AO-rated Chapel Street Bazaar.

Photo from http://www.whitehat.com.au.

Melbournians will be familiar with Chapel Street Bazaar–it’s an institution. It’s a rabbit warren of a shop, filled to the brim with retro gems and glorious vintageness. I’ve happily whiled away many an hour searching for goodness-knows-what and come out with some completely unexpected, left-of-centre purchase (vintage thimbles, anyone?).

It had been a while since I had explored its delights. I was meeting up with my sister for breakfast one recent sunny morning and we ducked in for a wander. It’s a difficult place to visit quickly, but we didn’t have much time so we did a brisk walk around the whole place rather than try to be thorough in one of the sections. We walked past gorgeous retro lamps, delicate bits of lace, well-worn Star Wars toys, board games stacked up high, smokers paraphernalia and no end of random bits and bobs. It was a sumptuous visual smorgasbord.

In a couple of the glass cases, one particular type of artefact caught my eye–a few sets of vintage nudie, or “booby”, playing cards, probably from about the 1950s. (From an anthropological point of view, rather than a pervy point of view.) Without going through the humiliation of asking the attendant to open the glass cases, I could only see the photo that was displayed on the top of each set, but there were two things that struck me about each of them.

Thing the first: they weren’t posing in any sort of sexy, come-hither way. There was no pouting, licking of lips or over-lashed eyes. Their expressions were innocent and fairly demure. They looked like they might’ve been posing for a family portrait or the PTA annual photograph, except that they were nude.

Thing the second: the boobs looked so, well, ordinary. They weren’t enormous, plumped up, tanned jobbies, with nipple rings and/or other attached paraphernalia. Before silicone and botox and other nasty stuff got involved, it seems every set of boobs looked different (gasp!). They looked like ordinary sort of boobs that you might see in the changing rooms at the local swimming pool–some big, some small, some longish, some roundish, nipples all different.

I couldn’t purport to be any sort of expert on the matter, but based on what I’ve seen almost out of view on the top shelf at the newsagency, boobs on display these days look remarkably homogenous (big, tanned), as do “attractive” women (tall, slim). It was a strange shock–and relief–to remember that all bodies are different, and that different doesn’t mean weird, bad or unattractive, and that different definitely can mean sexy and desirable. I’m sure just as many men were lusting after those longish boobs with the uneven nipples back then as there are now after the enormous tanned ones. Makes me wonder what the nudie playing cards/magazines will look like in another 40 years’ time.

*polyspective

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