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.
- Bugle Boy Jeans: In a famous commercial from the late 1980s, a Ferrari is seen driving down a desert highway, and a young man is walking down the shoulder, when the car comes to a sudden stop. The car's driver rolls down the passenger-side window … to reveal to show an incredibly sexy, bare-shouldered woman behind the wheel, asking, "Excuse me, are those Bugle Boy jeans you're wearing?" The young man says yes, the woman replies, "Thank you," before she speeds off – leaving the hapless hitchhiker disappointed.
- The woman in the commercial was Annabel Schofield, 25 at the time of filming. Schofield reprised her role in a spoof of the commercial for Ace Hardware. The man walking down the road is NFL coaching legend John Madden.
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.
- Christie Brinkley's character in the pool in National Lampoons Vacation.
- 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.
- The Price Is Right: For a time from the mid-1980s through about 1992, whenever a prize such as a sauna or a hot tub were being shown, one of Barker's Beauties — despite likely wearing a Modesty Towel or a strapless bikini top — would pose in such a way that everything below the shoulders was beneath the edge of the window, hot tub deck, etc. Host Bob Barker would then joke to the audience implying that said Barker's Beauty was naked. The joke faded once Barker's affair with Dian Parkinson became public and, after leaving the show, filed a sexual harassment claim against the legendary game show host.
- 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.
- One infamous example from iCarly where the girls were in changing booths. There was the implication that they were topless, but all you really saw were their shoulders. You'd think that this being a kids show, with actual under-18 actresses, that the girls would be wearing something underneath. Except Sam really WAS topless and they had to re-film the scene after the episode aired to eliminate the nip-slip that occurred. Oops!
- 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 that modesty towels were involved.
- The cover of Eurythmics' Touch shows Annie Lennox's bare shoulders, with Lennox wearing a mask and holding up a gloved hand.
- The cover of The Judds' 1987 album Heartland shows Naomi (then 43) with bare shoulders; the photo is posed and cropped in such a way that Wynonna's bare shoulders are not seen; however, the image on the back – bare backs – makes it clear she was also (at least) bare-shouldered.
- The video of the Dixie Chicks' 2000 video "Without You" involves each of the people in the video being naked, including the trope-fitter with Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire shown from the bare shoulders up. One source indicated that vulnerability was the general tone.
- 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 only her costume 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.)