EAST VILLAGE — In her teenage years, Alex Rubio, 26, went the "full nine yards" to make her A cup breasts look bigger.
She stuffed her bras with toilet paper and bought others with copious amounts of padding "even if I didn't have anything to put in them," said Rubio, a model and chef-in-training who lives in the East Village.
But in her early 20s Rubio began to shed her shame. She believes she has even booked more modeling jobs because of her shape.
"Small breasts are sexy," Rubio said.
Local lingerie shops and plastic surgeons are getting on board with her notion that less is more when it comes to cleavage.
Gone are bulky, round breast implants and push-up bras. In their place are teardrop-shaped implants and bras with minimalist design. And some women don't seem to mind showing off that other cleavage craze — side-boob — by going bra-less.
"It's more of an O.K.-ness with your body," said Leslie Gilbert-Morales, an image consultant based in TriBeCa. "People are being more natural and not having to wear that support and that push-up bra."
Gilbert-Morales starting noticing last summer that some women had ditched bras altogether and didn't mind wearing shirts that didn't hide that.
Like most trends, what's happening with cleavage can be traced to celebrities, according to Gilbert-Morales. At this year's Academy Awards, plunging necklines proudly showed off flat chests on actresses like Lupita Nyong'o and Kate Hudson.
In of-the-moment fashion trends, the bohemian look of flowy fabrics and increasingly popular masculine styles often look better on women who have smaller breasts, said Gilbert-Morales. In the 1990s and early 2000s clingy clothing favored women with larger breasts and athletic bodies.
Rubio said her go-to look of T-shirt and jeans can look better on a woman with a flatter chest.
"It is almost better than having big boobs because no one is staring at your chest rather than your eyes," she said.
Crystal Gardner, a personal fashion stylist, said everyday women are showing off the natural cleavage look by using wireless bralettes, which are kindred to the training bra. Often this is done under oversized tank tops with the sides cut out to "show a little peek-a-boo" of bra or side boob.
"You just have to use doubled-sided tape" to avoid overexposing with a gaping shirt, she said.
After years of dreaming of getting breast implants, a downtown Manhattan woman in her 30s, who asked that her name not be used, pulled the plug hours ahead of her scheduled surgery when she discovered she was pregnant.
Years later, she's glad she didn't go under the knife.
"I feel like I can wear whatever," said the woman, who wears low-cut T-shirts with her A-cup breasts. "My friends who have bigger chests have to be careful of what they wear."
Even in the world of plastic surgery, some breast implants now have a more natural look.
Dr. Tracy Pfeifer, a plastic surgeon on the Upper East Side, said roughly five years ago patients began switching their desired cleavage from the "round, round" look to more of a gentle downhill slope.
After the Food and Drug Administration approved the first teardrop-shaped implant in June 2012, the majority of Pfeifer's patients now choose them. The tapered sides allow the skin to seamlessly cover up the transition between implant and chest, she said.
Roughly two or three women each week in Pfeifer's practice are swapping round implants for the teardrop shape.
Marilena, a 36-year-old New Yorker and patient of Pfeifer's, recently replaced her older implants for the new style — and the difference has been "night and day."
Her initial excitement about rounder implants bringing her from an A cup to a C wore off when she saw how unnatural they looked. Complications later prompted her to make the switch.
The ebb and flow of cleavage throughout history can be traced by the undergarments women wore, according to Colleen Hill, the associate curator behind the Fashion Institute of Technology's new exhibition on lingerie called "Exposed." It opens June 3.
Cleavage in women's fashion was emphasized at several points in history, from the popularity of the corset in the 1770s to the addition of the underwire in the 1950s to the Wonderbra in the 1990s.
After 35 years selling bras, Rebecca Apsan, the owner of La Petite Coquette on University Place, knows the breasts of New York women.
In the past, customers would often leave with a bra in demi cup style, which uses padding to heave up partially covered breasts like they were "on a platter," Apsan said. Now, the less padding a bra has, the better.
"Twenty years ago, women were very uptight about not having boobs," Apsan said. "I don't understand why, but now they are embracing it."