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A walk down the lingerie department of any store shows the “weight” that is placed on big breasts.  There is a head-spinning variety of chest contraptions designed for the sole purposes of “enhancing,” “lifting,” “enlarging,” and “amplifying,” the female bosom.  Words that conjure up images of torture at a concentration camp are used such as inserts, adhesives and tapes.  There is even a bra named “dramatic/extreme lift.”  I call it a neck-a-boo, the merger of the boob and neck!

Descriptive culinary words such as “cutlets” are used to achieve the décolletage effect that is apt to describe the ample bosom of culinary goddess Nigella Lawson.

Plastic surgeons are laughing their way to the bank by performing multiple enlargements, enhancements and pronouncements per day.  Breast enlargements have become so ubiquitous that you see hoardings and billboards of women laboriously stooping on the expressways flaunting toll free numbers of such clinics; strip malls have breast enhancement clinics alongside of take-away Chinese dim-sum; magazines are splattered with ads for procedures at throw-away prices with very little to no downtime.  To add legitimacy to such procedures articles are written as to how breast enlargements can lead to elevation of the self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth.

YouTube has videos demonstrating a whopping Nine Steps to breast enhancement!!  How could it possibly take 9 steps, I mean squeeze, push and voila va-va-voom!!

The old trick-of-the-trade of stuffing toilet paper down your bra for a cheap, non-intrusive lift continues to flourish.

Women’s vernacular consists of phrases such as “filling the dress,”  “creating an hourglass silhouette” “perking it up” etc. etc.

There are many facets from which a blog on flat-chested versus “enhanced” chested women can be discussed.  However, I will limit my discussion within the parameters of fashion.  If enhanced breasts are appealing to you for “lifting” your spirits, “enhancing” your self-esteem or “enlarging” your ego, then Bon Grandes!!

Time for a disclaimer here.  Some of you may be thinking right about now that this is a “case of sour grapes” blog for me.  Maybe, I the writer of this blog has always brewed a deep-seated resentment for the well-endowed woman due to my biological misfortune of “inability to fill my dress.”  Let me reassure my critics, this is not the case.  I have always been big-chested and believe me I still find the grapes to be sour!!

 

The irony is that these “enhanced women” tend to idolize women who are themselves flat-chested!!  Most women look at fashion magazines, runway shows and models as an inspiration for beauty and fashion.  Flip through any magazine or watch any runway show and you will see model after model with a pancake chest, displaying the latest styles and trends.  Fashion runways are strewn with flat-chested models walking sullenly down the ramp.

To add to the irony, most of the large-chested models you may see on the runway or in magazines are usually associated with eroticism and definitely not with style or fashion.  Most of such “enhanced women” are either posing for some erotic product such as condoms or in politically correct terms for products related to  “horizontally challenged” women.  I am sure this is not the effect the fashionable woman is aiming for.

Interestingly, most fashion designers opt only for flat-chested models.  The fashion industry lauds flat-chested women.  They are an indispensable and integral part of fashion houses.  The primary reason is that these women carry off the clothes better than big-chested women. Flat-chested women look modern; they look fashionable and uber stylish.  My point is further endorsed by the fact that I have never ever seen a big-chested girl walk down the Grand Palais runway for the Chanel show, or have seen one in a cerebral Prada dress or in a convoluted pose for a Marc Jacobs spread. Now in all fairness, high-end designers do want stick-thin models and unless you defy the norms of nature, it will be an oxymoron to be stick thin and also have big breasts.

I personally have never ever understood the lure flat-chested women have for big breasts.  Maybe indeed it is a case of sour grapes.  In my opinion big breasts are not fashionable or stylish.  They can be erotic, seductive, sexy but significantly hinder your fashion and style choices.

Most clothes do not fit well on big-busted women.  They are fashion-restrictive.  They hamper a full exploration of fashion as the styles  are limited.  You are limited to only a few types of necklines and silhouettes, unless you want to walk around looking like you are perpetually ready for an audition for the Playgirl magazine.  Stylish, edgy clothing is not designed for big-chested women.  Buttons pop constantly and you have to have a limitless supply of safety pins for security purposes.

In addition they even put a damper on enjoyment.  Dance moves are limited to avoid looking like a clip from Girls Gone Wild.  Sports and aerobics in particular require extreme contraptions.

To top it all, big breasts add weight to the overall frame and no fashionable woman wants that!

In the end, all my blogs return to the running theme of conformity.  Conformity dictates being big-breasted; non-conformity states shun the rules.  If you are blessed with being flat-chested enjoy it and consider yourself in the elite group of the likes of Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss.

When I started writing my blog, I did not have a clear defined vision for the blog.  I was unsure of the direction in which I wanted to take the blog.  The only thing I was sure of was that along with my other passions, I wanted to share my concept of non-conformity with my readers, if and when I was privileged to have some readers.

 Now some of you loyalists (whom I appreciate with all my heart) have bestowed upon me your precious time by reading my blog and commenting upon the entries.  Your comments are so thought provoking that I want to make a mini-blog of all the comments.  I am absolutely floored by your lacerating intellects, breakdowns and dissections.  Oh how I wish to sit down with all of you over a cup of cappuccino and enter into a discussion on a myriad of subjects ranging from fashion to philosophy; architecture to inspiration and conformity to non-conformity. (Such a discussion, if held in a café on the Italian Riviera will be preferable haha!)

I am an advocate of non-conformity and will continue to write on it.  I admire it because it shows strength, bravery and risk taking.  It can be in any walk of life-be it fashion, art, music, literature, architecture or even a profession.  If Mark Zuckerberg had continued to conform by following the tried and traditional path of diligently attending classes at Harvard, taking exams and upon graduating sending out resumes to be a computer programmer, would we be enjoying the fruits of the revolutionary powerhouse phenomenon called Facebook! 

We all interpret non-conformity based on our personal life experiences and sensibilities.  My sweet friend Anika just wrote a beautiful piece on her interpretation of non-conformity, that I enjoyed reading immensely.

There is no set archetype.  One of my interpretations of non-conformity is to explore, to veer away my comfort zone and forego established gauges and measures.  I am not necessarily being rebellious or radical just to make a point of being a non-conformist, but merely pivoting towards the edge in order to find my edge, my extreme, my limit.  I am testing my strength.  I am taking a risk.

 

Androgyny in fashion is a way to step out of the comfort zone for both men and women.  I have written earlier blogs on androgyny as applied to both men and women.  I find androgyny extremely intriguing and captivating.  What makes us want to digress and explore the sexuality of the opposite sex?  What is so alluring about role reversal?  Is it empowering or simply a way of testing our limit, our edge and our extreme.

Androgyny in fashion is a perfect example of non-conformism.  Both men and women who dress androgynously take a risk.  The risk of being ridiculed, judged and possibly be even rejected.  Yet, they test their limits by using their strength and stepping outside the comfort zone.

  

James Franco photographed the embodiment of androgyny, Agyness Deyn for Elle magazine.  The shot is inspired by James Dean.  Agyness is a brave girl and so comfortable with her overt androgynous sexuality.  She is unique and hence one of the most sought after models.  Yes, non-conformity pays and can bring huge dividends!

marc jacobs

Marc Jacobs is wearing pearls and a skirt while supporting a day old stubble from Prada’s fall 2011 collection.  It is an ode to being an ardent Miuccia Prada fan.  He look simply scrumptious!  Marc took a risk to don a skirt and wear a strand of pearls on that perfectly chiseled Greek God body of his. 

I too explored my androgyny by dressing in a man’s suit, albeit a somewhat shrunken one inspired more by Thom Brown than Brooks Brothers!  It was a step towards finding my strength, even if the pivot towards the edge was only slight.  I think I still have it in me to risk a steeper incline to find my edge.  As for the day old stubble, I will have to stand on the precipice of my edge for that!

Yesterday I wrote about the power of pop culture branding and received such thoughtful comments that it stimulated another blog.

As an illustration of pop culture branding, I wore my t-shirt with “naked” Marc Jacobs promoting the cologne Bang.

A point raised by my readers was that the power of branding can at times supersede the quality of the product.  The product does not necessarily have to be the “best” as branding will make-up for any lack.  This is a valid point.  For instance take Coke, is it truly good for us?  Does it bring us good health and help us stay fit?  Sure it tastes good and may give us an instant fizz, but it has no intrinsic food value.  Yet it is so heavy on branding that even Karl Lagerfeld decided to partner up with Coke and design a limited edition cover for its bottles coming out this month. (If interested, read my earlier blog, “Coke goes Couture.”)

Branding is not just limited to fashion, it seeps into all walks of life.  A good example is books.  I have bought many a books based on the radio interviews of authors or after reading a vignette of their biography in a periodical.  They portray an erudite and intellectual image.  If they have some flamboyance or flair in their personalities, it adds to the “X” or “Y” factor that I talked about in my earlier blog.  What effect does it have on me?  I am compelled by a force beyond my control to type amazon.com and charge the book on my current ongoing account.  (Another example of the world becoming a global Mall with accessibility of all products at our fingertips.)

When the books arrive in the brown cardboard packaging, my joy knows no bounds and I get geared to read my latest acquired piece of literature.  However, a few chapters or pages into the book, I realize with disdain that this is yet another book that I will add to the escalating “give-away-to-the-library” pile.

Another example is movies. Hollywood exemplifies branding.  I am an avid listener of National Public Radio, especially the Film Week Marquee (a Friday critique of the upcoming weekly movies.)  I often hear esteemed movie critic, Kenneth Turran condemn the premise of an upcoming movie.  Contrary to the review of Kenneth Turran, the very next day I hear how that very movie broke all records at the box-office and soared to unimaginable monetary success.  How is this possible?  Shouldn’t quality equate with monetary success?  Often times it does not.  Branding gives it the boost.  The actors are branded, the production company is branded and the movie is branded.

An extreme example is cigarettes. Those of you old enough to remember the Marlboro Man, will agree that the Marlboro brand was created based on the rugged and virile image of the man in the hat.  The fact that the man in the hat could very well suffer from throat cancer a few years down the road was irrelevant!

However, in order to keep a perfect equilibrium to this discussion, one has to concede that branding is not the be-all and end-all.  It is true that designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Betsey Johnson, Marc Jacobs or even Galliano may use their image to promote a brand.  But ultimately the essence, the core, the nucleus of the brand needs to be virtuous.  The product needs to be good.  There must be a consistency in the quality.  Rest is all fluff.

Branding is like icing on the cake. If the core of the cake is not scrumptious, icing may help initially, until it is all licked off and the only thing left is a noxious distaste.

It is similar to life. Sure you can talk the talk, walk the walk and even experience a few lucky strokes.  But to achieve sustained success the work needs to be put in. Nothing replaces hard work and consistency.  No amount of branding will guarantee continued success.  Such assurance will only come from the essence of your work.

That is why brands such as Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Prada have sustained the dips and tips of economies, stock markets and changing cultural times and yet emerged triumphant.

Karl Lagerfeld, is the true Head of Chanel and the “Head” around my neck.

During my trip to China I saw this necklace at a store.  It was lying right next to the necklace with the face of Lady Gaga.

It was love at first sight. To be precise, it was lust at first sight.  I was so mesmerized by the necklace, that even though I did not have my credit card with me, I had to borrow my friends’ for payment.

Talk about the epitome of satisfying the Id-True Instant Gratification.

What was this force beyond my control that compelled me to buy the necklace?  Such a potent force that I had to resort to borrowing (thank goodness my shopping compulsion has not reached a level of begging and stealing yet, as in the expression “beg, borrow or steal.”)

What was it about this man with the silver-haired pony tail, high collars and glasses that captivated me?

In this instance, it is the bewitching rock star appeal of Lagerfeld. He has become deeply embedded in the strains of pop-culture and acquired iconic status.

Such cultural domination of fashion designers is a reflection of the changing times of fashion. Take for instance Marc Jacobs or  Alber Elbaz of Lanvin or Miuccia Prada. They all have their signature trademark personalities and styles.

marc jacobs

The recently sculpted body, with the day old beard is the signature of Marc Jacobs.

alber elbaz

Alber Elbaz is high on the cuteness factor, with the  moon-face, bow tie and round glasses.  Alber Elbaz brands Lanvin.

prada

The shy, head-band wearing Miuccia Prada is the stamp of Prada.

In the past designers used to be mostly behind the scenes. They had an aura of mystery, a certain je ne sais quoi.  Sure, we heard their names such as Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta or Dior and may have even seen an occasional photo of them attending a benefit, but their personas were not ingrained in the public psyche such as the ones in today’s times.

In current times, simply designing beautiful clothes is not enough. It is mandatory for designers to acquire an “X” or now a “Y” factor for branding purposes.  It is essential for the designer to have a flamboyant, autographed personality.

The modern consumer is global, smart and savvy. They shop all over the world.  With the advent of web-shopping the globe has become one giant Mall accessible to all, at any time.  There is laser sharp competition.

With a whirlwind of choices at the fingertips of the consumers, what motivates them to opt for one brand over the other?  Is it the quality, the stitching, the tailoring, the pricing or is it owning a product designed by a pop-culture icon.  It boils down to the “extra” that a brand has to offer.  The minds of the modern consumer, especially the younger ones is complex.  They grew up in the web surfing age and jump from one “icon” to the other.  Why should they then not choose a product designed by a famous pop culture “icon.” Nine out of ten times they will opt for an item with some pop-culture value, even if it is just a t-shirt with a silhouette of the designer imprinted on it.  Or in my case a necklace with the “Head” of Chanel.

That my friends is the power of pop culture branding!

There is a lightness to life in Italy.  A buoyancy, an effervescence, an inconsequential grace. You might say, what does that mean?  In simple terms there is looseness in living, an elasticity, nobody takes life too seriously.  They eat, drink and are “contento” and “felice.”

I too feel the lightness of being when I am there.  The sordid thoughts are dispersed; the worries are dispensed; the weight of the world slips off my slender shoulders (at least I think my shoulders are slender!)  I espouse the infectious energy of the Italians. 

Going with the flow is part of being an Italian.  They do not try to control every aspect of their lives.  I suppose being loose is a big part of cultures other than the United States.  Indian culture is the same, there is a lack of rigidity in day to day life.  So, the shops open at 11 o’ clock in the morning and after a mere few hours close at 2:30 for the afternoon siesta.  In America, that is a no-no.  After all, time is money baby!  Every second of the day must be productive.  Well, not in Italy.  I learnt to take those afternoon hours and fall into a sweet slumber, wake up with a rejuvenated glow on my skin, ready to take on the world, face any challenge, confront the mightiest of an obstacle.

But wait, wait…first I need to sit and take a break with my cappuccino and tremazzini.  After that I will take on any challenge.  

Oh really?  Did I forget that after coffee, it is time to meet friends for a Prosecco or Spritz Aperol with potato wafers and olives.  That is a dilemma!  Well, I do have a solution for the dilemma.  The solution is there is no hurry, no rush, nothing urgent.  I can always confront the challenges “Domani” (tomorrow.)  Yes, that is the attitude of the Italians.  I call it the “Domani Attitude.”  Why not, there is nothing wrong in it.  The past is gone; the future is unknown; it is only but the present moment we have; it is only but the present moment we have to fulfill our desires. 

So, armed with my Domani Attitude, it is the simpler things that I enjoy most in Italy.  Yes, Italy is a treasure of ancient art, architecture, culture, languages and beauty.  But, what brings me most joy is sitting in a cafe sipping my coffee with the biscotti and seeing life go by, observing, watching, reveling in the beautiful moment.

For me food and drinks are a big part of living life elegantly.  What better place than Italy to exercise the elegance.  I want to share with you a few of my favorites that help me enjoy the moment. 

prosecco

  • Prosecco

It is a sparkling wine made from a grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy.  It is the sweetest, most ambrosial, delicious bubbly you will ever taste.  It has absolutely no effects of alcohol, at least for me.  Even my mum, who has never had a drop of alcohol in her life, found it to have medicinal capabilities to soothe her stomach!

  • Spritz Aperol

The national drink of Italy.  At any hour, particularly after 3 or 4 o’ clock you will see a bevy of Italians sitting in crowded cafes and bistros, laughing, joking and drinking the orange colored beverage in goblets.  It is a reflection of the lightness of being that I talked about earlier.  It is an aperitif produced by the Campari company.  It stimulates the appetite. 

You can make one at home, but nothing like sitting and drinking it at a cafe on Via Condotti.  In a goblet pour 1 1/2 ounces Aperol, 2 ounces chilled Prosecco or other sparkling wine, and a splash of chilled seltzer or mineral water. Garnish with a piece of orange.

 

  • Fresh blood orange juice

It is ruby red, it is freshly squeezed even at a gas station, it is not chilled, it has pulp and most times served in a warm sterilized glass.  I would take the ruby red glass over a ruby ring any day.

 

  •  Tramezzini

The word tramezzino means “in-between”, hence you have it in-between meals.  It is a triangular Italian sandwich made from two slices of heavenly white, soft bread with crusts removed.  It is a reminiscent of my Heidi reading days.  A most cherished book of my childhood written by Johanna Spyri where Heidi used to take divinely soft bread rolls for her grandfather. 

My favorite is the funghi (mushroom) Tramezzini.  Delizioso!!!

prada

  • PRADA

I don’t care what people may say about my taste and style, but I adore the eccentric, intellectual, cerebral, anti-establishment, non-conforming, highbrow genius of Miuccia Prada.  Forget the shopping, buying, credit cards, debts, all the wearisome, burdensome worries.  Just pop into Prada on Via Condotti in Rome and absorb the view of the Spanish steps from inside Prada. 

An experience par excellence.  A tribute to the Domani Attitude.

Disclaimer: I am not a religious fundamentalist. I won’t say I am a secular person either. I honor and respect all faiths, religions and sects. I believe in truth, honesty, transparency, goodness and all virtues that could be defined as divine or sacred. Fashion is close to divinity. It is a creative expression of our being. It is a window to our soul. I have Faith in my sense of Fashion.

Rag and Bone skirt; Marc Jacobs sweater; Prada boots

I recently went to a South Indian temple in California. It is located in picturesque rolling hills, surrounded by the magnificent crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean in the extremely exclusive and elusive community of Malibu. Although the city gives you the impression of a sleepy town, you will be jolted from your slumber by sightings of the likes of Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox eating an all organic, vegan, dairy free, wheat free, gluten free burger! So, what will that be like?…a biodegradable plate full of lettuce with organic ketchup?

The temple although modern, is modeled after the ancient temples in South India with intricate engraving and carvings.

It is a tranquil place and I am drawn to it. Of course, the lure of the delectable South Indian food served at the temple adds to the allure.

Elle magazine shot Julia Roberts at the temple for the promotion of the movie Eat, Pray and Love. Of course, now my undisciplined mind associates the temple more with the glamorous images of Julia Roberts wearing a gorgeous Dries Van Noten swing coat rather than serenity.

Fashion is akin to having faith. One of the definitions of faith is to have a confident belief or trust in a person or thing. Most of us lack faith in ourselves, especially when it comes to fashion. We constantly have a battle with our inner being where the mind with its myriad of complexities tells the unadulterated soul, “I can’t wear stripes as I am too fat; I can’t wear flats as I am too short; I can’t wear bright colors as they are too loud; I can’t wear short hair because men don’t like it, etc.”

Such lack of faith limits us from fully exploring and uncovering our true self, our being, our soul. Such personal battles are examples of lack of faith in ourselves; lack of faith in our ability to fully explore our identities and an overall a lack of confidence.

Have Faith in yourself and explore the unbounded potential of Fashion.

Namaste.

Message:  There are no “cardinal sins” in fashion. “Vertically challenged” people wear horizontal stripes, mix dots with stripes, wear fushchia and red!! Fashion is about experimenting, giving voice to your individuality and not following a “set of rules” prescribed by some age old tradition that was apt at a particular time. Fashion is fluid like the free flowing water from the melting snow in the Himalayas…let it take its course!

I am a big proponent of cutting the clutter from fashion…a sort of Ockham’s Razor. Fashion is being bold, striking and statement making. Sometimes adding necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings adds to the clutter and dilutes fashion.

Just read a line on style icon Carey Mulligan: “She’s got great taste; carefully avoiding anything above the knee, tight…” Buck, Joan Juliet. “The Talented Miss Mulligan.” Vogue. 2 September 2010. http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-talented-miss-mulligan. 30 September 2010.

As a lawyer, it set the wheels of my analytical legal mind in action as to what exactly is the definition of “good taste.” Is it subjective or objective? Can it be loosely interpreted by each individual’s own sensibilities, or do certain established standards apply to define good taste? Are being sexy and having good taste synonyms, antonyms or both? Is the good taste of one the obscenity of another? After all, there can be art form in pornography as well.

For some, an above-the-knee short (or very short) dress is taste. For others a tight fitting (even better if skin tight) dress is taste. For yet another demographic it’s chest-baring dresses, and for others if a woman wears all the above rolled into one it is the epitome of style and sex appeal. Conversely, for some (not necessarily the puritanical ones) it could have the opposite “turn off” effect.

Believe it or not, there is law on the issue of interpreting what I will call “good taste,” for the purposes of this blog. It is outlined in a 1973 Supreme Court case, Miller v. California. No, I will not belabor you with the case as we are on to something more important and interesting here.

The Court analyzed whether a certain form of art (style/fashion are forms of art) would be offensive to an “average person” applying “contemporary community standards.” I question the test, as the definition of “contemporary community standards” has significantly changed from 1973 to 2010. As a lifelong observer and student of style and fashion I have observed that any style that is not form fitting or body baring to some extent is not appreciated by the “community.” Loose clothing, no matter how stylish, is considered matronly and homely. (Right about now I can hear Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz and Nicolas Ghesquière scoff!)

As a personal observation, and nothing against the opposite sex, I have noticed the tighter and shorter my clothes are the more admirable glances I get from my darker halves. I could run around in the most stylish and tasteful Balenciaga or Prada dress but somehow fail to pique the interest of men.

So, if we follow the above logic is it appropriate to deduce that our “community standards” adhere to a blatant exhibition of a woman’s curves? Unless a woman succumbs to such exhibitionism will she not be considered stylish? Is that in keeping with “good taste?” Has there been such degeneration in our society that style and taste is all about body-baring sex appeal?

The sad part is that we are talking about “community standards.” Most of us human beings are gluttons for approval and such approval will obviously come from a “community.” And to please that “community” we will continue to comply with the “acceptable standards of the community,” i.e. body baring tight clothing, conformity and lack of imagination!