How can I accentuate B-cup breasts without showing skin?
August 8, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

How can I accentuate B-cup breasts without showing skin?

I am 20 years old and have B-cup breasts. And so, it is for myself, and not for the express purpose of attracting men, that I wish to feel sexy. I am tired of feeling frumpy, and I am tired of hearing that I dress like a librarian.

So, how would I go about dressing sexier (sexily) without showing skin? What kind of colors, shapes, etc accentuate breasts and a feminine figure?

(Side question: Would learning to love myself just the way I am, frumpiness and all, be the way to go? Am I somehow neglecting the real issue by dressing better and then subsequently feeling better? What happens when I am not so young and don't have my youthful looks, but have relied on them my whole life for feeling good about myself?)
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The most important thing is to wear clothes that fit. A plain t-shirt can look frumpy if it's too large, slutty if it's too tight/short, and really cute if it fits properly. You should also try layering (when it gets cooler outside) with jackets or sweaters that fit your form and accent the boob-waist-hip curve.

(Side question: Would learning to love myself just the way I am, frumpiness and all, be the way to go? Am I somehow neglecting the real issue by dressing better and then subsequently feeling better? What happens when I am not so young and don't have my youthful looks, but have relied on them my whole life for feeling good about myself?)

Oh, I see, so this isn't about clothes at all. Go volunteer somewhere. Doing good things for other people makes you feel good about yourself for reasons that have nothing to do with how you look.
posted by phunniemee at 7:54 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

(Side question: Would learning to love myself just the way I am, frumpiness and all, be the way to go? Am I somehow neglecting the real issue by dressing better and then subsequently feeling better? What happens when I am not so young and don't have my youthful looks, but have relied on them my whole life for feeling good about myself?)

No, there's nothing wrong with attractiveness or wanting to look better, either for yourself or to impress women or to attract men. Go for it. These are good things.

It seems like you've defined yourself (your current self) as a "frumpy" "librarian" type and are trying to rationalize this by thinking: well, everyone ends up being a little frumpy when they get old, so maybe it'd be more sensible to just stay like this so at least I'll have a smoother transition to old age. I think it's pretty clear that's not an idea you're really comfortable with.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:04 AM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't overthink this the way you are in your last paragraph. Yes, getting all of your self-esteem from your looks would be a bad thing, but dressing in a flattering way that makes you feel cheerful and sexy is hardly going to lead to that result.

If you want to make a small change without showing a lot of cleavage, how about trying on some v-neck knit tops? You don't have to get ones with a super-plunging neckline to have a flattering effect, and the knit fabric conforms to your body's curves, showing them off without being all "hey look at me!!!" Being that you're 20, you probably want something pretty affordable and casual. Target always has a couple different lines of v-neck shirts in short or long sleeves, depending on the season, and you can try on a variety of colors to see what looks most flattering.

A little bit of googling found this great blog post, which shows some different necklines and how they look on different people.
posted by MsMolly at 8:08 AM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I say rock the push up bra (even better if it's padded). Also, seconding the fitted clothing suggestion. Think fabrics that cling, fabrics that skim. Clothes with shirring and darting to nip in the fit and add extra curves where you might like to have them.

For tops, I think nude colors can be very sexy, as can any bright solid colors that flatter your skintone. And studies have shown that men find women wearing red to be particularly alluring.
posted by mintchip at 8:17 AM on August 8, 2010

You can still look sexy and non-frumpy even if you no longer have your "youthful looks." Nobody would ever mistake me for a 26 year old but I feel better about myself looks-wise than I ever have. Everything doesn't all fall apart once you hit a certain age. You have to adjust your look a little as your body changes and certain things become less flattering, but putting a little effort into your looks pays off at any age.

You can show a little cleavage without looking like a tramp if you keep the rest of the outfit more subtle.

I agree with phunniemee about wearing things that fit. If your waist nips in, look for tops that follow that curve rather than flow straight past it. You can have a tailor nip in anything that doesn't fit right. Belts are good to accentuate a small waist, and even if your neckline is modest it will also accentuate your bust by making you look more hourglass-shaped.

When layering, take care not to obscure your shape. The nipped-in jacket over a well-fitting blouse is fine; a boxy-tshirt over a long-sleeved turtleneck is not so good.

If your waist doesn't curve in and particularly if you are fleshy in the belly area, you'd be better off wearing things that are fitted in the bust and flow over the stomach. A lot of those kind of tops will have a lower neckline but most are not terribly immodest. Add a cute necklace to draw attention to your face and bustline. Princess seams are good for faking a curvier shape if your torso is more straight than curvy.

I like the What Not To Wear books for advice on flattering your shape. They are full of photos that show exactly what certain lines of clothing do for or against your figure.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:18 AM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't really think you need to show a lot of skin to feel sexy. Well fitting clothes that don't gap, bind, or stretch tightly across the chest or hip area can hug your figure without coming across as trashy or matronly.

Get great foundation garments... a bra that fits right will keep the girls up in the proper area for fitted tops and dresses. Underwear that is too tight looks terrible under fitted pants or skirts. As does underwear that shows above waistband.

I'm just getting comfortable again in my body, I'll blame it on my husband, but I'm a little heavier than I want to be, so I kept my tighter clothing and was uncomfortable and looked worse than just going up the size.
posted by Jazz Hands at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2010

Your primary question: pretty easy.

Your side question - oh god that's some big stuff there you're grappling with. Let's head that one off at the pass, first, before proceeding. If you want to start learning about the concept of self esteem, and the pitfalls of that philosophy, and learning to love yourself, that's a whole pile of feminist theory, personal growth, and introspection that you're looking at. I'd suggest that, more than anything, you read voraciously and think critically. This is something you're going to have to decide for yourself. Personally, I'd say don't use "frumpiness" as a label. You have the power to change how you present yourself to the world and are perfectly within your rights not to utilize techniques to manipulate the perceptions of others or yourself, just as you should be able to choose otherwise.

Okay back to the original question.

Looking and feeling sexy is different to everyone. What turns you on may not crank my gears at all. Breasts are not the end all be all of sexy. Being in a state of disarray can be sexy (think "bedroom hair") but so too can wearing a sharp suit and looking perfectly coiffed. Think about your own body and the myriad excellent things about it.

I'd first suggest getting a haircut. Short hair can be very sexy. It exposes the neck, is often quite textural (otherwise known as "mmm, an excuse for physical contact"), and feels more modern, which is often equated with sexiness or at least self confidence.

You don't have to expose skin to emphasize or define the shape of your body. A well-fitted shirt is more attractive than any bikini top, if done right. If you like the shape of your legs, for instance, tights or leggings (sometimes in fun colors or patterns) draw attention to them without you being naked. If you don't fancy your behind, a fuller skirt gives your outfit movement without directly displaying the goods. Layering done right doesn't so much cover up things you don't want seen as it emphasizes the things you do. A short jacket over a long tshirt, for example, adds volume to the top of your torso, yes, but what it's really doing is providing greater contrast to the slimmer width of your waist below. (This is the underlying concept of shoulder pads, which are dangerous and should only be handled by professionals.)

A good bra under a blouse will change the shape and placement of your breasts to their best advantage, without making everything about cleavage. You've been blessed with smaller breasts. (I'm working on a 32J here. A bra hasn't cost me less than $70 for years.) You have tons of options. Bring a couple different shirts with you when you go to try on bras. Do NOT go to Victoria's Secret. I suggest Nordstrom for department stores, but even places like Target have lots of options for someone of your size. Try on your shirts with various bras, and think critically about which shape, amount of lift, and so-on makes you happiest and most confident. Get a variety of bras so you can choose what to use on different days. Maybe Wednesday you want a little padding, on Friday you want to lift your breasts higher in that blouse with the ruffly bits, on Saturday you want the purple bra with the polkadots because it entertains you, and so-on.

Choice of top can go a long way in emphasizing the shape of your chest. Shirts with screenprinted things on the front actually downplay the real dimensions of a body. It's like the idea of camo, right? The colors break up the perceived depth and outline. So often, a plainer, simpler top will display your assets to their best advantage. You can also call attention to your breasts with details. Embroidery, an interesting neckline, ruffles or pleating, shiny buttons, those are all good things. Just don't do them all at once. Also, a necklace on a long chain, that drapes over the swell of your breasts and moves with you, can be quite effective with something as simple as a plain tshirt. Or, layering a bright tshirt or tanktop under a different colored buttondown is a good way to say "look here", by just unbuttoning the top few buttons of your shirt. It makes a nice triangle right where you'd like the attention.

I guess what it comes down to is self confidence. When I get all fancied up, I feel sexier because I like what I'm wearing. Maybe what I've got on isn't traditionally "sexy" but because I just love my giant pink dress or my gold-embroidered high top Chucks, I get excited anyway. If you feel frumpy, maybe you just don't like what you're wearing? A big flannel shirt and baggy pants (for example) can be super hot on a girl who wants to be wearing them, but becomes a way of hiding for someone who'd rather be in something else.
posted by Mizu at 8:28 AM on August 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

A well-fitted bra (particularly with some shaping) will make you look/feel more attractive in any outfit, including sweats and a t-shirt. Get a proper fitting (usually available at nicer department stores, if you don't want to deal with Victoria's Secret), and if you really want to go over the top (heh) look at bras with a little bit of pushup and padding.
posted by availablelight at 8:45 AM on August 8, 2010

I don't know why there's the Victoria's Secret hate on here. As long as you can properly size yourself (in my experience they don't do the best job of it) I think their underthings are quite cute. I have the Miraculous Push-Up Bra and it makes my 34Cs look very nice under all kinds of shirts.

I went through a phase where I felt like superfrump for awhile. It seems silly but my look seemed to be translating to my attitude and I just felt so ... blah. So I got a haircut, learned how to do my makeup properly with the help of a friend who does such things professionally, and used a personal shopper to help me pick out outfits that looked good on my body type and made me feel more attractive. I felt so much better because I was confident in the image I was presenting.

So, to summarize, I think a padded push-up bra could be helpful and don't hesitate to ask a professional for help with looking sexier. They know what they're doing!
posted by geekchic at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2010

When you're out buying clothes, take at least one item into the dressing room that you think you'd never wear--because it's outrageous, super sexy, a leopard print, or a color you wouldn't normally wear, etc. Try it on! You may surprise yourself and start expanding your styles. Plus, it's fun.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I am your size/age and I love boat neck shirts. They can be extremely sexy, yet they show no cleavage at all- instead, they show off your collarbones.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:19 AM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Would learning to love myself just the way I am, frumpiness and all, be the way to go?


I wear an A cup, myself. And I am damn sexy.

There are a few particularly sexy things about having small breasts. For one thing, I can forgo a bra if I want to. This also means that I don't usually have to worry about wearing tops that have an unconventional shape to them, strapless bras, foundation garments, and the like. Additionally, small breasts mean I can get away with wearing clothes that are much more low-cut, even in a professional context, because there's not a hell of a lot of cleavage. I especially like deep V neck tops.

Itty Bitty Titty Committee members unite!
posted by Sara C. at 10:02 AM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Consider that people might be constantly telling you you dress like a librarian because they like it.

What happens when I am not so young and don't have my youthful looks, but have relied on them my whole life for feeling good about myself?

People who rely on their looks never ask this question.
posted by rhizome at 10:47 AM on August 8, 2010

This question is really confusing to me. B's are a great size--and anyways, you don't mention your band size or general measurements. Just cup size doesn't mean anything. I've had a b/c cup my whole life and growing up, I thought it was funny that people wanted larger breasts because I knew that sexiness had nothing to do with breasts, per se. Many desirable celebrities have breasts from a large a to large b and dress well, look feminine, and look sexy. Find a celebrity who closely resembles your body type and check out candids of them to see how they dress. I'd start with Jessica Alba, Annalynne McCord, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Hilary Duff, Shakira, Kelly Clarkson, or Ashanti.

About the age thing: I've wondered that too. We are at the same place in life. All I can say is to look at women like Halle Berry (43), Penelope Cruz (36), Julia Roberts (42), Chan Marshall (38), Mo'Nique (42), Margaret Cho (41), and Salma Hayek(43). They take care of themselves (except Chan, Salma, and Penelope, who smoke), still look fabulous, and did not wholly rely on their looks. I'm sad that the women that I'm pointing to are all in the entertainment industry, but that's just how it goes.

Take advantage of your age! Wear ridiculous colors on your nails, rock ridiculous makeup, and wear those ridiculous high heels. Get out of your comfort zone and don't be fearful. You're beautiful and sexy and all of those things. Frumpy is not even in the equation. Next outfit: striped boat-neck shirt, cute scarf, black skinny jeans, wedges. You sound like you feel bad for wanting to dress cute. Nope! You deserve to look cute and you're going to do it. The next step from frumpy is not dressing like Coco, so don't even stress it. Just go slowly and you'll get the hang of it.

(Of course, large breasts can be sexy! I'm just saying that a bosom does not MAKE a woman sexy and that all shapes can be equally beautiful if the person is working it right.)
posted by 200burritos at 12:06 PM on August 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your initial question is fairly easy. There's lots of good resources to learn about what your body type is and how to dress it well - makeover shows such as What Not To Wear, How To Look Good Naked, Tim Gunn's Guide To Style; books such as The Pocket Stylist and Dress Your Best; fashion blogs such as YouLookFab. If you're willing to do the footwork on that (spending the time thinking about fashion and clothes, even if you don't really think of yourself as a person who cares about that sort of thing - I didn't), you'll pick up enough tips to change your look. You're getting some good ones here already: different necklines (boatnecks, v-necks), wearing more fitted clothing, layering, etc.

Your deeper question is one that I think about quite often. The automatic equation for women right now is "sexy = confident", even on Oprah. I'm not comfortable with that and it sounds like you're kinda questioning the underpinnings of that idea as well (isn't dressing better to feel better sort of superficial, shouldn't confidence come from the inside, what happens when you rely on something as transient as looks for confidence?).

I have a love/hate thing with makeover shows. I love the "life transformation" idea because I've gone through a bunch of those myself, large and small, and a profound change for the positive is fascinating and uplifting to see. But I don't love the takeaway I get that it's simply a matter of, well, doing the girlie drag right and then people think you look fabulous and you're all of a sudden confident and happy because now you fit the ideal norm. I'm not at all comfortable with your worth as a woman so easily reduced to this narrow idea of what's appealing. On the other hand, it does work, because people do make judgments based on how little/how much skin you show; high heels, makeup, skirts and dresses easily signal femininity; etc. And often you judge yourself by the metrics you see/you feel you're told to measure up to.

Of course, for better or worse, that's how it is in this society. And it'd be nice if feeling better came only from the inside, but I don't think humans work that way. I think you're one step ahead already by questioning and thinking about it. I don't think there's an easy answer, unfortunately. I think we all make compromises and it's a matter of carefully considering the compromises you're willing to make, what you're okay with, what you're not okay with, and why.

I feel it's important to develop a personal style, not because I'm fashionable, but because as much as we'd like to think image shouldn't matter, it does. By analyzing these things you'll be able to find the boundaries, and subvert them if you want; experiment so it's not just you, doing girlie drag - but you, able to express yourself, controlling your image, comfortable with the reactions you elicit, comfortable with the compromises you make. That's absolutely not as easy as following Ten Steps To A Sexier You, but I think the confidence you will gain in the process will be built on a more solid foundation.
posted by flex at 12:39 PM on August 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

get a nice slinky red cashmere sweater - nothing accentuates the sweater puppies like red! also nicely fitted tops with a small repeating pattern like polka dots emphasize your curves. Dressing like a librarian can be damn sexy, as long as your clothes fit nicely. I add darts to most of the clothes that I buy so that they'll show off my figure properly. Try on your favourite pieces of clothing, and see if there is extra material hiding your shape, particularly around the waist - if so, take them in to a tailor, and have them altered - they don't need to be skin tight, just fitted to flatter you.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:44 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a sexy B-cup librarian!

Mizu's reply parallels what has helped me the most:

Being aware of my own low self esteem has helped me sort out what I'm self conscious about, and notice any negative self-talk. Once you are aware of this, you can focus better on improving your current wardrobe: figure out what shapes and colors look good on you, and what you feel comfortable and confident wearing.

Seconding What Not to Wear! The TV show also has a few episodes centered on 20-something women. What might help for B-cups: wear your most flattering colours on top, and choose tops that have visual interest: patterns, details, ruffles, etc. around the neckline and bust.
More ideas for clothes in general with Trinny & Susannah & Stash Knit Repeat.

I wear a lightly padded bra. Off-the-rack clothes just don't always fit me well in the chest because I'm smaller... leading to more wrinkles/poorly fitting clothes... leading to me tugging at them and feeling self conscious... A lightly padded bra fills and evens me out a bit, plus bonus: you can't tell if I'm cold!

Seconding getting a good haircut! Ask your friends/family for recommendations, and be willing to change your length. When I was 20 I didn't have much money; yes you can go to a more expensive salon for one visit (or once a year), then return to your normal salon & price for cuts in-between. I've felt way better since my hair is shorter. Not for everyone, but I also wax my eyebrows. I found this really made my face feel brighter and prettier, without makeup! Again, you can go to a more expensive salon for a first visit, ask for a "natural" shape for your face, then either maintain them yourself or go to a less expensive salon afterwards.

As for how to feel confident without relying on looks: when I learned how to interview for jobs, one of the exercises you should do is write down your strengths and weaknesses. These aren't just applicable to interviews: it's really important to know where you are awesome! If you don't know what these are, most interviewing & career books and resources will help. "What Color is Your Parachute?" is the first one that comes to mind. Then you can work on managing your weaknesses, or improving on them, AND also use your strengths more often to build your confidence.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 1:04 PM on August 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

One thing I like about What Not To Wear is that they often will point out the subject's good* traits and help her choose clothes that highlight them. As opposed to making it all about camouflaging her "problem areas".

In other words, OP should look at small breasts as a good thing which give her a lot of options and mean that a lot of things will look good on her or be easy to wear. Not as a problem she needs to camouflage.

*not that parts of a woman's body can be declared to be "good" or "problems" or anything - that's something I find questionable about the whole notion of any of this stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 1:12 PM on August 8, 2010

Are you sure people usually view you as frumpy, or do you just view yourself that way? I ask because b cup breasts are insanely sexy, and the so-called librarian look really can be sexy too.

The trick is to wear clothing that flatters your figure. It's not about showing skin at all. The same is true for hair. Get it styled in a way that flatters your face and figure.

If you view yourself as frumpy, you probably dress frumpily because you see boring clothes and assume that's what you look like. I bet you're adorable. What you need to do is find someone else to teach you a sense of style, and trust their opinions more than your own until you eventually learn what really works for you.

I'm a guy, but I did every bit of what I'm suggesting that you do. I realized I was boring. Damn boring. And, to make matters worse, if I did let a woman help me figure out what clothes to buy, I made the mistake of shopping with women who told me what I wanted to hear instead of telling me the truth. That meant I kept buying and wearing bad clothing. Now, I won't even go shopping with someone who I think will tell me what I want to hear. It's also helpful to NOT go shopping with someone who will help you find clothes you will like. Clothes you like are part of the problem. You need help finding what looks best on you, not what you like.

At first, the transition is hard and awkward, but after a while, you'll start seeing yourself in a much better way. Now, I look back on what I used to wear and I cringe. I'm not super-stylish or anything like that. I just wear things that look good on me. Fitted shirts, girl-approved shoes (grin), dark jeans instead of the god awful khakis I used to wear (oh, god, am I really going to admit that I used to wear pleated khakis?).

Here's the thing to keep in mind: everybody thinks they know what looks best on themselves, and many many many people are wrong. Seek help from people who have talent.

One final thought: If you have a digital camera, USE IT. When you try on clothes in the store, take a shot of yourself in the clothes. When you're standing in the mirror, it's too easy to say "no, that's not right on me." Seeing a still photo later can really make a huge difference.

You? Frumpy? I really doubt it. You're probably adorable and have no idea.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 1:26 PM on August 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Push-up bra and knits.
posted by Night_owl at 1:57 PM on August 8, 2010

I've had the best luck with this combo: slightly loose up top (or else reasonably detailed - shirring, print, whatever) + a snugly fitting waist. (Either actually at the natural waist, or an empire waist - "baby doll" styling can be great, unless you're shaped like me and it just makes you look like you have enormous hips.) For example, I have a dress that's a lot like this, though with a wider and higher waistband. Basically a little looseness at the chest can create the illusion of a little more volume, the draping can draw attention to your curves, and the contrast with a narrower waist accentuates the chest.

V-necks are also great. I guess you have to show some skin with those but even a mid-chest v-neck works. I'm also a fan of wearing a fitted button-down shirt that's only buttoned up to the just under the bust, with a different colored tank top underneath. Again, buttoning up along the waist creates a narrower line there, and then the open shirt at the top adds some volume and visual interest. This can be very flattering, but depending on the height of the undershirt it can still be very modest.
posted by mandanza at 1:33 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fitted button downs in lovely colors FTW! Bustier women always complain they're too tight in the bust--when I was rocking barely A cups (which frankly I miss like hell sometimes--loved the cute pixie thing I had goin' on) those tidy oxfords in shades like French blue, sage, muted pink made me look both more professional/neat and sexier 'cause they follow modest petite curves nicely. If your, um, lower half is similarly tidy, pencil skirts do the same simultaneous professional-and-sexy double duty. IF you're petite. As others mentioned, you can get away with cuts and shapes that would seem risque on a curvier person, and that's pretty fun.

As to the more nebulous issues, lots of good advice upthread.
posted by ifjuly at 5:30 AM on August 9, 2010

In their Mad Men "Mad Style" series, Tom and Lorenzo make the point that Joan manages to be one of the sexiest characters on TV despite almost never showing any cleavage. So I think there are definitely ways to be sexy and confident that do not involve cleavage specifically - ways to be covered up, but still flatter your figure. I found the whole series fascinating because I know next to nothing about fashion, fashion history and costume design, but it gave me a lot of ideas about the way I dress and the way I could dress. (If you're not a Mad Men fan, I'm not sure if it would be as interesting.)
posted by srah at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2010

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