Bellage is the exposure of midriff, that is, of bare belly, the stomach. The exposure code for the belly is M. Bellage is especially related to navelage, the exposure of the navel, which defines the birth of the bikini, if not birth itself. Bellage is typically bounded by two fashion lines: at the top by the cutoff line and on the bottom by the waistline. When bellage is extremely high the cutoff line exposes cleavage (especially cleavage neathage, the exposure of the underside of the breasts); when the bellage extends extremely low the waistline exposes hairage if not pubage in the front, and rugage behind. The progress of the bellage exposure is both charted (BSD8820, BSD8830) as well as detailed with the examples following.
The scientific model of bellage must consider several issues. First, is the midriff is glimpsed fleetingly or continuously? This is the issue of belly flashing. Secondly, what parts of the midriff are exposed? This may be the back, or sides, front, or all of the above. Is bellage controlled by cutouts or other designs. Third, if indeed a full circumference of torso is exposed, just what is the height (depth) of the exposure? This may range from a sliver of skin to an uncovering that reveals the rib cage, or conversely, the lower regions of the pelvis. These issues are discussed below in belly-up and belly-down.
Finally, and tacit in any discussion of bellage is the special case of exposing the navel, an exposure called navelage. This too is discussed below.
The baseline, that is the extreme null condition in which no belly whatsoever is exposed, occurs with a top which covers the waistline (VB8605). The belly gets put into play with blouses that barely cover or just touch the waistline. Such an arrangement permits the voyeure to have it both ways at once: she can pretend not to be aware of her exposures while at the same time garnishing attention. The belly flasher catches attention many ways: by leaning over and exposing her back (LV9111B, CI8504), allowing herself to be observed without con-front-ation. The more playful allows the blouse to rise casually, with a lift of the arms, a lean forward, or a stretch (VB8501, VB8604). The belly flasher is a perennial fixture in both the swimsuit scene (DNA205) as well as the street. There extreme opposite is the subject who never covers their belly (DR7710).
As an exposure, bellage has a deep history that precedes the swimsuit. It has always been a stable of primitives (NG189601), slave and harem girls, especially as depicted by Victorian painters (JG186610, EL188010, EG188810), belly dancers (LE189310), topless and scantily-clad Parisian showgirls (TM0512, MH190710, MH190810, BM191210, MR192510), chorus girls and dancers (OA1410, KM192010), and vaudeville actresses (HC1010, AZ191710).
Movie stars have bared their bellies from the onset of the cinema, be it the late 1910s (TB1510, AP1710, TB1710, GS1910), the early 1920s (AW2450, GG192010, MA192201, ML2410, GS2510, DS192510), and late 1920s (ML2610, CL2610, GG192710, JB2610, BC2810, ML2910), including movie stars who bare their navel (GG2650-52, LB2810). By the early 1930s bellage is practiced by all leading ladies (AS3010, EB3110-20, GG3110, MD3210, ZJ3210-30, CC3210, KB3210, CC3301, TJ3310, LR3310, TJ3410-70), and it continues unabated into the late 1930s (JR3610) and early 1940s (HL4210, GT4210), except that the belly button is covered. The bare belly is an exposure shared by circus performers (GM3310, TC3610) and music hall girls--real (AR3410) as well as the Hollywood depiction (CL3310, JC3310).
Bare Midriff Swimwear
The migration of the bare belly from the dance hall and and native costume to the resort, beach and silver screen begins in Europe and America in the early 1930s.
Slivers of belly appear in beach costumes as early as the late 1920s (IM192510, BL2L50), but bare bellies on the beach remain a forbidden exposure until the maillot cutout in the early 1930s introduces the first patches of this skin--first the side of the belly (CC3410. EG3410, JZ3550), and then its triangular center (CC39AA, VL4007). The 1930s maillot cuttout incorporates a variety of strap details (CC39BB), but cutout's success in opening up bellage also ensures the species extinction.
The first deux-pièces emerge in Europe and America in the early 1930s. Movie stars are among the first adopters (CL3150, LH3E50), but bare bellies are also spotted at European spas both as exercise costumes (LA3301) and resort wear (LA3303, LA3304). Delores Del Rio introduces a deux-pièces into the movies in 1934 (DD3410), a newer generation of Hollywood starlets bare all their midriffs (AS3420), French Vogue demonstrates a genuine deux-pièces mid-decade (FV3510), and randy beauty contestants bare their bellies (EB3510). The reigning maillot queen, Jean Harlow, although bare-bellied early in her career only cracks the smallest amount of midriff before her death in 1937 ( JH3710 ). But by the late 1930s fashion models (PO3610) also cross the line. The flirtatious midriff in swimwear progresses slowly, and even men's pinup magazine can be slow to adopt the exposures (JL3910).
In the early 1940s and during the war years the deux-pièces gathers momentum (EW4010), and the amount of skin widens (SS4110). In America the bare-midriff is officially blessed as a rationing effort (GA4410). With Hollywood (EW4210, JP4210, BH4410, RF4410) and Life magazine (RH4401) taking the lead the real beach is not far behind.
The early 1940s are a period completely biased toward midriff-up, the uncovering of the belly above the waist. From the late 1930s through the early 1940s the amount of skin exposed widens, from a narrow sliver showing a full circumference of skin (JH3910) to an inch or two (SS4110). Or three inches (SS4140, BM4110), four inches (SS4120, SS4130) until the full belly is visible (MM4501). By the late 1940s, Miss America wears a deux-pièces (BM4610).
Variations on belly-up include cutouts in the front and the back (NYC8603, OF9002). Sometimes midriff exposures are retracted by a towel (VB8606). In the early 1990s belly-up exposures are not always confined to swimsuits, as women in the street tucks her shirt up (OF9005), or rolls it up and tied it on the side as she walks the streets of New York (NYC9150).
Bikiniites in the late 1980s deploy camisoles or undershirt tops which they roll belly-up before lying on their back (CP8708) or their belly (CP8709) to suntan.
The extreme of belly up is the cleavage underside, in which the underside of the breast is exposed (TA1), exposure exacerbated by jumping and stretching, and which at the limit, reveals cleavage underside (FI92).
After the navel does becomes exposed it becomes practical to pivot on it and direct the belly focus downward, covering the ribs, and exposing the lower belly below the navel (MH190710, MH190810). This belly-down hip-hugger style concentrates attention on the pelvis (TM0512). Once the bikini drops the waistline well below the navel, it becomes practical to close off the high midriff, the part above the navel, and create a strong down-midriff bias (YM8010). In the 1960s, when this look appears, it is prototypically worn by a narrow-waisted performer whose briefs or pants barely hang onto her hips and whose shirt or sweater crosses right at the navel so that the belly button pops in and out of view, depending upon how the wearer moves; this is a navelage play. This combination of belly button tease and hips and pelvis can be hard to resist.
In Bikini Science vernacular, belly-down means exposures at and/or below the navel only, and not above the navel at all. The pure belly-down silhouette is rare on the beach (RP8812), but is also found in the street, sometimes as the only exposure (), and sometimes coupled with bare legs (SM8519).
Belly-up and Belly-down
The combination of belly-up-and--down is realized in mature bikinis in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It will continue to be a silhouette throughout the remainder of the century (FL870A). The widening band of midriff rises from the pelvis up the belly, across the navel and ribs, and settles under the breasts; the lowering waistline uncovers the pelvis and lower back. The effect is a strong vertical focus, seen in wide variation (fig. 17-6). The possibilities of midriff-up/midriff-down are varied and are summarized in the Belly-up Belly-down Chart (BSD8830).
Belly-up exposures are limited by cleavage underside, that is, the maximum height of midriff-up exposure (fig. 17-8). Beyond the braless croptop lie nipple peeks and the realm of nippage.
Belly-down exposures are bounded by hairage and rugage. The lowered waistline halts at the top the pubic hair, or sometimes slightly below it, so women, live specimens as well as Vogue models, must either display the narrowest wisps of their pubic hair (CT7810) or depilate.
From behind, the bottom reaches down the hips and mimics breast cleavage by exposing the posterior rugae--the top of the two buttocks and the furrow of the cleft between them. The dipping waistline allows a viewer to see a longer spine line, the sacral dimples to the sides of the base of the spine, and the lozenge of Michaelis, the diamond shaped area between the dimples, the depression of the spine, and the cleft (fig. 17-10). Rugage is considered vulgar by some; but the advanced bikiniite simply pretends she is oblivious to the tease.
Belly-up, belly-down exposures are enabled by may different silhouettes, e.g. the scoop backed maillot (fig. 17-11), and they survive the 1970s, when the general shrinking of the bikini widens the overall focus, and to some extent surrenders the belly as an erogenous zone.
An exception to this are suits designed to cover up the chest, legs and arms, and which have high necks, long sleeves or pantaloons (fig. 17-3, fig. 17- 4), for in these swimsuits bellage is the primary focus.