Browsing through the spring 2022 collections, I lingered on the new, very cool Marine Serre look book. The clothes were elevated, funky, and as French as ever, and the models stood in colorful tops in front of posh, old-timey wallpaper. But there’s something odd about these shirts. They’re popcorn tops, a stretchy, polyester-leaning style in which the fabric is puckered like tiny, squished pyramids. Ah, the fabric of my youth!
These expandable shirts were at every mall and dollar store in the early 2000s. Shrunken pieces of cloth that could be squashed into an itty-bitty ball, they could fit a multitude of body types thanks to their considerable stretch. Vintage dealer Olivia Haroutounian remembers seeing them as a child at antique malls in Texas in the mid ’00s. “When I was a kid, they used to sell them in these big bins for $2 in a plastic baggie,” she tells me. Vogue fashion news editor Sarah Spellings had one as a kid, specifically a lilac version with a pink flower. Vogue features and commerce editor Lilah Ramzi, who is perpetually dressed in a ball gown and attending some society tea, dropped a bomb that she had a popcorn top in ombré pink from—wait for it—Limited Too. “The Lizzie McGuire x Limited Too collab was my everything,” she says.
As almost every trend from the early 2000s comes roaring back—low-rise jeans, microminiskirts, tattoo prints—it’s not surprising that popcorn shirts have too. When I searched on Depop, almost every listing—and there were a lot—was accompanied by the description Y2K. As for new versions of the shirt, I found a site titled magicbubbleshirts.com that exclusively sold the style shirts. They wrote about the shirts with an almost religious fervor. “If you’re looking for a shirt that never wrinkles, doesn’t require ironing, fits everyone up to size 18–20, also comes in toddler and queen size, and makes a perfect gift, look no further.” Amen!
Marine Serre’s versions are far more elevated than those from our mall-rat days. Hers are made of patchwork floral prints sewn together with black lettuce seams. They’re Instagram catnip, thanks to their blinding colors and rarity. At a Vogue Runway preview, Serre noted that each piece is upcycled and one of a kind. She had to rework roughly four popcorn tops to make the ones in her spring 2022 collection. “You’ll never have the same print in the same place because we only have one shirt of each,” she says.
Serre isn’t the only designer showing the popcorn top. London-based designer Chet Lo, who was in the Fashion East collective for spring 2022, has been working with the fabric for years, turning it into chemical green polos, fuchsia miniskirts, and electric blue corsets. His creations have graced the bodies of Kylie Jenner, Doja Cat, and SZA.
Issey Miyake, not only the prince of pleats but also the king of stretch, has long been churning out popcorn tops, some of which look like tiny deflated balloons. Other labels pumping them out include Stella McCartney, who made a clingy royal blue hoodie, and Mara Hoffman, who made a citrusy tank dress with a scalloped feel. That sold-out piece was worn by Beyoncé back in July. Now, what more proof do you need that the popcorn top is ready to, well, pop?
CreditPhoto: Courtesy of Marine Serre