DiscoveryNews reports on researchers who say it was fashionable for women in 17th-Century England to dress with their breasts exposed, a practice shown on illustrated ballad sheets from the period.
"Angela McShane Jones, a lecturer in history at University of Warwick in Coventry, England, became interested in the subject while studying the nearly 2,000 woodcut ballads housed in the Samuel Pepys collection at Cambridge University. Additional ballad sheets located at the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, Harvard University, and other institutions fuelled her study."
According to Jones' recent article in History Today (look at the hardcopy magazine or an online pdf for illustrations), "The evidence suggests that while displaying the breasts was supposed to be an upper-class affair, it had been vulgarized and imitated by lower-class women, aspiring to courtly fashion." Not surprisingly, "Sermons, pamphlets, broadsides and ballads, written against women showing their breasts ... were produced continuously."
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose ...