Topless with Hands
A reoccurring theme, especially in media, and an alternate to topless, is the covering of the breasts with the hands (SM1310), the so-called handbra species (aka hand bra, hand-bra). The erotism of hands as a species of soutien-gorge is that the hands, obviously, can move. And at some point the subject, either before she leaves the dressing room or afterward, is indeed barebreasted. The viewer is aware of this, and even though they are denied the access to these moments they can't help but wonder whether the photographer, who is present to take the picture, gets to see the full display.
There is also the sensual aspect of the hands touching the breasts, and this motif occurs both in media as well as the real world, as this young woman on a beach demonstrates with her boyfriend (SE9131).
Great Moments in History
Before bare breasts are permitted in mainstream men's media the covering of the breasts with the hands provides an ongoing alternative to toplessness (MM4935, BB5540).
There is always the question in the viewer's mind whether it is the model who refuses to expose herself (BB7110), and compromises by clenching her breasts, or it is the media who ordains that an otherwise perfectly compliant model regress her willingness to expose herself. You can gain some insight into this by becoming a fly on the wall at some auditions (LO8901, CF8901, KP8800).
A skillful variation is the model who is in obvious motion, and just happens to get caught with her arms blocking herself (RS7108, KP88I1).
In the 1960s the handbra species provides mainstream media a way to gently sidestep the issue of toplessness, as in the treatment of the topless maillot by Life (PM6410). Things are not much different twenty-five years later in Sports Illustrated (EM8908).
In the late 1990s the handbra motif migrates from the inner pages of mainstream media to the magazine cover, as performer after performer poses with arms crossed over otherwise bare breasts. Once again, the interests of modesty are served--no bare breasts are visible on the newsstand and no free peeks a granted by the stars--while at the same time the viewers are tit-alated.
And yes, obviously the handbra motif goes back into the history of the pinup. It also gets new plays in the 21st Century because it can augment mystery about body jewelry and body decoration. Here the hands more or less cover the breasts but reveal that the subject may have tattooed areolas (UGA7B0).
There are three ways a bikiniite can cover her breasts with her hands. One method involves the hands covering the nearest breast (LESYA2BS), the other involves crisscrossing the hands (EP8459), of which there are two methods, as Desmond Morris has illustrated. Another variation is to demonstrate all combinations of hands and breasts in a comparison matrix (KP88S1), which also has variations explored in the halfbra species.
Further variations occur when a second person performs the covering, and during certain changing actions that include breast and nipple play.
The Bikini Scientist is also reminded there is a culotte equivalent in which hands cover the crotch (or butt).