Do you have breasts? Then come close and let me hug you to my ample bosom, for I have good news! Cleavage is back! Amy Adams wore a low-cut silver Tom Ford gown at the Academy Awards last weekend, and Brie Larson wore a dress with a similar neckline to the Kong: Skull Island premiere the following day. What does this mean? Is it a simple coincidence? Does it indicate that we should all invest in the shares of the companies that manufacture double sided sticky tape? Or did Nostradamus himself say that the spring of 2017 was destined to be a stylish time for secondary sexual organs?
As my colleague Caroline O’Donoghue pointed out, Vogue declared that cleavage was over just three months ago. We all know fashion moves fast, but the speed at which our bodies are expected to respond is baffling at best. Obviously it’s the shape of the clothes that changes, and there’s a little logic to it. November is the season for jumpers, coats and garments that protect your neck. As it starts to get lighter and warmer, we might unbutton our shirts, or start wafting about in slivers of silk and chiffon that have been slashed to the navel. But it’s weird that the focus is not on the clothes, but how our bodies look in the clothes. It’s strange that we might feel excluded from the chance to participate in fashion because of the shape of our figures, an area in which we have a limited amount of control.
I have a complicated relationship with my own breasts. People have been making unsolicited comments about my body since I was five, and I’ve been told to feel bad about my big feet, fat bum, thick legs, weird eyebrows and hairy arms. But my cleavage has attracted nothing but positive attention, like the Duchess of Cambridge. That said, having large and fairly buoyant breasts does not make me feel like the Duchess of Cambridge. My bosoms are not the sort that get me invited to hospital openings and garden parties.
Being told my breasts are suddenly fashionable again is no more helpful than being told my breasts are sexy. It’s still putting me under pressure
More than once, I’ve been compared to Carry On-era Barbara Windsor. One man at a party said that every time I opened my mouth, he expected to hear “Cor, blimey!” I remember being at a club with a friend when a man, well within earshot, pointed at us and said to his friend “That one’s really fit, but that one’s got massive tits!” He smiled at me and mimed the gesture that every well endowed girl is frustratedly familiar with. As a teenager, I constantly fought with my mum about clothes, partly because nearly everything that looked respectable on a hanger looked cartoonishly pornographic once it was stretched over my chest. Her solution was to encourage me to look for modest outfits that resembled ecclesiastical robes. Mine was to be extra sexual, to smile at the motor-boating men and to resign myself to my fate – I’d been given the body of a bimbo, so I’d better get giggling.
Being told my breasts are suddenly fashionable again is no more helpful than being told my breasts are sexy. It’s still putting me under pressure to behave in a way that doesn’t necessarily fit my personality, and it means that every time I look in the mirror my reflection is filtered through the gaze of someone else. Broadly, having the “right” look, or the look of the moment makes me feel as though I’ve won a competition I have no memory of entering. I know that nothing has really changed. I’m still going to try on extra-large dresses in Zara and Mango and get them stuck on my head. I’m still going to put on a polo neck on a chilly day and look as though I’m shoplifting a Swiss roll. Yet, the people I know who don’t like their breasts will feel slightly self conscious and sad, and as though fashion hasn’t picked them for the team this term.
At 32, I know I’m not a bimbo, and anyone who wants to make me feel that way will get short shrift, whether they’re a man or a magazine. More importantly, I know that it doesn’t matter whether cleavage is back for a week, a month or a year – it will go away again, and my breasts and I will be as anachronistic as kipper ties and centre partings. In a way, I’m looking forward to it. The pressure will be off and I can breathe out and try to enjoy my tits on my own terms. Fashion is fickle, but as long as my finger prints are unique and my heart keeps beating, I have to believe that my body will never go out of style.