Is cleavage over? Kim Kardashian West and her clan members may disagree, but that’s certainly the view of British Vogue.
The venerable fashion bible proposes, in a provocative feature in its December issue, that, “Suddenly cleavage feels wrong,” and that “all the cool girls are braless (Alia Shawkat at the Emmys)” adding, “the amount of skin there is on show is an indicator of how little power you really have.”
It’s a bold claim; the magazine says that social media—which many of us might have assumed would have desensitized us all completely to any aspect of erotica—has actually played a powerful part in the doing down of décolletage.
The magazine argues that covering up cleavage on the red carpet and at other occasions minimizes the “risk of being harassed” for celebrities who have millions of Instagram followers.
The stylist Elizabeth Saltzman is quoted by Vogue as saying of one of her clients, “On those occasions where her cleavage is more visible, I see what happens on her Instagram feeds afterwards, and out of 100,000 comments, 90,000 will be about her boobs. That’s not healthy, it’s creepy.”
Fashion editors were unanimous in telling the Daily Beast that Vogue is spot-on.
Maureen Callahan, a fashion writer and fashion editor at the New York Post, said, “In fashion, the pendulum always swings. Donna Karan made shoulders an erogenous zone back in the 90s. Exposed wrists and ankles on women were once considered suggestive.
“The perceived backlash against ample cleavage may be the beginnings of a shift away from beauty standards defined—and all too often deformed—by implants, fillers, toxins and plastics that so many social media stars, many not even near age 30, have used in what seems a Sisyphean quest to reach some kind of perfection.”
Indeed, a recent article in the New York Times reported on the growing phenomenon of women ‘going flat’ after mastectomies and choosing not to reconstruct their breasts.
Vogue observes that many “high fashion labels” renowned for their “ample displays” have this year “sent out girl after girl with legs, midriffs and cut-outs on show but no cleavage.”
It said this was a clear sign, “Something’s up. Or more pertinently, not up.”
Sandra Ellis, a British fashion consultant who has been on the inside track of the industry in a career spanning several decades, told The Daily Beast, “Once upon a time, ‘models’ adorned the fashion pages of magazines and ad campaigns. Nowadays we have become so celebrity obsessed that only a movie star can allure us into purchasing a product.
“I was thrilled to read that Vogue has declared the décolletage ‘over’. Reality TV shows have given birth to an incredibly vulgar generation of stars. Their ample cleavage is constantly on display and leaves nothing to the imagination. A subtle shoulder or an enviable leg tease is far more erotic.”
Ellis does point out, however, that it is actually the pro-cleavage climate of recent years that it is historically aberrant.
“I think we have always been fascinated with the female form, but, in fashion, the long, lean body shape has usually prevailed,” Ellis says. “Yes, in the 80’s and 90’s, when designers such as Gianni Versace and Dolce & Gabbana reigned supreme, the curvier body shape of supermodels such as Helena Christensen and Karen Mulder was preferred, but, generally speaking, clothes simply hang better on women that are flatter chested.”
Another fashion editor, speaking anonymously, told the Daily Beast: “Basically flashing your boobs has come to be seen as tacky again. There’s nothing classy about the way Kim Kardashian exposes herself on Instagram. It’s not a prudish thing, it’s just gross and tacky, and—thank god—we’ve have had enough of it.”