Cultural taboos in society often frown on revealing the female breasts. Even innocuous activities such as public breastfeeding can garner controversy and public disapproval. Society hasn’t always had such a prudish take on this natural, necessary body part. In fact, delving into history, they were used as a sexy fashion accessory or political statement.
The Cultural Significance of Cupid’s Kettledrums
Breasts have been turning heads just about as long as women have had them. Cultural impact has a strong influence on the way people perceive female breasts. The practical function of breasts is often ignored because of cultural influence.
Breasts signify the onset of sexual maturity, symbolize motherhood and embody the beauty of the female form. In religious art, they play a prominent role. There are numerous paintings of Madonna nursing the Christ child. And more of nude statues of ancient goddesses concealing their genitals but displaying their breasts proudly. Even legends offered a nod towards the incredible natural power of a woman’s breasts. Such as the legend of Pero keeping her own father alive when he was sentenced to starvation.
Thanks for the Mammaries!
Breasts have often been associated with motherhood and religion. But they have also been a flirty fashion statement for centuries. Ancient Egyptian women, for example, wore elaborate jeweled dresses designed specifically to show off their breasts. As time passed, social and cultural norms changed, especially in the Western world.
By the 15th century, fashionistas were increasingly showing off “nature’s fonts”. In fact, some of those most stylish ladies, especially at court, became quite well known for their fashion derring-dos.
While Western women didn’t necessarily have a “let it all hang out” attitude, breasts were definitely on display more.
Early modern Europeans and Americans had a bit of a Madonna-Whore complex when it came to breasts. Mothers and queens could bare their bosoms without fear of social judgment. For them, breasts signified purity and the nurturing relationships between mothers with their babies and queens with their countries. Mistresses and prostitutes were also known to share their “three-penny bits”. These women, however, had somewhat fewer notions of purity and a lot more implications of fun.
Court fashions tended to expose a considerable amount of cleavage, whether a woman was a queen, mistress or courtier. Possibly far more than we’re used to seeing even today. Agnes Sorel, the darling of King Charles VII’s court and the first officially titled mistress, made many bold statements. She made cleavage a hot commodity in the rarified style world of the 15th-century court.
Royal mistresses weren’t just “the other woman” in those days. The mistresses often played important political and personal roles at court and were considered trendsetters. As the maitresse-en-titer, Sorel was no exception. She’d deliberately wear her bodice open with glittering jewels to better frame her shapely breasts. Her daring couture coups set tongues wagging and shocked the more buttoned-up courtiers. It also ignited a trend, however. One that continues today with models on the runway and celebs at awards shows.
Renaissance Era Fashion
By the 16th century, women were wearing low-cut dresses as a rule rather than a flirty exception. An extra dose of titillation was added with specially made cosmetics that would deepen the color of their areolae. This could heighten their sex appeal. Stays, later known as corsets, were used to flatten and support the torso during this time period. Later on they had the added benefit of creating an alluring swell of breasts above the stays.
While French and Venetian courts were more open-minded regarding partial nudity, English courtiers were a little more reticent. The English women tended to soften the risque look for a more dramatic effect. The exposed bosoms were often displayed with a gauzy scarf. Even these modest adjustments were left by the wayside over time.
Busts and Bustiers
A simple “nip slip” or flashing carried with it a certain daring but was still considered socially acceptable. This was particularly seen in the elite and aristocratic classes. The right garments made breast exposure not just possible but highly desirable. Although generally considered an undergarment, corsets were often just as decorative as the dresses worn over them. Many displayed luxe brocade, decorative embroidery, and other beautiful details. Corsets can create curves which not only emphasize the breasts but also nip in the waist and create robust hips.
Earlier corsets tended to be long in front with shoulder straps. This ensured a straight posture and high breasts. The contrast they created, with a flat torso and rounded breasts, made the, prized possessions. The style was equally effective whether women had large or small breasts. Eventually,
near the end of the 18th century, corsets began to shrink into something resembling bustiers. This created the alluring shape so many women still crave today.
By the Victorian era, breasts had become a little more outré. Even the slightest hint of decolletage being considered risque in the extreme. Women covered up more with their dresses often reaching their necks. Still, that didn’t mean women were moving away from their natural shape. If anything, they had found new ways to emphasize their curves, using sleek styling, cinched waists, and voluminous bustles.
From Bubbies to Boobs
Women’s bodies have come a long way over the years. Today’s women are just as stylish in sleek yoga pants or workout wear as they are in business suits and formal wear. Shapewear has taken the place of busks and girdles for many women. But corsets will continue to enjoy a certain amount of popularity and sex appeal.
A corset can create curves and offer strong support for good posture. A stunningly sexy corset can be worn on the top of your clothing or undercover. An intimate environment calls for a corset in place of your clothing.