Navelage is an exposure produced by partial or fleeting exposures of the navel. Although navelage always assumes bellage, and is shaped by the same two fashion lines the inverse in not necessarily the case--in fact a great deal of midriff has been exposed in the past and continues to be exposed in the present, without exposing the navel.
Because of its intimate relationship to bellage, navelage is often not identified as an exposure; it has no special exposure code and is entailed in the M for midriff. When belly down is present navelage is implied by an "N-x" code, but unless the costume is particularly focused on the belly button, its exposure as a theme is not developed.
The belly button throughout history has enjoyed the wrath of censors, and this obsession can be quite independent of whether the waistline is falling or not. Censors are always sexual creatures, and this unique landmark is our first scar and a signature of our umbilicus with Mother. The censor demands that this mark of connection back into the womb be occulted from view. As a result it is the navel, more so than midriff, that is the focus of struggle.
The first major struggle during the 20th century began in the early 1930s when the Hays Code, as well as English law, declared the navel obscene. This occurred at a time when the belly above it was, and continued to be, displayed.
Needless to say, censoring any body part only energizes its erotic value, and there is nothing more transfixing to a censor than a belly dancer bejeweled in the navel, like Gina Lollibridgia as Sheba (GL5910-20), this burlesque dancer and her snake (JY5510), or Jayne Mansfield (JM5540). In fact, sometimes even the navel is censored with the breasts are not (TA5510). The American obsession with censoring the navel continues right up into the 1960s, and the I Dream of Jeannie sillyness (BE6501). The American ban on the belly button does not end until Cher bares her navel in the 1970s and the era of Laugh In. The Europeans on the other hand, let it radiate (SY6910).
Navelage vs. Bellage
As we said, navelage need not accompany bellage and in the deux-pièces of the 1930s and 1940s waistlines tended to keep this always interesting graphic hidden from view. Rare glimpses occur in paintings (OC3810), poses by strippers in pinup literature (AC4119), and by starlets who are prepared to earn a "reputation," like Marilyn Monroe modeling for André de Dienes in 1945, who is willing to expose not only her bare midriff, but also her belly button, an inch of skin below it, and the tops of her panties (MM4520). Things change rapidly during the late 1940s when the bikini gets invented.
While Miss America 1946 (BM4610) remains clad in a "proper" silhouette, it is also one that has reached it legal limits. The same situation applies to the lattice-side (PT5340)
In America navels largely remain hidden on the beach until the early 1960s, when the reduction of the bikini forces their exposure.
Conversely, after the late 1960s a low, hip-hugger waistline coupled with a cutoff line that floats below the belly button allows bellage without any navelage exposure. The same is true for the exercisewear of the late 1980s (KP88GB).
None the less, navel flirtations can be among the most sophisticated teases, and like belly flashing in general, can be casual and can be performed as if unawares. These maneuvers include navels which dance above waistlines, waistline-length tops which flash the belly button as the wearer moves (NYA20514), waistlines drawn precisely across the navel, and navels which are framed in notches produced by actions like unbuttoning the top button of ones shorts () or the bottom buttons of ones shirt. The ecdysiast proves that covering up only the navel can be erotic (WK9554BS). There are also flagrant displays, causes by simply pulling the material aside (WS8514A).