Mirror, Mirror: A liking for subtle curves

AP Photo
AP Photo

Flagrant frontage is out of favor, replaced in fashion's book by the demure, soft breast.

Posted: July 27, 2011

The days of bulging breasts smashed into teeny-tiny banded dresses in true Housewife form - whether Desperate, Atlanta, or Basketball - are done, done, done.

Instead, the bit of breast we bare under unbuttoned shirts, V-neck sweaters, wrap dresses, and bustiers this summer and early fall will be more demure, classy, and sophisticated.

"It's not all in-your-face anymore, but it's there," said Jené Luciani, style expert and author of the Bra Book. "That line - you know, boobs squished together? - no more. What you want to see is a space in the middle, more like two soft, separate lumps."

This development doesn't mean the end of cleavage. It's the one fashion statement that's more about men's desires than women's vanity, so breasts will always have a place in the modern-day style file. In fact, curvy silhouettes in classic, tailored apparel are very on trend right now - the Mad Men look embraced by both high-end designers and fast-fashion retailers. Look at actresses Christina Hendricks, Kerry Washington, or Kim Kardashian. Just last week, supermodel Kate Upton's full, firm breasts were the stars of Miami's swim week runways.

Yet the emphasis these days is less about unnatural, impossible-to-attain perkiness and more about respecting curves - one of the reasons this week's section is dedicated to breasts and how they are faring in fashion.

Whether you - OK, me - were born with just a little (thank goodness for the push-up) or were blessed by the universe's magic wand, it's all right to either celebrate or seek assistance when necessary.

One place you will see fashion's newfound respect for subtle cleavage is the advances made in bras, said Mona Lisa Jackson, owner of Center City's Coeur boutique.

"The bras this season are not so low-cut," she said, referring to top labels La Perla, Cotton Club, and Prima Donna. There are a lot of lace embellishments.

"These companies are keeping up with fashion. They know breasts will be seen, but the customer is not interested in so much exposure."

Flip through the August issue of Vogue and you'll see more of last fall's schoolmarm styles - including menswear jackets, both shrunken and boxy; button-down shirts; and long-sleeved tubular dresses with bateau and sweetheart necklines. Fur chubbies are featured over sheer tanks, and there are even hints that the Peter Pan collar - can we say Catholic-school girl? - will have an important place in fall fashion. V-necks look not nearly as deep, and when it comes to evening wear, any plunging gowns are shown with the nearly required lace overlay.

Even the ads are buttoned up - the most revealing being a Michael Kors advertisement featuring a woman in a white, deep-V gown, and one by Guess with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike whose cleavage is barely visible despite her wearing only a bra.

"We are back to a ladylike silhouette," said Christina Anderson, online fashion editor for Lucky magazine. She predicted the trendy neckline come fall would be something between a boatneck and a crew neck. "When we are looking at the real movers in fashion - Marc Jacobs or Giambattista Valli - we are seeing silhouettes that don't show as much skin."

At least in the décolletage area.

Because, according to Anderson, there's a new body part that high fashion wants exposed: "The new erogenous zone is the deep, plunging back," she said.

That means one thing for my future: a heck of a lot more bench presses.

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, ewellington@phillynews.com, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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