When it comes to cleavage, underneath is right-side-up

Fashion focus is on bottom of the bosom

March 09, 2003|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

There once was a time when a woman's bosom was queen in the art of the tease. But then came Britney and her short baby-tees, making the midriff fashion's new must-see zone. And when low-slung pants became the rage, cleavage was nothing. A hint of derriere? Everything.

Recently, however, there have been signs of a bosom renaissance. But the latest incarnation is not your grandmother's cleavage.

Instead of tantalizing with glimpses of deep valleys nestled in plunging necklines, the focus has shifted south. It's the soft, rounded bottoms of breasts that have become exciting, daring -- and very, very naughty. And women from pop tart Christina Aguilera to Baywatch alum Pamela Anderson have been seen in wispy scarf tops or tiny cut-off tees flaunting the under- carriages of their bountiful busts.

"The new cleavage is the under-cleavage," said Jeanne Yang, a celebrity stylist with Cloutier Agency in Santa Monica, Calif. "In many ways, it's more provocative than regular cleavage. There's an element that suggests that you might get to see more."

The look began surfacing in the fall, when Aguilera attended the MTV Video Music Awards wearing a top that was little more than a crisscrossed scarf that made an enticing display of her bouncy under-cleavage. Though her outfit was remarkably Cher-like, it was hardly as covered up.

More recently, Spears was spotted wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt cropped so high her bosom must have gotten a good airing.

The Neiman Marcus March catalog features a model wearing a silk chiffon scarf a la Aguilera. Even the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue hit newsstands last month featuring a model on the cover sporting a bikini top that sits so high it offers an enticing glimpse of the new Promised Land.

Fashion observers say the look's popularity has been nudged along by the enduring buzz over Jennifer Lopez's memorable 2000 Grammy Awards Versace dress, a creation that was little more than a strategically taped-down scarf.

"Once she was allowed to do what she did, the big stars just began playing games with material and double-sided tape," said Woody Thompson, a regular on Us Weekly's "Fashion Police" squad and co-creator of VH1's Pop Up Video.

Thompson said the prevalence of breast implants in pop culture also has given rise to the appeal of under-cleavage.

"This definitely has evolved from all these surgically enhanced women who can't keep their bikini tops covering their full breasts," he said. "It's like these things just need to breathe."

The appeal of the look is manifold. Peeks of a perky under-cleavage can conjure thoughts of fertility, youth and a combination of playful girlishness and sensual womanhood.

"It reminds people of the crop-tops of cheerleaders," said Yang, who has dressed Angelina Jolie, Keanu Reeves and Calista Flockhart. "You think of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, or it's something that you'd see in a Girls Gone Wild video where you have someone who's wearing a T-shirt that's cut a little bit too short."

Women should be cautious with the under-cleavage, however. Because the look is so new and untested, its dangers remain unknown.

"With cleavage, you fear bending down at the buffet and showing a little too much," Thompson said. "But with the bottom-cleave, do you have to worry about leaning back? Can you catch the bouquet at a wedding?"

There are some basic rules that will serve wearers well, though -- for instance, don't attempt this look if you have a saggy bosom. And, use a good double-sided tape to make sure the top stays in place. (Yang suggests Top Stick, a toupee tape that she calls the "celebrity stylist's secret.")

Yang also said women with breasts that are larger than C cups should stay away from the look. "It becomes incredibly pornographic," she said.

While under-cleavage has its obvious appeal among many men, Thompson lamented one drawback.

"Unfortunately, like everything else in pop culture, it's cutting right to the chase and it's taken out all the mystery," he said.

"But any cleavage is good cleavage," he concluded. "This has my full support -- no pun intended."

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