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Why do we so rarely see big boobs portrayed in fashion?

PHOTOGRAPHY BY BETH HARRIS

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“It’s virtually impossible to tell how breasts will fit into most items, as it’s rare to see a model with my cup size.”

Since first growing a pair in my early teens, I’ve known that big boobs are not considered “cool”. As a well-endowed teenager and a voracious reader of fashion magazines, I learnt by osmosis that it wasn’t chic or trendy or cutting edge to have more than a handful of breast attached to your chest.

The minute mine ballooned past a DD, everything I wore became tinged with an element of sex, whether I wanted it to or not. When I’m out in public wearing something that shows how top-heavy I am, many men tend to look directly at my chest instead of my face, their leering expressions letting me know that they’re up for it if I am.

I should be accustomed to these looks by now, but on days when I’m already anxious or overwhelmed, being out in the world and navigating their ogling is difficult. On bad days, I know to bypass wearing the cute fitted top, and opt for a hoodie instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my breasts. I like feeling feminine and sexy from time to time, but what I don’t like is that being feminine and sexy seem to be the only option when you have a fuller bust.

Trying to participate in fashion is a disheartening exercise. It involves me buying and then returning numerous items, after finding that they gather around my top half in an unflattering way or ride up my back.

Camis with whisper-thin straps don’t look quite so cute with thick bra straps showing, and a flowy silk slip dress doesn’t make me feel nonchalant and Jane Birkin-esque, as the brand’s website leads me to believe.

I’ve spent most of my twenties working in the fashion industry in some form or another, and much of that time, particularly when it came to trying on designer clothing, was spent enviously eyeing off the outfits that women with smaller breasts could pull off.

They could wear the deepest V neck cashmere knit with nothing underneath or a vintage bikini top with a pair of high waisted jeans and look like they just threw it on. If I tried to replicate the same look, by default, it would be read as overtly sexy or attention-seeking, because anything I wear that’s not loose and baggy becomes these things.

But large T-shirts and oversized clothes don’t fit right either – they often cling to my chest, creating a shelf-like look. Like other big breasted women I know, I feel uncomfortable almost all of the time.

Shopping for clothing as someone who is 5 ft 2 and vacillates between an E to F cup is frustrating, to say the least. It’s virtually impossible to tell how breasts will fit into most items, as it’s rare to see a model with my cup size.

While I acknowledge the immense privilege I have here, in that I can go into almost any store, online or virtually, and find something that will fit my body – a privilege that’s denied to so many – I can’t help but feel disappointed at the fashion industry’s absolute aversion to tits.

The thing is, there’s nothing that remarkable about my breasts. Sure, they’re on the bigger side, particularly when paired with my height and frame, but the average Australian woman sits somewhere between a 14C and a 12D. So why is the fashion industry still making clothing that doesn’t accommodate breasts?

The fact that sample sizes – clothing designed for models with lithe, small-breasted bodies and child-like proportions – are still such a firm fixture in the fashion industry is certainly somewhat to blame.

Often, it’s the sample sizes that are loaned to magazines and press for fashion shoots, which means that we end up associating this type of clothing with high-end, cutting edge fashion – clothing that couldn’t even accommodate the average Australian bust size.

Images like these reinforce the idea that big breasts only have one purpose – to provide sex appeal, and fashion doesn’t need sex appeal. Kim Kardashian trades on sex appeal, whereas Celine and Prada, not so much.

But the sample size feeds into fashion on a bigger scale than photoshoots. The cut of a sample size Jacquemus dress ends up being the framework for a fast-fashion rip-off somewhere down the line, and just like the sample size, the $40 Asos copy-cat dress isn’t structured to accommodate bigger breasts.

Of course, there have been promising changes in the last few years. Some of my favourite brands, like Paloma Wool and Eckhaus Latta, make clothing that’s more accomodating of big breasts, and feature plus-size models like Paloma Ellesser wearing their very cool clothes – clothes that traditionally you might not see big breasts in – down the catwalk.

The other night, I watched several models with large busts power down the runway in the latest Versace show, a brand that traditionally sticks to rake thin models, and I felt a glimmer of hope – perhaps fashion is slowly starting to understand breasts a little bit more.

Because big breasts can be cool. Big breasts can be chic and minimalist. Big breasts can be whatever we want them to be, we just need designers to start accomodating them.

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