Suddenly, boobs are everywhere. The perky silhouette emerged in the form of sculpted sweaters on the Prada spring 2022 runway. And at Loewe in the form of gilded breastplates, then again later on Simone Rocha’s spring 2022 dresses with little pearl embellished flaps that appear as if they’re elegant nursing bras. And who could ignore Schiaparelli’s golden nipple motifs as well as denim cone bra jackets, worn most recently by Julia Fox when she attended Paris Haute Couture Week with Ye earlier this week? Even Y/Project showed thermal boob prints in the form of trompe l’oeil body maps on women models at the fall 2022 menswear show.
Breasts are having a renaissance in fashion on the spring 2022 runways, and after years of BBL (the Brazilian Butt Lift) and focus on the back, it makes sense that designers are now putting their emphasis on top. Fashion is cyclical, after all. But why now? The breast trend plays into surrealism, which is currently dominating fashion. After all, the motive of the original surrealists was to make the familiar strange, and to show a fragile world full of tension in a new, dream-like state. The playful, and equally absurd boob trend in fashion is here to lighten up your wardrobe. And maybe your outlook.
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According to the fashion historian Caroline Elenowitz-Hess, the trend straddles the line between art and fashion at a time when the world is appreciating maximalism more and more. “The first example of this idea crossing over into high fashion is the collaboration between Yves Saint Laurent and sculptors Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne who collaborated on his Autumn/Winter 1969 haute couture collection,” she adds. “The Lalannes were very interested in Surrealism and in the idea of imbuing magic into everyday life. Because these are such solid, sculptural pieces, it really crosses the line between art and life, perhaps evoking the myth of Pygmalion, where the sculptor falls in love with his creation.”
Something else about the sculpted boobs and metal nipples we’re seeing on the runway? They don’t just evoke sexiness, there is an innate sort of power that they carry and it seems they relate more to dressing for the female gaze. Body positivity has continued to creep into the mainstream in fashion and the Y2K and mid 2000s style movements that are making a comeback favor everything short, tight, see-through and mini. But a knitted sweater with the subtle curve of the underpinnings of a bra? Or mega pointy denim cones protruding from denim? That’s the female gaze.
After all, Prada called its spring 2022 collection “Seduction, Stripped Down” and the show notes read, “We thought of words like elegant—but this feels so old-fashioned. Really, it’s about a language of seduction that always leads back to the body. Using these ideas, these references to historical pieces, the collection is an investigation of what they mean today.” It’s a re-examining of how we present and represent the female body and where the power dynamic lies within that narrative.
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For those that are wearing the trend in real life, too, they feel there’s a certain sort of femininity and sensuality that comes with wearing boobs on your clothing. Blythe Marks, the 27-year-old vintage dealer in L.A. went to Dover Street Market specifically for Schiaparelli’s breast pieces late last year. “There it was,” she says. “A seemingly normal cream cable knit adorned with perky leather breasts in a buffed metallic gold hue. I honestly felt like my truest self was standing before me in the mirror. Fully realized! Alive! Uncompromisingly opulent and absurd! My femininity is deeply enriched by the strange and the surreal.” Marks was inspired to try the piece due to having a long love of Schiaparelli designs from the 1930s and 40s and the idea that both the founder of the house, Elsa Schiaparelli, and the new creative director, Daniel Roseberry, indulge in exposing “private thoughts and taboo body parts to be made public and exalted as worthy of decoration. It was quite fascinating to be so covered in fabric, from the neck to my wrists all the way to my ankles, yet feel exposed. That tension was exciting, and gave me a lot of forward momentum.”
“What’s more timeless than a human body,” Daniel Roseberry, Artistic Director of Schiaparelli asked us the day after his spring 2022 couture show. For him, the boob-like structures are about “embracing of the body as a subconscious form of liberation.”
The act of wearing sartorial boobs, too, has been a conversation starter in a time where many people are still feeling isolated and craving human connection. “Many people were vocally curious about the sensation of molded leather breasts over their grandma’s sweater,” adds Blythe. “Most wondered if they were hollow like a sculpted bra that my own would rest inside; even more were surprised when I told them they were actually appliqués sewn on top of the sweater. I love those kinds of conversations with and through clothes, as the questions get deeper and the layers more complex with each new encounter. The surrealism and absurdity carried through into the way people interacted with me.”
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At Loewe, the metallic chest plates recalled a sort of armor–and designer Jonathan Anderson wanted to play on tension and surrealism earmarking the world as we know it today too. “In a weird way, I wanted the collection to be hysterical,” he said after the show. “So that there’s a tension. Because this is a strange moment.” It’s interesting to note, that Loewe’s pieces as well as the others coming down the runway also play into the idea of protection in a world that’s also very fragile: “Often nudity suggests vulnerability, but when in the context of armor or clothes that cover the body, it highlights both protectiveness and the artificiality of the body underneath,” adds Elenowitz-Hess. Adds the historian and Parsons professor Pamela Roskin, “These new pieces put the focus on the breasts but also make the shoulders appear stronger and more capable—goodbye bralette. We are shedding our recent past. It comes from a desire to emerge stronger and what better way than with armor?”
History repeats itself and while some people on TikTok are relishing in the mid 2010s Tumblr aesthetic, where small clothes and tiny jewelry reigned supreme, others are looking to indulge in the exact opposite. “It’s big and bold,” adds Roskin. These are women who take up space.”
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.