The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

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Fifty years of fashion at South

Alopa Rao (’25)

     In South’s hallways, students walk from class to class displaying different styles of shirts. With colors ranging from bright white to navy blue, and fabrics ranging from classic cotton to smooth polyester, shirts of all kinds can be seen around every corner. In the past decade, one shirt style has become more popular than ever. 

     Crop tops, which are shirts that are cut above the midriff, have become a new wardrobe staple for high school girls. This cropped style of clothing can come in short sleeve T-shirts, long sleeve T-shirts, tank tops, cardigans, tube tops, and more. This variety in styles allows for people of all ages to wear crop tops, and makes them versatile for different seasons of weather.

     “A good half of my shirts are crop tops,” said Isla Levy (‘25). “Crop tops are just really colorful and fun to wear.” 

     According to The Guardian, crop tops first gained popularity among girls and women during the 80s, and primarily in the form of cropped sweaters. But it wasn’t until the 2010s when this trend began to crawl its way into teenage fashion.

     “By the time I retired, I didn’t see any girls wearing that [crop tops] in my classroom,” said Dr. Wei-ling Wu, a former Chinese teacher at South from 1987-2012. “At that time, in the principal’s office, there were quite a few West Windsor T-shirts in the office. If a girl was not properly dressed and showing too much, she would go to the principal’s office and put on that T-shirt.”     

     Punishments for violating dress codes vary based on the high school. Students could be asked to change clothes, sent home, or be suspended from school. A decade ago, South students had to put on a shirt if their shirt was considered inappropriate by the staff. 

     But as exposing the midriff has become a norm for many female students, dress code policies have adapted. Although the 2023-24 student handbook states that any staff member can ask a student to change into more appropriate clothing, it does not prohibit a specific style or length of top. 

     “I don’t mind showing my stomach,” said Emily Kim (‘26). “I feel like there’s no problem with it and I think it’s become more socially acceptable. Now, it’s just normal for teenagers to be seen wearing crop tops.” 

     This change in what is considered “acceptable” can be largely attributed to changes in popular culture. For example, celebrity choices greatly influence consumer behavior. In the 2000s, when teenagers spotted Paris Hilton and Britney Spears sporting Juicy Couture tracksuits, net sales nearly doubled between 2006 and 2007 and these iconic velour tracksuits became a new normal for teenagers. 

     The same happened with crop tops. When teenagers see influencers like Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner wearing crop tops on their morning coffee runs, they take note. 

     “Celebrities definitely influence current fashion trends. When we’re on social media and see our favorite celebrities wear certain clothes, we want to buy similar clothing,” said Kim. 

     As students continue to follow trends they see online, views on modesty change as well. In this case, as shirts get progressively shorter, the restrictions for “acceptable” dress wear continue to loosen. 

     Like the tracksuits of the 2000s, the crop top has already become one of the defining styles of the 2020s. If the 50 years of clothing trends at South have demonstrated anything, it’s that one thing remains constant in teenage fashion: change.

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