Text: Irina Dubina
In the December issue of British Vogue In 2016, material was released under the loud headline "What happened to the neckline?" The author, journalist Kathleen Baird-Murray, wondered why recently push-up, which for more than a decade has been almost the main female weapon in the struggle for attention and self-esteem, is gradually disappearing into oblivion. Allegedly, more and more actresses and girls-stars are choosing chaste, deaf dresses as an outfit for going out, and on the catwalks, with the advent of the so-called intellectual fashion and the course for "new comfort", a full-fledged neckline can hardly ever be found.
Such polemical articles give reason to think: after all, it is true, there has been a departure from the straightforward eroticization of the female body towards more complex ideological and design structures. New ideas about femininity as such, led to the fact that the very image of the exposed breast simply ceased to be perceived as relevant.
Big breasts as the personification of exemplary femininity were promoted so desperately, that at some point we just wanted to see something new
The fashion for the chest changed at about the same frequency as the fashion in general. And the connection between one and the other can be traced quite clearly. The history of fashion trends is always the history of attitudes towards the female body, the canonization of certain standards of beauty and sexuality, provoked by certain shifts in society. Another important factor in the ascension of a certain conditional “ideal body” is the conditional role of a woman, the execution of which must be subordinated, including her appearance. An example of the hourglass silhouette comes to mind, which served as a model until the 1910s and returned to fashion through the efforts of Dior in the late 1940s. He symbolized not just the ideal of appearance, but also broadcast the idea of "female destiny" - to be an exemplary mother, able to conceive and bear offspring; wide hips and full breasts served as a marker of fertility.
Fashionable young girls of the 1960s, in turn, rejected such archaisms and, trying to detach themselves from the dogmas of behavior imposed by the older generation, among other things, honored a new “ideal body” - girlishly slender, without obvious secondary sexual characteristics. In the 1980s, with the penetration of elements of travesty culture into high fashion, the fetishization of the female body again became one of the main leitmotifs, suffice it to recall the models covered in latex at Thierry Mugler's shows and the corset-like breasts of Vivienne Westwood and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
In the 1990s, the asexual female image again came to the fore, devoid of the desire to exaggerate natural volumes - this is due to the fashionable style in the spirit of "heroin chic", and the general desire of designers to consider the female body not as a tool to attract male attention, but as a field for the implementation of their own creative ideas - about the new role of the weaker sex against the background of the next wave of feminism, about blurring gender boundaries and other socially significant things. Even Tom Ford in his erotic collections for Gucci, packed to the eyeballs with eroticism, did not operate with elements of fetish in the forehead: busty models practically did not participate in his shows.
If you were fifteen or so in the mid-2000s, you can probably recall a couple of stories from that period that featured a bra that was oversized, cotton wool, and a boy you really wanted to like. Well, or classmates from whom it was no longer possible to endure jokes about "minus one". To be honest, it's quite difficult to imagine something like this in 2017 - thanks to the efforts of the fashion industry and the famous millennial leaders. At least, the focus from this part of the body is shifting more and more noticeably - the resource Mic.com even conducted a whole study that gluteal implants became new breast implants in 2016. Be that as it may, the fact is obvious (more precisely, just below): an unambiguous emphasis on the chest in the form of deep neckline and cutouts has finally left the list of fashion trends.
This can partly be explained by banal fatigue: over the past ten years, large breasts, as the personification of exemplary femininity and an obligatory attribute of beauty, have been promoted so desperately that at some point we just wanted to see something new. A radical shift was outlined back in 2012, when everyone suddenly started talking about the "new femininity" - the one that prefers unobtrusive contextual advertising to aggressive marketing.
If Vogue says that the neckline is out of fashion, what can you do with the breasts that you inherited from nature?
It can hardly be discarded as from last year's accessory. The choice whether to emphasize the breasts or not is only yours
The ideals of this very femininity proceed from the unwillingness to carry oneself to the world as an object of desire for an ideal appearance. The “new” woman seeks to declare herself primarily as a person and to prevent anyone from admitting the thought that she dresses or looks after herself “for a man”. Voluminous breasts, as the main symbol of all obsolete ideals of beauty, fell under the gun of the first: in the same way, in the 1960s, a new generation of young and progressive girls set their own standards. Overly straightforward sexuality has ceased to be the main driving force of fashion marketing: in order to gain the attention of millennials who appreciate unconventional approach and original steps from brands, designers have to look for more sophisticated methods. Think back to the two main opinion makers of the modern fashion industry, Gucci and Vetements. None of these brands abuse the topic of sex and do not release models on the catwalk in outfits with an expressive neckline or even somehow emphasizing the chest.
Tightly buttoned shirts made of fine silk, through which you can see only the outlines of bras, turtlenecks made of fine knitwear, loose-fitting dresses that do not emphasize the silhouette, but leave room for imagination - it seems that there is no room left for revealing outfits in modern fashion. “Things that hide rather than flaunt a figure are a lot more interesting today,” muses Vanessa Friedman in her NY Times column. And the prerequisites for this phenomenon are many: from androgyny and tendencies towards hyper-dimensions to the influence of Islam on the world agenda.
This can be analyzed endlessly - today we have what we have. Having a naked body doesn't have the same exciting effect on us as it could have caused a naked ankle in the 19th century: sex and eroticism have become part of the routine thanks to pop and TV culture (hello to Keeping Up with the Kardashians) and have therefore ceased wow factor.
What can we say about the neckline, moreover, emphasized by a push-up - such an image does not fit into the unspoken code of "intellectual fashion", which is cherished by both modern fashion figures and street fashion brands, which were originally exclusively male. A woman who knows her own worth and does not need frivolous tricks to increase her attractiveness is fashionable; a woman who chooses overtly sexy outfits to attract male attention is old-fashioned. The only problem is that by assigning new ones to the place of obsolete canons, we hardly solve the problem, again limiting ourselves to a certain set of visual codes marked with the sign “this is good”.
All of the above does not apply to fashion cultivated by the same pop culture with Kim Kardashian at the head. Yes, over the past couple of years she got rid of Herve Leger bandage dresses and push-up bras, but the reality star does not deny herself the dresses and tops with cleavage. And he does the right thing. After all, if Vogue says the neckline is out of fashion, what can you do with your natural breasts? It can hardly be discarded as from last year's accessory. The whole point, as usual, is in the presentation: with or without a neckline - the main thing is that you feel comfortable. And the choice, whether to accentuate your breasts or not, is only yours.
Photos: KM20, Wikimedia Commons, Guess, Joseph, The Row