Who would have thought a body part could have multiple personalities?
When I was a young woman in my teens and 20s, my stomach was a naturally flat, sleek ally to which I never gave any thought, except when literally navel-gazing in my bikini, or when other (leggier) friends with 'tummies' pointed out my flat one in envious tones.
When I was pregnant my tummy was a miraculous new entity and I fully trusted nature to make it be just what it was supposed to - and giggled when my tummy button popped out.
When I was about 41 and carrying a few extra kilos my tummy became a thing of shame, to conceal as much as possible at all times.
I've long thought it sad that women feel driven to conceal such innocuous body parts as upper arms - what did an upper arm ever do to offend anybody? But come the arrival of my own tum, and I was as susceptible as the next girl.
There's a P.S. to this anecdote and it's that I have since lost a few kilos and the tummy has ceased its attention-seeking behaviour. But there is every chance it could act up again. Forewarned is forearmed!
I've mentally filed what I learned as a woman working in the fashion industry, and consulted a panel of wise friends - with and without waists - about dressing to minimise a tummy.
Here are our recommendations...
MAKE SHAPEWEAR YOUR BEST FRIEND
Don't fret, it's not all like the scary stuff your nana used to wear. There are many options in many colours, fabrications, control levels and price points.
Nancy Ganz shapewear designer Janine Anggara advises, "Try on shapewear in exactly the same size you would normally wear. It should be snug, but you should also be able to breathe... If you don't feel comfortable, you won't act comfortable and it will definitely show!"
For tummy minimisation I recommend control shorts in neutral and black, and slips as well if you have the budget. If your shapewear rides up you may be wearing a size too small.
DEATH TO THE MUFFIN TOP
Low-rise jeans are the enemy of women with tummies.
Baby whisperer and mum of three Emma says "I have the best high-ish waist jeans from Max. I live in them and have them in three sizes!"
If your pants are a little lower than you would like, at least make sure your top is long enough to either tuck, or well cover your tum. Essentially create the sleekest possible layer close to your body.
"But make sure all long line tops skim your body and never cling," says makeup artist and mum of two, Rachel.
AVOID VISUAL FLAGS
Don't be tempted to belt over your tummy in an attempt to conceal it - you are inadvertently drawing attention to it.
Personal Stylist Jackie O'Fee says, "If you've got a tummy you hate, buy great earrings, not great belts. Get the focus away from your 'problem' area."
CREATE LENGTH AND DRAW THE EYE TO IT
For tops, choose v-necks to draw the eye to the vertical, and avoid high round necks. Add a long scarf or a bag that hangs off your arm. Wear your hair up, and/or wear long pendants.
Many of our panel agreed that height-adding heels are also key to their belly camouflage kit.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
One particularly glam panel member advises you team your skinny high waisted pants and heels with billowing shirts and oversized tees - the concealment option.
Conversely, swap out the oversize tops for longer line shirts with tailored jackets - structured garments can create the illusion of more waist and less tummy.
Photographer and mum of two little boys Sheena says, "I go for distraction, using splashes of bright colour and interesting accessories to draw attention to my smiling face or my dancing feet. Loud, bright flats are my thing...it makes it easier to run after my wee rocket ship fellas."
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
Mum of two Pip says, "If you have a tummy, show your legs with a tailored '60's-inspired shift, or your beautiful eyes."
And while we're accentuating the positive I'll share a hilarious, recently-learned secret: always stand in the middle of a group for photographs - the people on the outside look bigger.
I hope that, like me, you'll have an enormous giggle over this when there are just two of you posing.
- © Fairfax NZ News