updated 24 Dec 2010, 01:46
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Mon, Nov 15, 2010
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Living with kids and cleavage
by Clara Chow

SEVERAL months ago, a fashion-editor colleague of mine polled me on the amount of cleavage one can display in the workplace.

"Why do you wear low-cut tops or dresses in the office?" she asked.

Hmm, because I think they look good? I responded. And also because I need easy access to my boobs to express milk.

Frankly, for much of my professional life, I didn't give much thought to the skin I bare at work. In hindsight, this brazen confidence of youth might not have been the smartest move.

Still, it never really bothered me what people thought about the way I dressed, cleavage or no.

Becoming a mother, however, has changed my perspective.

If you work as a Stay-At- Home Mum, does it require you to dress appropriately for your workplace? How much cleavage should you flash at the kindergarten when you drop off your child?

It recently dawned on me that my 41/2-year-old son, Julian, might actually be embarrassed by my breasts.

After picking him up from school one day, I was cuddling him when he eyed my cleavage critically. I was wearing a V-necked Little Black Dress, and he said: "Mummy, your bra is showing."

He then proceeded to tuck the black scalloped edges of my nursing bra back under the fabric of my dress. With a little tug, he pulled my neckline up a little, like a fastidious little fashion policeman.

Uh-oh. Bust-ed.

I've always known that, sooner or later, Julian will start feeling curious about the birds and the bees. I was not, however, expecting him to pick up on gender differences and start feeling modest on my behalf so soon.

Up until that moment, I had never seriously considered changing the way I dress for a man. But, for Julian, I am suddenly willing to sweat it out under turtleneck sweaters in hot, tropical weather, if he wishes me to.

Besides, as a friend pointed out, some parents at his preschool may take umbrage at my wardrobe and see me as a bad sartorial influence on their toddler daughters.

That said, cleavage is a fact of life. In this day and age, it's all around us, and trying to shield children from what is essentially a part of the female body seems self-defeating.

After all, kids themselves seldom read much into exposed cleavage - they merely read the reactions of the adults around them and leap to logical conclusions.

Witness, for instance, the hullabaloo over American pop star Katy Perry's cleavage-baring mini-dress on Sesame Street two months ago.

After protests from outraged parents, the show's producers decided against airing a clip of Perry with Elmo - but not before it went viral on YouTube.

I giggled over comments that the parents failed to notice that Perry's furry red monster costar was not wearing any clothes at all.

Nude puppet bodies, it seems, is not as threatening as the partial glimpse of a woman's mammaries.

Kids who watch their parents get flustered over a woman in a low-cut dress receive this message: Cleavage = Wrong.

That region of flesh thus acquires a forbidden aura.

Frankly, I didn't feel that Perry's boobs were a big deal. I was too busy laughing at her antics with Elmo.

But we don't live in Sesame Street. Back in the real world, it was my turn to poll my fashion editor friend.

"I don't flash any cleavage at my son's kindergarten, because I have none," she quipped.

But, seriously, she admitted: "Even if I do, I would find it awkward to dress too sexily for a school setting, because that's where impressionable young kids are. For some reason, I always feel that I must make a good impression on the teachers and principal.

"You never know what the kids are thinking, so it's better to play safe than be sorry."

Fair enough, I thought.

At the very least, the bra episode with Julian has made me re-evaluate the clothes I wear on school runs. Wish me luck as I put my breast... I mean, best foot forward.

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