Fashion: A Brief History of Bare Midriffs
Barbieri, Annalisa, New Statesman (1996)
Along Silk Street in the City of London the other day strode a girl. She was young, but didn't look stupid. She wore jeans and long boots, a top and a poncho. Just about every bit of her body was covered up--except for her midriff, which she had left purposely exposed. It seemed cruel, to leave this vulnerable part of her body (the kidneys can get terribly chilled) to the elements like that. But many young women are horribly mean to their midriffs.
The midriff is a recent unveiling. We have had years of cleavage exposure, and legs. In the late 1990s the designer Alexander McQueen tried to make the bum cleavage fashionable but he didn't succeed (although wearing dresses cut very low at the back became the thing to do not long after that, which is why so many actresses at awards ceremonies now pose from behind looking over one shoulder). Cher made the side of the body fashionable by wearing dresses that were basically two pieces of material held together with hope and lacing. The midriff was really the only bit left to liberate; plus it gave flat-chested girls another option.
But some girls got greedy. Simply exposing a tummy doesn't make it attractive, or sexy. It just makes it out there. The other problem is that it's all very well looking in the mirror at home with your hands above your head and breathing in, but when you get outside and you get too tired to self-corset, the midriff can get baggy and spill. And that looks crap. Love handles should only ever be seen in private.
Before the advent of tailoring (the 14th century), it was simply impossible to expose your middle bit without the rest of your clothes falling off. …