Let me start by saying I absolutely love my breasts. I don’t even want to say boobs, because I graduated from “boobs” many moons and multiple bra sizes ago. My 34DDs came into full commission by age 17 and, throughout my pubescent career, were probably one of my main identifiers. I wish that I had been instantly complacent with my fuller chest, but when you’re a teenage girl that, of course, never happens.
Even after coming to a state of admiration for my breasts I realized how profound of an impact societal stigmas against large “untamed” breasts had, and continues to have on me. That stigma fostered largely as self hate. In high school, I purposefully wore oversized button ups or sports bras, because as a young girl the last thing I wanted to address was the fact that I already had a woman’s body. The size of my breasts was not my fault—yet I constantly found myself apologizing for them.
By age 15, I possessed more curves than most movie stars and models combined. And because the media is saturated with covergirls that rarely look anything like me, I assumed that I was atypical. I was an outlier to a very distant norm.
Even now that I have settled into my skin, if I am clad in a sheer shirt or am sporting a crop top with no bra, I am looked at differently than my usually white, flat-chested counterparts, due to both my bra size and my skin tone. For a while I felt I could not wear certain articles of clothing because I would be perceived as promiscuous. (I quickly saw myself out of the 2008 V-neck movement because my cleavage continued to make guest appearances, but also because they were truly hideous).
Fashion, as an industry, majorly influences how women view their bodies, which further propels the idea that feminism proposes as being only relatable to skinny white women. A large part of feminism is embracing your natural form, which is easier said than done when all that is fed to you is catered to a very specific group of women.
In fashion, film, and life, there is a heightened assumption placed on black women as sexual beings. My apparent promiscuity stemmed from me being a young black girl who looked like a woman. This systemic issue is largely deep-rooted. According to PBS’ The Slave Experience: Men, Women, and Gender, “Throughout the period of slavery in America, white society believed black women to be innately lustful beings. Because the ideal white woman was pure and … the perception of the African woman as hyper-sexual made her both the object of white man's abhorrence and his fantasy.” There has always been a systemic sense of fascination with black women’s natural form, one I still poignantly feel.
As a marginalized member of society, it’s easy to feel as if my body, in both type and color, is lesser than what is constructed as standard. I kept believing that the natural swing of my breasts was something to be censored or ashamed of, rather than something to be empowered by or celebrated.
The fashion industry, and mass media as a whole, continues to foster body image issues in young girls by placing women who aren’t representative of the larger population on fictitious pedestals validated only by the affirmation of men. Big boobs are simply not seen as high fashion but instead as problematic or pornographic. Time and time again, fashion and feminism do not find themselves behind all body types. Fashion is an industry that only illustrates women with narrow silhouettes, while simultaneously alienating the body types of most of its actual consumers.
Supermodel Jourdan Dunn even took to Twitter two years ago after having been cut from a Dior show, writing, “I just got cancelled from Dior because of my boobs! I heart fashion #couture.” If even Dunn’s rather petite physique is considered unfit, how is the average woman supposed to come close to finding her place in high fashion?
With Lily Rose Depp, a socialite 16-year-old, as the new face of Chanel, this minimization of womanhood is perpetuated yet again. Too often, the bodies of young girls are used to represent a population they are not yet a part of (PSA: Most women are not the same size as they were when they were in high school). Eleanor Morgan succinctly puts in her article for The Guardian, “It’s hard to see how the situation will change when sample sizes are still the axis on which the fashion industry spins. Fashion designers still … design for miniature, thin-hipped, tiny-busted girls with child-like bodies.”
The fashion industry perpetuates this need to shrink or downsize and, unlike your stomach, boobs are not a body part you can just “suck in.” Breasts are emblems of womanhood, icons of the female form, so there should never be a need to minimize or belittle the room for boobs in fashion.