Couture started making those strange, terry-cloth tube tops all the tanorexics in Hollywood liked so much. The look crept across the country, got knocked off and eventually made its way into the mainstream. From then on, designers have been making shapeless tops and dresses and passing them off as the latest looks.

From a manufacturing standpoint, the empire-waist shirt makes a lot of sense. The shirt itself is a basic square with a sash that ties in the back. A sweatshop worker in Shanghai could probably make 20 of them in an hour. There’s no need to make complicated garments if simple ones will do. (They're cheaper too.) From what I’ve seen around the shops lately, the fabric doesn’t have to be that great, either, as long as the color is bright.

Ladies, let’s stop for a second. Have we not eyes and mirror? We make fun of all the fashion victims on shows such as How Do I Look? and How Not to Dress but have we stopped to look at what we’re perpetuating? We spend so much time in gyms and not eating carbs, only to wear clothing that makes us look like we’re hiding the Freshman 15. It may be harder to find clothing that doesn’t make you look like you’re seven months along, but why would you want to fake a baby bump in the first place?

It’s clear that the fashion industry has found a trend that they’re going to stick to, as long as places such as Forever 21 and H&M keep attracting suckers to buy these tops. We can, however, stop them from doing so. Think about other foolish trends that stopped: the one-armed tank top, acid-washed jeans and cable knit sweaters. These trends evaporated because women finally came to their senses and stopped buying them. We can do the same with the empire-waist top. We can once again have tops that flatter our bodices and draw attention to our figures. You just gotta believe. And step away from the pregnant shirt.

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