August 28, 2005

"Cleavage, erotic as it is, does not occur in nature."

In case you didn't read the NYT Style Magazine, here's a link to the article about the hot topic: cleavage — and its dependence on undergarments:
Although brassieres first appeared in the United States around 1904 (the word itself first appeared in Vogue in 1907), it seems the impulse to improve on nature's deficiencies goes all the way back to the Greek goddess Hera. According to Teresa Riordan in her excellent account ''Inventing Beauty,'' Hera wore an early version of a push-up bra, described in the ''Iliad'' as festooned with ''brooches of gold'' and ''a hundred tassels,'' the better to divert Zeus from the Trojan War. With the development of Vulcanized rubber in the 1840's, the idea of pneumatically improved breasts came into being, but they were scoffed at as ''ridiculous contrivances'' by no less a connoisseur than Lola Montez in her ''Arts of Beauty, or Secrets of a Lady's Toilet.'' Inevitably, corsets and the like impeded access to the very delights they served to highlight, leading at least one redblooded male to make witty protest. ''Please leave off that breastplate,'' James Joyce wrote to his future wife, Nora Barnacle, during their courtship. ''I do not like embracing a letterbox.''

7 comments:

lindsey said...

The Style Mag also has an article about the popularity of red heads :) I See Red People

amba said...

D'you remember Desmond Morris's theory in The Naked Ape that cleavage was supposed to provoke in the male an archaic memory of a presenting backside when we used to mate the way other primates do, from behind? Morris was trying to figure out why human females had pillowy breasts, when just a nipple is enough for lactation.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba: I'd forgotten that one. He was making the classic mistake of picturing the naked body in the shape that clothing puts them in. (Much discussed in "Seeing Through Clothes," by Anne Hollander.) Morris has a new book out, by the way: "The Naked Woman." He seems like a bit of a fool. Re big breasts: how did he account for cows?

Goesh said...

- udderly amazing this fascination with breasts, all this compulsive, mandatory groping and pawing and slobbering around- the nape of the neck and the small of the back, now that is anatomy worthy of exploration

Diane said...

Cleavage, like cheesecake, does not occur in nature, but the desire for it is the compilation of several evolutionary traits.

We evolved to crave high fat and high sugar content as a sort of way to steer us to foods that would help us put on poundage during times of famine. Cheesecake is just the logical conclusion of both of these evolutionary cravings.

Breasts are simply large deposits of fat, and in a (relatively) unobtrusive place, and thus a way of display a natural advantage during times of famine. Breasts are a sign of futility as when a woman is fertile her breasts swell, and high estrogen and progesterone makes breasts swell. Put these both together and your average Caucasian male likes big breasts for purely glandular reasons. (other cultures emphasize different portions of anatomy like the buttocks, but it is to the same end and for the same reason).

Cleavage is simply a way of making breasts look bigger, by emphasizing the line between them, and drawing attention to their length. It makes sense as the natural conclusion of desires programmed into men by evolutionary imperatives, even though it might not be in nature to begin with.

I’m all for showing off breasts whenever given the opportunity. Until I was seventeen, I had barely enough to fill out an A-cup. Now I wear a C, and by gum, I will display them proudly. Horray for cleavage!

ploopusgirl said...

Udderly fascinating, indeed, Goesh.

amba said...

Amazing focus, that Desmond Morris. Still interested in the same thing after all these years.