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Male human navel
Human navel, female.jpg
Female human navel
Latin Umbilicus

The navel (clinically known as the umbilicus, colloquially known as the belly button, umbilical dip or tummy button) is a scar[1] on the abdomen at the attachment site of the umbilical cord. All placental mammals have a navel, and it is quite conspicuous in humans.[2] Other animals' navels tend to be smoother and flatter, often nothing more than a thin line, and are often obscured by fur.[3]

Human anatomy[edit]

The navel is the centre of the circle in this drawing by Leonardo

The umbilicus is a prominent mark on the abdomen, with its position being relatively consistent amongst humans. The skin around the waist at the level of the umbilicus is supplied by the tenth thoracic spinal nerve (T10 dermatome). The umbilicus itself typically lies at a vertical level corresponding to the junction between the L3 and L4 vertebrae,[4] with a normal variation among people between the L3 and L5 vertebrae.[5] The umbilicus forms a visible depression on the skin of the abdomen, and the underlying abdominal muscle layers also present a concavity; thinness at this point contributes to a relative structural weakness, making it susceptible to hernia.[citation needed] During pregnancy, the uterus presses the navel of the pregnant woman outward; it usually retracts again after birth.

The umbilicus is used to visually separate the abdomen into quadrants. The navel is the center of the circle enclosing the spread-eagle figure in Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man drawing. The navel is rarely the focus in contemporary art and literature.[6]

Aki Sinkkonen at the University of Helsinki in Finland thinks that the navel may be an indicator of mating potential in fertile women. In his article in the The FASEB Journal, he proposes that the umbilicus, together with the surrounding skin area, is an honest signal of individual vigor. He suggests that the symmetry, shape, and position of umbilicus can be used to estimate the reproductive potential of fertile females, including risks of certain genetically and maternally inherited fetal anomalies.[7][8]

Innies and outies[edit]

An "outie" navel on a female

In humans, the navel scar can appear as a depression (often referred to colloquially as an "innie") or as a protrusion ("outie"). About 90% of humans have innies.[3] The occurrence of an "outie" navel is caused by the extra scar tissue left from the umbilical cord[9] or from umbilical hernias, although the latter does not always cause an "outie" to develop. Frequently separated into just those two categories, navels vary quite widely among people in terms of size, shape, depth, length, and overall appearance. As navels are scars, and not defined by genetics, they can serve as a way of distinguishing between identical twins in the absence of other identifiable marks.

Loss of the navel[edit]

Some people do not have a navel as a result of surgery needed to correct abdominal problems at birth such as umbilical hernia or gastroschisis, a condition where the stomach and intestines poke through a hole in the abdominal wall. Only a smooth indentation is found in the place of the navel.[10] And while it is standard practice to clamp, cut, then seal a newborn's umbilical cord to prevent infection, in lotus births—or umbilical non-severance births—the cord and placenta are left to drop off naturally.[11] Adults may lose their navels during stomach surgeries or skin grafts, while some adults opt to have their navels surgically enhanced via umbilicoplasty.

Erogenous zone[edit]

A T-shaped navel

The navel is one of the many erogenous zones that has heightened sensitivity.[12] The navel and the region below when touched by the finger or the tip of the tongue result in the production of erotic sensations.[12][13] This is because the navel and the genitals have a common tissue origin, and in some people this connection still exists[dubious ] so that stimulation of the navel will elicit a distinct tickle in the genitals.[14] A study done by Charles Puckett of the University of Missouri found that vertically oriented navels with a T-shape were considered the most attractive.[2][15][16][17]


A team of scientists have discovered 1,400 strains of bacteria in human umbilical dips.[18] North Carolina State University's Belly Button Biodiversity study found 662 unrecognised strains that could be unique new species.[18][19][20]


St Thomas Aquinas considered the navel as the "bodily metaphor for spiritual things".[21]

Alternative medicine[edit]

Manipura chakra that represents the navel

Indian medicine[edit]

In Indian traditional medicine, the Cyperus rotundus tuber is made into a paste and applied around the navel to relieve pain caused by roundworms. Pomegranate plant juice and paste is used to treat snake bites; the juice is dropped into the nostrils, ears, and navel.[22] Applying a little bit of ghee or mustard oil on cotton and keeping it on the navel overnight is considered a remedy for dry lips.[23][24] Castor oil is applied to the navel of infants as a remedy for stomach aches.[25] The Gonds, a tribe from central India, apply Gloriosa superba rhizome extract over the navel and vagina to cause labour pain and perform normal delivery.[26]

According to Ayurveda, the navel is an important site in the human body. Nearly 72,000 subtle nerves, or nadis converge in this area.[27] By the principles of Ayurveda and yoga, the human body is made up of six chakras, with the Manipura chakra located at the spine directly behind either the navel or the solar plexus, depending on the system, while its kshetram, or superficial activation point, is located directly on the navel and represents the element fire.[28][29][30][31] Vayu, which is one of the three doshas specified in Ayurveda, is divided into five sub categories. Of these, Samāna Vayu, situated in the navel region, is believed to aid in digestion and give physical strength to the body.[32][33]

According to Ayurvedic principles, navel displacement is a condition in which the navel center shifts. This might create digestive disorders. Proper practice of yoga is considered to be a remedy to realigning the navel.[34]

Sri Lankan medicine[edit]

In Sri Lanka traditional medicine, a composition of herbs, powdered pepper, and water is applied as a paste to the navel as a remedy for stomach aches.[35] During difficulties in delivery, a betel leaf is placed on the woman's navel, which is believed to be under a spell.[36]

Russian medicine[edit]

Laying wormwood on the female navel or spreading a paste of reindeer lichen on the navel were considered by Russian women to make the delivery of a child fast and painless.[37]

Chinese medicine[edit]

In the Chinese art of acupuncture, the navel is sometimes referred to as 神阙 (shénquè, roughly translating to divine imperfection or mark of the ancestors). Often, the navel is used as a moxibustion point. However, the navel itself is not used in acupuncture due to the likelihood of infection.[38]

World cultures[edit]

Western culture[edit]

Barbara Eden in a publicity photo of 1960's TV show I Dream of Jeannie.
Cher exposing her navel for a scene from an Egyptian soap opera skit on The Sonny and Cher Show, 1977.

Taboo and censorship[edit]

Displaying the belly and bare navel has been a taboo at times in Western cultures. In some European countries, women resorted to corsets to cover their bellies.[39] The Motion Picture Production Code, or Hays Code, banned the exposure of the navel[40][41][42] because it simulated an "erogenic orifice". The navel was censored in women and not in men because the simulation or upward displacement from vagina to navel was commonplace and obvious in women.[43] During the 1950s, actress Joan Collins was prohibited from displaying her bare navel for the film Land of the Pharaohs by the censors. She was made to wear a navel jewel, a ruby, to meet the censors' guidelines.[44][45] This technique of gluing jewels on the navel to cover it and baring the midriff began to be used in many other films featuring belly dance sequences.[46][47] Actress Kim Novak wore a ruby in her navel for the film Jeanne Eagels, and saying in an interview, "they had to glue it in every time. I got a terrible infection from it."[48]Marilyn Monroe, for a scene from Some Like It Hot, wore a dress that revealed skin everywhere but had a tiny piece of fabric to hide her navel.[49]

During the 1960s, actress Barbara Eden was not allowed to show her navel on the US TV show I Dream of Jeannie by the Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters.[50][51] By which the show's creators used a flesh-colored plug to cover her navel.[52] Recently, Barbara Eden attended the Life Ball 2013 event in Vienna dressed in the same costume of I Dream of Jeannie flaunting her navel.[53][54][55] In February 1964, Scandinavian Airlines placed an advertisement in newspapers and magazines throughout America. It featured a bikini-clad blonde model exposing her bellybutton posing on a rock above the caption "What to show your wife in Scandinavia." The image that appeared in most publications had the belly button removed to conform to the regulations.[56][57]

Actresses Dawn Wells and Tina Louise were not allowed to expose their navels in the show Gilligan's Island.[58] The former was made to wear high-waisted shorts to cover her navel.[59][60] When actress Annette Funicello was cast in her first beach movie, Walt Disney requested that she only wear modest bathing suits and keep her navel covered.[61] Actress Mariette Hartley was not allowed to show her belly button in "All Our Yesterdays" (1969), the penultimate episode of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, due to the censors. Gene had Mariette expose not one but two belly buttons in the sci-fi film Genesis II (1973).[62][63][64][65][66][67] However, the censors missed actress Nichelle Nichols showing her navel in the second-season episode "Mirror, Mirror".[68] It is believed that it was due to Bjo Trimble that it went unnoticed.[69] Another episode of Star Trek, called "A Private Little War" (1968), also managed to get past the censors when Nancy Kovak's belly button was clearly visible in some shots and not covered by jewelry as seen when the fringe from her top wasn't covering it.

Censorship standards changed, leading to the acceptance of navel exposure. Marilyn Monroe was allowed to expose her navel for a scene from Something's Got to Give and commented, "I guess the censors are willing to recognize that everybody has a navel."[70] During the 1970s, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour of CBS featured TV personality Cher exposing her navel, a first in television history.[71] Network censors feared her navel exposure would become a cause célèbre at CBS.[72] Cher once commented, "There were so many things that were censored—ideas and words. All I know is I got in trouble for showing my belly button, and every time I turned around after I went off the air, all you saw were Cheryl Ladd's boobs."[73] People Magazine dubbed Cher "Pioneer of the Belly Beautiful".[74]


Fashion exploits the navel through low-rise clothing that leaves the midriff or lower abdomen bare. These navel displays commenced with the introduction of the bikini in 1946 by Louis Réard.[75] Réard could not find a model who would dare to wear his design. He ended up hiring Micheline Bernardini, a 19-year old nude dancer from the Casino de Paris as his model.[76][77] During the 1960s, Mary Quant's designs emphasized maximum exposure of the navel and bare midriffs.[78]

This fashion later became increasingly popular through sporting styles comprising modified sports bras without additional outer garments, sports bikinis, and cheerleading style fashions developing largely from the styles originating with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in the early 1970s.[79] The navel fashion returned in the 1980s, when a ban on exposing the navel in public was lifted.[80] Actress Cher sported an Indian princess outfit with feathers and beads around her navel for the Academy Awards ceremony in 1986. California designer Christine Albers commented, "the look is good for anyone who has a great body but especially for women who do a lot of stomach exercises".[81] The modern trend of clothing exposing the navel has usually been confined to women, apart from a 1980s fashion male belly-button shirt fad.

A woman wearing a cropped top and low-rise pants that expose the midriff and navel

Low-rise fashion started in the early 1990s, when the British magazine The Face featured Kate Moss in low-rise jeans on its March 1993 issue cover.[82] Models such as Gisele Bündchen frequently flash their midriffs.[83] The display of the navel in women's fashion has partly grown out of the sportswear and swimwear styles that became popular during the twentieth century, themselves linked to successes of the feminist movement and developments in clothing technology. In 1994, Art Cooper, editor-in-chief of GQ magazine said that his big seller in 1994 was the February issue with Geena Davis on the cover, on which she wore an Armani suit opened at the hips to reveal her navel,[84] It sold about 400,000 copies. He stated, "Part of the success is the navel factor. I think the belly button is really an erogenous zone."[85] The importance of the navel is such that for Czech model Karolína Kurková, who does not have a navel, the magazine and catalogue art directors routinely airbrush one in for her during post-production. They keep a collection of belly button shots in different positions, and Photoshop them on to her whenever she's doing a bikini picture.[86] Kelly Ripa has also appeared in magazine covers of Shape with morphed navels.[87]

Due to the current wide acceptance of navel display in Western societies, navel piercing[88] and navel tattoos[89] has become more common among young women. The trend of piercing or tattooing the navel became popular in the 1990s.[90] It is popular among middle-aged women.[91][92] Actress Drew Barrymore has a butterfly tattoo beneath her navel.[93][94] The growing popularity of belly dancing, where navel exposure is typical, has also added to the navel exposure trend.[95] During the late 1980s, Disney's heroines began exposing more skin as well. In the 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid, the animated lead protagonist, Ariel, flashed her navel while wearing only fins & seashells, a first in Disney's history.[96]

Contrarily, advice columnist Ann Landers commented, "Navels are neither sexy nor obscene. I do not believe any female of good taste would wear an outfit where her navel shows. This does not include women in costumes or those on beaches in bikinis. The same goes for males. An adult male who wears hip-huggers so low rates zero minus 10 on the scale of taste—it's my opinion but it's one I feel strongly about".[97] Fashion historian James Laver told that he hasn't quite caught up with the idea of exposing the navel, saying, "I have never regarded that as a particularly attractive part of the human anatomy".[98][99] After 2010, the crop top fashion had a changeover by which women started wearing it with a high-rise skirts, jeans, or shorts that are high enough to cover the belly button.[100][101][102]

20th century music[edit]

Britney Spears performing in 2003

Besides fashion, 20th-century music culture is another reason for the popularity of navel exposure. Many famous pop stars such as Madonna,[103] Britney Spears,[104] Jennifer Lopez,[83] and Christina Aguilera[105] have flaunted their navels during performances. Paula Abdul's navel was exposed in a fishnet see through dress in the music video "Cold Hearted" and Abdul had a tattooed navel in the music video "My Love is For Real." People magazine wrote that Madonna made the bare navel her trademark.[74] During the early 1990s, Canadian country singer Shania Twain appeared in low jeans baring her midriff and navel in her music videos and performances.[106][107][108] It became both the most widely discussed body part in country music and her trademark.[109][110] Jennifer Lopez is believed to have started the trend of exposing the navel on stage and red carpets.[111] In 2001, the editors of Britannica commissioned an article on Britney Spears that deconstructs her bare midriff. The article describes Miss Spears's navel as "a heated boundary between baby and babe".[112] Spin magazine chose Madonna's navel as its "most incredible" rock star body part for a September 2005 feature.[113][114][115] Gregorio Luke, former director of the Museum of Latin American Art who conducted lectures about belly buttons, said, "The belly button has been a sign of beauty in goddesses as different as Astarte, Venus or Aphrodite. We ask which is more beautiful, the perfectly round belly button of Jane Fonda or Raquel Welch's grain of coffee navel? Every star from Madonna to Shakira proudly displays their belly button."[116][117]

On the contrary, American columnist Kathleen Parker in an article about Katharine Hepburn once commented, "Young movie-going girls today don't have access to many in the mold of Katharine Hepburn. Instead by mall observations most are Britney wannabes—hip-hugged, tattooed, pierced and out there. The female navel has become the refrigerator man's continental divide. I hate to break it to you, oh future daughters-in-law, but everybody's got a belly button. Your inney- or outey-ness is not the stuff either of revelation or revolution."[118]

Indian culture[edit]

Ancient times[edit]

An 1820 painting by Frederic Shoberl of Indian women in navel exposing saris.
Didarganj Yakshi, a sculpture of a woman in navel-exposing attire.

While the West was relatively resistant to midriff-baring clothing until the 1980s, it has long been a fashion with Indian women.[119] These women, especially those from Southern India, have traditionally worn saris that bare the midriff.[120][121] Women from Rajasthan leave the midriff exposed while wearing Ghagra Cholis.[122] These women often cover their heads with dupattas,[123] and may cover their faces in front of strangers with ghoonghats. There is a belief in India that navel-baring has a symbolic, almost mystical, association with birth and life, and that the display is meant to emphasize the centrality of nature in the nurture role.[124] In ancient Indian tradition, the navel of the god Vishnu is considered to be the center of the universe and the source of life.[125] From his navel a new world emerges. This has been depicted in many ancient Indian sculptures as a lotus emerging from the navel on which god Brahma is seated.[126][127]

Although women in ancient India wore saris that bared the midriff, the Dharmasastra writers stated that women should be dressed such that the navel was never visible,[128][129] and navel exposure became taboo.[130] The trend of exposing the navel was started by women who were dancers, acrobats, or entertainers, and who developed a technique of wearing the sari like a pair of trousers well below the navel to assist in the free movement of the legs.[131] This trend slowly spread to become common among unmarried young women. Women in this type of attire are very common in many ancient Indian sculptures,[132][133] and paintings.[134] Indian sculpture emphasised the centrality and sexuality which emanated from the depiction of the woman's navel. One of the most stunning examples would be Didarganj Yakshi, a statue of a woman made during the Mauryan period. Carved out of sandstone which gives it a natural shine where the navel is deeply embedded within the centre of the torso, drawing the focus of the viewer.[135] Before sculpting, the sculptors created an image and indicated the six structural centers, of which the navel is one, as defined by Yoga principles.[136] Technically, the typical female representation in ancient Indian art includes an hourglass figure with large hips, breasts, and buttocks, and a deep navel.[137] According to Indian physiognomy, if a woman's navel is deep, she is popular and loved by her husband. A broad, fleshy, shallow navel indicates a lucky woman. A woman with deep navel with a whirl to the right side is considered auspicious and is expected to lead a comfortable life.[138][139] Famous Indian painter M. F. Husain once commented, "The belly button has always been in. It has been an intrinsic part of the Indian woman. It has been part of Indian sculptures that go back so many centuries. That is why so many years ago, even in the 50s, all my works had women show their belly buttons."[140][141][142]

Recent times[edit]

TV actress Payal Singh in a low-rise sari
Amisha Patel posing in a Ghagra Choli that bares the midriff.

With their migration to different countries, many Indian women began to wear the normal sari below the waistline, exposing the navel in a style known as a low-rise or low hip sari.[143][144][145] The trend started during the 1950s, when saris were worn below the navel, with big pleats that were tightly draped across the curves of the body.[146] Due to liberalization and changing global markets, saris are re-emerging as erotic apparel.[147][148][149] As a result, saris began to be designed in innovative ways using different materials, such as transparent and semi-transparent saris made of sheer fabrics like chiffon.[150][151][152] These modern saris may be draped in different ways,[153] such as a petticoat being tied about 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 in) below the navel, just above the pubic area, and a small blouse ending just below the breasts with a thin pallu exposing some part of the blouse and almost the entire midriff.[154] In September 2012, The New York Times featured a wedding announcement with an image of a woman of Indian heritage displaying her navel in a gagra choli for the first time.[155][156] This style was popularised by Bollywood celebrities and other popular regional film industries, such as Tamil and Telugu cinema.[157] Indian television actors have followed suit, wearing saris that expose more skin, including the navel, with viewers mimicking the styles.[158]

Some women wear navel jewels or navel piercings to emphasize the navel and enhance its appeal.[159][160] Another option is using bindis to decorate the navel.[161][162] Tattoos near or below the navel were becoming popular in cities like Pune in early 2012.[163]

These fashion styles and accessories are mainly worn by rich, educated, upper class women who regard navel exposure as a fashion.[164][165][166] Sometimes the low-rise style is modified, with the navel being covered by the pallu when wearing a low-rise non-transparent sari. In some corporations in India, saris are required to be worn in a manner that avoids navel exposure.[167] Anita Gupta, Senior Vice-President at JWT Chennai commented that formal wear for woman should not expose the navel.[168]

Indian cinema[edit]

Female dancers of Bollywood have always exposed their navels,[169][170] with cameras focused on them.[171] In the 1968 Bollywood film Brahmachari, actress Mumtaz was seen in a Sharara sari showing her navel[172][173][174] for a song and dance number called "Aaj kal tere mere".[175] A Sharara has a long blouse top with a unique divided skirt bottom, which has less flow than lehenga. It fits like a loose pant until reaching the knee, where it flares out. The particular style of sari became extremely popular and was dubbed the Mumtaz Sari.[176][177] The film Khalnayak (1993) was famous for the song "Choli ke Peeche" featuring Madhuri Dixit in navel-exposing attire.[178] Actress Aishwarya Rai showcased her navel in a brocade choli and dipped ghagra for the hit song "Kajra Re" in the film Bunty aur Babli (2005).[179][180][181][182] Indian actresses have expressed comfort with the practice of exposing their navels in film, preferring it to showing cleavage and calling it uncontroversial.[172][183]

Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit dancing in navel exposing attire in Khalnayak

Of the South Indian film industries, the Telugu film industry more frequently has actors expose their navels. Film scholar Kathi Mahesh Kumar commented that Telugu cinema has a long history of "fondness for the navel", citing old South Indian temple architecture, which features numerous prominent displays of navels in their carvings, and calling such displays a "South Indian aesthetic sensibility". He continued, "Cinematically, while cleavage is just a peek at the bosom, the navel encompasses the woman's entire sensuality.[184]

The Censor Board of India for Indian cinema has created some limititations on "vulgar" visuals, such as restricting zoom shots of the navel, kissing the navel, and squeezing the navel and waist. It had been implemented during the 1990s.[185][186][187] Bollywood actors have expressed mixed views on the display of and emphasize of the navel. Shilpa Shetty argued, "If navel-showing is obscenity, then our traditional Indian outfit—the traditional sari—should be banned in the first place."[188] Actor R. Madhavan commented, "I have often been embarrassed to see certain films I have done. ... when I see myself kissing a dancing heroine's navel in some films, I feel ashamed."[189] Actress Taapsee Pannu commented, "I believe the navel is overrated. I think sensuality can be expressed in other ways."[184] Bengali actress Swastika Mukherjee said, "I am not very comfortable though I have tried wearing a lehenga choli with a stick-on in my navel."[183]

Mediterranean, Hebrew and Middle Eastern culture[edit]

The navel is mentioned as an important element of a woman's beauty in the Song of Songs of the Hebrew Bible.[190][191] It contains imagery similar to that in the love songs of ancient Egyptian literature.[190] Song of Songs 7:2 states, "Your navel is a rounded bowl".[192] The verse preceding the line mentioning the navel (Song of Songs 7:1) states, "your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand",[192] ) and the verse following states, "Your belly is a heap of wheat".[192] Thus, the description of the navel is placed textually in between the description of the curves of a woman through thigh and the stomach or midriff.[191] "Belly" also suggests the womb, and the combination of the imagery of the womb with that of wheat suggests the link between eroticism and fertility through the imagery of the navel and curvaceous thighs.[191] These passages also celebrate a curvaceous stomach and midriff and plumpness as aspects of female physical attractiveness.[191]

In the ancient Mediterranean, Hebrew, Israelite and Middle Eastern worldview, it was a common belief that shrines, important places like cities or capitals, or other such places of prominence had a position of centrality to the world and hence equated to the child-bearing, life-giving navel of a mother.[193] These domains constituted what could be regarded as important bond that linked the universe.[193] Thus Nippur, the ancient city of the Mesopotamian people, was often described as the "navel".[193] This suggested to the prominence of the location and the way it was seen to function as a place of centrality and as a link between earth and the heavens and the Universe.[193] The Greeks thought that the conical stone Omphalos ("navel") located at Delphi was the center of the earth.[193]

In a similar vein, in the Jewish Midrashim it is stated, "God created the world like an embryo. Just as the embryo begins at the navel and continues to grow from that point, so too the world. The Holy One, blessed be he, began the world from its navel. From there it was stretched hither and yon. Where is its navel? Jerusalem. And its (Jerusalem's) navel itself? The altar".[193][194] This passage describes how the centrality of the ancient city of Jerusalem and of the altar of the ancient temple of Jerusalem within cosmic framework was equated to the navel of a mother and the source of life.[193] This is also seen in the Book of Jubilees 8:19 and Book of Enoch 26:1 where it is describes Mount Zion as "The center of the navel of the earth".[193] In Samaritan tradition Mount Gerizim is described as the navel of the earth, the only place which was not submerged in the deluge of the story of Noah's ark.[193] The phrase "navel of the earth" is used in (Ezek 38:12; Judg 9:37) Aramaic tibbur ("navel") and is also mentioned in Ezek 16:4.[193] According to Samaritan tradition, Adam was made from the dust of Mount Gerizim.[195] The navel is also celebrated in the belly dancing tradition of Mediterranean, and middle eastern cultures.[196]

Japanese culture[edit]

Dogū figurine of the late Jōmon period with the navel indicated with a deep indentation.

Early times[edit]

Japan has long had a special regard for the navel. During the early Jomon period in northern Japan, three small balls indicating the breasts and navel were pasted onto flat clay objects to represent the female body. The navel was exaggerated in size, informed by the belief that the navel symbolizes the center of where life begins. On many middle Jomon figurines, the significance of the navel was emphasized with an indentation or hole. Sometimes, the importance of the navel was further enhanced by connecting with a line from the navel towards the chest.[197] Early Japanese poems feature many references to the female navel. In some, the word navel actually refers to an indentation or hole instead of the belly button.[198][199] The shape of the umbilicus of a newborn baby would be discussed at length. If a baby's navel points downward, the parents would brace themselves for a weakling child who will bring them woe. The thunder god Raijin, with his terrifying drums, great horns, and long tusks, was said to have an insatiable appetite for young navels, and mothers had to nag their youngsters constantly to keep themselves well covered up.[200] Due to the mythology, navel exposure was not encouraged in the earlier times. The traditional clothing of Japanese women has a wide cloth belt around the midriff to protect the belly and keep it warm. The Japanese believe the belly is the source of person's warmth and that the perfect navel is an innie.[201]

Modern times[edit]

Japanese women performing a traditional Japanese dance Yosakoi in navel-exposing attire in the Yosakoi Matsuri 2006 at Kōchi

Although navel exposure has become a recent trend in fashion in Japan, annual Heso Matsuri ("belly button festivals")[202] have been held in Japan since the late 1960s. The tradition of the Hokkaido Heso Odori ("belly button dance") began in 1968.[203] Dancers make their heso ("belly button") into a face, using paint, special costumes, and props. Many variations of the dance have been developed, leading to competitions among dancers, who compete for prizes in various categories.[204][205][206][207]

A similar type festival is held at Shibukawa, north of Tokyo. The idea was formed based on the location of Shibukawa, which is also referred to as the "Belly Button of Japan". The festival is based on a traditional Japanese form of entertainment where revelers paint a face on their torsos and stomachs to appear as a head. A kimono is wrapped around the waist, and the person's real head is hidden by a large cloth hat. The belly button is traditionally painted into a mouth. In recent years, modern motifs and Japanese anime designs have appeared in the festival.[208][209]

Sri Lankan culture[edit]

7th Century Sigiriya frescoes depicting women in navel-exposed attire

Ancient times[edit]

Sinhalese women performing a traditional Sri Lankan dance in navel-exposing attire

Sigiriya frescoes depict royal ladies wearing cloth draped as a dhoti, tied in a knot at the front and pulled down to expose the navel. They wear pleated robes from the waist upwards, as well a necklace, armlets, wristlets, ear and hair ornaments, and display their breasts. The ladies in waiting wear waist clothes, a few ornaments and a firm thanapatiya ("breast bandage").[210]

In the Sinhalese poetic work Kaviyasekara, a father advises his married daughter as to proper clothing, "Dress your garment above your navel, without exposing the fair bosom, and expose not your teeth in laughing."[211]

In his work Daily Code for the Laity (1898), the Buddhist leader Anagarika Dharmapala wrote that a sari blouse must be long, fully covering a woman's breasts, midriff, navel, and back.[212]

Recent times[edit]

In the 1980s and 1990s, a visible navel was very rare. By the late 1990s, the Bollywood connection and the media and technological changes that occurred in India has influenced Sri Lanka's fashion outlook, with the navel becoming a focus in the modern Sri Lankan wardrobe.[213] Sri Lankan films commonly depict the women of the country's earliest history as scantily clad with exposed navels, and the country has become more open to the topic in general.[213]

Indonesian culture[edit]

Indonesian pop singer Agnes Monica in navel-exposing attire

In 2004, the President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke out against exposed navels, saying, "Indonesian women, who are known for their courtesy, should refrain from exposing their midriffs or belly buttons, which now seems to be taken for granted. There are many ways to express beauty, as part of aesthetics, and to express freedom but not by showing things that lead to pornography." He further added that while the state could not dictate dress codes, citizens were expected to respect the country's moral values and courtesy. A week later, a cabinet minister quoted Yudhoyono as saying that he felt "disturbed and uneasy" to see television shows in which women exposed their navels.[214][215]

In 2006, Agus Suwage, an Indonesian artist, installed his Pinkswing Park exhibit at Jakarta's international biennale.The exhibit was surrounded by massive panels with multiple pictures of a near-naked man and woman frolicking in a park. Within days of the exhibition's launch, Islamic fundamentalists had descended on the biennale, forcing its closure and demanding prosecutions. At first police claimed his work blasphemed the story of Adam and Eve; a few weeks later they told Suwage he faced five years in jail for producing pornography. The Indonesian parliament decided to introduce a sweeping anti-pornography law. The law imposes a rigid social template; couples who kiss in public will face up to five years' jail, as would anyone flaunting a "sensual body part"—including their navel—and tight clothing will be outlawed.[216][217][218][219] Due to this new anti-pornography law, topless bathing and surfing on the beaches of Bali, a common practice among tourists, would also be prohibited. The law would also affect older tribal women, who often still walk topless.[218][220][221] The introduction of a bill was attacked by women's rights campaigners in the country, who fear it is the first step towards the implementation of Islamic Sharia law.[222][223]

Despite these laws, pop singers like Inul Daratista, known for her hip swaying moves,[218][224][225] and Agnes Monica continue exposing their navels, but undergo some restrictions in advertisements.[226]

Malay models in attire that covers the navel at a Fashion show in Kuala Lumpur in April 2011


In 2005, Vivienne, a virtual girlfriend created by software maker Artificial Life Inc. of Hong Kong, was reprogrammed not to bare her navel or display body piercings in conservative Muslim countries like Malaysia to avoid problems.[227] In 2006, Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat gave his blessings to an Islamic form of dance clubs to serve as entertainment outlets at Kota Bharu. He commented that there must be proper attire for women, including clothes that do not reveal the navel, saying Muslim women must be covered from head to toe except for their face and hands, while Muslim men must be decently dressed when in public.[228] Under Malaysian government rules for stage performances, a female artist must be covered from her shoulders to her knees. This law prevented pop icon Beyoncé Knowles from performing in navel-exposing attire in 2007.[229][230] Beyoncé canceled the show amidst opposition from local groups, calling the cancellation a result of a "scheduling conflict".[231]


Yoona performing in navel exposing attire at LG Cinema 3D World Festival)

In July 1997,the Korean broadcaster KBS announced tough new rules for pop star's appearing on TV. One among the many limitations was "no exposing of navels".[232] In 2010, South Korean girl group Rainbow's belly button dance has been banned. The SBS TV show Inkigayo had told girl groups to restrain showing their skin too much and about their outfits.[233][234][235] Recently, Yoona, a member of Korean girl band Girls' Generation, had caused a minor controversy by revealing her exposed midriff featuring a protruding cantaloupe-like outie navel which had launched spirited discussion and polarized opinions on the Chinese-language internet.[236][237]

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