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August 19, 2004


The World Falls in Love With Tits All Over Again

A lengthy feature article in the Daily News today covering the swelling popularity of cleavage over the last 10 years that started with one pivotal event: the launch of Sara Lee's Wonderbra™ in the U.S. Gone are the days when women made do with what they had; even Kate Moss claims the Wonderbra gave her cleavage. Retailers claim that push-up bras offer a bustier look for women who don't want surgery. However, over the same period that the Wonderbra has reinvigorated breast fetishism without implants, a whole lot of women have opted for the boob job: "according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the number of breast augmentation surgeries has jumped 657% - from 32,607 procedures in 1992 to 254,140 in 2003." My guess is that the rise of the internet porn industry lead to a sudden increased demand for busty models, but clearly, Americans are just relentlessly fixated on tits. Women are now spending $4.7 billion a year on bras, which is equal to the operating budget for the state of New Hampshire. As they seem to do whenever they examine trends in consumer spending, business analysts say that women's self-confidence and the desire to be in charge of how they look is the source of their buying. A VP of Tobe Report, a fashion industry publication, says about the origens of the push-up bra buying frenzy, "There was a more comfortable attitude toward bodies. It was, 'I want to feel better, I'm me, I deserve it, I should have it.'"

This reminds me of the copy in makeup ads that suggests that you can take charge of your life (Revlon's "don't lie about your age, defy it!") and express yourself more fully through buying expensive products that, in reality, make you look more generic. Suggesting that this is an expression of self-confidence rather than insecurity is such an absurd and counter-intuitive strategy that, of course, it has been wildly successful. Women spend billions every year on makeup (not to mention cleavage-enhancing bras, diet products, colored contacts, hair dye, etc. etc.) that make them look more like a prescribed norm. (And now men are spending $4 billion a year too!) We have discussed this creepy homogenizing effect in earlier posts.

This week the UK's Sun features a helpful Cleavage Week series, though be careful about which pages you open if you're at work. (While the U.S. daily papers still do not include actual photos of topless women, the English have no such prudish restrictions.) Today's feature article celebrates some new statistics: British breasts are busting out all over. The average bra size has bloomed from 34B to 36C over the last 10 years. They do not speculate as to what might be the cause of England's heaving, though my guess is an increasingly overweight population and the aforementioned rise in breast enlargement surgery are at the nub of it.

categories: Business, Culture, Gender
posted by amy at 2:34 PM | #