Today breasts have never been bigger. Nineties bosoms should be buoyant and bouncy. If you've got it, flaunt it. And if you haven't, plastic surgery enables some busts to enter a room several seconds before their owners.
But while many women are happy to pay pounds 3,000 for breast enhancement, fears about the safety of silicone implants have led to a reduction in the number of women requesting operations, down from 12,000 in 1991 to 6,000 in 1994.
Makers of the new vegetable-oil implant, Trilucent, claim their product is safer than silicone, but many women are still deciding against surgery. Instead, the flat-chested are turning to figure-enhancing clothes, toning treatments and firming creams, though, for some, the old tricks are still the best: rare is the woman who hasn't (like Marlene Dietrich) tried uplifting her resources with a few metres of masking tape.
So, what is available for those who would like to supplement nature?
Bolster breasts by shrewd dressing. The Wonderbra now sells 30,000 a week in the UK. Precision engineering for the mammaries, each Wonderbra is made up of 44 separate pieces, with gate-back and power netting ensuring the cups provide maximum cleavage.
If you have nothing to squeeze into a Wonderbra, fear not: pounds 14.99 will buy you an instant bust. Natural Look Bust Appeal Pads are foam rubber cups that can be worn inside a normal bra. They mould themselves to the wearer and each cup even incorporates a delightfully pert nipple for feel appeal.
Natural Look Bust Appeal Pads are available from Health and Beauty Direct (01482-822158).
We're talking firming lotions, potions, tonics and sprays. The manufacturers claim these improve elasticity and firmness. Beauty experts have doubts. "No substance can perk up the breasts," says Wally Sharps, of the Health and Beauty Training Board. "Creams can just make the skin seem tauter. But even this cannot be relied on."
Treatment creams tend to be made from plant extracts, but while vegetable proteins can firm the skin, they can't improve the elasticity of muscles and fibrous tissues. "There is no miracle cure, once collagen has been stretched," says Larraine Mitchell of the Bliss Bodyshop in Andover. "But bust-firming creams are better than normal moisturisers because they have more active ingredients to stimulate the area."
By their late teens many women will suffer the indignity of sagging mammaries, natural elasticity stretched by too many games of netball and insufficient support. Moreover, seven out of 10 women wear the wrong size bra and crash diets leave breasts droopy and stretch-marked.
So, exercise. Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, not muscle, which is why - weighing up to 1lb each - they're prime prey for Mr Gravity. To fight him you must work on the pectoral muscles that surround the area. Swimming and press-ups are excellent, as is the old favourite of squeezing the elbows together out in front of you. But, warns Wally Sharps, "exercise does mean starting early and keeping it up. It's no good exercising the bust at the age of 45."
You can get technical. A company called Microlift has pioneered non- surgical body lifts, whereby an electro-stimulator works on the muscles via hand-held rollers. "The client doesn't feel a thing," insists beauty therapist Rita Vandel. "A course of treatments can lift the bust by up to half an inch." It costs from pounds 25 to pounds 50 per session.
For pounds 58, Clarins offers the Model Bust for home use. A length of rubber tube connects to the cold tap and a cup at the other end is put over the breast. This is then blasted with cold water. The objective is to stimulate blood flow and restore muscle. Jenny Carpenter was impressed. "After my third baby, my breasts looked like empty plastic bags. Although I'm still no Pamela Anderson, they did seem to perk up."
Basic hydrotherapy is available to all. A quick splash with the showerhead will tighten the skin and boost circulation, giving a (temporary) feeling of firmness. Alternatively, try a trick favoured by models who require taut breasts and prominent nipples - plunge them into a dish of ice for half a minute. Yes, it feels like an ancient Chinese torture treatment, but it promises to leave your mammaries as taut as footballs.
Finally, the queen of breast treatments: the Aquamaid. For just pounds 29.95 this "ice" bra consists of two circular sacks of jelly-like substance - with holes for the nipples - and is strapped on like a normal bra. Fresh from the freezer, it should be worn for five to 10 minutes a day, the idea being that its low temperature will cause the breast tissue to contract and firm.
Keep yours in the ice compartment when not in use. Even if it does nothing for your bust, it will prove an invaluable conversation piece at dinner parties.
Call 0181-874 1130 for Aquamaid stockists.Reuse content