Belly Dancers, have you ever heard of Squoobs? Neither had I until 2 weeks ago, apparently it’s a newly coined phrase by British newspaper ‘The Sun’, used to describe the latest trend of squashing ones breasts for fashion. Celebrities the likes of Christina Hendricks, Nicole Kidman and Chloe Sims have been spotted wearing the restricted cleavage look in recent times. Of course, belly dancers that favour oriental costuming are no stranger to the squashed boob phenomenon (although the shape of the bra and padding usually favours a rounded contour in profile rather than a flat one). Dancers such as Yasmina of Cairo and Randa Kamel are among many other famous dancers that frequently sport a ‘breasts on high’ look. So is this a matter of life imitating art? Are belly dancers finally gaining enough recognition that we are influencing mainstream western pop culture?
The squoob look has been compared to the Edwardian fashion (2) but a quick flick through google images of pictures of Edwardian women didn’t reveal much in the way of the squoob. There was a bit of bustiness but also a lot of high necklines too. Going further back in time to the 1700’s to Marie Antoinette’s era of a squashed flat cleavage spilling forth from a corset, yields far more squoobiness and this is when ‘The Sun’ ascertains the fashion sprang from. While the paintings for that time are much lower in the neckline they don’t seem to show as much upward bulge as I expected. I am unconvinced of a straight historical origin. Hollywood interpretations of 1700’s costuming could be more of an influence in design but I think belly dance costumes have likely caught the eye of fashion designers too.
Sadly I fear there is a plastic surgery relationship here as well, as women either with or without implants try to recreate a plastic, fantastic look. It is definitely an eye catching look when a woman sports the’ grapefruit vacuum sealed onto the chest’ style but I personally don’t think it is necessarily any more attractive than a more natural look.
“Today we are in the pumped up phase, which I am not sure that I like. Women’s breasts are pumped up, lips couldn’t get any more pumped up, everything in our world right now is pumped up” – fashion designer Tom Ford regarding the fashion of 2010-2011.
I was wondering if my opinion is all due to my hippy past, so I asked around and conducted a mini poll using the 2 pictures of Randa Kamel on this page. All respondents were Australian. I simply asked which picture do you prefer and why? (Of course ultimately it would be great to have the 2 pictures of the same dancer in the same setting with only a slight change of costume to do this properly but then it would have made the area of interest pretty obvious too).
Women were 50% 50% in their support of each photo. Comments in support of the portrait shot were that they thought it more tasteful and comments typical of the action shot photo were that she had a lovely smile and looked relaxed.
Males – twice as many preferred the portrait shot to the action shot!!!
Youth – of the 4 people less than 20yrs asked, the response was unanimously for the portrait photo. “…because to me it is more about her face than her…assets…” or as my daughter said “ her boobs look scary in that one mum”.
I soooo didn’t expect that response! I thought that men would be beguiled by the modern contours of the breasts in the “action” photo and instead women were far more open to it. I thought that opinion of young people was also significant as I would have thought with all the music video clips of much scantier clad ladies (than the average belly dancer) that they would have been more 50% 50% on the photos. So I guess if you are off promoting yourself at high schools, universities and youth events it may well be in your interest to wear a less boobalicious outfit!
I must confess that I like a bit of padding or a bit of a lift in the bras in some of my costumes but not all of them cause strain on the breast. It is a mild concern with regular fashion now promoting squashed breast too that we could be over doing it. Lets face it, most belly dance costumes incorporate a bra of some kind and very frequently these are worn much tighter than one usually would wear a bra. So tight in fact that you often have to learn to breathe differently! If, for instance, one embraced both the fashion look and the belly dance look and wore them both frequently, you could be drastically increasing your risk of breast cancer.
In a study of 4,500 women in five cities across the U.S. about their bra wearing habits it was found that
- 3 out of 4 women who wore their bras 24 hours per day developed breast cancer.
- 1 out of 7 women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed developed breast cancer.
- 1 out of 152 women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day got breast cancer.
- 1 out of 168 women who wore bras rarely or never acquired breast cancer.
-From the book Dressed to Kill (4)
Apparently the first link between breast cancer and corsets was made way back in the 1930’s and is related primarily to restriction of lymph and blood flow (5). Unfortunately that is not all, another study found that bra wearing increased the core body temperature and decreased melatonin production. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and hormone that promotes good sleep, fights aging, boosts immune system, and slows the growth of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer!! (6)There is also no evidence as yet to support or disprove the commonly spouted advice that only ill-fitting or under wire bras cause problems, so far all bras are suspect. (5)
3 ways to love your breasts and still love your costumes!
- Try to go bra free as often as possible (outside of performance)
- Remove your costumes as soon as is practical (stops them from getting as sweaty too)
- Breast massage can help re-establish lymphatic flow and circulation – could be worth adding to your post performance routine (wait til you get home though!!)
I am not about to give up my gorgeous costumes and I bet you are not either but I encourage you to think about how much time you spend in a bra and decide if it’s always worth it.
What do you think? Do you prefer a more natural look in belly dance bras? Could you give the most uncomfortable ones up? Comment below.
- The Self Study Center – Singer and Grismaijer website authors of “Dressed to Kill”
- http://www.breathing.com/articles/brassieres.htm – excellent source of information if you find this topic interesting
- (The effects of skin pressure by clothing on circadian rhythms of core temperature and salivary melatonin. Chronobiol Int. 2000 Nov;17(6):783-93.)