Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

In your face

When I was young enough not to worry about the etiquette of showing cleavage, I did not do so because: dresses that showed cleavage were not in fashion, and even had they been, I did not possess one. Now I have a cleavage I must concern myself with adding to the list of proscriptions to the purchase of my perfect dress, is it cut too low?

I know a famous women in British journalism who smilingly asserted that her steps up the career ladder were aided by her decision to always wear a low cut top to the office. Duh. Why did I fill my head with literature instead of thinking up that one? Why did I assume that newspaper editors were interested in whether I could write and think? Obviously I could not think if I didn't work that one out.

The Telegraph today agonises over the new rules.

They are everywhere. Encased in lace, just visible beneath the check-out girl's uniform at Sainsbury's, harnessed by spandex at the gym, like two setting suns about to disappear beneath the horizon of Victoria Beckham's slashed Cavalli dress, spilling from overly ambitious frocks at award ceremonies. Enough, I say. British women are confused about breasts: we need new guidelines - a little breastiquette, please.

and comes up with the following list od do's and don'ts.


At work or the school gates: There is one simple rule, regardless of age. The breast bone is your barometer – never wear anything that dips below its midpoint. A glimpse of inner cleavage or the underside of a breast is a step too far.

At a cocktail or dinner party: Under-40s can go as low as an imaginary empire line. For over-40s, especially the large-breasted, the neckline should rise an inch a decade, but there is no reason why – provided you have spent a lifetime shielding your throat from the sun – one should be confined to polo necks before the age of 70.

At balls: Under-40s may go as low as they dare. Over-40s, invest in expensive underwear and structured evening wear.

The surgically enhanced: Those who have turned to the surgeon for a little rafraîchissement in middle age should not feel tempted to pay and display. See above.

Visible underwear: “A tiny flash of pretty bra or a slightly opened button showing just a bit of cleavage hints at what could yet be revealed,” say Trinny and Susannah in their book What Your Clothes Say About You. Their advice is generous: visible underwear is a dangerous card to play, often yielding a crude result.

Accessorise when necessary: A common complaint is that all the most beautiful dresses are low-cut. Use scarves, pashminas and camisoles to make a dress more versatile.


Phyllis said...

And of course, the basic cardinal rule is: make sure your bra fits! My friend Ann just blogged about this actually, and she is convinced (and I concur) that most woman wear the wrong size. This is also important when you have clothes made - you should always wear the bra you'll wear with the finished garment when you first get measured (they'll take 20-30 measurements), and also for every muslin fitting.

Toby Wollin said...

Phyllis - all of this "coverage" (sorry) on proper bra fitting makes me wonder if we'll be seeing "bra fitting courses" and "bra fitting certifications" by the American Association of Breast Engineers in the next couple of years. I couldn't find a corsetier(if that is the appropriate term) within 100 miles of me if I sent out an "all points bulletin" and am hoping that my local Macy's (our late lamented Kaufmanns) will be having a fitter coming any time soon. If so, I plan to do all in my power (including taking the half day off work)to go get the fitting done.
As for exposing anything south of my clavicles - the fashion for exposing great masses of quivering mammaries comes and goes. The success of implants seems to be inversely proportional to one's body fat percentage, and I recently read an article where a female cosmetic surgeon made the assertion that they had to be replaced every 5-10 years in any case. It's tough enough to get in one's yearly tests, monthly self-exams, monthly hair appointments, and getting the car lubed and oiled. I'd never be able to squeeze in breast replacements...

enc said...

Sorry, but I have to say it:

Once again, the cutoff line is "40." Why isn't the cutoff line "good taste?"

miss cavendish said...

Sadly, there's also the coverage issue regarding the thickness of the material. Does one wish to be properly shielded from the cold when, say, at the front of a classroom, but look like she's wearing two bicycle helmets? I wish someone would develop a superthin microfiber with the same "repressive" power of the thicker helmets.

Ms Baroque said...

Well, they were saying all the same stuff in Regency days, of course.

I'm with enc - why 40? Surely it should be "when it stops looking nice"? I saw an older lady on the tube the other day wearing a relatively low-cut top and it looked great - in fact, it made me realise how assiduously the over-60s must work to keep themselves covered up.

One of my staple items is those strappy camisole tops they have at Gap, the ones with the "inner shelf". I have a large bosom - 36DD - and they work really well with a shirt (ANY shirt will gap on me) or cardigan, etc. But according to the Telegraph, they are deeply inappropriate for me to wear to work! Jaysus. And I have broad shoulders, too. No, I prefer to wear what fits, works with my other clothes and flatters me. I'm not ready for a sensible M&S scoop-neck T shirt just yet. Sorry.

By the way, when does the 40 think kick in? Is it when you ARE 40, or when people start THINKING you're 40?

Marisa said...

I agree with the advice but I don't like them putting an age range on the whole thing.

I don't think you should ever show your underwear ever. I'd personally feel too skanky doing so. I have worn things with deep v necks that show off the fact that I have a bust without necessarily baring me to the world. I think the "good taste" rule applies. My mother could wear v necks and show off her cleavage if she chose to but it would be in good taste because she'd be horrified of baring too much or her underwear being seen. As it is a v neckline would do wonders for her figure but she balks at it when I suggest it.

And underwear must be fitted and I so empathize with the need to find fitters. Where do you them? My lingerie stores around here are awful.

And since we are discussing underwear - can I just ask this? Is it the norm to NOT wear an underskirt beneath a skirt? Because I had to wear an underskirt under my uniform in school and I appreciate the practice - it makes my clothes fit better and it doesn't bulk me out at all and now there are nice tube like ones you can wear under fitted skirts of all lengths. But I notice that I seem to be the only one who would probably wear one. Am I way outdated in this (I am not going to stop though) or is it just that people have forgotten? It's even hard to find them anywhere anymore since no one seems to remember or want to buy them.

And I sooo do not understand the point of implants for cosmetic purposes.