Fashion is having a crop-top moment. It's really having an early-'90s moment, and crop tops are a part of that, but same difference. The first time this look was in, I was a teenager with low self esteem and too much baby fat. Now that it's back, I'm in my mid-thirties, and while I'm in pretty good shape, I'm not in Gwyneth Paltrow shape. Hence I will not be wearing a crop top, but I might just try the age-appropriate alternative, the side-cutout dress. It's a look that achieves the summery, skin-baring look of a cropped top, but in a more modest, flattering way. You know, for old ladies like me.
Stella McCartney has built a very nice career for herself making clothes that women with imperfect bodies can actually wear. And because of this, many of her looks get knocked off to high heaven. But take one look at this gown and you can see why: It emphasizes the positive in the sexiest way and cleverly uses illusion fabric to create a daring cutout look—without the actual cutouts.
This sexy Reem Acra gown was part of her stellar spring 2013 runway show, of which I was a big fan. Ok, so this is not an everyday look, and considering the back (or lack thereof), it's definitely not a look for everyone. But it is a look.
If you're not walking a red carpet anytime soon, the key to pulling off a cutout dress is achieving a balance between demure and sexy. This Carven dress has a high neckline and a below-the-knee hemline, and the cutouts are high enough on the ribcage so that you won't have to worry about your love handles spilling out. Win-win!
This Opening Ceremony dress takes the demure look a step farther with an even higher collared neckline and full, flirty skirt. Expect to see it on moneyed Williamsburg hipsters all summer long.
This Three Dots dress is one of my favorites here. If you're like me, you probably own something similar already—something easy and unassuming, in striped jersey—but the cutouts give it an unexpected look, as well as a hint of sexiness.
Another one of my favorites is this Rachel Pally maxi dress, and it appears Shopbop customers agree: As of this post, it has 89 positive customer reviews. The top is more bare than most of the styles pictured here, but it's tempered by the long, flowing maxi-length skirt. Could you find a more perfect vacation dress? I think not.
As you might imagine, ASOS has many options when it comes to cutout dresses. But if you don't have the body of a 22-year-old, I recommend this Oasis little black dress, whose cutouts are so discreet, I almost had to zoom in to see them.
This Topshop sundress is a bit more obvious, but it gets points for the cheery color and well-placed cutouts above the waistline. Cool exposed zipper too.
Finally, I am clearly not the intended audience for Nasty Gal, but with all the media attention the site's been getting lately, I thought I should check it out. Most of its clothing would've been far too revealing for even my boundary-pushing 18-year-old self, but every once in awhile, you hit upon something sweet, like this Summer Breeze dress, a perfectly named and designed example.