It was bound to happen. As heavily padded shoulders become passe, shoulders the real kind are becoming prominent as a fashion focus.
In fact, shoulders and backs have emerged as spring's favorite erogenous zones, good news for women who like the breezy bare look but are uncomfortable showing too much leg or cleavage.
It's easy enough to bare the shoulders and the back in traditional ways halter dresses and strapless cocktail attire. But designers are giving women less obvious options, as well.
Wide V-necks and bateau necklines are cut to slip oh-so-subtly off one shoulder. A new version of the halter simply cuts away the shoulders while leaving the neckline intact.
Perhaps the most interesting bare looks are the most subtle: the luncheon suit that looks prim-and-proper covered-up from the front but features a provocative cut-out back; back or shoulder cut-outs draped with strips of fabric to offer only a glimpse of skin.
Of course, in the ideal situation, bareness is appropriate only if the exposed body parts are in show-off shape. We consulted fitness experts for advice.
Luckily, they told us, the back, the shoulders and the arms (which usually are bared whenever the shoulders are) respond very quickly to firming and toning exercises.
FOR THE BACK: Sit cross-legged on the floor, arms parallel to shoulders, elbows bent at 90-degree angles with hands pointing forward. As you exhale, slowly pull elbows back, as though you're trying to bring your shoulder blades together. Start with 10 repetitions and work your way up to 25.
FOR THE SHOULDERS AND TRICEPS: Sitting or standing, raise your right arm above your head. Cross your left arm behind the neck to hold the right shoulder. Bend the right arm so your elbow points at the ceiling. Slowly raise and lower the right arm, exhaling every time you raise it. Switch arms and repeat. Again, start with 10 repetitions and work up to 25.
If these exercises seem too easy, add wrist weights or barbells for more resistance. Or just hold something heavy.
Our fitness trainers suggest doing each of these moves several times a week. Start now and you should notice an improvement by Memorial Day.
Then you can reward yourself with a new outfit.