Why Cleavage Is Not (and Will Never Be) Over

Lisa Patulny
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This morning, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, a post grabbed my attention. The copy read, "Is cleavage over?", and linked to an article entitled "Whatever Happened To The Cleavage?" I felt, even before I clicked it, that reading it was going to make me feel angry/sad/demoralised. The question was being asked by British Vogue and, in the hours that have passed since I first read it, the post has gone viral. Some women feel that the validity of their bodies has been questioned, and are clamouring to let fashion’s tastemakers know that not only is cleavage not over, it’s not up for debate as a "trend". "How about you stop telling people what's okay to do with their bodies?" says one Tweet addressed to the magazine. "Focus on the clothes not body fascism. Tits are not an accessory," says another. I want to point out that (in my estimation at least) the article itself isn’t really about boob-bashing. Rather, in the words of the author, "[It's] not about breast size, large or small, being "in" or "out" [but] saying that fashion designers are creating more natural, comfortable clothes that focus on other erogenous zones than just the cleavage." Regardless of the author's intention, I find both the title of the article and the social copy deeply problematic. If the point of the piece is that designers and celebrities no longer consider it fashionable to flaunt cleavage, the inference is that breasts are not on trend for the rest of us either. As a woman with what I refer to as "anti-fashion boobs", I’m disappointed that a story on clothing that highlights "other erogenous zones" has been packaged up in a way that takes aim at women’s bodies. It could have been written in a way that celebrates the different ways women can dress to feel sexy, but instead it feels like body policing. For me, the main problem lies in the fact that breasts are a body part, not an item of clothing. So, if you’re "unlucky" enough to have a pair that meet in the middle (whether pushed together or not), the implication is that unless you squish them down or hide them, *you* are no longer in fashion.

From my perspective, it’s already difficult to make the majority of trends work when you have an ample bust. As I have learned over the past 15 years, fashion is mostly not for boobs. Right now, boobs are not cool. They’re not chic. And if you want to be either of those things, you’d better buy a minimiser bra, stat. Don’t get me wrong, boobs can be a covetable body part SOMETIMES, but that’s mostly reserved for the beach or the bedroom. Let’s look at the runways. They work for underwear and bikinis (hi, Victoria’s Secret), but you’ll rarely see an ample busted woman stalking the catwalk for serious fashion brands. And haute couture? Fogettaboutit. Next, let’s consider street style. As we know, the street is the new runway, and you’ll also see a distinct lack of boobs there. Every fashion month I search through each city’s street style images for well-dressed women with big busts. Most of the time, there are none. I’m sure these women exist, that they’re there on the ground, but photographs of them are few and far between. More evidence that breasts aren’t fashionable.

If you think this is no more than a beat up, let’s take a minute to break something down. Fashion has a long history of dictating what is and isn’t on trend. While I (and most women I know) love the fashion industry and live for the fresh inspiration that crops up with every new collection, red carpet event, and influencer social media update, there’s no denying it plays a role in deciding which body type is considered the ideal at any one time. When women’s bodies act as live coat hangers, it’s kind of unavoidable. In the ‘80s, supermodels were voluptuous and Amazonian, and Cindy Crawford was the ultimate. Then, the ‘90s introduced us to Kate Moss, who heralded an era of lean and lithe figures. Now? We seem to have fallen somewhere in the middle, with a focus on diversity getting stronger all the time. Maybe this still-new acknowledgement of the DIFFERENT is why this whole thing is so damn disappointing. It hurts my insides to know impressionable young girls around the world could now be thinking, ‘If it’s not cool to have obvious boobs, how do I make mine go away?’ I could write a million words on why I feel it’s disastrous to align certain body types or appendages with what’s in fashion, but my biggest issue is the most obvious—a body can only be warped so much to fit an ideal.

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