Breasts and popular music. Now there is a topic that grabs my interest. It seems to have grabbed the interest of Discover Magazine as well. Except we are not talking Lenny Kravitz. We are talking 17th Century ballads.
People who yearn for old-fashioned public decency might be surprised to talk to historian Angela McShane-Jones at the University of Warwick. In her studies of 17th-century ballads—cheaply printed popular songs bought and sold like today’s CDs—she found that the accompanying illustrations (above) often contained images of bare-breasted women. The perception of the bosom was quite different at the time, she says: “You see busty women representing innocence just as often as fallen ladies. And women of the court clearly had no modesty about showing their nipples.”It seems to me that knowing obscenity when you see it is very dependent on the age you live in.
Ironically, extreme décolleté was the height of fashion in the very middle of Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical reign. Bared bosoms continued to cycle in and out of fashion during the 18th and 19th centuries, even amid Victorian prudery.
Me? I look forward to the return of the purity in dress styles so prevalent in Oliver Cromwell's time. Of course the American Bikini is not a bad substitute. We get not only breasts but bare arms, legs, and midriffs as well. Not to mention the occasional camel toe. So there are compensations.
Cross Posted at Classical Values