Make way for cleavage because here it comes.
While it's true that awards season is always cleavage season, this year's display is especially notable for its sheer volume and quantity. Boosted by increasingly sophisticated bra contraptions and highlighted by fashion's latest retro darling, the 1970s-style plunging neckline, it has brought a whole new meaning to the awards that are the Golden Globes.
I'm pointing out all this cleavage because red carpet trends tend to find their way into the mainstream, interpreted by Target, Macy's, Forever 21 and other stores with mass appeal. Which is to say we're going to be seeing even more cleavage, coping with a cleavage explosion at work, at social events, even in front of our own mirrors.
Whether this is good or bad, alluring or appalling, depends on your perspective. What is not debatable is this: Cleavage is a powerful, powerful thing.
"Breasts are very magical," says Elisabeth Dale, a breast expert who writes the blog called The Breast Life ( www.thebreastlife.com ), dedicated to the subject. "They have the power to sustain life. They're a huge part of a woman's own sexuality. They've been taken over by advertising as a way to get attention.
"It doesn't matter your sexual orientation. It doesn't matter your income. It doesn't matter your age. Everybody loves breasts. The power of cleavage seems to be sustained over and over again."
Cleavage can make women feel feminine, which often makes them feel pretty and sexy and confident. "If she uses it after 5 p.m. in the right place, she could turn heads. She doesn't have to be that attractive, but her cleavage could speak for her," said Tom Ankoo, owner of Chrome, a Royal Oak, Mich., clothing store that sells a large selection of evening wear.
Cleavage also attracts the attention of many men. And no matter how feminist their leanings, most women get a certain charge, a certain power from using their femininity to catch a man's eye or, in some cases, using it as a form of Kryptonite.
"How many women have gotten out of a parking ticket or a speeding ticket because they were wearing a low-cut top?" Dale said. "Think of women in the service industry who are using cleavage in the cocktail lounge" to increase their tips. "If you're in a job that calls for you being an attractive female and using your femininity, one way to use that is by showing some cleavage."
And now, it's easier than ever to create cleavage.
For starters, we're bigger, which means we have more to work with. Over the last 20 years, the average bra size has gone from 34B to 34DD, according to a survey by the bra retailer, Intimacy (www.myintimacy.com).
It's possible the size increase is the result of our collective weight gain. Or the result of breast augmentation surgery -- the most popular plastic surgery procedure from 2006 to 2012, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. And when numbers for 2013 are released, odds are it will remain the most popular plastic surgery.
But even women who aren't especially busty can create cleavage with bras that have become increasingly sophisticated and do a better job at lifting and shaping and turning molehills into mountains.
Everybody can have a little bit of cleavage, said Lee Padgett, owner of Busted Bra Shop, in Detroit's Midtown area. "I have a 32A that I'm looking at here. It gives you a little bit more of a lady lump."
And that's what women want. "I think it's because we're very accepting of who we are and what we have," Padgett said. The trend toward cleavage is just a woman saying, "'This is fine for me to be who I am.' She's not being grotesque about it."
As with anything powerful, there's a certain element of danger associated with cleavage.
"If you're going to use your cleavage, use it in a classic way -- sexy, elegant. Don't cheapen it. If you cheapen the dress and you make it obvious, it becomes unattractive," Ankoo said.
Cleavage sometimes attracts negative attention from women, who have a tendency to judge each other harshly. "Women in the workplace can be all over each other with this issue and be very catty about it," Dale said.
Cleavage also can distract from anything its wearer is trying to say, any point she wants to make. Instead of being seen as someone with a valid opinion, she runs the risk of being seen as someone with nothing to offer but breasts. Because that's where all eyes will be.
Plus, those who show a great deal of cleavage are often viewed as bimbos even if they aren't. Think Marilyn Monroe, Erin Brokovich, Dolly Parton.
"I think when cleavage becomes a problem, it's when it's at the wrong time. It's not how low you go, it's when and where you go," Dale said. "In the workplace, you're making the attention all about one part of your body. If you want to present yourself professionally and your profession doesn't have cleavage in your job description, cover it up."
Said Padgett: "When it comes to cleavage...I think you have to be appropriate. If you're a bartender and you're working evenings, you can show your girls a lot more. You still have to be under control. If you're a nurse, is showing your cleavage still appropriate?"
So the most important thing for women to remember, said Dale, is to "wield your boob power responsibly."
Now here's the thing.
When a long-ago friend with whom I have shared a complicated history asked to meet over dinner, I accepted his invitation -- and chose a lower-cut top than I would usually wear. I felt attractive, which made me feel oddly strong. I may not have looked like Wonder Woman -- whose uniform is a strapless bodysuit that reveals her ample cleavage -- but I felt I could handle anything.
Was I being responsible or irresponsible? I don't know. But I do know that for women, few things feel as good as being in control of your own body.