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Monday, March 07, 2005


Breasts - better in or out?

By Melanie Rickey

With a smoother, more natural, rounded look coming into fashion, it's time to ask whether the cleavage has finally had its day

Women’s relationship with their breasts changed irrevocably with the launch of the Wonderbra in 1994. Before Wonderbra, unless it was seduction gear, underwear served a practical purpose — we wore bras that kept our boobs tidy and out of the way. (A lot of us still do. The world’s bestselling bra is by Triumph: it’s called Doreen, and it looks like it sounds.)

After Wonderbra, we all wanted a thrusting cleavage. Then a boob job. Or to look like we’d had one, using those hideous chicken-fillet things. In bars and clubs, you couldn’t move for women wielding their trussed-up assets like a couple of wobbly jellies on a plate. The upshot of the Wonderbra phenomenon was ultimately positive: we discovered bras as fashion items and, crucially, we realised that the right bra would give us the boobs we wanted. All we had to do was try more new bras. Sales of bras jumped 40% in the 1990s. Then Jordan and her outsized puppies came along: thanks in no small part to her, last year saw a 55% leap in the number of boob jobs in the UK, with most chicks opting for a C cup.

One by one, though, boob-brandishing celebrities are covering up. First Kylie. Then Heidi. Victoria Beckham has, allegedly, had a breast reduction. Eva Herzigova, the original Wonderbra girl, bears boobs that seem a shadow of their former selves. Now, even Jennifer Lopez has gone demure, and fashion designers are championing a new modesty that leaves almost everything to the imagination. When a girlfriend of mine, famous for her propensity to “get her tits out for the lads”, declared “I feel it just isn’t right to put them on display any more”, the game was up. The trend, it seems, has finally passed. RIP cleavage.

Canvassing opinion on the subject down my local was enlightening. “Jordan culture, for me, destroyed the allure of having a big cleavage,” said thirtysomething Amy. “I don’t wear my Wonderbra any more,” Caireen, 26, told me. “Guys recognise the triangles at the back. They wised up to it — they know I’m faking it.” Liz, 24, added: “You’ve got to look as if you haven’ t tried. Anyway, I don’t want to attract the kind of guy who’s staring down my top.” Judy Berger is a personal shopper for cash-rich, time-poor women. She also happens to be 5ft 1in with 32F breasts. “The big-cleavage trend was in when I was 20. I loved it, but that trend is over. When I put a cleavage bra on now, it makes me look like a porn star. At 27, my objective is to look sophisticated. I need a bra to keep them in the centre of my chest; I want to cover them, but not so much that I can’t wear low-cut tops. It’s all about shape: you want a nice shape, whatever cup you are.”

Charlotte Semler, co-founder of Myla, the lingerie line, doesn’t even have a push-up, stick-out bra in her collection. “Women want to look curvy, not busty barmaid. People are just bored of cleavage. It’s like bare midriffs. In fact, we have a healthy market in nipple covers.”

Figleaves.com, the British e-tailer that sold 21,000 push-up bras last year, concedes that these account for 40% of its business. However, Amanda Lepar, the company’s bra buyer, is seeing that change. “The smoothing and enhancing bras will ultimately take over from the cleavage market,” she says. “We are selling more and more of them, as well as what I call the five-minute bra — balconettes and half-cups, which women wear for the bedroom.”

“We do have a problem,” admits Hervé Bailly, Wonderbra’s marketing director. “Everyone relates Wonderbra to cleavage. For many years, women considered showing cleavage to be the only way to look sexy. That has changed. Women now want to communicate their sexiness in a different way; they want rounded, more natural-looking breasts. Or to play with a low neckline, which is not, technically, cleavage.”

On Tuesday, Gossard launches the antidote to its Wonderbra (one is still sold every six seconds) with a £1m campaign created by Trevor “Hello Boys” Beattie, whose ad agency is TBWA. The SuperSmooth bra aims to tap into our new-found desire for enhanced shape and less cleavage. It is an amazing piece of engineering. It looks like a piece of moulded neoprene (the flesh-coloured one looks really spooky) and has no seams, stitches or elastic, and no itchy label. The idea is that it is so comfortable you can’t feel it on, and so smooth it looks invisible under clothes; to the unknowing eye, your boobs appear naturally gorgeous, perky and rounded. I’ve been wearing mine for two days and can verify all of the above. The bra plays a clever double game: cleavage uplift to satisfy men, without making a woman feel like an obvious sex object.

Bil Bungay, of TBWA, also worked on the campaign. “To me, Wonderbra-wearers come across as a bit desperate. SuperSmooth says: ‘I don’t need to fake it to look gorgeous.’” Mary McCartney Donald, who shot the campaign, says: “I wanted to put across a natural feeling, to show that you can radiate your sexuality without showing it. I also want to show that there’s a spectrum of acceptable sizes — not all men like big tits.” McCartney Donald selected the model because she has what must be the most desired boob size in the land: 32C.

The SuperSmooth was inspired by a French bra called the Super Touch Up, which is currently the runaway bestseller in France. So, could SuperSmooth be the new It bra? The industry thinks so. Calvin Klein launches a similar one in the autumn, called Perfectly Fit; Splendour is on the case too.

Let’s leave the last word to a self-appointed breast connoisseur: Neil, 35, who I met on my pub test. “They have to feel like breasts, move like breasts. Not be trussed-up or fake. Most guys hate fake. The bottom line is, we all know you’ve got them, we all like to think about them all the time, but we don’t need to see them. The thrill of imagination is so much better than having it pushed in your face.”


Personally I’m rather glad that eau natural is de rigour, as Neil says guys know we’ve got them. I mean can you imagine if men were to wear penis enhancers, I definitely prefer to have it left to my imagination.

Source: The Sunday Times Style Magazine

posted by Opus at 11:37

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