Awards season always brings a flurry of headlines about red carpet fashion, beauty, and—unfortunately—bodies. And this year, a new word has been added to the body-snark vernacular: squoobs. As in “squished boobs.” Articles about the trend (see: Huffington Post, The Daily Mail) feature actresses like Christina Hendricks and Sofia Vergara wearing corset-style dresses, with mostly critical commentary about how their constricted figures look ’more painful than playful’ and ‘more oww than ooh.’ So when I was offered a chance to speak with experts about the health risks of squoobs, I was curious: Is there really a legitimate health concern here, or is it just a new way to criticize women with large breasts?
Blisstree columnist Dr. Natasha Turner has warned against wearing underwire bras to bed (because they could restrict lymphatic drainage of the breasts), so it doesn’t seem far off to worry that wearing corseted dresses might not be great for our bodies. But most articles about “squoobs” seem far more concerned with looks than health. The Huffington Post speculates that women like Hendricks and Vergara are hiding their body flaws:
It seems our favorite starlets are trying to iron out some body issues by donning 18th century-style corset gowns (think Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette) that make their waists appear smaller but leave the girls looking anything but smooth.
And The Daily Mail was even more scathing:
[Carol Vorderman]‘s bosom was not only up there, but was so pinched, squashed and squeezed it looked more ‘Oww!’ than ‘Ooh!’.
Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks and chef Nigella Lawson pour out of their Vivienne Westwood corsets, while Elizabeth Hurley and Victoria Beckham have gravity-defying cleavages that often seem to be fighting their frocks for supremacy.
But while it’s a look that’s sure to get attention, the effect is more Coronation Street barmaid than costume drama beauty. After all, it’s better to flaunt your assets than knock people around the head with them.
The writers aren’t concerned for women’s health, clearly. But according to the PR pitch I got, some people are. They said:
Underwire and corsets are doing more damage than you think. In addition to wrinkles, too-tight bras can lead to problems with breathing, back pain, restricted circulation, muscle strain and even a bout of IBS by blocking lymph nodes.
To find out more, I sent some questions to dermatologist Debra Jaliman. She didn’t seem too worried about anyone’s breasts.
When I asked about the biggest health concerns associated with “squoobs,” she deferred to talk about bra fit:
What are the biggest health concerns associated with squeezing breasts into bras or clothing?
The biggest concern associated with bras is obtaining a good fit. I recommend women seek a professional and get measured in order to buy the appropriate bra size. Studies have shown that women often wear the wrong size.
I’ve heard that underwire bras can also increase risk of breast cancer because the decrease lymphatic drainage. Is that true?
Underwire bras do not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Does this mean that push-up bras are bad (even for women who have small breasts)?
Push-up bras are not bad. There is no scientific findings that say otherwise.
I wear sports bras all the time that compress my chest. Should I be worried about this?
You should not be worried about sports bras.
And when I got straight to the point about body-shaming, Dr. Jaliman offered some strange ideas:
Making fun of “squoobs” kind of seems like body-shaming women with large breasts. What are women of a certain cup size supposed to do with their cleavage?
I find that many small chested women are getting breast implants for a more enhanced look. If women are body conscious they should refrain from wearing body revealing clothing. But there is nothing wrong with having larger breasts.
I can’t figure out what kind of breasts I’m supposed to want, but one thing is pretty clear: “Squoobs” are not a health concern.