Breast Fashion

by Julia Seelig

Photography by Rhiannon Jeselonis

In December 2016, Vogue U.K. came out with a shocking article in their print issue called “Desperately Seeking Cleavage.” After noticing a significant change in the way women, especially in high-fashion, were showing off their bodies, editorialist Kathleen Baird-Murray asked the question, “Whatever happened to the cleavage?”

The claim that cleavage is ‘over’ arguably stems from the noticeable shift in women’s lingerie. The push-up bra is no longer viewed as the ‘wonder bra’ it used to be in the ’90s when Eva Herzigová flaunted her cleavage in one of the most iconic ads of all time, Wonderbra's “Hello Boys.” Instead, bralettes have dominated the markets, forcing both mainstream lingerie brands and notable runway designers to create their own lines.

Bralettes have popped up in the runway shows of Alexander Wang, Saint Laurent, Fendi, Giambattista Valli and many more renowned designers. Whether worn underneath a sheer piece, layered with a blazer or worn alone, the bralette is predicted to continue to be one of the hottest trends in spring 2017.

Perhaps the obsession with the bralette has to do with society’s recent interest in minimalism—smaller boobs, smaller houses and smaller wardrobes—a trend that seems to resonate particularly well with millennials, according to Forbes.

With the growing popularity of the bralette, lingerie has ultimately become a staple in any fashionista’s closet. Embracing this new trend has also paved the way for a more accepting society in which women are openly able to embrace their bodies in a confident, sexy and sophisticated way.

According to Refinery29, push-up bra sales plummeted in the past year at multiple lingerie stores. While Victoria’s Secret “has seen a share price drop of 29%,” lingerie company True & Co. suffered a 15% to 24% decline in sales of their once most desired push-up bras.

“I think wearing big bras is very suffocating. The transition towards bandeaus, which serves support and fashion purposes, is a lot more empowering,” said Lehigh University freshman Remi Ziff.

Emphasizing comfort over sexuality has allowed women to feel less obligated to push their breasts up in lace, satin and padding; instead women are rejecting these highly sexualized fantasies projected onto them by men and the media.

I do not think, however, that this claim that cleavage is over is necessarily true. While smaller breasts seem to be dominating the fashion world and the media—take Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid for example—the movement towards bralettes speaks to much more than just a predicted end to cleavage. Rather, it makes a bigger statement about women accepting their bodies, regardless of their small or large breast size.

“Personally as a woman with a larger than 'D' cup, I don’t think that cleavage is out,” said University of Pennsylvania sophomore Samantha Gold. “I don’t think it has anything to do with cleavage, I think it is dressing best for your body.”

Regardless of the trends seen across the runway, it is important to recognize that not all women have the luxury of sporting lacey bralettes with little to no support. Women with bigger breasts should not be shamed for their bodies, namely their cleavage. What should be taken away from this movement, rather, should be a new appreciation in loving your natural body and finding beauty in it. So yes, cleavage can still be sexy and desirable but women should not have to flaunt or force cleavage in order to feel beautiful.

“I think that there is a strong influence by the media that affects the way girls think they should present themselves,” said Nick Romanoff, a sophomore at Cornell University. “Everyone is born a certain way, and I think that girls who embrace their natural body are more respectable and are more attractive than those who try to present themselves in an artificial way.”