Tuesday 27 September 2011

The real century of the décolleté?

Everyone who has ever worn a pair of stays knows that it’s the best push up bra in the world. However, if you turn to the world of art, the fashion in the 18th century seem to have been all about ignoring what happens to the female chest when its pushed up and compressed instead just treating it like a smooth expanse of flesh.

When it came to the 17th century I had the notion that it was all about high neck and cartwheel collars by the beginning and those straight over the shoulders neckline by the end of it. You know, you carry an image in your head, but the more I look, the more I find that in the 17th century, breasts were not something you ignored if you were an artist. Did that nice low-cut gown show the chest, then, by all means, pain the chest.

Those curious early 17th century bodices where the breasts seem to behave very much like they have inplants.

Even when the breasts seem to be rather small, you can clearly see that they are there.

I'm tempted to try to make this dress, because I would probably look exactly like that in it.


Olympe de la Tour D'Auvergne said...

Lift and separate! By the end of the 18th century they seemed much more willing to show the curve of the breast above the neckline, perhaps because the shape of the stays had changed to make this more prominent.

Thanks for sharing all of these lovely examples.

Rhissanna said...

This is a lovely collection of portraits. Thank you, again. Through western history, it seems that fashion (and, therefore, portrait painters) alternate between the double-breasted woman, with two boobs, and the mono-bosom with no apparent cleavage.

Madame Berg said...

Duble-breast or mono-bosom, it must have been hard for the average woman to live up to the ideal bosom of the artworks! So, nothing much have changed since then :P

Unknown said...

Wow! Beautiful selection of images.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Beautiful selection of paintings - thank you!

I've never seen that particular painting of Nell Gwyn with the slave/servant before. Do you know the painter's name, and the painting's present whereabouts? Any extra knowledge would be most welcome!

Beth said...

I awarded you the Duchie award for your excellent costuming! Thanks for all the inspiration.

Isis said...

Comtess Olympe: Indeed! And I have found that the late 18th century suits me much better, probably because I can't corset away my shape completely to the earlier straight lines.

Rhissanna. True. Look at teh early 19th century- monobosoms galoer! :)

Rebecca: Thank you!

Madame Berg: So true. Have you read "History of the Breasts"? A very interetsing book.

Susan: Here is an article about the painting:


Beth: Thanks again!

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