Be prepared, ladies. . .the Midriff is back
Ladies brace yourselves for four words 99.9% of you hoped you'd never hear again: The midriff is back.
The danger signs were there. Spring/Summer 2011 catwalk campaigns for several of the big labels all featured takes on the look. Max Mara, Armani and Zac Posen all sent models down the runways with midriffs bared in bandeau tops, crop-tops and dresses with cut-out sections to show off the abs.
Then the celebrities started bearing their bellies.
J-Lo appeared on the set of American Idol in a knotted white shirt and high-waisted shorts that revealed an impressive midriff while Kate Bosworth's Chloe outfit at the Sundance premiere of Another Happy Day showed off a sliver of tum that turned her ensemble from formal to foxy.
Halle Berry's Halston dress at last May's FiFi Awards was cut to expose a whole slice of flat abs and Tara Reid's wedding gown, worn for her impromptu Greek nuptials to Zack Kehayov earlier this month, even included a crop-top.
Not since the 1990s and the height of Beverly Hills 90210 or Rachel Green in Friends have we seen such a proliferation of skimpy outfits baring a perfect midriff.
And now it's your turn.
Topshop is awash with silk cropped camis, floral cropped tees and strappy jewel toned-tummy exposing vests.
Even labels catering towards the more mature, less teenage end of the market have cut their cloth in line with the trend with Hobbs stocking cropped shirts and Jaeger cropped blouses.
"Unfortunately this is a trend that's always destined to roll around when there's supposed to be hot weather," says fashion stylist Cathy O'Connor from stylist.ie.
"Fashion always goes body-conscious in the summer. It's about showing more flesh and one of the sexiest, most womanly features to show off is the waist."
Sadly, despite the multitude of celebrities jumping on the midriff bandwagon, Cathy says the reality is that this is a trend for the few.
"There are a few ways to get round it, like wearing vests under crop-tops, so no flesh is exposed, or pairing high waisted shorts or trousers with a crop- top, so only a sliver of flesh is on show," she says. "It's really, really tough to pull off if you're not an adolescent girl or someone who lives in the gym."
The fact that so many of us lust after the perfect midriff is evident in our desire to snap up books and diet plans. The latest tome to capture the public's imagination is Kate Adams' Flat Tummy Club Diet.
Health book publisher Adams decided to share her weight-loss secrets after dropping two stone on her self-styled tummy-taming plan. Her tips include food diaries, addressing portion sizes, eliminating bloating foods, and a host of exercise and shopping hints.
"I pulled together all my favourite strands of knowledge from across my 10 years of health publishing and formulated my own weight-loss plan," explains Adams. "I lost 7lb and two stone in six months."
But the reality is only a few of us manage to achieve the dream. In Ireland, more than 60% of under-65s are overweight or obese.
Having a toned midriff isn't just about fitting into a Topshop crop-top. Carrying fat around the middle also means a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
"We all know about being an apple or pear shape," says Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director, Vhi healthcare.
"Lots of pears think carrying weight on the hips as saddle bags is bad, but from a health point of view it's better to have weight around your hips than your middle. If you are carrying excess weight, you need to figure out why and take steps to address it."
In the meantime, take heart in the Autumn/Winter trends coming up. Cathy says: "So much of fashion is retro but Autumn/Winter 2011 moves away from the 1990s and into the '20s, '40s, '60s and '70s. There are a lot of drop waists, hour-glass silhouettes and cut out detailing in the backs of dresses -- altogether a lot more do-able and manageable while you get yourself in shape for next summer."