In times of financial woe, so the adage goes, there's a lot more flesh on show. Usually this is with regard to higher hemlines, but for spring/summer 2012 it was midriffs that designers denuded, rather than legs.
At Prada and Proenza Schouler, there were bra-tops and bandeaus that left stomachs as exposed and vulnerable as the Eurozone economy. At Preen, shell tops finished short of tailored trousers so that flesh broke up the most severely tailored of separates. For Pucci, Peter Dundas took inspiration from Romantic Romany culture, teaming cropped bell-sleeve tops with fluid maxi-skirts, and Dolce & Gabbana accented their ode to Italy with retro styled bikini tops.
"Showcasing one's stomach isn't for the faint-hearted, and designers appealed to those with high-octane, highly glamorous sensibilities – as well as to those with high spending power"
It's rather a knowing move. Showcasing one's stomach isn't for the faint-hearted, and designers appealed to those with high-octane, highly glamorous sensibilities – as well as to those with high spending power. Troubled times necessitate the tightening of belts, but not for everyone – there is still a gilded clique willing to shell out more and more for ever smaller amounts of fabrics.
And it is in that rose-tinted shade that fashion is basking right now, with each of the curtailed styles taking inspirations from an era that was happier, more simple and less turbulent that this current one. Miuccia Prada vouchsafed that her collections was not Fifties-inspired but it had that feeling of mid-century luxe to it, and ruched bandeaus worn with pleated and pencil skirts gave the impression of pin-up beauty from a post-war era. Similarly, Dolce & Gabbana's creation of a Sophie Loren-esque heroine in swishing skirting and broderie detailing conjured exactly a moment from the idle, sun dappled Fifties, with tailored and voluptuously seamed crop-tops establishing the look further.
This took some of the trash out of the tummies that were on show – the bare midriff has a bad girl heritage, more Gypsy Rose Lee than Sandra Dee, yet the stylings for spring were innocent, rendered in pastels or simple cotton and made less ferociously sexy. You can rely on Donatella Versace however to ignore that directive – she dressed models in pleated and punched leather pencil skirts and warrior dresses in a collection peppered with neoprene separates that included skimpy crops decorated in neon prints.
Yet for all their studded and skimpy candour, these brief items were printed with seahorses and naive mermaid graphics, giving them yet again an innocent sort of allure. The crop-top for S/S12 is not the hardened streetwear version we have seen in recent years, nor is it self-consciously sexy. It's part of the ingenue vibe channelled by so many labels this season, part of a blythe optimism, to be worn with a full skirt and smile.
Harriet Walker is a fashion writer at The Independent. Her book Less is More: Minimalism in Fashion is out now, published by Merrell. Zoë Taylor has appeared in Le Gun, Bare Bones, Ambit and Dazed & Confused. She is currently working on her third graphic novella and an exhibition.