By this era, ideals had changed and breasts were beautiful, though not always in their natural form, and only as sex objects for male pleasure. This quote from The Ladies Dictionary in 1694 lays out the ideal:
Breasts that hang loose, and are of an extraordinary largeness, lose their charms, and have their Beauty buried in the grave of uncomeliness, whilst those that are small, plump and round, like two ivory globes, or little worlds of beauty, whereon Love has founded his Empire, command an awful homage from his vassals, captivate the wondering gazer’s eyes, and dart warm desires into his Soul, that make him languish and melt before the soft Temptation (in Loofbourow, 2011).
Talking about differences and similarities in understanding... all I can say is “Seriously?! We’re still embracing breast ideals from the 1600’s!!?! How antiquated! Women need to wake up!”
In it’s defense, the Ladies Dictionary did contain some of the first information on breast health for women. Or was it for men?
Therefore to reduce those Breasts that hang flagging out of all comely shape and form, that they may be plump, round and smaller, bind them up close to you with caps or bags that will just fit them, and so let them continue for some nights. Then take carrot-seed, plantain-seeds, aniseeds, fennel-seeds, cumin-seeds, of each two ounces, virgin’s honey an ounce, the juice of plantain and vinegar two ounces each. Bruise and mingle them well together. Then, unbinding your breast, spread the composition plaster-wise and lay it on your breasts, binding them up close as before. After two days and two nights, take off the plasters and wash your breasts with white wine and rose-water (in Loofbourow, 2011).
The Ladies Dictionary goes on to reference ways to make the veins in the breast more pronounced so the male lover may trace them. While many of our breast ideals hark back to this antiquated period, this is one different. Today women are more likely to see their plastic surgeon to have these veins cauterized.
During the above 1600-1700’s period physicians discovered the lymphatic system and Renee Descartes became the first to propose that imbalances here caused breast cancer, not the “black bile” of unbalanced humors that earlier physicians ascribed to. By the late 1700’s the lymph theory had become the prevailing view (Lukong, 2017). The first radical mastectomies were performed in this era with a crude scythe-like instrument.
By the 1700’s corsets that nipped in the waist and accentuated the breast were the height of fashion. Something new I learned... not only did the corset produce cleavage, some women wore their corsets and dresses not just with the upper breast showing but also with the nipples out! This seems to have been when the church and society introduced the idea that breasts were evil, an idea that breast feeding moms today still have to counter. The Ladies Dictionary was not so embracing of this trend, “There is always danger in attentively looking upon a Naked Breast, and there is not only a great danger, but a kind of Crime in beholding it with attention in the Churches” (Loofbrourow, 2011).
Next up... breasts in ayurvedic and holistic views...