Thursday, May 3, 2012


My concern about the size and shape of my bosom was a life and death important thing that I inherited from my two older sisters.

One sister was B-cup bosomy, the other was flat as a board. What my sisters ingrained in me was -- without wonderful bosoms, one couldn't have an exciting, thrilling, fantastical love life.

But I wanted to be dancer and the ballerinas in the photos I tacked to the wall above my bed were definitely not bosomy. In their tutus, they had teeny waists and hour-glass smooth, bosom-less chests.

Oh sure, I knew about the birds, bees and sex from sex education classes in school. And for awhile, I liked playing with dolls and playing house with the boy who lived next door. But all that -- once I started taking ballet classes -- was not as important as turned-out feet, stretching so I could do a split, convincing my parents that my ballerina dream was serious, and getting them to let me take ballet classes twice-a-week.

Well, I did it -- I became a dancer. And while I was learning how to dance better than anyone else, marrying a male dancer, and rising in the dance world with him doing one-night stands, my bosom was ... well, mostly, just part of the costumes.

I was quite satisfied with my small "oranges." When, occasionally, I needed to look sexier, there were falsies. My costume designer made me an undergarment that gave me a perfect bosomy shape for a forty-minute solo that got rave reviews.

Anyhow, in between writing letters to get bookings, and finding an agent who could get us more prestigious engagements, I kept a sort of diary about arguments I was having with my dance partner, and where I was heading personally.

And diary-keeping, as time passed, became my writing career and my novel, "Somebody, Woman of the Century," the story of Cordelia. My heroine was born the first day of new century so that her age represented the year.

I wanted to write about all the major events -- wars, fashion, great leaders, The Pill, bikinis, air travel, cake mixes, all the trivia that affected me, my sisters, Mom, other moms and wives -- all the women I knew.

Of course bosoms are part of the story in my novel.

"For Cordelia, age fifteen was very different from age fourteen. Where not so long ago her hips and waist were up-and-down straight, now they were somewhat curved. Her little mounds had become "baby oranges." Her friend Penny called them that, delighting in her own "grapefruits." At least "oranges" weren't "pancakes" like Faye's, who spent a lot of time trying out silk stockings, bunching, rolling, squeezing them to see if they felt real when stuffed in the brassiere her mumsie bought in France. She wanted to be like Penny, who was the first girl in the school who really needed to wear one."

My heroine didn't know, and only after research did I learn more about bosoms -- how things have changed down through the ages.

Around 62 AD, artifacts found in the ruins of Pompeii show that some women wore chest coverings that look like a brassiere. And back in the 14th century BC in China, bikini-like garments were worn by female athletes -- a Dudou (a 'belly cover') was in vogue among wealthy rich women, and stomach protectors evolved over the centuries into corsets.

In the Western world, in the early nineteen-hundreds, "S" corsets started pushing the breasts up.

As gowns became more décolletage, nipple piercing became popular in France. Surgery was done to remove ribs to make the waist smaller as bustles, padded hips, then crinolines became stylish, along with long-line corsets.

Gradually, corsets with boning became shorter, straps made of "lastex," (yarn with a core of elastic rubber) were used, and wedges kept the breasts apart, often with padding.

Around 1916, these garments began to be "brassieres," and the term “cup” was first used. The first cup manufacturers relied on stretchable cups to accommodate different-sized breasts.

In 1932, a company started using the letters A through D. Warner began to feature cup-sizing in its products. Adjustable bands with multiple eye and hook positions were introduced and the business exploded into the billion-dollar business that is now.

Ads for Frederick's of Hollywood, Adola, and Hollywood Bras appeared

Soon bra ads were sprouting and inspiring everyone, everywhere.

Maidenform Bras sparked women's imaginations.

As did Madonna.

With Madonna's "Blonde Ambition" came those cone-shaped bras that Jean Paul Gaultier created for her -- pointed bras that looked like weapons.

And then came those lines of models, skinny young girls swinging their hips casually, parading down the runway with the very latest front and back cleavage, with more and more, very creative, bosom-revealing outfits.

Now we've got Victoria's Secret's super-unreal breasts being revealed constantly along with -- well -- what more is there to be revealed?

Why is it important?

Because how breasts are decorated and displayed inspires us -- shocks, delights and perturbs us. It's a huge part of daily day-dreaming, and mental meandering, i.e. fantasy fun.

I mean, gee, why are you looking at this page?


MikesFilmTalk said...

This makes me think of my first wife. She had "oranges" as well. This bothered her a lot. What was funny (ironic?) is the fact that when she was a small girl she prayed for small boobs. Why? Because she had an aunt who had HUGE ones. As a young girl, she found that revolting. Ergo the prayers for smaller boobs. The only time I remember her getting really excited was after the birth of our son. Because of the milk her breast size practically doubled. She was over the moon. Of course they did not stay that large and she was again orange sized. I guess her story is "proof positive" that you should be careful of what you wish for!

I also love the information you've passed on about the evolution of the brassiere. When I was a boy (the time period of the "Cross Your Heart Bra" and the Playtex Super-Girdle)
I thought the female breast WAS cone-shaped, like the top of a torpedo! Then of course the look of bras became more natural in design and I got old enough to find out for myself what those "things" looked like unfettered.

Of course the male of the species has a fascination with the female breast, regardless of the size. I have said to the odd Twitter-pal before, you have to forgive men and their preoccupation with "boobs." Whether it is because we were all breast-fed, or not, we are captivated by them. Most men are immediately transformed into teenage idiots by the mere sight of them.

As you say at the end of your blog Ms Em, "...why are you looking at this page?"

Unknown said...

You got us, Ms. EM! Young girl and early adulthood, from what I could discern undergarmets were excessive forms of torture and a bra and undies were appropriate for some 'modesty' not foundation. (This from one way later than the Victorian corsets generation.)

Shapes changing over the decades made some of the tortuous foundation a necessity to wear clothing for certain events.

Now we have come to the fashion explosion and decade of extreme attention to 'tah-tahs' and high heels. I rarely see on television or around town when some of the office work places let out a blouse or dress that is collarbone high. The shoes are all beautiful and yes they are in fact very sexy except for the woman who never learned to walk in them and move forward with bent knees. (I now believe high heel shoes to be the latest fashion instrument of torture.)

Now that you hit up 'tah-tahs' in a blog, will you be be 'hitting up' high heeled shoes or have I missed that in the archives? Let me know.

Love to y'all today. I'm your friend @grammakaye on twitter.

Anonymous said...

I had oranges until my 2 children were born, then my breasts grew to grapefruits and that is what I am blessed with now. I enjoyed your history of the bra and boobs thru the centuries of mankind. The only bad thing about growing old is that your breasts begin to sag until they look like vertical watermelons sagging down to your waist! Lol! kam

Ameer S. Washington said...

Breats are marvelous creatures of the female body. Breats provide nutrition giving milk. Breast are often part of the signal that a girl is becoming a woman, even for the seemingly flat chested. They are attraction features for men who loves boobs, and I most certainly love boobs. Should breasts be as important as they are? Who's to say yes or no?

Everything is as important as we make them. In many cultures breasts are just breasts and women need not even wear anything to cover their tops. In other cultures the push up bras and corsettes are the weapon of the woman who cannot provide for herself to help her find a wealthy suitor. In sex they are a play thing that men and women can enjoy. Other than milk they don't provide much of anything.

All the products like bras and corsetts, the innumerable concoctions that serve this purpose or that became important and popular because someone made it important. Boob size, bras, and tank tops and what they do are as important as penis size, tighty whities, boxers, and penis pumps and what they do. It all depends on who's saying so and who's believing in popular and unpopular culture. We each know exactly what we want.

Maureen Jacobs said...

As a young lady, I longed for those grapefruits. I was pretty small, and being 6 foot tall made them look even smaller. If I were 6 inches shorter, perhaps I would have looked buxom.

As I got older, and finally did develop the average size breast, I was happy. Wished they were a bit bigger, but yet happy with my decolletage, as I had discovered the magic of the push up bra. Flash forward to childbirth, you can imagine the size difference then. Now, with two kids behind me, both who were breastfed, I long for those days of the 'little oranges.'

No matter what we have, we seem to long for what we don't. So to those women who have those 'little oranges', be satisfied. When you are my age, those grapefruits will be long overripe.

Maureen Jacobs

Carola said...

When I was young I was quite "flat" and it made me miserable. When I reached middle age, and didn't care anymore, I got bigger (though saggy). I am just glad (for the sake of the younger generation) that prominent breasts are not the fashion any more.

Maria Nascimento Ibrahim said...

I tell you why the fixation on breasts comes from the crib, as in our mothers breastfeed, and this part of the female body is forever associated with calm, pleasure and satiation, why men are fascinated with breasts ...

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