A comment left on this post a few weeks ago by the lovely Samantha made me realise something about myself where my style is concerned. This comment of hers really struck me in a "OMG, she's absolutely right" kind of way:
"I always admire the way that, as a women with a more "ample" bust, you never have it the focus of attention. In evening wear and at Christmas events, especially, cleavage is often 'out-there'. You, however, always look feminine and elegant, NEVER overtly sexy, always demure. Not "look at my boobies!!", just "Look at my fabulous outfit!". It is a real skill to balance a figure and give the illusion of perfection using clothes."
It goes without saying that it was, of course, a lovely compliment (lots of lovely compliments!), but the part I'm referring to was the fact that I never have cleavage as the focus of attention. I'm just "not that kind of girl", for want of a better expression.
I could, if I wanted. Without wanting to get all over-sharey on you (and this may come as a surprise to some considering some of the outfits I do wear that make me look less so), but I am a large-boobed lady: A 30F bra size, if you will. A tiny back with hefty breasts, and plenty of cleavage when it's not covered up. Maybe a little TMI, but it's information relevant to this post.
Samantha's comment reminded me of a couple of things said to me in the past about my style. I never really knew it before, but I actually favour what's known as "modest fashion" - not on purpose, and certainly not for any religious reasons (I'm an atheist). It's a totally subconscious decision.
I NEVER REALLY KNEW IT BEFORE, BUT I ACTUALLY FAVOUR WHAT'S KNOWN AS "MODEST FASHION" - NOT ON PURPOSE, AND CERTAINLY NOT FOR ANY RELIGIOUS REASONS (I'M AN ATHEIST).
This is one blogger who you'll never, ever see in a bodycon or deep cleavage dress - Kim Kardashian style is not the sort of look I go for. If I were a celebrity you would never catch me in an extreme flesh-baring ensemble, even if I had an absolutely banging, toned and tanned body. Nosiree.
Many, many years when I was about 25 and working in retail, I had a store manager with whom I really got on with and respected. He was leaving for another company and chatted to each of the managers and supervisors in turn (I was the latter) privately before he left to say how much he'd appreciated our hard work, to wish us luck, etc. (Told you he was a great boss.) During our conversation he asked about my plans for progression in my career and what I wanted to do.
At the time I really had no other ambitions apart from wanting a job with more responsibility in order to earn more money, but he gave me two great pieces of advice which never left me.
Firstly, he said if you want to become a manager, you need to act like a manager first. Excellent advice.
Secondly - and this was not at all said in an inappropriate way - he said that, with the greatest respect, in terms of my working wardrobe he would advise me to adhere to the rule of "No armpits, belly buttons or cleavage". Whether or not you agree with that totally is up to you, but I looked down at my 90s crop top and realised that showing off my (pierced) belly button and cleavage working in a smart store in the heart of London's Chelsea probably wasn't appropriate. He'd never once mentioned my wardrobe to me up until that point (we didn't have uniforms), but I knew he was absolutely right and it changed my way of thinking about my style right then, at that very moment.
[AGE 25] I LOOKED DOWN AT MY 90s CROP TOP AND REALISED THAT SHOWING OFF MY (PIERCED) BELLY BUTTON AND CLEAVAGE WORKING IN A SMART STORE IN THE HEART OF LONDON'S CHELSEA PROBABLY WASN'T APPROPRIATE.
It was a light bulb moment for me, and the first time that I remember thinking that what you wear should be appropriate for the occasion, and nothing else. If I'd worked in a fashion boutique on the King's Road a crop top might have been perfectly acceptable, but this was a classy furniture and homewares store - and pierced belly buttons on show at my place of work suddenly seemed quite inappropriate.
The other incident happened a few years ago after I'd been blogging for about a year or so. An old friend - male, someone I'd known for many years - messaged me to say well done on the blog, etc. etc. (It was one of those weird moments you realise that people other than your mum and complete strangers look at your blog - people that actually know you. People you haven't seen for a few years but they get to see what you currently look like on an everyday basis.)
The comment may not seem like a compliment from a boy's point of view, and to me it was neither flattering nor insulting, but he observed that for "someone with an ample chest" (luckily I know him well and knew he wasn't being lewd) that I rarely showed off my cleavage. In fact, I never did.
FOR "SOMEONE WITH AN AMPLE CHEST" I RARELY SHOWED OFF MY CLEAVAGE. IN FACT, I NEVER DID.
I didn't press him for more information (continuing a conversation like that with a male friend who is also straight could become awkward) so said Um thank you, I think? - but it did get me thinking. Or rather, it got me looking back over all my outfits to see if he was right.
And yes, he absolutely was. Discounting the bikini post I did last year (cleavage there is inevitable) the nearest I ever got was this post in 2014 where there was the merest hint of it. In fact it's so subtle probably no one noticed at the time, but I remember thinking "Ewww no one wants to see that!" when I was editing the photos, and it worried me a little. And that was even after I sewed up the v-neck a little so the dress was less booblicious.
But if you compare my cleavage to what we see on the red carpet or at celebrity events, my style couldn't be more different. Katy Perry, Jennifer Aniston, Christina Hendricks, Scarlett Johansson, Kelly Brook, any D-list reality TV star... It is far easier to find female celebrities that flash flesh than to find ones that don't (in fact I was hard pushed to find a "modestly" dressed celebrity. Even two I thought were - Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman - have, in the past, flashed more cleavage now and then than I'd ever dare).
IF YOU COMPARE MY CLEAVAGE TO WHAT WE SEE ON THE RED CARPET OR AT CELEBRITY EVENTS, MY STYLE COULDN'T BE MORE DIFFERENT. IT IS FAR EASIER TO FIND FEMALE CELEBRITIES THAT FLASH FLESH THAN TO FIND ONES THAT DON'T.
Now don't get me wrong - I am in NO way saying that these women - famous or otherwise - should not wear bodycon dresses or cover up their assets. Those who follow the blog will know I started the #iwillwearwhatilike campaign (and hashtag) because I believe exactly that: Women should be able to wear whatever they damn well please, regardless of age or social expectation. I do believe in dressing appropriately for the occasion, however - for me, at the office is not the time or place to wear a revealing bodycon dress with cleavage spilling out.
But for a night out? Go for it, if that's what you want to wear. (Note I also don't believe women should restrict their style because of the sort of "unwanted attention" they might attract. The behaviour that should change in that situation is that of the men, not the women - but that's a discussion for another day.)
Anyway - my point! The point is, I just don't "do" revealing clothes. I'm simply not comfortable in them. I'm happy to show off my arms as they're pretty good for my age, and when I'm more toned (not right now) I'm happy to wear a crop top or show my middle. But you'll never see me sporting a crop top, shorts and high heels on a daily basis.
Why? I guess that's the million dollar question, isn't it. I just don't know why. Is it a confidence thing? Have I actually been affected by comments in the past? I do remember having comments from boys about my growing chest when I was young (aged 14 I was already pretty busty, and fairly self conscious about them).
I've just never wanted to show off my boobs. Some women do, and good for them, I say. I just know that personally I'm super happy with clothes that make me look flat-chested (or, at least, less busty). It explains why I love dungarees, loose t-shirts and dresses with just the right fit to make my assets look a little bit... littler.
I also would be very, very self-conscious in a totally figure-hugging dress like the bodycon dresses I mentioned. Many of you left lovely comments for me about my figure in my bikini post (still blushing now about that), but even if I were back to the more toned look I had a couple of years ago I'd still want some part of my outfit to be looser. Back then I wore skinny jeans with looser tops, or tanks with a full maxi or midi skirt. I once wore a tight midi dress on the blog, and looking back it just wasn't me (I've never worn that dress since), despite being much, much slimmer than I am now.
So as always it simply comes down to choice, and personal preference. And how great is it that in this day and age we, as women, have that choice. We can cover ourselves head to toe, or we can flaunt what we've got, whether it's legs, boobs or bellies - or all three.
Choice is a wonderful thing, and I choose (slightly more) covered up.
What's your personal point of view about how revealing your clothing is? What do you think influences your choices? Tell me in the comments or tweet me @notlamb - I think this will make for a really interesting discussion...!
P.S. Like this post? You might also want to read 10 Ways To Keep Fit in Your 40s (Or at Any Age)!
Linking up to: Let It Shine, Brilliant Blog Posts, Friday's Fab Favourites