"The cleavage is over," declares Vogue in its December issue. But what does this mean? And how should we feel about it? Hannah Banks-Walker attempts to answer those, and other such pressing questions.
I remember when every girl in my year at school was obsessed with Wonderbra. I was buying bras from H&M with Snoopy on the cup (anyone else remember this bizarre, lingerie-specific phenomenon?) and was therefore entirely unconcerned with the highly political issue of the cleavage. Not that it could really be ignored in the early noughties; cleavage was everywhere. Or so it seemed to my adolescent mind, anyway.
From J.Lo’s Grammy dress (you know the one- green, barely-there, Versace) to Victoria Beckham parading around Baden Baden for the 2006 world cup, cleavage was loud and proud. But a lot can happen in ten years (yes, a whole decade) and Vogue has now declared the cleavage to be ‘over’.
“The cleavage – those magnificent mounds pushed together to display sexual empowerment, to seduce, to inspire lust or even just to show off – is over, or at least, taking a well-earned break,” writes Kathleen Baird-Murray in the December issue of the magazine.
When you think about it, fashion has eschewed the décolletage of late. Off-the-shoulder tops invaded and promptly took over the world, leading fashion commentators everywhere to wax lyrical about the ‘new erogenous zone’ (guilty). We’ve seen Alessandro Michele usher in a new era at Gucci, redefining the Italian fashion house once so synonymous with sex (here’s looking at you, Tom Ford). Rather than flesh-flashing gowns and super-short hemlines, Michele sent pussybow blouses, long pleated skirts and platform shoes worn with socks down the catwalk.
Even Versace covered up for AW16, with emphasis instead on models’ abs. That’s another new erogenous zone for us all to bang on about.
And, as Vogue points out, Hollywood’s leading ladies have been avoiding cleavage-baring gowns on the red carpet, too. From Alicia Vikander to Jennifer Lawrence, high-necks have largely been the order of the day, apparently to avoid “creepy” comments on social media. Ah, you’ve got to love those Twitter commentators.
The high street has been feeling the effects of the cleavage’s demise, too. Wonderbra is no longer the best selling brand in every store; instead, people are looking for non-wired bras and ‘bralette’ styles. ASOS even launched a ‘sideboob’ bra, celebrating what might just become known as the millennial’s answer to cleavage. The online behemoth told me that its sales of ‘soft’ bras had also dramatically increased. Topshop, too, said that the non-wired, triangle bras are its best selling style.
While this is pretty great news for our levels of comfort, I can’t help but feel resentful that one of the main reasons cited for the end of the cleavage is online trolling. As if women don’t have enough to deal with- the pay gap, the entrenched nature of misogyny in our 21st century society, Donald Trump- we also have to worry about the constant and unrelenting scrutiny our bodies now face on Instagram.
Take me back to the days of Snoopy.
I remember reading something once about Eva Herzigová’s 1994 Wonderbra campaign. There was a considerable rise in road traffic accidents, this article claimed, in areas where the Wonderbra billboards were placed. Hello Boys, said the gigantic pictures of Herzigová in her push-up bra.
These days, the social media supers are more likely to be showing off their sporty bras or their athleisure outfits on Instagram than anything more overtly ‘sexy’. Billboards of Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid for Calvin Klein show them looking pretty traffic-stopping, but there’s not a hint of cleavage to be seen.
It’s no surprise that the concept of what is ‘sexy’ has been redefined over a ten year period. But what hasn’t changed is the pressure on women- or more specifically, our bodies.
So, while I for one fully embrace Gucci’s pussybows, I would also suggest that if you are partial to a low-cut dress or find that you feel at your best when you have a hint of cleavage on show- hell, if you want to dress like J.Lo circa 2000’s Grammy Awards- I say, go for it.
It’s time we took a stand against those Twitter trolls. One cleavage at a time, if needs be.