Here’s a random fact: Did you know there is actually no medical reason to wear a bra?
That’s right. None. Contrary to popular belief, bras don’t prevent sagging or anything else.
I know it probably seems a bit strange for me to be saying this. After all, I am a lingerie blogger so I should be Team Bra 24/7, right? But I’ve been thinking about the whole bra/no-bra thing for awhile, and some of the language we have around bras (and the women who don’t wear bras) kind of bothers me.
As much as I love bras (and I really love them), even I don’t wear one everyday. I wore a bra more often when my nipples were pierced, but since I’ve taken the piercings out, I’ve gone back to wearing most of (but not all of) the time. Which should be fine because no one has to wear a bra…in the same way no one has to wear corset or has to wear a girdle.
But what’s interesting to me are the perceptions other people have about why a woman chooses to go braless. From insisting that she’s looking for sexual attention to assuming that she’s making a political statement, the notion that a woman always has to wear a bra (and specifically in America, a molded cup bra that hides one’s nipples and natural breast shape) is really thought-provoking. And, as I alluded to before really, really old-fashioned.
How do I mean? Well, we already know that for several centuries, women wore corsets everyday, and these corsets were connected to and seen as a reflection of a woman’s morality. Since the belief was that only women of ill-repute or low social standing would allow themselves to be seen uncorseted, wearing a corset became a way to advertise that you were an upstanding female member of the community, and so eligible for the dinners, teas, visits, politeness, and eligible bachelors of the day.
Let’s fast forward 50 years later. By now the bra has been invented (in 1890, 1910 or the 16th century depending on who you read) and so has the girdle. Originally seen as a more comfortable replacement for the corset, the girdle’s also replaced it morally as well. Despite the comparatively liberating freedom a girdle offered, a “proper” woman still didn’t let her flesh jiggle or shake. Everything had to be tightly restrained within the elastic, mesh, and fabric of a foundation garment. Women who “broke the rules” were subject to unsympathetic criticism. Does that sound familiar?
So how is all that relevant today?
Well, despite our current beauty ideal for a soft, rounded, featureless cup shape (hello there, molded t-shirt bras), it’s important to remember that it’s just today’s beauty ideal. There’s no health study and certainly no moral judgment that should give it added weight. And if you don’t care for that particular look or you don’t just flat out don’t like bras, that’s fine. It’s not a character judgment or a bad reflection on who you are. For every woman, wearing a bra is an aesthetic choice.
One more time…if you don’t like wearing a bra, that’s okay. And it should be no more offensive or troublesome than not wearing heels or not dyeing your hair.
I starting thinking about this today because I realized a lot of the conversations I hear about bras are less about how they make the wearer feel and more about how they make the wearer look, particularly to others. And whether you’re wearing a bra for fashion or for support, if it helps you feel like the most comfortable, confident, and courageous women you can be, that’s a great thing in my book.
But I’m less okay with framing bras as the cure for sagging breasts (breasts sag eventually; it’s what they do), as a form of instant liposuction (the ubiquitous, “You’ll look like you’ve lost 10 pounds!” message), or, worst of all, as a way of deciding who “deserves” public humiliation and who doesn’t (you know what I’m talking about…this whole trend of taking nonconsensual photos of braless women in public and trash-talking them). Honestly, it’s all part of the same silly ball of wax women have been dealing with for hundreds of years.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well that’s easy for you to say…you’re small-chested! None of that applies to women with larger breasts.” But my point is that the rules for wearing a bra apply to all women with breasts, regardless of which end of the size spectrum they fall on. So do the rules for how your breasts should look. And the fact that women with larger busts deal with even more social stigma as a result of going braless seems very relevant to the point. But again, just to emphasize, if you like wearing bras because you feel better with them on, that’s great.
As you’ve probably noticed, this article isn’t about vilifying bras or starting a no-bra revolution (if it were, I wouldn’t picked up that fab Made By Niki set above). I still love bras, and I still want to talk about bras. But I think sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that going without a bra is not the end of the world. And if you see someone doing the braless thing and don’t care for it? Well…is ignoring it really so hard to do?
One of the other reasons I wanted to talk about this is because we don’t see very many “normal” breasts anymore. I get emails from readers all the time who think their breasts are the wrong shape or the wrong size or the wrong symmetry when their bosom is perfectly average. The only issue is that we’ve gotten so used to push-up bras and photoshop, that many of us have lost touch of what breasts look like without all that.
Our particular notion of what a woman’s bust should look like right now is just that…our particular notion. It’s not a static, unchanging thing. It’s simply a trend, a fashion, a look.
Every woman’s breasts are different, even if they don’t fit the mold(ed cup). And if you’re one of the women who prefers to go braless, whether all the time or occasionally, that’s okay. You don’t have a figure problem. You’ve just got a set of boobs.