Let’s start with what we all know: Cleavage is power. The mere sight of it sells clothes, cars, beer, burgers, movie tickets, magazines, and everything in between. Companies make millions of dollars every day on cleavage alone. Socioeconomically speaking, the boob is the single most powerful body part there is. It's also the most trivialized. Advertisers everywhere perpetuate a particular kind of boob and a specific kind of cleavage, and in the process, they've conditioned women to believe that breasts are only beautiful when they’re squished together like pieces of Play-Doh. Sure, there are plenty of women who feel beautiful and confident when they achieve the full-blown Scarlett Johansson, and there's nothing wrong with flaunting what you've got, so to speak. But there’s good cleavage and there’s bad cleavage, and I don’t mean that in a purely aesthetic sense.
The Cleavage Myth
The internet has a lot to say about cleavage. Google "bad cleavage" and you'll find plenty of "rules" about what's "appropriate," tips on how to achieve the perfect cleavage, dozens of discussions about whether it's predominantly for men or women, debates about whether it's empowering or degrading, so on and so forth, forever and ever. Wherever you stand in the debate, the truth is there are a lot of real, physical problems with cleavage as we know it. A lot of people don’t realize the cleavage they see all around them—the kind you’d typically think of as “sexy”—is really a sign of an ill-fitting bra.
Arielle Leduc, Retail Store Manager and Fitter Extraordinaire
"About 80% of women think that cleavage means a great bra, that you're supposed to have really excessive cleavage," says Arielle, a BOB fitter with almost ten years of experience. "I'd say about 60% of women who come into the store actually request it, and then we have to explain that the sort of cleavage they're thinking about doesn't really happen in a correct fit."
If your breasts are touching, that means your bra isn’t giving you the right kind of support, which can lead to poor posture, back, neck, and shoulder pain, pinched nerves, headaches, and even issues like mastitis in nursing women. A bra that fits poorly can make you look heavier than you really are, and it won’t look good under your clothes. And that's not all.
"No one wants to admit it, but boobs sweat just like the rest of your body," says Arielle. "Stereotypical 'sexy' cleavage can get sweaty and gross real quick, especially if you have pretty large breasts to start with." Sweat plus constant skin-on-skin contact can cause rashes and irritation—not so sexy when you think about it.
In a correctly-fitted bra, the cup and band should work together to provide support so that your breasts never touch. Remember the old mantra: lift and separate. To get the right kind of cleavage, the center panel should lay flat against your sternum to create separation, the band should be snug enough to support the full weight of your bust, and the underwire should rest flat against your body where the breasts meet the rib cage. The cup should be large enough to encompass your breast without extra flesh spilling out. Now, instead of the uniboob, you’ll have two round breasts that look and feel much better than before. The Tiffany and the Charlotte, pictured below, are two examples. As always, we'll also use our own model to show you what we mean.
The Right FitLet's check out an example of good versus bad cleavage. For reference, our model's correct size is between a 28GG and a 28H depending on the style.
Wrong Fit Cleo "Maddie" in a 30FF
Here, our model is pictured in a 30FF. At first glance, the photo on the left looks just fine. If her face were visible, this picture wouldn't seem out of place on the cover of a People magazine. It's some serious red carpet cleavage.
But the photo on the right tells a different story. Her breasts are clearly too large for the cup she's wearing and are not as well-supported as they should be. They are overflowing, creating an unattractive muffin top that would look lumpy under clothes. If she wore this bra for any stretch of time, it would become extremely uncomfortable. Now let's see how she looks in the correct size.
Cleo "Maddie in a 28H
This time, she's wearing a correctly-fitted bra. As you can see in the frontal view, she still has visible cleavage, but it's softer and more subtle than before. The side view is light years better in this bra because her breasts are supported and don't look like they're trying to escape.
Wait a minute, you say. She barely has any cleavage at all in the second bra! Do I have to sacrifice my look for a good fit?
Nope! Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal preference. If you really want the stereotypical cleavage look, try experimenting with different bra types. Plunge necklines and balcony styles can help you show a little skin without sacrificing a proper fit.
Here's an example of how good your cleavage can look in a correctly-fitted plunge bra. First, let's look at the bad fit:
Freya "Deco Vibe" in a 28GG
The plunge neckline accentuates the space between the breasts for a sensual look that's more playful and mysterious than the first fit. Whether you're going for confidence or sex appeal, the hands-down winner is fit #2.
The same principles apply to this balconette style:
Panache "Jasmine" in a 30FF Panache "Jasmine" in a 28GG
It's easy to tell which fit is right and which is wrong. In the top photos, our model's breasts look like they're trying to escape. She's way over-projected in the side view photo because she isn't supported nearly enough. In the bottom photos, on the other hand, her breasts are more controlled and much better looking. And yep, she still has some cleavage on display.
Finding a bra that fits well and looks amazing doesn't have to be a struggle. A good fitter will take your wants into account and help you find the style that works best for your breast shape. Let's be honest—all cleavage, good or bad, looks sexy in the bedroom. But you can look the way you want and also feel comfortable.
"It's all about finding the balance between want and need," says Arielle. "When we help someone find what they need, nine times out of ten, they realize that's what they really wanted all along."
For more fit tips like these, subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Check out our online store at breakoutbras.com for a full range of designs that will make your cleavage the best it can be.