I had hoped the plethora of crop tops in high street shops was just a phase and not a portent of things to come. But alas, the return of the crop top was apparently a mere warning shot across the bow and now 90s fashion seems to be commandeering the fashion industry in full force. If my tone thus far was somewhat unclear, this is not particularly welcome news to me.
Perhaps my lack of 90s enthusiasm is because it makes me feel old seeing teenagers wearing the clothes I wore in my youth 'ironically'. But I think that is only a partial explanation and the main reason I do not intend on embracing the current 90s fashion trend is that 90s fashion was not particularly bust friendly. Wrestle a crop top over my ample assets and it's not just a strip of belly that's exposed but my entire torso.
The Cut has put together a slideshow of the numerous 90s-inspired slip dresses that were showcased at New York fashion week. While the teeny-tiny straps ensure that the dresses appear to 'defy gravity', they are not very practical for the vast majority of women whose busts need a bit more support. And the contours of the average woman's body completely destroys the simple and minimalist silhouette that these dresses are trying to create. Only a tiny, tiny fraction of the population can wear this kind of dress and have it look like the designer intended - so why do designers bother?
My friends and I have had this discussion on numerous occasion. One theory is that the fashion industry is dominated by gay men who have little interest in feminine curves. I remain unconvinced by this theory since Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner and Mad Men's Joan Holloway are all beloved gay icons and none of them resemble the bony, boyish models seen on the runway.
A theory that I think has more traction is that designers don't really care about the bodies at all - they care about designing something that plays with textures, colours, lighting, structure and proportions. For maximum creative freedom, a blank canvas is required and the shapeless, breast-less models we see today on the runways are probably the closest thing you can get to a blank canvas in human form. Hadley Freeman argues, somewhat convincingly, that this is perhaps a good thing. In a society obsessed with women's bodies, it's refreshing to have designers make clothes purely with texture, colour and structure in mind, irrespective of bodies.
And yet I find Freeman's article somewhat unsatisfying. Perhaps because, ultimately, my large breasts aren't going anywhere without major surgery and they need to be clothed appropriately. Yes, fashion is a wonderful way to express thoughts and ideas but there is also a practical component to it. Fashion needs to be worn and it doesn't seem unreasonable for designers to consider this factor when designing their collections. And anyway, Freeman's argument only really applies to haute couture fashion designers; for the people designing for Topshop or Banana Republic, wearability is surely the most important consideration. I don't mind the use of outlandish proportions or materials to express an idea or philosophy on the runway but when it comes to shopping for my wardrobe, I just want a shirt that will button up comfortably.
For those who share my plight:
- Karen Millen does excellently tailored jackets that are more accommodating for big busts
- Boden does lovely tops in soft jersey that are bust-friendly
- Bravissimo has a clothing line, Pepperberry - while the fit is certainly good, the fabrics can often feel and look a bit cheap
- Ralph Lauren shirts are often pretty good for the busty