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What is a Cropped Jacket?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 21, 2024
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A cropped jacket is a jacket with a hemline that’s waist-length or higher. Cropped jackets may come with long sleeves, three-quarter-length sleeves, or cap sleeves, as well as round collars, flared collars, snap collars, or no collar at all. The cropped jacket fits into a wide variety of fashion genres depending on its style, and can range anywhere from retro office chic to military-inspired. The cropped jacket is usually fashioned from heavier fabrics with structure, such as denim, tweed, leather, or raw silk.

During the 1960s, then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy popularized the look of a crop jacket paired with matching skirt. Some of the most iconic photos of the former first lady feature her in a cropped jacket, matching skirt suit and accessories such as pearls, over-sized sunglasses and a pillbox hat. The office drama, Mad Men, set in the 1960s, also reflects the popularity of cropped jackets at this time, as it frequently features the style on various female cast members. In addition to retro-inspired cropped jackets, cropped military-inspired jackets have become popular in the new millennium, featuring such details as large gold buttons, embroidering, double breasting, and epaulets.

During the 1980s, the cropped jacket re-emerged in mainstream fashion, taking on a very different form from its previous place in formalwear. The cropped jacket became even shorter, featuring hemlines rising to the ribcage to resemble a bolero jacket. Some of these extremely cropped jackets featured the same design as motorcycle jackets, and were available in a wide variety of bold, neon colors. Extremely short denim or jean jackets also became popular in the 1980s, mostly in stone washed and acid washed styles. In the new millennium, cropped denim jackets made a comeback, but received a style makeover in darker denim.

In the colder months, cropped jackets can be layered over turtlenecks, dress shirts, and other tops with long sleeves. In warmer weather, cropped jackets can be worn over a summer dress or over a camisole paired with cropped pants. The most important factor to consider when matching a cropped jacket to an outfit is the fabric. If an outfit is formal, avoid pairing it with cropped jackets fashioned from informal fabrics such as denim and corduroy. Formal cropped jackets, however, which are made of such fabrics as tweed and feature collars or double-breasting can go with both formal or informal outfits.

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