Human beings are outliers in the animal kingdom for having permanently large breasts, which can be either a huge blessing or a heavy burden, depending on how you look at it.
On the one hand, breasts have given us so much, like low-cut tops and those unnecessarily erotic Carl’s Jr. commercials in the 2000s. On the other, people with breasts are faced with countless questions as soon as they wake up about what to do with them.
Do you push them up? Do you crush them down? Are you going to let them loose and free, or do you have to submit them to the yoke of nylon?
The answer depends on the mood of each person, their attire, their activities and the destination. It also depends on what you have on hand. Among the options is the push-up bra; the one without straps; the one without underwire and padding; the sports bra, and the adhesive.
But maybe bras are a thing of the past. The latest frontier in breast containment technology is something far more versatile that allows breasts to be shaped according to ever-changing physical and sartorial needs, and can also, in a pinch, be used to seal FedEx packages.
This is duct tape.
The idea of using duct tape on the breasts to achieve a specific silhouette is nothing new. Transgender men and gender nonbinary people, for example, have long used duct tape to wrap their breasts. And around 2016, Kim Kardashian posted on the now-defunct KKW app that one of the secrets to his pneumatic figure on the red carpet was using duct tape to push her breasts up.
“Just be ready for when it’s time to take it off LOL,” she wrote. (Peeling industrial adhesive from soft skin can be painful and cause irritation and broken capillaries.)
However, a growing number of companies have begun to ask a fascinating question: what if there was a better way to glue breasts than with a material that was originally designed to wrap metal cables and electrical conductors?
Stephanie Montes, a former fashion and beauty editor, founded Nue, her own brand of boob tape , or “boob tape” — as it’s often called — in January 2020. The idea first came to her a year earlier, when She was preparing for a cousin’s wedding. The bodysuit she was to wear had a plunging neckline that would have exposed any traditional bra, so she tried the Kardashian-approved duct tape method.
It worked pretty well for him, but it pinched, his skin wrinkled and crackled when he moved, and it hurt a lot when he had to rip it off. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, why did I do this to myself?’” she recounted.
Montes found a couple of brands online that sold such a tape, but she didn’t like that those products usually only came in a single shade of light beige, and that they were almost always featured on young, retouched models.
“I don’t think it’s a product for me,” Montes, who is Latina, recalled thinking. “But if I can take this and create it in a way that makes sense to everyone and makes everyone feel included, I think I can do it.”
It took Montes several months to design the packaging and find a factory that could produce the waterproof, latex-free tape in three skin tones, just the way he wanted. (The line has since expanded to four skin tones: light, light-medium, medium, and dark.) When she finally got the product, she and her friends modeled it, and she posted videos on Instagram of herself wearing it. “I wanted people to feel real,” she said.
Nue is still a small company. Montes is the only full-time employee, and her husband continues to help her pack the large orders that need to be shipped. But the brand has seen steady growth, even during a pandemic when most people weren’t out in their most revealing outfits ( or even wearing bras ).
Nue is now sold at fashion retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Revolve. “I think people are getting interested in this dressing trick,” she said. “It’s not as crazy or scary as it once seemed.”
(Kardashian, the duct tape queen herself, launched her own line of Skims “body tape” in 2019, but it’s no longer for sale on the company’s website.)
Abby Arad, a stylist whose clients include comedians and actresses like June Diane Raphael and Jessica St. Clair, said she has long used the tape for her bust. “It makes everything so much easier because it’s so flexible,” she said. “You can literally cut the figure out of whatever the top is and you have this custom bra.”
Arad said she likes to wear the ribbon with halter tops, backless tops, plunging necklines, or jackets that don’t have anything on the bottom. Some of his clients are hesitant when he first mentions that they need to put adhesive strips on his bust, he said, but his enthusiasm for the product usually wins them over. “I say this with such confidence because the truth is that I have used it very often,” she said.
Underwear has always evolved to reflect the aesthetic ideals of each era. You have to see the change that occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when the heavy corsets that accentuated the curves gave way to the most minimalist bras.
As Valerie Steele, senior curator at the Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, put it: “It was a shift in beauty ideals, from a very voluptuous, Victorian ideal to a younger, slimmer ideal. What a fashion writer around 1900 described as ‘the change from Venus to Diana’”.
In that case, the duct tape would be Diana’s change into an Instagram model enhanced with surgery and visual tricks. The rise in the use of photo filters and alterations coupled with the popularity of cosmetic procedures such as breast lifts and breast augmentation means that the aesthetic expectation has increasingly turned to breasts that appear full and perky no matter what. age, physique or the force of gravity.
“If a lot of people get plastic surgery and butt lifts and breast lifts, then all of a sudden a little bit of sagging that 10 years ago would have been ok, it might seem like, well, you’re letting go if you look like that.” Steele said.
The tape allows for a more enhanced look without the need for surgery, the companies say. Nue even calls one of her products “A Boob Job on the Go,” though Montes stresses that “it’s important that we be kinder to ourselves and accept our body type.”
In addition to its aesthetic promises, the tape is also a perfect product for the age of social networks. “Now, everyone wants to create content,” said Nataree Leelapatree, founder of a company called Boob Tape, which also started in 2020 and reportedly made $60,000 in May, she said.
There are a limited number of ways to put on or take off a bra. But there are endless ways to apply the bust tape. Influencer tutorials on YouTube and Instagram show women of all cup sizes demonstrating the different ways you can tape your breasts under the most revealing and confusing clothing. There is the sheath style, for a low-cut top; the criss-cross; the bandeau type . These videos are between 30 seconds and 30 minutes long, and have tens of millions of views.
In the interest of providing a comprehensive report, I tested the tape. I ordered some online, and on a Tuesday morning I taped up with moderate success. Although I like to think of myself as a raised D-cup personality, physically I have what medical professionals would describe as a “modest B-cup,” which only required four 6-inch straps to lift.
I put it on imperfectly. At first, my breasts looked crooked, and I wrinkled the tape a bit when I adjusted it. Either way, I then threw on a tank top and went about my day, with red-carpet confidence.
It felt liberating to have my breasts contained but emancipated at the same time (is this what people meant when they talked about the “secure attachment style”?). There seemed to be so many more minutes in the day when I wasn’t constantly readjusting an old bra that managed to be loose and at the same time so tight it left marks.
Taking the tape off that night wasn’t too unpleasant; I kept all the skin, and, by divine grace, my capillaries remained intact.
The promise of recreating the look of a plumper, younger bust—a bust full of youthful potential and hope, without the ravages of time—has proven popular with consumers. Montes says that she was not prepared for the high demand that Nue has received. “To be honest, I always felt that if we sold the initial inventory I would be happy. I didn’t really think she was going to take off the way she did.”