In the past 24 hours, I’ve counted over ten Resort Runway instances galvanizing the return of an exposed belly button. Frankly, I should have seen this resurgence coming. It has been exactly 11 years, 7 months, 3 days too long since I’ve last broached the topic of my belly, a shirt, and me, with my mother. And what with the 90s–an epoque choc full of exposed stomachs–staking a sufficient claim in the upper echelons of fashion, there was only so much intel and inspiration a series of grunge style plaids could deliver.
Sure, I’ve traced and followed my own attraction to wearing bras as tops (see: Monday’s CFDA awards) and cropped blouses over high waist pants and skirts (see: the photos chronicled here) in previous months, but with all that said and worn, could I now, at 24, ever really commit to the girl I wanted to be (see: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez) 12 years ago? Wouldn’t that require an extensive, interminable ab workout? And perhaps most importantly, why wouldn’t my mom just let me do it then?
Some context: the belly shirts and the belly me was a very smart outfitting marriage I’d culled from a combination of The Spice Girls (isn’t an exposed belly button the ultimate emblem of Girl Power, anyway?), Destiny’s Child (what is an auto-mo-bill?), TLC (oh how I longed to chase waterfalls,) and just a few years later, Britney Spears (though this inspiration torch burnt out quickly). I knew I didn’t have the assets that these musicians-cum-athletes did to fill in or rather, empty out the glorified bikini tops but that didn’t really matter–and plus, at the time, I didn’t even really care if my mom were to buy me an actual belly top. I would have been wholly complacent snipping around at one of the pre-existing shirts, cob-webbing in my closet.
Come to think of it actually, I can remember precisely the black, short sleeve t-shirt I had in mind to chop. There was a small transparent plastic bag sewn into the center of the shirt at breast length. The bag contained three bright colored plastic letters that spelled out RAD. Had I been able to cut the shirt, maybe it could have lived up to its self-anointed hype.
But my point is this: my mom wouldn’t let me cut my shirt because it was inappropriate for me to expose my stomach. This, even in spite of my age (11) and the fact that several of my (far thinner) friends had been wearing their belly shirts proud. Natrually, I couldn’t–and likely still can’t–help chalk up the prohibition to the way in which I looked. While at 11 years-old, I wasn’t fat, I was just, as any other Gusher enthusiast/Dunkaroo connoisseur would be, charmingly chubby.
Now at 24, I’m still not particularly proud of the state of my stomach, I just don’t think about it much, either. I don’t really exercise and only ever experience that crunching stomach pain indigenous to the toning-process while I am laughing.
After admiring my favorite selections at Calvin Klein, Balenciaga and Theyskens’ Theory (photographed in order here) and recognizing–even maybe kind of a little appreciating–that I will never be Hanne-Gabby Odiele, it was high time that I give the belly shirt a try in a nod to current collections, during a time when my mom can no longer dictate the details of my duds.
Yesterday around 3PM, I pulled down my white pants, exposed my deep-ass inny and looked into a mirror. The funny thing about mirrors is that even though they’re supposed to reflect a black and white version of who you are, they never really do. Often it’s worse, but sometimes you get really lucky and even in spite of the wrinkle lines that appear from sitting, indentations care of your tight jeans, and orange juice fostered bloat, they reflect an even better version of you. If not because it’s actually better, than certainly because, come on, your 11-year-old self deserves to see you now.