The quickest way to a crop top is to just crop a top, take scissors to it and go. Easy, right? Well, as it turns out, the quickest way to deep personal regret is also to crop a top, take scissors to it and go. With shortened shirts all over the spring runways at Alexander Wang, Rodarte, Rag & Bone, and more, it's tempting to test-drive the look now, when a flash of skin under a blazer under a cozy overcoat is a fun wink at winter. But while anyone can cut their clothes, it takes an eye and honed instincts to do it so that it looks like the result of a Savile Row-level tailor, not a bottle of red wine crossed with a revisit of Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" video.
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First, picture the shirt you want to cut. Then, picture it as two tragic new rags to polish your coffee table. If you start to well with tears, choose another. The best DIY crop tops are born from pieces you haven't been able to resurrect for a few seasons and don't foresee wearing anytime soon. A shirt with a little volume is best, and avoid loose weaves (unless you want your top to be a one-day kind of thing, disintegrating as you go). Next, decide where you want to cut. Crop tops are all about playing with proportions, creating a line that falls where the eye doesn't expect it. It's best if you choose one pair of pants or a skirt with which to wear your altered shirt, picking a length that corresponds with the bottom. Put on both garments and use safety pins to explore. You want to be able to raise your hands without your bra showing, and keep in mind: Just because a shirt is cropped, doesn't mean it has to show skin.
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T-shirts make for great practice to find your ideal line, because you can always throw one on with a high-waisted pant and blazer, and if you make a mistake, it's unlikely you'll feel cutter's remorse. Plus, tee hems curl up once cut, creating a natural hem sans tailor. Once altered, you can leave a garment unhemmed and let feathery strings fall loose from the bottom. In this case, it's best to choose a piece that already suggests finish, like a crisp button-down. Pair with a polished jacket, and the unruly strings read more Margiela-esque than done-at-home.
Once you master cropping shirts, don't be shy. Lop off the bottom of a coat, or cut a sleeve so that it hits just above the wrist-the mark of a bespoke garment. Or even make like Lauren Santo Domingo, who had Olivier Theyskens hack off enough material to make her wedding dress party-ready. A great way to get a clean, crisp line is to use an industrial paper cutter. How we learned that trick we won't reveal, but suffice it to say evenings in the Vogue Art Department can be surprisingly productive. Now all you need is the courage to cut. Get to it, chop chop!