Ze bra, ou non?

Carla Bruni. State dinner. Roland Mouret dress. No bra.

Should she have?
(Pausing for your thoughts.)

My first impression was to remind myself that French women will present a dif
ferent breast profile than North American women.

Seventy years of underwire have given us a high-bustline aesthetic, with the desired position nearly under the armpit. We hike 'em waaaay up whether they were stuck there originally or not.

The European women is more concerned with breast proportion than position on her torso, and will tolerate a more natural presentation lower on the ribcage. Ms Bruni evidently assessed her bust as small enough to go comandette, satisfied with their somewhat low placement.

I have not appeared braless in public for over thirty years. But time was, as a barely-A cup, I would have– though not to a state dinner. Because you know they'll be noticed, in between discussions of Greece's troubles.

American press was negative about Bruni's bosom, but then, they pitched a fit when Hilary showed a hint of cleavage.

Those girls got nothin' on Angela Merkel, whose lush décolleté plongeant makes Carla look a bit Flattie Mattie. It fait chaud au balcon!


Yes, I was quite taken with Angela looking lush - so far from her usual workaday look (she and her husband are both scientists and not fashion-conscious at all) - she was "relooked" very well, a professional look but respectful of her own practical style.

Well, even when I was young and wasp-waisted, I was more like Sophia and Jayne than Carla, so no braless look in public.

I think Carla looks just fine. She also looks very good in that particular blue - what would you call it, a deep teal?
mette said…
What I can see of Hilary, her outfit is quite ok. But the rest of the pictures- I must use the`OMG´. In my belief there has to be a `certain´dressing code. That´s it. I have said what I think about this matter.
diverchic said…
Carla looks cute for a night at the club, or walking the dog, but not for a state dinner. It might be sour grapes for me, since I never had the luxury of going braless.

Now, Angela is indeed lush, but more like an opera singer than a head of state - suitably formal, but 1.5 inches too low.

I enjoy your comments about the differences between cultures and sensibilities and like lagatta's as well. Many thanks.
Glove Slap said…
I always thought wearing a bra was 33% about hoisting your breasts up, 33% about reducing bounceage, and 33% about suppressing your nipples. I thought everyone was surprised at Bruni because her nipples were visible. Her breasts don't need hoisting, and they appear to be firmly held in place by that tight bodice.
Normally I would think it's great that she didn't wear a bra. But under the circumstances, I think it was a distraction-- so, not the best choice.
LPC said…
This is when I feel my age. Her damn nipples are showing. I am not conservative not a prude. Bring on gay marriage, let people engage in whatever non-harmful acts they want in private, but wear your bra to a state dinner.
Anne At Large said…
That particular photo of Ms. Merkel is photoshopped. Yes, the dress is low, but she is not about to pull a Jayne Mansfield.

Nancy K said…
Listen if I had Carla Bruni's figure I wouldn't worry about a bra either. Though to be honest, if you look closely at the photo, there does seem to be lines that do indicate she is wearing a bra, one of those light, airy expensive things that small busted women can wear. It didn't matter what Hilary wore during the campaign, the press was always negative. The bottom line is that Americans can be incredible prudes.
Vix said…
Talk about the eroticism of the "plus strict" look! Gorgeous dress on Carla.

She's certainly got the breasts to sport that look (though I know RM's dresses are engineered to the nth degree, so I think there's a bit of built-in support).

The nipple show-through is really the only giveaway, and that would occur with anything but a molded or lined bra.

[Which I wear now for anatomical reasons--but in the 80s, certainly neither I nor my suburban friends had them in our repertoire: stretch fabric underwires ruled. We no doubt showed many a nipple when we thought we were being proper!]

That said, It's hysterical to me that women are routinely shown with their (often fake) breasts 90% exposed, but a little nipple outline on a winter evening is shocking.
She does appear to be sans bra...state dinner equals dress code in my opinion...she could certainly choose this look for an intimate dinner with hubby or close friends when a chance of a photo would not be a concern...BUT she does represent more than herself in this situation so I would think it would demand some lovely french lingerie...heavens there are so many lovelies to choose from!!
materfamilias said…
Like Nancy K and Glove Slap, I'd say she may well be wearing a bra. Being small-breasted myself, I used to regularly wear light, non-molded bras which supported as much as I needed but did nothing to stop nippleshow-through. When I moved from grad student to being in front of the class, my then-late-teen daughters staged an intervention. The word "gross" may have been used, the idea of a 45+ woman possessing nipples apparently being disturbing . . . I did agree that my headlights, however small, might prove a distraction in the classroom, and they haven't been seen in public since (I exaggerate, but you get the point).
That said, I think Carla's anatomical distractions go far beyond the nipples, which if detectable are fairly discreet -- it's the sexiness of the subdued-yet-fitted dress that makes them -- whoops! I want to say "pop" or "stand out." In other circs, I don't know that it would be a big deal, but let's face it, if she has attracted attention to her nipples, she probably is dressing inappropriately to her position. I suspect the fine print for that job description says something about keeping the press distracted from the mammaries. just saying . . .
Such fun! I'll be checking this discussion all day. Thanks, Duchesse
Susan B said…
I think Carla looks fine, and appropriate! Even if she were wearing a thin, light bra, there might have been some "showthrough."

I haven't been able to go braless since I was twelve. I envy you A-cups. I've graduated in the past year to molded cups; they do prevent the "headlights," which even my highly engineered lace underwires did not.
Mardel said…
Carla Bruni looks lovely in that dress even with the nipple show through. It might not be appropriate for a state dinner though, although I really think it depends on who is attending. I don't know if this phases the French at all, but if there were guests from other countries or cultures where this would be upsetting, this should be taken into consideration.

Angela Merkel looks very nice, and the standing photos are not so revealing. She was not at a state event unless one considers that a head of state is always on duty. Why should she not dress to show her feminine side, and yes perhaps she could have shown less cleavage, but it is sometimes the demands of excessive modesty become aging and frumpy.

Why does anyone outside of the immediate sphere of influence consider this important?
M said…
Sorry all you Francophiles but this is a case of style over substance which I believe the French can be guilty of just as much as anyone else. How can she expect to be taken seriously with her headlights on high beam!
Shelley said…
I think Carla Bruni looks her usual spectacular self. No bra at a state dinner is a distraction? Far as I can tell, Carla Bruni is a distraction. Re: Angela Merkel's display, not as impressed. She has every right to dress how she pleases, mind, but somewhere I read some sort of guideline about how much cleavage one should show (in inches no less) and how it decreases with each decade of age. My boobs are their biggest and best ever, but I wouldn't be comfortable with Angela's extent of display (not least because it's cold).

Great post!
kristophine said…
Perhaps nipple shields would have satisfied? I'm generally in favor of breasts, but public nippling can be a bit much.
Tish Jett said…
This, dear Duchesse, is a little gem.

I thought all in all she looked unkempt, (hair included) for the First Lady of France. Maybe she's wearing one of those filmy bras.

Perhaps I've missed it, but I have yet to see a reaction from the French. If I do I'll report back.

Honestly I think generally, wherever women like to hike them up or let them fall is their own business.

Unless above mentioned placements are seriously out of place to an occasion -- frankly who cares?

Perhaps Angela who is always so buttoned-up had a reason for the cleavage display: to show her feminine side? The dress looks dangerous though.

A little cleavage from Hillary? My, my what a scandal. Americans can be so ridiculous. I assume she was not in a country where she could have culturally caused offense.
L'age moyen said…
What fun!

We all remember the '70s when nipples were an essential part of the 'natural look'. We wanted to look natural and nipples were natural. Since they've been hidden in essentially padded bras for the last 20 years they seem to have become fascinating objects of desire. A nipple is of course sensual, but also reminds us (and particularly men) that there's a function for those bits that have nothing to do with men. It's disturbing, unsettling, a very effective distraction from Madam Sarkozy.

Padded bras or underwire (however you want to describe the vast majority of bras available today) can look pretty fake on skinny broads - Carla is one such broad. I am another. I have always felt really fake wearing a nipple-hiding bra because it looks so unnatural to have these things jutting out from my otherwise flat frame. I've only just rediscovered thin liners which is all I need at this, post child-bearing phase of life. I'm throwing caution to the wind, or at least nipples. Would I flaunt them at a state dinner? I'm no supermodel - they'd be discreetly managed in a different dress.

I adore Angela Merkel's bosom. Adore it! You always want what you don't have. I think it's great that she's reminding us that she is also a woman. Pourquoi pas?
Carla looks just fine. Her bust is small and are we that offended by the outline of a nipple? My guess is that the dress is so tight that there would be visible bra lines if she had worn it with undergarments. That might have been why she chose to go commandette.
Angela, on the other hand, looks ghastly with her pendulous udders. She might have had a bra on but it wasn't a good one. Might have just as well gone without for all the effect it had. If Angie wanted to rock the look, she needed to hoist those babies up so that they had somewhat of a curve.
Duchesse said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
I guess I'm out of touch, but I'm back from a conference in Europe, and do notice what people (of various nationalities and age groups, and both sexes) wear. Yes, women over 40 and those with more generous bosoms do tend to wear more supportive bras (often underwires) but not those moulded things. The nice bras one sees in European shops tend to be lacy, or if not, more supportive versions of the knit fabric kind.

And nobody seems phased by nipples. People are very phased by other things.

I'd love to be able to wear Carla's dress, but one would have to be an ex-model...

And my boobs are more like Angela's, though she is a more squarish build than I am. They are not udders, for the simple fact that we are human beings, not cows. If I recall she wore that dress to the Opera. Germanic societies are funny that way; in general business dress is very conservative and more stodgy than in France or Italy, Carla's countries. But ladies go ALL OUT for the opera in Germany and Austrial.
Maria said…
Lisa, why on earth should she not be taken seriously just because she hasn't sheathed her nipples in padding? It's not like she's displaying them ostentatiously. They're just there.
M said…
Would you be voicing that same opinion if Nicholas had shown up for the State dinner wearing an open shirt & exposing his chest hair? It's a matter of dressing appropriately for the occasion.
Duchesse said…
Mardel: Angela Merkel is dressed properly for the occasion, in her culture. There are written rules (Genevieve Dariaux' "A Guide to Elegance") and unwritten customs about formal evening attire- in summary, the later in the evening that the event begins, the more décolleté is required.

To wear very low-cut to cocktails is a gaffe.

At a dinner party, you could wear somewhat low-cut but not as low as she's in.

These "rules" may be a bit dated and women are more flexible about them today, but you would still be considered well-dressed if following them.
Frugal Scholar said…
All my thoughts on Carla have already been voiced above. As materfamilias says==as a teacher, I have to be careful. I hate wearing bras and don't really need one. When I am working I wear one, but often I go w/out--the ubiquitous pashmina serves as great camouflage.

Carla can take care of herself. So can Hilary and Angela, I suppose. I was horrified by Hilary's treatment during the campaign. It led to the one divergent vote of my marriage: I voted for Hillary, Mr. FS went for Obama.
Carla's are perky, but I think a nipple cover wouldn't have gone astray.

Hilary is barely showing cleavage.

Angela - that's probably going slightly too far.
s. said…
Oof. I find that nipple shields often look worse that glaring "headlights." Seeing the outline of a tiny flower through fabric where a nipple might otherwise be can be wildly distracting.

Ms. Bruni looks beautiful but for a state dinner I would have opted for a bra that gave greater nipple coverage. She needs not an iota of hoisting but an extra mm. or two of cloth over the chest might have been appreciated.
Tiffany said…
I think she looks great - placement fine ... but agree not really appropriate for a state dinner.
Belle de Ville said…
I'm sure that I left this comment on another blog but I'll repeat it here. I think that the look was calculated to keep the eyes on her and off of Sarko!
Mardel said…
Oh, I don't think Angela is showing too much cleavage at all, not for evening at the opera. If anything I wish Americans dressed for the opera more, and perhaps would let loose a little more as well, but I suspect the two go hand in hand.
Anonymous said…
Even without a bra her perfect breasts still hit midway between the elbow and shoulder! Another reason to hate Carla Bruni...

The posts with the most