Impossibly-Low Neckline

You using duct tape to hold that up?

"Ah! How am I supposed to keep this thing on?!"

An off-the-shoulder neckline that is so darn far off those shoulders that the wearer seems to be one deep breath away from a Wardrobe Malfunction (which almost never actually happens). Held up mostly by gravity and good posture.

The actual outfit is not important for this trope. It could be a bathing suit, a Spy Catsuit, a Mini Dress Of Power, a Leotard of Power, a Sexy Santa Dress, or even a Pimped-Out Dress, Fairytale Wedding Dress, or Happy Holidays Dress. All that matters is that its neckline seems to be held up by magic (or duct tape). This trope can even overlap with Victoria's Secret Compartment, though that will strain the viewers' Willing Suspension of Disbelief even further than it strains the fabric.

This trope lends itself best to still images or animation, but it can be done in live action. In Real Life, sleeveless bodices with gravity-defying decolletage are held in place by transparent straps or hidden adhesive. Another method is to make the top itself rigid and corsetlike (strips of plastic or metal are sewn into the seams to hold the shape, called "boning" — a term left over from when corsets and hoop skirts were made with whalebone — and yes, all the jokes have already been made).

A Sister Trope to Absolute Cleavage, Sideboob, Underboobs, and Cleavage Window.

Compare Magic Skirt, Of Corsets Sexy, Theiss Titillation Theory (it's sexy because it looks like it will fall to her waist at any second), Impractically Fancy Outfit, Impossibly Cool Clothes, Form-Fitting Wardrobe, Cleavage Window.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Yumi's neckline was already pretty low to begin with, but it kept descending steadily until her kimono was more or less completely off the shoulders. Watsuki mentioned in a commentary that he heard from several cosplayers who remarked how impossible it was to maintain their modesty while dressed as her.
  • Ogin of Kyogoku Natsuhiko Kosetsu Hyaku Monogatari, when not in disguise, exclusively wears a very low kimono.
    • Made all the more impressive by Ogin moving around more than most examples of this trope: she frequently shows off her ability to run, crawl, drag people away and even swim without falling out.
  • In Xxx HO Li C, anything and everything ever worn by Yuuko. Then again, A Witch Did It.
  • Prome O and Nilval Nephew of Heroic Age. There are some shots where it seems Barbie Doll Anatomy may be the only thing keeping Prome looking even remotely decent...
  • Izumo no Okuni. Of course, given that she's also seen hovering in midair at times, she's probably levitating the kimono to hold it in place.
  • Belladonna, minor character in One Piece.
  • Sumire from Sakura Taisen.
  • Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist has both this and Absolute Cleavage.
    • Possibly justified as the clothing being part of her Homonculus body (watch Sloth's clothes for reasoning).
  • Macross Frontier's Sheryl Nome is guilty of this in a few of her more elaborate pieces of wardrobe. Her outfit for Lion (the song) is particularly guilty. That said, it's completely justified - what she's actually wearing is a holographic bodysuit with her more physics-defying outfits projected over the top.
  • Of course Negima! has this (un)covered. Mana infiltrates the Governor's ball in a disguise that includes a strapless, backless ballgown/corset. She's still wearing it during her Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Black Butler II: Ran Mao's outfit at the Trancy costume ball in episode 5.
  • Mei Terumi, the Fifth Mizukage, in Naruto
  • Current time line Athena sports this in Hayate the Combat Butler.
  • In Magical Pokaan, the belt Liru wears as a top combines this with underboobs.
  • Ikaruga from Fairy Tail wears her kimono this way.
  • Alcyone from Magic Knight Rayearth, specially in the anime. See here.
  • Angel Mort's uniform in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, pretty similar to Lust's dress.
  • Digimon has Lilithmon/Laylamon, the series' embodiment of lust. Despite having that descriptor, her outfit isn't all that revealing and mostly resembles a more winged version of Lulu's outfit pictured above as this page's trope image.
  • Fabia Crozelg's adult form in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid is shown in Chapter 50 to have a barrier jacket whose top is worn this way. Considering how she's a Wicked Witch, it probably is held in place by magic.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has Dark Magician Girl, who wears an outfit that hangs off her shoulders (past her armpits, to be precise). Since Dark Magician Girl is one of the most animated monsters in the series, her breasts always look like they're about to jump out. The only reason she doesn't have any wardrobe malfunctions is because her costume is also skintight.

    Comic Books 
  • In X-Men, the Hellfire Club outfits include bustiers that are like this, worn by Emma Frost, Selene, and Phoenix (and Jean Grey, depending on continuity). Some got even more ridiculous recently, although that's supposedly just Emma playing mind tricks... even though it doesn't explain any other impossible comic heroine costume.
    • Surge's costume also frequently involves tube tops that would require a substantial amount of double-sided tape to keep her contained.
  • Wonder Woman sometimes has this.
  • In The Demon Mages, Ari the Gorgon's dress is designed with this trope in mind. In most of her artwork outside of the comic, it also reveals a large scar on her left breast.
  • Gemini Storm's artist posted the inks for one of the pages. How are her breasts staying there?

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It's okay for her, firstly because she's an animated character, and secondly because she's not really meant to be all that realistic anyway.
  • Belle's yellow ball gown in Disney's Beauty and the Beast looks this way in some shots, but higher up in others.
  • Esmeralda also has a very low neckline as well, not just with her main Gypsy dress, but also with her poledancing dress and her white dress as well.
  • Meg's Masquerade dress and Christine's black dress in Joel Schumacher's The Phantom of the Opera. Christine's neckline in the graveyard scene is highly anachronistic, since it's a friggin' "mourning dress", which were at the time of the film's setting supposed to be modest.
  • A lot of the women in Hammer Horror films would wear outfits that would hover just at that right spot to expose enough flesh to interest any vampires/werewolves/monsters passing by.
  • The dresses worn by Elizabeth and her Wicked Stepmother in The Legend of the Titanic. Keep in mind that this is 1912, and that both of them are high society ladies.
  • For a large portion of the second half of Jewel Robbery (1932), Baroness Teri von Horhenfels (Kay Francis) wears a gown which is backless, off the shoulders, and has a low front neckline. There are no visible means of support, yet the gown stays firmly in place. One possible answer is that the tops of the sleeves are tightly held to her upper arms, perhaps with elastic, and this is the support for the gown as a whole.
  • Miss Scarlet's dress from Clue looks like this.

    Literature 
  • In the book Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico, this off the shoulder dress style is described as simulating the look of a naked woman under a sheet.
  • Used in The Wheel of Time when Nynaeve, Elayne, and their companions are traveling undercover as circus performers. Nynaeve and Birgitte wear dresses with Impossibly Low Necklines for their act, in which Birgitte outlines Nynaeve against a wall with arrows from a hundred paces. Played for Laughs because of Nynaeve's frustration with being forced to wear something so immodest, while Birgitte is having a grand old time of it.
  • In Jinx High by Mercedes Lackey, the villainess commissions a costume straight out of the American Revolutionary period for the school dance. The bodice is cut so low that one of her boyfriends has almost complete access to her boobs while she's wearing it (handy when you need to distract said boyfriend while the mind control spell takes effect).
  • Parodied in Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka series: "pirate wench" Anne Bonney has to have a low neckline, but Hoka females are quadrimammarian. Her dress has two bodices.
  • "Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown", a parody of scientific papers, plays with this.

    Live Action TV 
  • During the production of Star Trek: The Original Series, costume designer William Ware Theiss was given explicit instructions by the network on how far he could go; one such instruction permitted costumes whose décolletage could expose anything all the way down to the top edge of the areola. Theiss, knowing a good thing when he saw it, followed those guidelines (ahem) explicitly.
  • Cynthia Watros in a couple of later episodes of Titus.
  • Some of the costumes on The Tudors.
  • Gossip Girl's Serena van der Woodsen likes to dress like this.
  • In an episode of Living Single, Regine tries to describe a new dress to her friends, but they know her too well:
    Max: Lemme guess, it's strapless...
    Sinclaire: ...backless...
    Kadijah: ...and hits the cleavage about here. (puts her hand about two-thirds down her chest)

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Lulu from Final Fantasy X. She keeps up her dress with a heavily boned corset and belts on the upper arms. But it's basically the fur trim that keeps her from total exposure.
  • Amy in Soul Calibur IV also has a low neckline, with the fur trim being the only thing keeping the players from seeing everything.
  • The "witch" costume set from City of Heroes is obviously held up with staples and glue a NAILGUN!, because there's nothing else to keep it on your character's body.
  • Rouge from Sonic the Hedgehog. Might be justified by the fact a high neckline would be inconvenient for winged characters.
    • And, to a lesser extent, Marine the Raccoon. Hers isn't played for fanservice though - she's only seven, so there's nothing to show off anyway.
  • Morrigan from Darkstalkers has such a low-cut outfit that, if she wasn't a Horny Devil, would be a walking wardrobe malfunction. Of course, she's not actually wearing clothes...
  • Hanne Lichthammer from Clive Barker's Jericho wears an extremely tight-fitting, S&M-style SS uniform that just barely manages to contain her assets. Considering her horrifically mutilated appearance, though, this is definitely an example of Fan Disservice.
  • Sumire Kanzaki from Sakura Taisen, when wearing a kimono.
  • Jessica from Dragon Quest VIII features a gravity-defying shirt.
  • Several of The Sorceress' outfits in Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, but better displayed by the Blue Sorceress.
  • Kaguya Nanbu from Endless Frontier. The only thing that prevents her breasts from popping out of her clothes is the will of the Almighty, especially during bouncing.
  • Rose's alternate costume in Super Street Fighter IV features this.
  • Guild Wars starts off all female Elementalists in the Prophecies campaign in a shirt (though the application of that term is questionable) that can only be explained by magic.
  • The Disgaea series has archers, and Disgaea 2 has Rozalin.
  • Kai and Nou in Samurai Warriors.
  • Sona and Ahri in League of Legends.
  • A male example in Inspector Grosky from the Professor Layton prequels. Just look.
  • Petra Johanna Lagerkvist from Arcana Heart.
  • Cerebella from Skullgirls.
  • When the Hero first meets Katrina in Quest for Glory IV, she's dressed rather demurely, with a hood and cloak partly concealing her. Later on, she discards the cloak when she switches into full Femme Fatale mode. Compare here and here. If the top wasn't a corset it would fall right down, and probably the only thing keeping her from popping out of the top of it is magic.
  • The female protagonist of Dragon's Dogma sports one of these in the opening of the game, seemingly to give the titular dragon a straight path to her heart.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, one of the many problems with the new costume of THE CRIMSON COMET!!!. Granted, she just got the superpowers and the curves a couple weeks ago and she hasn't gotten over it yet.

     Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons, Marge Simpson's default green dress. Once even lampshaded by a prison warden.
    Warden: NOTHING IS KEEPING UP HER DRESS! ONLY HER MELONS!!!
    • At least that makes logical sense - but Lisa also wears an off-the-shoulder dress with the same neckline, and there is definitely *nothing* to hold hers up except Artistic License – Physics.
  • Sneakily brought up in an episode of Superman: The Animated Series where Clark and Lois are covering a Fashion Show:
    Lois (about Lana): "The only thing holding that dress up is faith!"