This season, celebs take the plunge
OUT with the Wonderbra, in with the... sag? (And we don't mean the Screen Actors Guild).
Dresses with revealing necklines have been stealing the spotlight this awards season, signalling, perhaps, a new era in red-carpet decolletage.
At the Guild's awards last month, Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery wore a black and white J. Mendel dress that exposed much of her chest, while at the Golden Globes, more than a half-dozen actresses (Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock and Kate Mara, among them) turned up in low-cut frocks that seemed to defy the use of regular brassieres.
This is a new kind of cleavage ideal: Not the often artificially inflated breasts of yore, but a more naturalistic teardrop shape that harks back to the 1970s.
Tired, perhaps, of exposing the top of the breasts, with the obvious leers that practice inspires, stars are now exposing the sides.
At the Globes, Julianna Margulies and Margot Robbie, from The Wolf Of Wall Street, went nonchalantly low-cut.
Ms Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has noticed the shift.
"What we had before was so much controlled and presented sexuality," she said, referring to the corset-style gowns and push-up bras that have ruled the red carpets in awards seasons past. "The newer look is more degage, more natural."
Hollywood stylist Jeanne Yang said it was "very Studio 54", adding that she had showcased a similar halter-style silhouette in her spring 2014 collection for Holmes & Yang, a fashion line she designs with actress Katie Holmes.
"It's a really flattering look," she said. "It can make you look taller and leaner. And, in a strange way, it's sexy, but it's not like your cleavage is out there."
Style consultant Mary Alice Stephenson credited musicians like Rihanna, who wore low-cut Armani to the Grammy Awards in 2012, and Jennifer Lopez, who drew attention in a plunging Zuhair Murad gown at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscars party, for starting the trend.
She said: "Fashion is about pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable. It's less about being ladylike and more about being powerful."
Mr Johnny Talbot, a designer of Talbot Runhof, a ready-to-wear line based in Munich, believes celebrities are vying for the public's increasingly divided attention with ever-more-scandalous ensembles.
Dr Shirley Madhere, a plastic surgeon in New York City, said she had noted a connection between what is happening on the red carpet and on fashion runways and what her patients are hoping to gain (or not) on her surgical table.
"It's not about volume anymore," she said. "The new mantra is, contour is queen."