Best bosom buddies

La Hurley may go without, but the bra is a girl's best friend, says James Sherwood

Liz Hurley, of whom it can safely be said, "Breasts are her business", calmly announced this week that she doesn't need to wear a bra. Half the female population muttered, "Just you wait" under their breaths while the others wondered why Hurley chose to share this with us. Well my dears, breasts are back in fashion and never let it be said that Hurley misses a fashion moment.

Precisely which part of the female body designers deem "The New Erogenous Zone" is fashion's answer to spot the ball. The navel has been a hot spot of the past few seasons with hipsters, navel rings and crop tops guiding the eye towards the midriff. For Autumn 97, fashion has plumped for that old favourite, the cleavage.

Ironically, the masculine tailored trouser suit is the agent provocateur for the return of the decolletage. Inspired by Bianca Jagger's white trouser suits of the Seventies, women are encouraged to wear the single-breasted jacket with nothing underneath. At Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Gucci, breasts are barely covered by wide lapels on low slung jackets. The bra- less decolletage worked for Bianca in the days before silicone, when no -one expected breasts to perch immovably just under the chin. But sadly, these days any woman over a B cup and the age of 25 wouldn't leave the house without major support.

"You have to question whether Liz Hurley is telling the truth," says Zest mag's Karen Wheeler. "Everyone remembers that extraordinary Versace safety pin dress. Frocks like that have inbuilt corsets to make sure everything is firmly in place so you don't even need a bra." With the new suits, particularly severe black Helmut Lang or Jil Sander, Wheeler recommends wearing one of the bright satin bras to draw attention to the decolletage without conceding to bare flesh. "Breasts, after all, are beyond fashion," adds Wheeler.

However, the low slung suits lead the eye to the bust line and some women want to maximise attention without going braless. Lingerie as outerwear is dangerous territory. Anything too lacy and sheer will look like Madonna circa 1981. Ditto black basques. Gossard's clever, champagne opaque "Glossies" bra at pounds 15.99 gives the illusion of nudity with full support. The snakeskin Glossies bra at pounds 19.99 is the funkiest fashion bra which doesn't look as if you've forgotten to put your blouse on. But as fashion hovers around the bustline this season, pay heed to these words of wisdom from the Queen Mother of curves Mae West: "The only gal who came near to me in the sex appeal department was pretty little Marilyn Monroe. All the others had were big boobs. A gal should never put all her eggs in one basket".

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