Let me be the first person to declare who gets credit, or blame depending on your viewpoint, for starting the 90’s fashion trend of baring bellies in barely there short shirts: Julia Roberts. That’s right, as the happy hooker with a heart of gold in Pretty Woman, the most famous red-head since Lucille Ball started the bare-midriff trend of the 90’s.
In 1990 there were posters plastered all over town showing off Julia’s toned tummy via a cut out, stretchy, pink and black dress as she playfully grabs her millionaire benefactor’s (ok, ‘John’s’) tie. I was in awe of that amazing dress, and the stomach that it showcased, despite (or
maybe because) of the fact that it was street walking attire. Ironically, a 2007 Time magazine article highlighting the ‘good girls’ of Hollywood describes Julia’s then 16-year old niece, Emma Roberts, as, "More Burberry then bare midriff." My how times have changed!
While that Pretty Woman poster started the 90’s bare-midriffs the trend was continued and encouraged by the hip-hop and rap videos that became mainstream and hugely popular in the early 90’s. Those videos showcased the hottest women around in short shirts and even shorter hot pants. Baby Got Back debuted in 1992 and baby had more then back; she had a bare belly!
Bare midriffs were not just the domain of pretty women and hip-hop video vixens in the 1990’s, they moved in political circles as well. In 1995 mega model Cindy Crawford graced the cover of John F. Kennedy Junior’s debut issue of the magazine George dressed as George Washington…in a half shirt. Who knew our founding father and first president had such great abs? Or that Cindy could make a powdered wig and politics sexy?
Not wanting to lose her reputation as the founder of bare midriffs, Julia Roberts showed hers again, and often, during the 1997 movie, "My Best Friend’s Wedding." In one of the movies pivotal scenes she expresses her love to best friend Dylan McDermott while wearing a shabby half-shirt and combining several 90’s trends at once: bare midriff, flannel and grunge. Go Julia!
In addition to top 90’s actress Julia and top 90’s model Cindy, we can add to the mix of bare bellied beauties, singing sensation and Disney alumn Britney Spears who stormed onto the scene full throttle with the release of the video for her single, "Baby One More Time," in 1998. In the video a still only 16 year old Britney wears braids and a school girl outfit that left no doubt as to the answer to the age old question, "innie or outie?"
As the 90’s came to a close so did the bare midriff trend. The 21st century ushered in a conservative president and, in turn, a more conservative style of dress. This, for those of us who lived through a decade of stomach-showing style, was a relief. Among fashion fads of the 90s, we are happy to see this one go back out of style. Pass me a belt covering blouse and the cheesecake!