Street fashion contemplates its navel: The erogenous zone of today is the midriff, observes Roger Tredre

BLAME Brett Anderson, the umbilically confident (male) lead singer with the pop group Suede, or just blame the warm weather, but be in no doubt that the midriff is the erogenous zone this summer.

As our photographs show, the young (but also the not-so-young) are taking it to heart. Navels, once exposed only on the beach, are now in evidence in the clubs and on the streets. On a sunny day on King's Road, Chelsea, the midriff is as much in evidence as the platform shoe - another sign of the times.

Erogenous zones change with fashion. In the Sixties, short skirts meant golden days for women with long and shapely legs. Breasts were highlighted through much of the Seventies, to be superseded by legs again in the Eighties, as short skirts returned. In the late Eighties and early Nineties, it was breasts once more as the strong sales of Gossard's celebrated Wonderbra, which gave extra definition to the cleavage, demonstrated. In 1993, it is the turn of the midriff.

Fashion editors have little option but to promote it this year. Most legs are under flared trousers or long skirts.

Breasts are equally unimportant this season, as fashion stylists and photographers favour flat-chested waifs such as Kate Moss, the supermodel from Croydon.

Lisa Armstrong, associate editor of Vogue, said: 'It's the law of nature, isn't it? Society needs to change. The trend is still away from big breasts. They should be completely flattened by next autumn.'

Breast implants are also out of fashion because of renewed fears about the health risks.

Even bottoms are taking a backseat. Skintight fabrics are less in demand. Bottoms are hardly discernible beneath layers of floaty fabric.

But navels are the business. They are winning exposure because of the revival of low-slung hipster trousers. The fashionable way of wearing them is with cropped tops or vests, deliberately bought several sizes too small.

There is also renewed interest in the male midriff. At the men's catwalk shows in Paris and Milan, male models revealed wash- board stomachs, wearing jeans and waistcoats without shirts. However, this style tip has not been copied with equal enthusiasm by British men.

Exposed to daylight, the great British beer belly is not a pretty sight.

(Photograph omitted)

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