Looking back on those days folding undergarments and sampling the latest boudoir-friendly body products, it was a time in our lives with relatively few major crises. We were content to bring boys back to our dorms and model our latest winnings: shimmery new satin chemises, lacy bustiers, slinky silk bikini panties, and the occasional naughty ensemble from the holiday collection. Yes, those were good times -- that is, until Lingerie Cacique went under and my best friend outgrew her retail post at Vickie's in favor of something more in line with her scholarly pursuits.
But the evidence is still there, overflowing in our dressers and bursting forth from our closets. Two overcrammed drawers devoted to nothing but bras and panties. At least 25 pairs of pajama sets, ranging from satin shorts sets to crisp cotton trousers with camis to cozy flannel jammies for the really chilly nights. A healthy selection of silk slips and who knows how many brassieres. Plus several robes of various materials and now mis-matched slippers.
For a few years after college I avoided Vickie's and the like, mostly out of frustration over ill-fated relationships and my early career-fueled angst. And probably compounded by my complete lack of cash as I frequently couldn't come up with the rent on time. Besides, I stipulated, I should probably be chaste until I got married anyway. Thankfully, when met my future husband, I didn't have to avoid Vickie's anymore. We made faithful pilgrimages regularly to restock my slightly deteriorating collection, purchasing new and better things, and moving up a size (or two) to fit my more womanly frame.
We also discovered (actually, it was my husband who discovered it) Frederick's of Hollywood, which became another regular attraction (more so for him). I didn't care much for their style at first, which I felt lacked the wide assortment of beautiful silky masterpieces and and cheeky sleepwear designs. I also questioned the quality of their lingerie, which more than once fell apart at the slightest sign of struggle. I likened them to a cheap one-night-stand, or the type of attire that a call girl would wear. Vickie's, on the other hand, was safely in the realm of trophy wife -- or at least high-class mistress -- favoring sensuality and femininity over full-on working girl.
My husband took a different opinion. He reveled in the make-believe world that could be created in our bedroom from the cheap Freddie's (as we came to call it) cabaret outfits. One of his favorites was the French Maid costume, which he frequently made me wear around the house while I pretended to dust the inch-thick layer that enveloped every surface of our home. He also had a thing for the pink marabou-trimmed babydoll teddy which we instantly nicknamed "Bunny", prompting me to buy a pair of matching bunny ears to wear with it. He especially loved the naughty Santa getup, which of course I wore around the holidays to deliver early "presents." I blushingly admit a fondness for the harem girl outfit, which transported me back to my longtime fantasy of "I Dream of Jeannie" crossed with stories out of "Arabian Nights." But that's neither here nor there.
Alas, the fantasy costumes, along with the fine silks and French lace from the ever-improving Vickie's collections slowly made their way to the back of the closet, as married life took on its more customary form. There were jobs to rush off to, bills to pay, floors to vacuum, mutual friends to meet, and a host of other household duties and responsibilities. Even my husband's previous enjoyment of "soft porn" on Showtime and Skin-e-Max faded into the month's new action/sci-fi show followed by the nightly news.
It was therefore with some surprise (and not a small amount of amusement) that I came home one Friday evening a year ago to find him glued to the sofa, his eyes fixated on the television watching "The Ghost Whisperer." Normally, he wouldn't watch a show on a prime-time network, let alone on a non-high definition channel. Football and the news were about the only things that slipped in among the fortified diet of basic cable and high-definition programming. So why in God's green earth would my better half be home on a Friday night watching the mediocre melodrama "The Ghost Whisperer"?
Well, it didn't take me the better part of 5 minutes to figure out why. Three words: Jennifer Love Hewitt. Or to be more precise, the lead played by the above mentioned's boobs, with the supporting role played by J.Love. Now, before you brush me off as a jealous housewife, I challenge you to watch 10 whole minutes of that show and produce even one scene where 1) Jennifer's "girls" are not being displayed front and center in carefully filmed and perfectly costumed perfection, or 2) a male character of any age (dead or alive) is not carrying on an intimate conversation with her bosoms. (I will admit that the role of her husband, played by hottie David Conrad, helped reel me in for a couple of episodes.) Hence, I quickly nicknamed the show "The Bosom Whisperer" and poked endless fun at my honey's (completely understandable) fascination with it.
Let me be honest: I have nothing whatsoever against Jennifer Love Hewitt (or her perfectly perky ample bust). I loved her in Party of Five and the I Know What You Did Last Summer films. Moreover, I genuinely felt that she deserved to be named one of the "Sexiest Women" alive for 10 years in a row by FHM and Maxim Magazine (my husband still treasures the FHM cover that she graces). I'm thrilled that she produced and starred in the 2000 television biography "The Audrey Hepburn Story", which chronicled the early life and film success of one of my all-time favorite stars (and fashion role models). While I wouldn't nominate her for an Oscar by any means, I certainly wouldn't boycott her work as some people have done based on the absurd premise that her boobs are fake.
Don't laugh -- I had an ongoing bet with my (male) friend Jaime for years about whether or not J.Love's breasts are the real deal. Which was never really answered, since the actress insisted that they were precisely the specimen she was born with, and naturally the conniving press conjured up with countless "evidence" to suggest otherwise. Jaime always came up with new and different "tests" to determine when a girl's breasts were fake. Everything from noting the floatation of breasts in a swimming pool to the amount of jiggle when exercising to measuring the roundness of the arch. Apparently, there are dozens of other reported ways to tell if boobs are fake.
It's a well known fact that most of Hollywood's starlets aren't altogether real. "Nip-Tuck" is far from fiction. Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic surgery. And while it's no secret that Beverly Hills is the breast implant capital of the world, plastic surgery is also flourishing in some rather unexpected places. In South Korea, surgeons estimate that at least one in 10 adults have received some form of surgical upgrade and even children have their eyelids done. Did you know that Tehran is alleged to be the world leader in rhinoplasty with over 100,000 nose jobs per year? And not just for women, either, as men flock to get their noses resculpted by the thousands. Illicit procedures are an even bigger threat worldwide. Although there are less than 50 licensed plastic surgeons in Indonesia, an estimated 25,000 illegal procedures are performed each year in Jakarta alone.
Be that as it may, it makes absolutely no difference to me whether a celebrity -- or any other person -- boasts a brand new body achieved by surgery or any other means. Furthermore, it's no skin off my nose whether a star opts to display a modest rack or insists that her cups overfloweth. Thus I can't understand the incessant witch hunts undertaken by the media to identify celebrities that have gone under the knife. It's not like the beauty industry would suffer either way -- Americans spend over $7 billion per year to make themselves look better. Is coloring one's hair or wearing makeup any less artificial than adjusting the size of one's boobs? Does wearing sexy clothes contribute to the objectification of women? Are girls who opt for large bosoms compensating for small brains? Certainly not, considering the number of attorneys, doctors, businesswomen, and other female professionals who choose breast augmentation. So why does it matter if a female star enhances her God-given bust size so long as she is talented?
That, of course, is the big "if". Many argue that, were it not for their buxom breasts, plenty of starlets (ahem, Pamela Anderson, Denise Richards) would be out of a job. But the fact is, Hollywood will always love a big-busted gal, since she sells out the house. Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that ample bosoms and a portfolio of plastic surgery will guarantee an actress's success. Demi Moore reportedly spend $450,000 to improve her body in hopes of racking up a collection of plum acting roles. No one will dispute that she racked up a hot younger man, a couple of prime supporting roles, and a whole lotta press. But she has yet to resuscitate her flailing career.
So how has Jennifer Love Hewitt succeeded in balancing 4 seasons of one of the most popular prime-time dramas little more than bouncy waves and well-endowed cleavage? We'll never know for certain, but I will postulate this: in addition to an ample bust and flowing hair, J.Love has oodles of charm. She also has a killer wardrobe on set. Here's my theory: Perky breasts + effervescent charm + cascading locks + uber-girly wardrobe = Hollywood jackpot$$$. If you've got this winning combination, who cares of you don't win the talent show? Some of Hollywood's most lovable stars may never take home an Oscar -- Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Kate Hudson to name a few... But we love 'em anyway.
So, what can we learn from J.Love and her sisters? Pamper your hair, load up on the charm, and most importantly, perk up your rack. Whether you bear an A cup or a Double-D, make the most of what your momma gave you.
First, get thee to a proper fitting. An estimated 2 out of 3 women wear the incorrect bra size. Let the experts help you get the right measurement. Victoria's Secret and almost any reputable lingerie shop offer complimentary bra fittings. Experts recommend that you get remeasured after weight changes of 10+ pounds, pregnancy, and post-menopause. Need quick answers? Visit Vickies "Fitting Room" to find out how to solve your daily dilemmas like slipping straps, uncomfortable underwire, and bands that ride up.
Next, strategize for success. Undergarments these days can take care of just about any trouble that's bothering you. Whether you're looking to upgrade, slim down, perk up, or just be a smooth operator, put the right tools to work for you. That is, get bras that will take care of support, coverage, comfort, and movement.
Need a lift? Nothing beats a push-up bra to raise your girls front and center. The almighty push-up bra is arguably Hollywood's most vital tool used to launch both breasts and careers. Remember Molly Ringwald's trick in "The Breakfast Club" where she leans into her bosom while balancing a tube of lipstick between her boobs and proceeds to swipe a coat onto her lips? (Okay, I'm dating myself slightly). Well, that famous film moment was brought to you by a great push-up bra. The basic principle is this: no matter what your size and where your girls fall naturally, if you give them a firm squeeze from the bottom and push them close together, you too can win the hearts of audiences everywhere (not to mention make empires rise and fall).
Need even more oomph? Pump it up. Recent incarnations of the push-up bra borrow from the popular Air Jordan sneakers of the 1980s: just push the little pump and add some air. The more lift you need, the more you pump. The lightweight alternative to heavily padded bras, air-pump bras can add instant lift and "boobage" without carrying the extra bulk. Try the Huit Just A Kiss Air Bra or the Nikita Pump Bra. Alternatively, kill several birds with one stone with Victoria's Secret Angels Air(TM) Multi-way bra, which, in addition to air-filled padding lets you choose your strap options for regular, strapless, and halter options.
Many women have voted the Victoria's Secret Very Sexy push-up bra with Gel-Curve(R) to be the holy grail of push-up bras. Claiming to offer more natural-looking endowment, the bra cups are padded with a water-silicone gel filling. Rated as "Level 4-Extreme Lift" and "Level 5-Ultimate Lift" in the Victoria's Secret "Swell" category, this bra promises to raise your cleavage to new heights while eliminating lines and providing a believable feel to your curves.
Feeling passed over in the cleavage department altogether? Add a chicken cutlet (or two) to any bra, swim top, or shelf-cami. The industry term for real-looking (and feeling) silicone inserts that can be slipped into any bra for instant boobage, chicken cutlets cutlets allow you to build your ideal size in each breast, which is a major help for those who have uneven cleavage needs. This can be a great solution for women who have undergone partial or full masectomies and want to re-create the form of real breasts. Victoria's Secret naturally offers its own version, Style Secrets(R) Push-up shapers, which add 2 full cup sizes.
Coverage is another choice you can make. The coverage you need depends on two things: the size and shape of your breasts, and what you're wearing over the bra. A demi-bra works for most scoopneck, jewel, and v-neck tops and for most cup sizes. It covers roughly two-thirds of your breasts while exposing the top third. The answer to a deep v-neck or a plunging neckline is a plunge-bra, which covers only the base of your breasts and just above the nipple area, leaving the rest open for that daring low-cut dress or blouse. Sometimes, however, a sheer blouse or a fitted t-shirt requires full coverage, which gives a nice curve as well as a smooth line underneath.
Every once in a while (or all the time if you live in Hollywood), you may find yourself in need of undergarments that really act as secret agents. When you dare to go really bare, bring in the army of Victoria's Secret Style Secrets(R) adhesives. Starting with the smallest possible coverage, the Band-Aid-like Floral Shape Adhesives and its slightly more padded cousin, the Adhesive Smooth Gel Petals, provide no-frills nipple coverage. The same stick-on principle can go a step further and give your girls a little squeeze to the middle or some hidden lift without adding any extra padding. Try either the basic Adhesive Push-ups, the Adhesive Front Closure Push-up, or the Adhesive Invisible Lifts. Need to go bare while defining shape? The Invisible Shaping Bra, an adhesive silicone bra front with a front closure, looks and feels like real cleavage without blowing your cover. Okay, so what if you plan to wear a totally plunging dress, a la the Jennifer Lopez "scarf" worn at the 2000 Grammys? No problem, just stick on the Reveal(R) Silicone bra, adhesive individual silicone cups that provide shape, lift, and add a full cup size with absolutely no trace of underpinnings. Finally, don't forget Hollywood's best kept non-secret, Fashion Tape. The clear double-stick strips eliminate restless dress straps, gaping blouse fronts, and peekaboo slips once and for all. For more shaping solutions, including lower-body problem solvers, check out the Victoria's Secret shapewear collection.
The athletically inclined everywhere can rejoice now that sports bras no longer mean sporting a uniboob. Today's versions not only keep the girls from bouncing around but also offer such added features as moisture wicking, ventillation, reinforced nipple coverage, a choice of closures, extra lift, and, of course, a little volume. You can find high-tech versions at Vickie's, or, you can emulate your favorite stylish athlete by wearing their own designs, such as Anna Kournikova's Shock Absorber Sports Bra.
Once you've learned how to display (and conceal) the desired aspects of your bosoms, go a step further by maximizing your cleavage with the right clothes. If you've got a smaller, naturally perky bust, close-fitting sweaters were made for you. You'll also want to take advantage of bateau (boatneck) necklines which highlight the collarbone with their wide opening and and form an attractive sillouhette over the bustline. Are you blessed with generous, flowing bosoms? Put them on display in a strategic square or scoop neckline. A halter top or dress can also streamline large bosoms while shrinking broad shoulders. When in doubt, a moderate v-neck (and its cousin the jewel neck) is almost universally flattering and can enhance all bustlines.
If you have a fuller figure on top, steer clear of patterns and gravitate to darker shades on top. This will help even out your proportions. On the other hand, if you're bottom-prominent or need to enhance your top, wear lighter shades on top and play with large patterns. In addition, consider fabric detailing like shirring, ruffles, and pleats to create more volume on top.
Now you're ready to put the finishing touches on your girls. Here's a cleavage enhancing makeup trick I learned from my photographer friend in college: play up light and dark tones to reshape your bosoms and to get a more striking cleavage. Apply a darker color of bronzer or powder in the area down the middle of your chest, between your breasts. Blend the color upward and outward, creating a V-shape and along the natural curve of the breast. Next, take a lighter color of face powder or eyeshadow like white or light gold on the top half of your breasts. Blend well with a makeup sponge. Add more dark color in the center to build and deepen the color. You can also add sparkle to your decollete(along with your collarbone and shoulders) by dusting on a light coating of shimmer powder or gold-flecked bronzer. This will draw subtle attention to your cleavage.
Finally, don't forget to take care of your cleavage. Skin care specialists harp endlessly that you must do unto your decollete that which you do to your face. That means cleanse gently, exfoliate regularly, and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! For chest area acne, use salicylic acid to treat spots. I once heard of a middle-aged woman who dunked her rack daily into a bowl of ice water. She swore it prevented sagging. Ouch! While I can't comment on whether or not it worked, I can say that slathering seaweed and mud-based masks will help keep skin supple and firm.
Need more inspiration? Look no further than the Queen of cleavage herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt. Watch "The Ghost Whisperer" on Friday nights at 8:00 ET. Or, if you've got better things to do, just check out photos and video clips of the show at http://www.cbs.com/primetime/ghost_whisperer/.