Are There Really Breast Shape Trends?

A few years ago, Playboy magazine offered the theory — supported, of course, by photographic evidence — that breast shapes change with the times, much like fashion. More than that, the magazine theorized that popular breast shapes mirrored cultural shifts.

For example, says the article anyway, the breasts of the early 1960s reflected the nation’s Cold War footing and the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Right around that time, something odd started happening to the shape of women’s boobs,” Playboy says. “More and more, they began to look like missiles themselves.” Think back to the first few seasons of Mad Men and you’ll see Playboy has a point. Of course, the “bullet bras” of the late ’50s and early ’60s probably had more to do with this than the actual shape of women’s breasts. After all, breasts do come in all shapes and sizes, and short of changing bra styles and breast enhancement surgery, there isn’t a whole lot someone can do about it.

Or, as a blogger from beutiful magazine says about the Playboy article in a post titled “When Your Breast Shape Goes Out of Style”:

“While this is a good summation of how breasts have been portrayed in the media in the past 60 years … the anonymous author of the feature acts like women passed around a memo on the new breast style for each decade and developed accordingly. Obviously in reality, breasts have always come in all these shapes and sizes.”

Still, the Playboy feature managed to make an interesting case for breast shape-shifting by decade. The ’70s, with its “hippie culture” and bra burning, led to the popularity of a more natural look as the pointed perkiness of the previous decade was replaced by a teardrop shape. The ’80s ushered in an era of indulgence, and it became socially acceptable to have breast implants, so breasts took on a fuller shape.

Breast augmentation is the X factor when it comes to breast shapes. Yes, breast implants are designed to make a woman’s breast bigger, but breast enhancement surgery can also change shape just as much as size. Dr. Andrew Smith, a board-certified plastic surgeon and breast augmentation specialist in Orange County, says on his website that an experienced surgeon “can enhance not only the size but the shape of your breasts. Breast implants can be placed using a variety of techniques to create the shape you desire.”

A woman could conceivably go from wide and flat to round and more pointed, or she could decide to add volume more in the top (aka cleavage) or the bottom or her breasts. The options are seemingly endless these days.

Despite Playboy’s contention that popular breast shapes follow cultural trends, a recent study found that there is, in fact, an enduring aesthetic ideal. Published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery®, the study concluded that breasts that are slightly fuller at the bottom compared to the upper portion have “a universal appeal,” especially among women in their 30s.

The British researchers reached their conclusions after study participants viewed a series of photos showing a range of breast shapes. They were asked to rate which ones seemed most visually appealing to them. The teardrop shape of newer silicone gel implants mimic the proportional shape of this aesthetic ideal. The bottom line is that, even if media portrayals of breast trends change over the years, it appears there’s a deep-seated general consensus of the ideal breast shape.