Paleo Retiree writes:
The heat and humidity have finally settled over New York City, and with the onset of sultry weather the city’s women have been stripping down to skimpy hot-weather wear. Early summer here is always a fun season for girl-watching, bemusement and wondering what it’s all about. This season — and I may well be a year or two behind on noticing this, but — the main theme seems to be the bra.
Now, straps, lace, frilly edges and outlines have been out in the open for quite a while, of course. It’s been a lonnnngggg time since bras were understood to be purely underthings, let alone private underthings.
Along these lines: the bra as seen and sensed through a semi see-through blouse:
Prettily-colored and elegantly-made bra straps:
This next display of strappage strikes me as being a little on the bold side, not that bold is a bad thing, of course:
This combo of straps, flesh and semi-transparency convey a sexy-sprite-darting-around-downtown feeling:
But summer this year isn’t about just the pretty strap or the trace of a bra as discerned thru semi-transparency. Some examples:
Back in the day — a long, long time ago — a glimpse of bra strap could be quite a thrill. Bras themselves were “intimates” and “foundations,” private things that were either utilitarian and a little gross (I have fond hot-weather memories of my aged piano teacher hauling her bra straps aside so she could reach into her cleavage to mop up some sweat), or private, shared, delicate confections, enhancers of and contributors to a woman’s Mystery.
Innerwear worn as outerwear has its roots, as far as I know, in the punk movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Madonna popularized it, academics made theories about it … Bringing your lingerie to the surface was a revolutionary act, don’t you know? It was part of deconstruction — seriously, there was a moment when fashion was being “deconstructed” … And by the late ’90s the general public was taking for granted the visible bra as part of a woman’s public ensemble.
What strikes me most about the kind of bra-visibility that’s around the city this summer isn’t so much how provocative or blatant it is, it’s how matter-of-fact a lot of it seems. I don’t think this is just because I’m jaded, I think it’s because the gesture has become so routine that it’s now empty of meaning.
Take, for instance, this inelegant example:
Is there much difference between its effect and a slobby guy wearing a sleeveless t-shirt?
I found this next one ….
… so remarkable in its combo of out-there-ness and blahness that I had to explore further, and to see what was going on from another angle.
That’s, to my mind, not even a fabulously attractive piece of lingerie. It’s such an unremarkable bra-bra, and it’s being put out there in such a pffft way, that I found myself wondering why the young woman was bothering to cover up the front of her bra with any dress-fabric at all. Well, if young men these days are going out in public in pyjama bottoms, maybe next year we’ll be seeing young women wearing nothing but mediocre bras as tops. Because why not?
Incidentally, to forestall any potential scolding: I like a flirty and provocative public life. I’m not suggesting passing laws or forbidding anything to anybody. I just enjoy observing how mores and expectations evolve and change. Tattoos, skirt lengths, smartphone behavior, young women treating their boyfriends like testy pets … Often these changes are entertaining to notice in themselves; sometimes they can tell us a bit about what’s happening in the culture; and they’re often good for triggering off fun discussions. So, chill, and let’s have a good time wondering what it’s all about.
A few musings of my own.
- To me, a lot of these stylings say something like “I’m doing this for myself. How dare you criticize me, let alone look at me in that way. I’m just being free.” As well as, of course, “I’m trying to stay a little cooler in the hot and humid weather.”
- In a context like the current “of course I’m putting it out there” one, what becomes of flirtiness and provocation? Both depend on games of concealing and revealing (the French used to call it “cache-cache” — ie., hide and seek); on the existence of taboos, formalities, and rules; and on some awareness of, and respect for, the fact that you aren’t just expressing yourself, you’re having (and aiming to have) an impact on others. When what you’re doing is just self-assertiveness, and when you’ve made an everyday policy of putting on public display your intimate secrets, is sexy game-playing even possible? If so, of what kind?
- Part of my surprise at this development stems from the fact that I came to New York City at a very different time in the city’s history. The NYC of the late ’70s was dark and dirty, rough and dangerous; in my own first five years here, I was pickpocketed twice, attacked twice and mugged once. It was a great era for women getting themselves up provocatively — disco and punk each had their own way of pushing buttons. But the women wearing tight, ripped and torn clothing knew that they were playing with nitroglycerine. Taunting the beast was part of the fun, after all. They weren’t just expressing themselves; they were also aiming to have an impact.
- By contrast, the contempo galz in my snapz seem to be oblivious to the nitroglycerine side of things. They’re staying cool, they’re having fun, they’re pleasing themselves … They’re nothing if not assertive and confident, which is nice, I guess. But they also seem remarkably unconscious of the signals they’re sending off.
- They also seem to be taking it for granted that the enormous, high-energy / high-stress, collision-of-cultures city they inhabit should be as sweet and well-patrolled a place as a smalltown college campus. Maybe that’s today’s formula, in fact: I get to be who I choose; and the rest of the world gets to behave itself.
- Does showing any concern whatsoever for the fact that modes of dress and self-display aren’t just self-expression but also communication always constitute “slut shaming”?
- Not for the first time, I wonder how it is that young people today will ever manage to mate up. They’re enviably uninhibited where self-expression goes. But young men want things entirely on their terms, and young women expect things entirely on their terms … And it’s hard to see this as a recipe for shared-life bliss.
- I feel sorry for people who don’t recognize the basic dance of the species — the basic fact that many of the activities women enjoy men find attractive and arousing, and that what men enjoy devoting themselves to signals “prowess” to women, and that the reason for this strange, strange coincidence is that it’s a mechanism and a pattern the species has evolved as a way to help itself reproduce itself. At least in its big, bold strokes, life becomes a lot simpler and easier to understand when you notice this DNA-like pattern.
- Why is so much of liberal education and liberal politics devoted to quarreling with the evo-bio basics of life? That’s a hard one to explain, I find.
- Although Americans like to imagine that openness, transparency, casualness and looseness will cure what ails ya, the practical fact seems to be that eroticism often withers under conditions of too much permissiveness, and often thrives on a little judiciously-applied repression.
- The Question Lady thinks that one reason so many of the current visible-bra ploys fall flat is simple: it’s that many women are inept at fashion. The women are hoping to be cute, but they’re screwing it up.
- Incidentally: my snapshots in this posting — creepshots or not?
- “Underwear as outerwear” has its own Wikipedia entry.
- The inimitable Jezebel refers to bras worn as outerwear as “a confident and subversive take on traditional femininity.”
- What role did Carrie Bradshaw play in making the mostly-visible bra a staple?
- Fenster on the many different kinds of cleavage.
- Why are so many of today’s women going around with their mouths open?