Many times when a character is supposedly naked, a woman will only be shown from the shoulders up. A male character in a similar situation might be shown from the waist up, though this is not so common.
The level of titillation from this trope can depend on many factors, including the scene context, the mood, the actor(s), and the presence of others of the same or opposite gender. Some viewers might consider such scenes fanservice
This trope can be easily subverted by a later camera shot that reveals a modesty towel
, or for that matter a tube top, a strapless bikini, etc.
Compare to, and sometimes see it combined with, Toplessness from the Back
, especially to "prove" that the character is actually at least partly unclothed.
The trope codifier is the opening sequence to Petticoat Junction
, where the three women are visible from the shoulders up while skinny dipping
in the water tank.
- A staple in commercials for soap, shampoo, and any number of bath and beauty products.
Live Action Television
- Done in the first Austin Powers film with Austin and Alotta Fagina, in a hot tub.
- James Bond
- Played with in The Man with the Golden Gun. After Mary Goodnight and Bond have a make-out session on Scaramanga's ship, she's shown holding up a sheet covering her body with her shoulders exposed. She drops the sheet and reveals that she's wearing a Modesty Towel.
- In The Living Daylights, Bond rips the top off General Pushkin's mistress to distract a bodyguard entering the room. The bodyguard's POV is shown as a shoulders-up shot of the mistress. This is followed by a Toplessness from the Back shot to imply her naked chest without actually showing it.
- In Wild Wild West, we see James West and a girl swimming in a water tank, shown from the shoulders up.
- In-Universe example: In Porky's Revenge, after the girls promised the guys an orgy after they won the big game, they all went into a swimming pool at night. The girls proceeded to seductively pull down their straps (while standing with their shoulders above the surface) then threw their swimsuits out of the water. In reality, they actually divested spare swimsuits; the suits whose straps they pulled remained on.
- Babylon 5: Lyta appears this way during the show's only sex scene, between her and Byron. Combined with Toplessness from the Back.
- Also used during a dream sequence when Ivanova imagines herself naked in public.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer's title character demonstrates this trope at least twice: in Season 2's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" when a potioned-up Buffy tries to seduce Xander, and in Season 6's "Dead Things" during a Buffy–Spike sex scene.
- Anya, while propositioning Xander in "The Harsh Light of Day".
- America's Next Top Model: Usually, the contestants are shown bare-shouldered in the photos. Subverted when backstage stuff shows that they're wearing tube tops or strapless bras of some sort.
- In the Firefly episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Saffron gets naked in Mal's cabin, and is seen from the front, shoulders up, and from the back waist up.
- The Benny Hill Show seems to like this trope. One example is where two female singers, seen from behind their couch, appear to be demonstrating this trope until the couch turns around and they are shown to be wearing strapless dresses.
- The "bathing beauty" scene in the opening credits of Petticoat Junction is the trope codifier. One might think that the producers did not "know their own strength" regarding titillation for a 1960s show. However, that may have been subverted by an episode that showed the girls actually swimming in the tank; here, they wore swimsuits, albeit with straps.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Lwaxana Troi attended her own wedding naked as it is Betazed tradition. Majel Barret was filmed from the shoulders up.
- In another episode, Lwaxana Troi, her daughter Deanna, Worf and his son Alexander enjoy a mud bath. The audience doesn't know whether they were supposed to be have any kind of swimwear.
- That '70s Show has an episode where both Red and Hyde are helping Bob move some stuff in his home. When they open a door, they are flashed by Pam. The whole scene is a combination of this and Toplessness from the Back, so that we can see both Red's and Hyde's mouths on the floor.
- Many women's magazines will show models with this trope in simple photos depicting hairstyles, makeovers or both. Presumably, this is done to avoid bias, or so clothes don't add to or subtract from the new look.
- The cover of Heart's Dreamboat Annie album shows sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson sitting back to back, apparently topless, but the image is cropped below the shoulders.
- Other publicity photos from the same session exist that make it clear ModestyTowels were involved.
- The cover of Eurythmics' Touch shows Annie Lennox's bare shoulders, with Lennox wearing a mask and holding up a gloved hand.
- Male version: In the Warner Bros. short Forward March Hare, Bugs Bunny is waiting in line with a bunch of men to take an Army induction physical. All the men are shown undressed from the waist up.
- In the DVD movie Big Top Scooby-Doo!!, Velma is shown clothesless from the shoulders up after a botched practice session as "The Human Comet", a circus human cannonball stunt. She tensed up, causing her costume only to fly out when the cannon is fired.
- Sometimes, a photo might be posted online of a group of young women implied to be skinny dipping; they're in a pool, probably at night, with everything below the shoulders blocked by the edge of the pool deck. (More likely, they were really wearing swimsuits, but pulled down any straps for the picture to invoke this trope.)