September 18, 2000 12:00 PM

ENOUGH WITH THE midriff already! So implore our judges, for whom Christina Aguilera‘s navel has ceased to be novel. “She likes her stomach a lot,” surmises Comedy Central gamemeister Ben Stein. The 19-year-old hotshot chanteuse behind “What a Girl Wants,” once a Mouseketeer alongside Britney Spears, can’t quite pull off pop star flash without belly-flopping, our panelists say. Beneath all the flesh and clashing froufrou, “she’s got beautiful bone structure, but it gets lost with all the patterns and decorations,” explains designer Dana Buchman. The 5’2″ Aguilera “should be dressing more appropriately,” adds model Mia Tyler. “With her cute body and the way her career is going, guys are going to like her anyway. It’s already in the bag.”

Although she was just 10 days short of turning 19, at December’s Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas Aguilera was a little girl lost in a tummy-baring fringed tee and flowing skirt, says our panel. “She looks like a preteen, not sexy,” says designer Elie Tahari, and Mia Tyler agrees: “It doesn’t suit her. I don’t like the hair or the shirt.”

Preferring not to travel in style, Aguilera made her way through the Sydney airport in March in a midriff lifeguard tee and cargo pants. “She looks like models after a fashion show who try to hide themselves and dress very sloppily,” says Elie Tahari. Dana Buchman doesn’t mind Aguilera’s basic components, but “she goes too far with the accessories–the bandanna, the glasses, the shoulder bag.”

September’s MTV Video Music Awards in Manhattan brought out the animal in Aguilera, but Dana Buchman says the D&G leopard-print ensemble needs taming: “This works in theory, but between the sheer of the tank and the shiny jacket I get confused and overwhelmed.”

It was Aguilera a-go-go at an L.A. post-Grammy party in February, but our judges think she missed the beat. “Gold leather is classic movie star material,” explains Dana Buchman. “I like the idea behind it. The jeans are beautiful but not the curlicue on the halter and the spike heels. I would have preferred a little simplification.” Elie Tahari differs on a major point–”I don’t like gold lamé; it’s sleazy”–but manages to find a bit of a silver lining: “The low-rise pants are a good cut on her,” he says.

The judges applaud the best new artist Grammy that Aguilera picked up at February’s ceremony in L.A., but not the asymmetrical chain-mail Versace gown the singer wore to accept it. “Atrocious,” declares Elie Tahari. “Ill-designed,” says Dana Buchman. Mia Tyler can’t help but agree: “I’m sorry, this is ugly. It’s too shiny, it’s too light for her–she looks better in darker things–and it just hangs.” But worst of all, Tyler notices last year’s trend: “It’s got butterflies!”

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