Blame it on nuclear fallout, or postwar exuberance, or plain-and-simple bad taste. For some reason, in the mid 1950's, the fashion industry came out with the shelf bust. It was a short-lived look, but for a while women went for it.
Let's define terms. In researching today's post, my staff discovered some confusion about what a shelf bust really is. This is primarily because at present, the term carries cachet. So like "Mad Men" being applied on Etsy to every dress pattern from 1950 to 1970, or "rockabilly" to any flouncy skirt you can fit a crinoline under, the term "shelf bust" is being applied to nearly any vintage dress (or dress pattern) that accentuates the bust, be it with gathers, a wide corset-like belt (or midriff), lace flounces, etc.
My understanding is that a true shelf bust is this.
A "shelf" is incorporated in the design that enhances the bust line and hoists it up like a drawbridge. It's not merely ornamental, it's structural. No shelf, no shelf bust. (I actually don't believe that top pic of Jayne Mansfield is a true shelf bust but it definitely evokes the 50-foot bosom.)
Other versions of the shelf. You get the idea.
The following look, while promising to turn any Fifties sub-teen into Annette Funicello, is not, in my opinion, a true shelf bust, though often labeled as such. Many variations of the gathered bust can be found, some with a midriff that widens in the back, and some with a midriff that narrows.
Shelf or no shelf, in the 1950's, the old adage "if you've got it flaunt it" seems to have been expanded to "...and if you don't, stuff it with lace, tulle, taffeta, or anything else you can find in your fabric stash."
And then there's this look, which seems to involve two bodices: one that fits the actual bust, and one slightly larger and lower that gets stuffed, I mean embellished.
As always, there are variations.
Readers, the inevitable questions:
Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Shelf Bust Fan Club?
Do you consider this a look best suited for the full-figured (since it enhances) or the more flat-chested (since it exaggerates)?
The shelf bust: tacky, glamorous, or a little bit of both?
|Renaissance shelf bust?|