Revolutionary Fashion

October 10, 2010 • Magazine

Revolutionary Fashion

Revolutionary Fashion

Tue, 2000-10-10 00:00

Bonnie Brown

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! While the events throughout the month are mainly to increase awareness and raise money for charities conducting research on prevention and a cure, along with support for those affected by the disease, October is also a month to educate and empower women. And what better way to empower than to celebrate the bosom, bust, chest, ta-tas, chi-chis, (and any other pseudonym there is for breasts) this month as well. The female form would certainly not be the same without these lovely appendages and neither would fashion, believe it or not.

Breasts have long been influencers in the fashion industry. During the 1920s the flapper attempted to minimize her curves by binding her breasts, creating a smooth, straight, almost boyish silhouette. In the 1990’s Madonna encouraged women to vogue and wear conical shaped brassieres peeking out from beneath blazers with the designing genius of Jean-Paul Gaultier. But the fashion era which truly celebrated displaying the bosom was the Regency period. Certainly this era brings to mind Jane Austen and the image of her heroines dressed in empire style dresses made of demure white and billowy fabrics. While the idea that the era was comprised of prim and proper ladies, that ideology is not completely true. Yes, of course it was shocking to show even a hint of leg, but a woman attending a ball would not be considered “dressed-up” unless she was flashing a wide expanse of bare chest. Because of the cut of the dresses the women’s undergarments were also altered. While the corset had long been a staple in a woman’s wardrobe, the new corset, or stays as they were called, was not quite as restricting, thanks to the looser-fit dresses. But this did not necessarily make them anymore comfortable to wear since a busk was inserted down the front middle of the garment, ensuring perfectly straight posture or, in other words, encouraging the shoulders back, chest out stance.

Thanks to the simplicity of the dress, the empire style, with influences from the Grecian age, could be worn by many women from many different classes, an occurrence that was not always possible with other trends. This fashion was born during the French Revolution, with the greatest catalyst being Napoleon Bonaparte. It was he who wanted to make France the epicenter of fashion. He halted importation of English textiles and promoted the sale of French clothing and textiles by not allowing a woman to wear the same gown to court more than once.

Much like the Grecian era, the Regency age was a time of liberation which is easily recognized through the looser fitting garments and less prudish form of dress. Women throughout history have long been liberating themselves by means of fashion expression. The 1970’s adopted this idea of freeing themselves from society’s norms by going bra-less and even burning the undergarments as a form of protest. So this October celebrate your bosom by wearing a low-cut top and rejoice in being a woman.

1. The Empire Dress Style 1800
2. Dress of 1799 Le Journal Des Dames et Des Modes 1799 (left), and Dress of 1800 The Lady’s Monthly Museum 1800, (right).
3. Painting by Eugène Delacroix Liberty Leading the People
Breast Cancer Ribbon:

Image Layout: Rachel Gadson

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