When I first heard that the BBC had apologised for a “revealing” dress worn by a female presenter before 9pm, I felt extremely annoyed. What kind of world is this? Of all the things one could complain about – Justin’s House, poverty porn, the mere existence of Bill Turnbull – why take issue with a flash of boob? Hell, there wasn’t even any nipple involved. What next? A primetime modesty code? Is it just me, or is it nothing we haven’t seen before at this time – except usually the boob-flasher’s not actually doing any talking?
Having since examined the apology in question, I’m less distressed. It strikes me as more of a fauxpology. The BBC is sorry “if some viewers found Holly’s dress to be unsuitable” but “felt the dress she wore was glamorous and wholly appropriate for the occasion”. So really, if you’ve got problems with a bit of female flesh, deal with it, matey. We don’t like you being sad but seriously, get a grip.
And yet, now that I’ve seen the photos, I have to admit that I have problems with that dress. Not a complain-to-a-broadcasting-company level of problems but still – I am not happy about it. Basically, while it might not corrupt a nation’s youth, it’s still a stupid dress. More than that, if we’re being honest, it’s not even a dress. You might now be able to purchase tit tape in Matalan (I know, I’ve seen it) but I still hold firm to this belief: If an item of clothing requires you to stick bits of your body in place to prevent them from falling out, it’s not really an item of clothing. It’s just some cloth.
I have never worn a dress like that. I suppose I could try if I bought one of those low-cut bras that only meets in the middle somewhere around your belly button, or one that has a pretend “invisible” strip between boobs that’s actually really obvious, or a pair of JML stick-on cups bought on impulse from Boots, or any number of boob-restraining “solutions” which I already know would not work in practice. Give it five minutes and I’d have flopped out into the middle, or the cup would have simply fallen off, and then, BBC boob complainants, then you’d have something to really complain about. Of course, this is why I presume Willoughby is also using tape. Either that, or her breasts are magic. Whatever. Most breasts are not like that.
It bothers me that such a large proportion of fashions depend on the wearer a) having ample breasts yet also b) not needing a bra. Talk about encouraging girls to develop wholly unrealistic expectations of what their bodies will be like once they actually acquire breasts. At 38 I still look at images in magazines, news reports and clothes shop windows and decide I just can’t be normal. Why aren’t I gravity-defying? And this isn’t even one of those “ooh, the things pregnancy/breastfeeding does to your body” moments. I was like this long before I ever got pregnant. I have never, ever been gravity-defying yet popular culture suggests that women’s breasts defy the law of physics.
At Britmums I booked in for a free style consultation. The woman was extremely nice and generally very flattering but her very first piece of advice was that I needed a new bra. Apparently, despite the fact that I feel perfectly comfortable in one I’ve had since 2010, “a bra only lasts nine months”. She then stood me in front of the mirror and said that if I rested my arms by my sides, my nipples should be level with the middle of my upper arms. It’s only now, days later, that I’ve started to ask myself “well, why should they, since they so clearly don’t want to be?” Who sets these rules? Is it done by a committee? I think we should be told.
I imagine the nipple level standard is set by the same people who devised the pencil test (or could they be rival factions? I’m just not sure). According to the pencil test, if you can hold a pencil, hands-free, under your breast then you must, you must improve your bust. I’m not even that big but I’m quite capable of not only holding but losing a pencil under my breast (especially if it’s one of those little Ikea ones). When I first found out about the test, years ago, I even experimented with other objects. I can manage a pencil case and a small Forever Friends bear, but not a radio alarm clock. Right now, out of idle curiosity, I’m wondering whether I should see how many of my son’s Star Wars Lego figures I can nestle up there. In fact, now I’ve set myself that challenge, I’ve just got to find out.
So anyhow, I’m off to remove my bra and stuff miniature Han Solos and Darth Mauls beneath my cups. All sensible stuff, I think you’ll agree, unlike stupid dresses that aren’t dresses because they’re slashed to the waist. Whatever next?