Cleavage: Take the plunge
Put that push-up bra back in the drawer and forget about pneumatic boobs -- this season, it's all about saying 'Hello Boys' to the deep V-neckline and flaunting your anti-cleavage. Chrissie Russell has the scoop
A red carpet has always brought out the breast in showbusiness's leading ladies. For almost a century, busts have been pushed up and presented at awards dos, premieres and celebrity weddings, but of late something has been amiss. Suddenly, it's as if someone has let the air out of Hollywood's collective chest -- cleavage has left the building.
Beauty, power and wealth have long been synonymous with having something up top, and we don't mean a high IQ. Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe and Diana Dors were all big in the box office, big in front and not afraid to flaunt it.
Back in 1994, Eva Herzigova taught us breasts were made to be pushed up to a vantage point so they could say 'Hello Boys'. Although in that infamous car-crash-inducing Wonderbra advert, even SHE looked surprised to find her chest rising with such gusto.
In 1997, you could have balanced a pint between Geri Halliwell's plump bosoms as she took to the Brit Awards stage in that Union Jack, and, for most of the 1990s and Noughties, barely a photo op went by that we didn't see Liz Hurley spilling out of some scooping neckline or other.
Perhaps after so many years of tear-inducing cleavage, it was inevitable that at some point we would be hit with a boob backlash. A new era has dawned -- it's time to say hello boys to the anti-cleavage and its partner in crime, the plunging neckline.
Leighton Meester's Louis Vuitton number at the Art of Elysium Black Tie Charity Gala earlier this year perfectly demonstrated the 'in' look. Dressed in a clinging black, low-cut dress, her modest bust pulled off a style that no woman beyond a B-cup could ever dare dabble in.
Joining her in taking the plunge have been Julianne Moore in a sexy Tom Ford LBD at this year's Critic's Choice Movie Awards, Eva Longoria in a Georges Hobeika gown slashed to her naval at the 2011 Screen Actors Guild awards, and Irina Shayk at the Glamour awards.
Ronaldo's model girlfriend managed to pull off a daringly deep V-neck dress slashed not only to the waist but also from the floor to thigh and still look chic, rather than cheap.
Even ladies with a little more up top have been lending their support to the trend, though not without a little extra support for themselves courtesy of the plunging neckline's best friend, tit tape.
Cheryl Cole plunged in her Stephane Rolland dress at Cannes but only thanks to a reported 'lattice work' of tape to stop her from sagging or popping out.
And Megan Fox must have had a helping hand in keeping her assets under control when she stepped out at last year's 'Jonah Hex' premiere in a risqué red Giorgio Armani Privé dress. The film may have flopped, but her bosom definitely deserved a nod for best supporting act.
Worryingly, even some gents have strayed into the plunging neckline zone with Simon Cowell, Russell Brand and JLS regularly donning deep v necks to show off several inches of chest hair.
But the most fascinating thing about the new no-cleavage look is that some of the women embracing the trend were also key players in the cleavage era.
Cheryl, for example, looked considerably more buxom when she left Nobu in a Hervé Léger bandage dress after a dinner date with ex-husband Ashley back in December 2008 than she does now. Where has it gone?
Geri Halliwell's sizeable bust has disappeared with her singing career. And Gwyneth Paltrow, who showed she'd very little to hide in her black Roksanda Ilincic dress at this year's National Movie Awards, looked considerably more chesty in a Vivienne Westwood dress at a premiere of 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' in 2004.
Of course, a lot of it is to do with the ever-shrinking size of women in the public eye, but the fact that Paltrow looked much more comfortable in her no-boob outfit suggests the trend is also about embracing what you have instead of trying to fake something you don't.
"Pamela Anderson-style boobs, giant oversize balloons that just scream 'fake', are now out of kilter with the modern woman," says Liz Greehy, editor of online Irish style blog, StyleBible.ie. "Part of the recent lean towards non-cleavaged cleavage, the plunging necklines that reveal a lot of skin without showing any boob, is due to the fact that many stars such as Keira Knightley are of a smaller persuasion in the breast area. It's not exactly a backlash to large-busted ladies, more a statement-making exercise whereby women are increasingly happy to say, 'We don't need big boobs to look great'."
And let's face it, in a world where a large bust can be achieved by a tight dress or the surgeon's knife, it's no surprise that cleavage has lost its currency.
While Z-listers such as the cast of 'Jersey Shore' or 'The Only Way Is Essex' are running around with oversized bazookas, it's the A-cup A-listers who look genuinely glamorous with their plunging gowns.
The fact that even Victoria Beckham, supposedly at the behest of 'Vogue's' Anna Wintour, appears to have ditched her pneumatic breasts and queen of cleavage Jordan have downsized shows just how much the desire for bigger busts has changed.
Of course, part of the appeal in the new cleavage-free look is that it's ridiculously hard to pull off and not everyone can do it. Like an expensive, waiting-list-only 'It' bag, the no-boob, plunging neckline is a desirable trend that carries its own exclusivity.
Greehy says: "You need a distinct shape to carry off the plunging neckline. Too flat-chested and it can look shapeless, while large-chested women shouldn't attempt it at all. Imagine the nightmare it would be trying to stop those babies from popping out."
But nailing the no-bra look isn't just about being a certain cupsize.
According to Paul Byrne, a Dublin-based personal fitness trainer to such toned Irish celebrities as Glenda Gilson and Rosanna Davison, there's been a wider trend in the way women want to look today.
To carry off the desireable dresses of the moment, you don't just need the right size of bust but also toned abs, great shoulders, killer legs and a shapely ass. You can't just rely on dazzling people and cameras with a scoop neck and an ample bust.
Byrne says: "The women I train today all talk about wanting a good 'shape'. Years ago, the only thing people were interested in was checking the scales and seeing weight come off.
"Today, that's not enough. Women want to look healthy and athletic, toned all over -- they want the whole package."
He adds: "I had a client in recently who wanted to wear a backless dress to an event, so she wanted to make sure her back was toned. People want to look like Cameron Diaz, and they can, but only through hard work at the gym.
"I have clients who get off long-haul flights and head straight to a workout because they know it's what they need to do to get the look they want."
In short, the lazy days where we could hope to make a good impression by flashing a big of cleavage have gone. Fashion just got a lot less forgiving.