Real Talk: On Not Wearing Bras (Yes, It’s Okay to Go Braless)

Spirella and Spencer Ads, via corsetiere.net

Here’s a random fact: Did you know there is actually no common medical reason to wear a bra?

That’s right. None. Contrary to popular belief, bras don’t improve breast health, prevent breast sagging, or anything else. Quite simply, there is no agreed upon health benefit to wearing bras that applies to every single woman.

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) really bothers me.

As much as I love bras (and, as you’ve probably guessed, 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 a bra a lot of (but not all of) the time. Which is fine because no one should feel obligated to wear a bra…in the same way no one should feel obligated to wear a corset or obligated wear a girdle or obligated to wear any underwear at all for that matter.

While I understand that some people may prefer their breast shape with a bra or are more comfortable wearing a bra (for a variety of reasons – heavy breasts, nipple sensitivity, back pain, etc.),  that’s a completely different thing from the notion of compulsory bra wearing…i.e. saying every woman has to or should wear a bra. Unfortunately, that latter sentiment (you must wear a bra at all times!) is the general consensus from the society at large, including many facets of the lingerie community. And this article focuses on that social conversation regarding bra wearing.

What’s most interesting to me in about this whole bra/braless conversation is the ideas other people have why a woman might choose to go braless. Bralessness still has a ton of social stigma attached to it. People rarely attribute bralessness to comfort or personal preference; instead, it’s seen as a plea for sexual attention, a political statement, or even a lack of self-care. Why can’t bralessness ever just be an innocent, innocuous choice? Why are women made to feel that they always have to wear a bra (and, if we’re in the United Staes, a molded bra which hides your nipples)? It’s a thought-provoking question, and, as some of the illustrations hint at below, the idea that women’s bodies just aren’t good enough on their own is really old-fashioned.

The S-Bend ‘Gibson Girl’ Corset, via Wikipedia

What do I mean? Well, we already know that for several centuries, women wore stays or corsets almost everyday. A woman’s underpinnings were seen as connected to and a reflection of a her morality. I’ve often wondered if the phrase “loose woman” (as in, an “unchaste” or “immoral” woman) has its etymology in corset wearing. After all, the term has been around since the 15th century. Wealthy women could afford the greater restriction of mobility that came with more tightly bound stays. That contrasts to lower class and less affluent women who needed their stays looser to perform hard physical labor.

Not surprisingly, upper class women were also seen as “more” moral and worthy of protection than their poorer counterparts. For centuries, only a woman’s most intimate acquaintances ever saw her without her corset. If one went without a corset (or if the corset was visible), this was a sign of “ill-breeding,” and that woman might be assumed to be an actress, prostitute, or some other lady of ill-repute. In that way, wearing a corset, albeit within the strict rules of society, became a way to advertise that you were a morally upstanding female member of the community…and so eligible for the privileges thereof, including admission to “good” society, a beneficial marriage, and the relative perks of politeness, etiquette, and being “treated like a lady.”

via Super Kawaii Mama

Now let’s fast forward 50 years or so 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 and flexible substitute for the corset, the girdle also replaced the corset’s function as a moral boundary as well. Despite the comparative freedom a girdle offered, a “proper” woman still didn’t let her flesh jiggle or shake unencumbered. Everything had to be tightly restrained within the elastic, mesh, and straps of a foundation garment. Women who “broke the rules” were subject to unsympathetic criticism about both the shape of their bodies and the looseness of their morals. Sounds familiar.

So how is all that relevant today?

via Corsetiere.net

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. If you don’t care for that particular look or you don’t just flat out don’t like bras, that’s fine. It shouldn’t be a character judgment and it’s certainly not a “bad” reflection on who you are. It’s just a personal preference. In the same vein, for every woman, wearing a bra is a personal choice. It is her own decision for her own reasons, and no one else should get to judge.

Often, when I write articles like this, people just read the title and just right ahead to the assumption that I hate bras. But I don’t. However, it’s worth mentioning one more time…if you like wearing a bra, that’s cool. And if you don’t like wearing a bra, that’s still cool. Neither option is any more offensive or troublesome or immoral than wearing or not wearing a sweater.

Spanx on Rachel Ray. Yes. we’re still doing the before/after shot.

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. Words like, “flattering,” “correct,” and “proper,” are often thrown around…without any consideration or commentary on the implied meaning behind those words. And let’s be clear, 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. Keep on wearing your bras. But the point is, personal preferences matter.

One should never insist that bras are a requirement for every woman. Even if a woman is fuller-busted or happens to share your bra size, that doesn’t mean bras are a necessity for her. And, of course, it’s always a problem when the conversation on bras and bra wearing turns into thinly-disguised body snark. All bodies are fine, regardless of if those bodies wear bras and conform to our notions of beauty or not. The culture of picking apart and shaming women for not wearing a bra needs to stop.

via: Intimacy

I’m also really not okay with framing bras as the cure for sagging breasts (breasts sag eventually; it’s what they do), as a form of instant liposuction (“You’ll look like you’ve lost 10 pounds!”; why should looking thinner be every woman’s goal?), as a way of putting down non-Western women and non-Western beauty standards (everyone who has ever used an old issue of National Geographic to make a point about bras), or as a way of deciding who “deserves” public abuse and humiliation (posting photos of women for the sole purpose of trash-talking them…something I’ve seen even in so-called woman-friendly or body positive communities).

Honestly, it’s all part of the same silly ball of wax women have been dealing with for hundreds of years, “Good women do this. Bad women do that…and the bad women deserve to be punished.”

No doubt, some of you reading this may be thinking, “Well that’s easy for you to say…you’re small-chested! None of this applies to women with larger breasts.” But that misses the point.

One, there are fuller-busted women who prefer going braless. They’re just not as visible or as vocal because we live in a very bra-centric culture and because bralessness has an attached social stigma. Two, the rules for bra-wearing apply to all women with breasts, regardless of which end of the size spectrum they fall on. Even if a smaller-busted woman doesn’t “need” a bra for comfort’s sake or what have you, she’s often encouraged to wear one anyway (often a push-up bra) because her breasts are still seen as inferior and sub-standard. The fact that women with larger busts deal with a different kind of social stigma as a result of going braless is very relevant to this conversation, but the topic applies to all women with breasts, including those who are shamed for having large nipples, assymetric breasts, or ptotic (sagging) breasts.  The point is, no matter what kind of breasts you have, it’s always an issue to go without a bra.

However, just to emphasize, if you prefer wearing a bra, for whatever reason, that’s great.

My New Lingerie a.k.a. the Made by Niki ‘Feel”

As you’ve probably noticed, this article isn’t about vilifying bras or starting a no-bra revolution (if it were, I wouldn’t bought that fab Made By Niki pictured above). I still love bras, and I still want to talk about bras. And while the nerd in me is very curious about the flammability of bras, it should be obvious this article isn’t about “bra-burning” either. Instead, I want to emphasize that going without a bra is not the end of the world…and it’s nice to be reminded of that.

The reasons we wear bras are just as much tied to cultural factors as they are to physical ones. It’s just that people often find a conversation on the social issues behind why we do what we do a lot harder than giving a flat medical reason for why we do what we do.Furthermore, this is just a friendly reminder that if you see someone going braless and don’t care for it? Well…is ignoring it really so hard to do? Their breasts literally have nothing to do with you.

One of the other reasons I wanted to have this wear a bra/go braless conversation is because we don’t see very many “normal” breasts anymore. And by normal, I mean how breasts look without a bra. 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 really, truly, perfectly average. The only problem here is that we’ve gotten so used to seeing women in bras all the time, that many of us have lost touch of what breasts look like without underwires and contour cups and support slings and all that good stuff.

Victoria’s Secret, fantasy boobs in more ways than one.

To sum it all up, our particular notion of what a woman’s bust should look like is just that…our particular notion. In the 1910′s it was one way, in the 1920′s another, and the in 1950′s still another.  Our idea of what a woman’s breasts should look like is not a static, unchanging, “objective” thing. And the fact that “bra fit” is often mentioned in the same sentence with “health” or “medicine” doesn’t mean bras are beyond any sort of question or commentary. Centuries ago, people spoke about the health benefits of corsets, yet women have somehow managed to do fine without them. Lingerie, like all elements of women’s dress, is tied to fashion, and fashion – both its looks and trends – changes over time and in response to social norms of beauty.

Every woman’s breasts are different, even if they don’t fit the mold(ed cup). If you’re a woman who prefers to wear a bra, that’s awesome. And if you’re a woman who prefers to go braless (whether all the time or occasionally), that’s also awesome. Regardless, unlike what the ads of yesteryear or even today would have you believe, you don’t have a “figure problem.” You’ve just got breasts, and they’re fine as is.

Cora

Cora

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in a small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, it's become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and has been featured on the websites for Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

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120 Comments

  1. 20/08/12 at 23:30

    Great post. I feel like sometimes the lingerie industry can a little too obsessed about what you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be doing. Some people really do need a fitting because they have no idea how a bra can or should fit– but no one needs to be ‘fixed’ by wearing the right bra. I love bras, but not when they are compulsory. (Also, that Made by Niki set is no pretty and I was tempted to buy it myself– is it as lovely as it looks in pictures?)

    • 21/08/12 at 1:41

      Spot on. I feel like the message about bras now is very centered around the notion of fixing flaws, and the idea that there is something wrong if you don’t wear one. There are plenty of women who don’t wear a bra for one reason or another, and that’s a choice to be respected too.

  2. 20/08/12 at 23:48

    I agree to some extent. If a woman is comfortable going without a bra then fine, I really have no problem with that. That being said, for many larger breasted women much of any physical activity would be extremely painful and cumbersome without a bra. Even basic stuff would be difficult for me. Just to through out a stat here: 50% of women complain of exercise related discomfort due to their breasts http://www.uow.edu.au/health/brl/research/UOW064685.html . My guess? A lot of those women aren’t wearing supportive sports bras in the correct size.

    Moreover, lack of support (both from wearing ill-fitting bras and I imagine going braless too would cause this) can and does cause back pain: http://www.mendeley.com/research/optimising-breast-support-female-patients-through-correct-bra-fit-cross-sectional-study/ . I know personally, until I started wearing the correct bra size I was seeing a chiropractor regularly. Once I got into a small enough band/large enough cup? It disappeared. During that time I was also going braless significantly more because my bras were so uncomfortable. Now I’m almost never braless and no longer experience back pain.

    If it were just aesthetics, then I’d agree with you 100%. I’m not going to lie, wearing a well-fitting bra DOES play a pretty significant role in how I feel about my body. It gives me a waist whereas otherwise that would be impossible to see (especially since my underbust is the smallest part of my midsection). That being said, it’s definitely not all about aesthetics. I’m able to exercise better, swim better, and just move better without pain.

    • 21/08/12 at 2:20

      Hi June. Thanks for stopping by! I really appreciated your comment. Just to clarify, this article definitely isn’t a prescription for women of every size to stop wearing their bras. As I said in the piece, “if it [a bra] helps you feel like the most comfortable, confident, and courageous women you can be, that’s a great thing in my book.” And I definitely think living a life without pain counts as helping make you more comfy, confident, and courageous.

      To me, it’s not about vilifying bras or coming up with reasons for why women should (or shouldn’t) wear them. I’ve always been of the opinion that people should do what makes them happy. That said, the kinds of conversations we have about women who are happier not wearing bras is very different from the kinds of conversations we have about women who do wear them, and this article is a way of exploring that and linking it to past conversations on women’s bodies, undergarments, and ideas of appropriateness.

      To illustrate, wearing skirts tends to be healthier for women than wearing pants. Skirts reduce intimate infections, allows those areas to “breathe,” and so on. Yet women shouldn’t feel like they have to wear skirts. It should be okay for them to wear pants too, and without social criticism (fortunately, now we can…yay!). I feel the same way about bras. Yes, there’s a health component for some women but I often feel like it’s overshadowed by cultural notions of propriety (because bras are seen as necessary for all women), and that’s what this article is getting at.

      • 21/08/12 at 12:32

        Thanks for clearing that up a bit. It would, actually, be interesting to open up a discussion about women who do go braless. How do they work that into their wardrobe (especially since most clothes are tailored to high-set breast)? Is it something others easily notice? Do they run into issues at the workplace? etc

        Your point about wearing skirts is an interesting one too. I, honestly, have never heard that skirts are better for women (maybe something I’ll look into soon now out of curiosity). But if that’s the case it certainly not discussed much (or at least I’ve never heard that argument in my lifetime), so maybe the conversation should be moved somewhat away from appearance/body image to health aspects to? Not that appearance/body image isn’t important but that we need to balance it with health aspects (or at least some minimum education) when it comes to bras/other clothes etc.

        Another area where that could be applicable is shoes. I’m flat footed and went for years without wearing shoes that supported me well-enough. I thought that it just caused foot pain but instead it ended up damaging my knees in the long run too. I wish I would’ve been better educated at a young age on how heels/unsupportive shoes can affect my knees. It doesn’t mean I would have necessarily chosen to always wear the more expensive, supportive shoes but at least that basic education would have helped me a long the way. Going back to the bra (and now skirt issue), it would be nice if women had at least that basic knowledge (possibly discussed in health classes?) so they could make informed decisions one way or the another. Ultimately, it is their choice but it would be nice to at least have the basics covered. :)

        • 21/08/12 at 12:33

          Oh, and I realize I’m going off on a tangent a bit here, sorry about that. :)

        • Elsa
          21/08/12 at 22:25

          Hi June,

          I am a large busted woman who frequently goes without a bra, partly because fining bras that fit correctly in my size is a nightmare, and partly because once I find them, they cost twice as much as smaller folks’ bras.

          If I have been wearing a bra each day for several days in a row, my breasts feel tender the first day I go without. The relief at not having straps gouge my shoulders and ribs (which is absolutely unavoidable when the cup sizes get past the J-range) makes the tenderness worthwhile. The next day, and from there on doing without, I experience no back pain. The thing is, I have to cleanse underneath at least twice a day to prevent yeast and/or heat rash. If I lived where my ancestors did (British Isles and Germany) the heat would be less of an issue.

          Treacle mentioned corsetry being de rigeur from at least the 16th century. This means that women somehow managed to do without bras for no less than 28,000 years. Longer if anthropology is to be considered. Thank you Treacle, for a beautifully written, balanced page.

          • 22/08/12 at 16:05

            I’m sorry you have such a problem with finding bras. The best I can recommend is to shop online, especially ebay for cheaper options.

            I did want to chime in about the corset history. Corsets in a proper sense may have only been around since the 16th century, but that doesn’t mean that women didn’t do anything about their breasts before then. Technically, early corsets were called stays, and the common women wore what were called “jumps”, which were similar, but unboned. Their purpose was not to make the waist smaller, but to keep everything contained. Women have been binding their breasts for support for a very long time, because quite frankly, having them bounce around is just not comfortable.

          • 22/08/12 at 19:09

            But women have also been going braless for a long time, emerald. The corseted history of Western Civilization doesn’t mean that women all over the world (or even in every social station) were binding their breasts. In addition, I’d be reluctant to view the history of women’s fashion through a solely practical lens (i.e. women bound their breasts because it was uncomfortable otherwise). As I discussed in the blog post, fashion, particularly women’s fashion, is very much a social construction that has a lot to do with gender norms and notions of appropriateness. Otherwise, the definitions for acceptable dress would change by bra size and body type, and that’s not what happens.

          • Lauren
            09/05/13 at 16:16

            For Elsa,
            I too am large busted and don’t like wearing bras much. The straps caused dents in my shoulders too. I purchased BreastNest, which is more of a cami than a bra and oh so comfy. At first I only wore it after work instead of being braless, but now I’ve started to wear it out instead of a bra.

    • Lilith
      16/10/12 at 0:07

      I wear a 12DD Australian. I might actually be a 10E because I’m actually a size 10 Australian – but large cup sizes don’t exist for small women so I won’t know.
      I never wear a bra. I hate them – they hurt me and I wouldn’t fit any dresses. My breasts are completely fine without them. They don’t sag or hurt at all. When I do wear a bra they hurt after I take the bra off and often feel restricted and horrible during. I get the impression that they would sag more quickly if I wore a bra more often. It seems the less I wear a bra the more strength my ligaments seem to get. When I wore a bra all of the time my breasts hurt all of the time and seemed less perky. Without a bra however things improved drastically. I think it’s a matter of your breasts building up strength – they are not naturally fixed in one place. It’s as if you had a machine that did most of your walking for you – your leg muscles would feel bad at first – but after a while without the machine they’d get stronger on their own.

      • Kitch
        15/11/12 at 10:13

        I’m Australian too and I’m a small women. I had an 8H bra before I outgrew it, so I think it’s just the stores you’re looking at. Big girls don’t cry anymore cater to all sizes, they also do online ordering and send anywhere in Aus.

  3. Annmaie
    21/08/12 at 0:29

    I also think it’s a great post and encourage all of us to think outside the box and challenge social stigmas and fashion dictates!

    Thank you for tackling this potentially-sensitive issue with such an open minded, non judgmental manner.

    • 21/08/12 at 1:38

      Thanks, Annmarie. I think you’ve caught it exactly. This article is about questioning social stigmas and fashion dictates. Why is a certain silhouette (the one with a bra) considered the proper one? Why is a silhouette without a bra ridiculed/ostracized? How is that similar to previous conversations on women’s undergarments? It’s not about saying if wearing a bra is bad or good; it’s about exploring all the extra social baggage that comes with bras.

  4. 21/08/12 at 1:21

    I love that you showed the history of what is considered “proper”. I keep reading things about how we all have to wear bras to sleep so we don’t get chest wrinkles or should never wear bras to sleep so we don’t get cancer and it’s so frustrating.

    I’ve been working on a post with similar idea as a reaction to seeing all the arguments about measuring methods lately. Just like no one should be forced a bra, no one should be forced into wearing a certain size bra if they don’t want to. I think it’s two halves of the same issue. Basically, let people do what they want to do and worry about your own issues instead.

    I am insanely jealous of that Made by Nikki set. It’s gorgeous. You should do a review!

    • 21/08/12 at 1:36

      Exactly. If someone wants to wear a bra because it feels more comfortable to them…great! This article isn’t about converting people away from bras. That said, it’s the notion that every woman should wear a bra/there’s something wrong with women who don’t wear bras that I disagree with. I just see it as an extension of the belief that every had to wear a girdle in the 1950′s or that every woman had to wear a corset in the 1800′s. People made the same arguments about the medical necessity of those garments at the time (despite the fact that there were plenty of women around the world who never wore them), and I see similar arguments being made about bras today.

  5. Ana
    21/08/12 at 1:26

    First the Japanese study was made in 1991, 11 years ago; I bet the notion of “well-fitted” was quite different back then. Even nowadays most people aren’t “well-fitted” and the offer of styles and sizes is much wider. Second it only used 11 people, that’s a very small amount to conclude something from, reliable studies use at least 10 times that. Bottom line is one cannot get to those conclusions from a study made this way, it is not reliable.
    (please be aware that I have not read the hole study, these are the problems I found based on the quote provided in the article linked in the blog post)
    As for the others (the one with 250 subjects and the one with 33) they were made with women who practice sports without wearing a bra, so I don’t think there would be many big busted ladies among them, we all know how that hurts.
    Regarding the Wikipedia quote, come on Treacle, Wikipedia it’s nice to consult something fast, but it is never a reliable source!
    Here’s what I think:
    - Claims that not wearing a bra is good for you are never made by big busted women, of course for someone with small breasts it is comfortable to be without a bra, for a full busted lady it is quite different though.
    - The studies showing that “bras don’t prevent sagging” are not conclusive, they are not up to date, the concept of “well-fitting” is very relative, two of them were made based on “women who practiced sports” most likely with medium to small breasts. What I would like to see is a study made by a company who correctly fits their models/customers – Bravissimo, Panache and Ewa Michalak would be good candidates because of their size range – with a reasonable number of subjects, 200-300, above a D cup.
    This is because I have seen differences in my breasts since I started wearing a correctly fitted bra, and I can tell you they are not saggier than before at all. You can also check this very interesting experience http://maheda.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=144%3Amarta-06042011-r&catid=56%3Anaprawa-piersi&Itemid=86&lang=en, it’s too bad she stopped updating it, I would like to see the results.
    While I understand all the talk about breast involution and gravity, there is more to it than that, you talked about corsets, corsets have the ability to mold one’s body, and so do bras, and while a female with small breasts might not have that much to “mold”, a full bested women sure does.
    - Regarding the “fake liposuction” claim, it actually is true for many full busted women: many times when the breasts are big and droopy they hide the narrowest part of the torso, so once they are lifted and the waist or underbust becomes noticeable people do appear to be thinner.
    - As for the social meaning of the bra I could not care less, for ages women have been using devices to keep breasts in place, I do not believe bras were made because of social status, I do think they were created out of necessity.
    To finish it up: I’m not saying that women must wear a bra, obviously wearing a bra is a personal choice. But I also can’t agree with those claims, those studies were not all that enlightening at all, at least for us girls with fuller breasts proper more conclusive and reliable studies have yet to be made.

    P.S.: I wanted to develop the various items a little more but it’s 6 in the morning here and I have yet to go to sleep…

    • 21/08/12 at 1:53

      Hi Ana,

      Thanks for your well-researched comment. This is obviously a subject you’re really passionate about.

      As I’m sure you noticed, this is an opinion piece, and not work of scholarly research. I’ve spoken with breast experts about the necessity of bras (off-the-record, as it tends to be a controversial opinion), and I used the tools that were immediately available to me. Regarding your Wikipedia critique, the sources Wikipedia pulls from are always cited within the articles. For the sections on breast sagging, you can reference #18-22 here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptosis_%28breasts%29#cite_note-stuart-17. As far as your suggestion that a study conducted by a bra company would be more reliable, I have to say I disagree. A bra company has no investment in finding results that could negatively affect their bottom line. Any finding from a bra company on the efficacy of lingerie should always be viewed with the proverbial grain of salt.

      That said, I think it’s interesting that you dismiss the social meaning of bras out of hand (“I could not care less”) since that’s really what the entire article is about. The rules for wearing a bra apply to all women with breasts, regardless of which end of the size spectrum they fall on and the idea that every woman’s breasts should be one particular shape also applies to all women with breasts. That, to me, shows there’s more to the bra question that just support. As I said in the piece, if you like wearing bras because you feel better with them on, that’s wonderful. But I think you can strip out every single citation and my fundamental point remains, which is this:

      It’s okay for women to not wear bras.

      If a woman prefers not to wear a bra, for whatever reason (and there are full busted women out there who’d rather go braless), she shouldn’t be subjected to ostracism or censure or scared into wearing a bra again. Our cultural ideals of how a breast should look are exactly that, cultural ideals. And they are no more correct or proper or hygienic or healthy than the claims people made about corsets a century ago or girdles a half century ago.

      I’m not making any statements about what women, of any bra size, should do. As I stated repeatedly, if you’re more comfortable in a bra, by all means wear one. But by the same token, if you’re more comfortable without a bra, that’s okay too. After all, there are still parts of the world where women don’t wear bras, and they seem to get along just fine.

      • Ana
        21/08/12 at 12:58

        I know it is an opinion article but even so I think it is necessary to quote reliable sources when trying to make a point. This is the source quoted on Wikipedia http://breathing.com/articles/brassieres-2.htm, it is a transcription from a documentary in which they start by linking wearing a bra with breast cancer, saying that cultures where women don’t wear bras have lower incidence of breast cancer. I find this suspicious right away, because when one thinks about cultures that don’t wear bras, those are places where average life expectancy is very low and as we know most people have breast cancer after a certain age. Then they claim that when wearing a bra breasts are hotter and that can contribute to breast cancer, this claim could only be done by a man… really, it’s not necessary to be very smart to realize that in women with big breasts not having the breasts touching the skin on the under bust area and touching each other is fresher that not wearing a bra, preventing boob sweat accumulation and fungal infections in that area. That being said obviously a bra that smooches ones breasts together will not have that effect, and coolness of the breasts will also depend on the fabric of the bra.
        Then they talk to Playtex, a company known among the lingerie blogging community for badly fitting their costumers, Playtex says «We have no evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging». Well I believe the question is not around wearing “a” bra, but the one that’s right for you and Playtex certainly isn’t the place to go for that.
        The women targeted are women who have pain in their breasts, and as we all know that might be caused by a bad fitting bra, so it seems natural that they feel better without one.
        One thing that upsets me is that support is always linked with breasts sagging and I don’t think that is main reason for it to be needed at all, support is needed to alleviate the back from the weight of breasts, and to keep them “in place”, allowing women to move more freely. Now as you may have noticed this doesn’t make much sense for small breasted women. And the reason for me to highlight this difference so much is that there really are very different needs for full breasts and small ones. I have medium breasts (28F), and I imagine that the things I feel and the “problems” (not problems like the ones in the adds you showed obviously :P) I have are exacerbated in someone with a bust fuller than mine and some of them probably eradicated in someone with a bust smaller than mine.

        Now why did I suggest the study to be made by those companies?
        Well, I don’t think most doctors understand bra fitting. It is normal to advise a reduction without even checking that the patient is wearing a well fitted bra, when if the problem is back pain that could make her quit having the procedure done. From the business point of view if wearing a bra did prevent sagging they could kiss goodbye many breast lifts.
        While it is true that a bra company has no interest in discoveries that might play against them, it is very hard to find people who understand fit and who have experience fitting people out of the industry. Bravissimo, Panache and Ewa Michalak have years of experience fitting women. A reliable study should be done with every subject wearing a well fitted bra, not just “a” bra and for that supervision would be needed, regular fittings, ensuring that all women were wearing the right bra for them. And that can only be done by very experienced people, and it is very hard to find someone with that kind of knowledge out of the industry, be it a lingerie brand or a bra shop and out of the two probably only a company would have resources to conduct the study.

        «As for the social meaning of the bra I could not care less» well this was not meant to come across as it does, I do admit it was a poor choice of words. What I meant was that reading your article it looks as if bras were mere social devices, and I don’t think that is the case I do think women invented bras because they needed them for comfort. You also start the article by saying that “there is no medical reason to wear a bra” but back pain looks like a very medical reason to me, especially if by wearing the right bra someone can avoid breast surgery.
        May be it is because I’m in Europe and you’re in the US, but those social “rules” are not very evident to me here, especially in the summer it is possible to notice quite a lot of people going braless and I don’t think they’re looked at differently because of it.
        Regarding breast shape I agree with you, because of media the round shape is sought after. But I find that actually has been put behind a little on the last few years, it is possible to find bras with not so round shapes more easily nowadays indicating that a wider range of shapes is being accepted.

        As I said I do agree with you that it is fine not wearing bra, it is ok to go braless. As for health claims for someone with heavy breasts I do think the right bra can help prevent and alleviate back pain and improving posture consequently allowing women to not have surgery if they don’t want to. Therefore I do not agree that “there is no medical reason to wear a bra”.

        • Ana
          21/08/12 at 13:19

          P.S.: Treacle, I’m sorry if it looks like I write in a rude manner, but English is not my native language and I do realize sometimes I come across more aggressive than I intended to.

        • 22/08/12 at 20:22

          In terms of the perception of women who don’t wear bras, I definitely think some of it is what you said regarding different cultural norms in America and Europe. I’m an American who’s lived in the U.S. all my life (with the exception of 3 months I spent backpacking through Europe) so that’s definitely influenced my perceptions.

          As far as every full-busted woman needing or wanting to wear a bra…well there are quite a few comments below that disagree with you. ;-)

          As I tried to emphasize above, the preference for wearing a bra or not wearing one is very much up to the individual.

    • Thursday
      21/08/12 at 5:06

      I think it’s safe to say, Ana, that there is no conclusive evidence presented here about the medical benefit to wearing bras. Even if there were extensive studies done that did suggest that there were medical benefits, Treacle’s point remains – women should not be judged for a choice they make about their body. Besides, most of the social commentary condemning women who go braless rarely focuses on medical “need”, but the moral and social implications of that choice.

      Poor science has been used to limit women’s choices for quite some time now, but social pressure comes so much cheaper and easier.

      Bravo for this post, Treacle – even us die-hard lingerie lovers like to go au natural when it pleases us:)

      • Ana
        21/08/12 at 13:12

        Thursday, I think I replied to your comment in the one I made above replying to Treacle.

    • Zoggi
      21/08/12 at 5:29

      “The studies showing that “bras don’t prevent sagging” are not conclusive [...] What I would like to see is a study made by a company who correctly fits their models/customers – Bravissimo, Panache and Ewa Michalak would be good candidates because of their size range – with a reasonable number of subjects, 200-300, above a D cup”

      It may well be that no conclusive research has been done, but as Treacle said above, a study conducted by a company who has an interest in selling bras will never produce reliable evidence to suggest they are not necessary!

      Quite apart from that, if the hypothesis is that bras can prevent sagging, the burden of proof is not upon those who doubt it.

      • Ana
        21/08/12 at 13:06

        Honestly I don’t believe bras prevent sagging in a significant way, it would be unlikely to have results similar to a breast lift for example. The point is that by making studies without well-fitting bras we will never know. However I do think bras can help improve the shape of breasts whatever that might be.

        Regarding the companies I will post an excerpt of the comment I made above:

        « Now why did I suggest the study to be made by those companies?
        Well, I don’t think most doctors understand bra fitting. It is normal to advise a reduction without even checking that the patient is wearing a well fitted bra, when if the problem is back pain that could make her quit having the procedure done. From the business point of view if wearing a bra did prevent sagging they could kiss goodbye many breast lifts.
        While it is true that a bra company has no interest in discoveries that might play against them, it is very hard to find people who understand fit and who have experience fitting people out of the industry. Bravissimo, Panache and Ewa Michalak have years of experience fitting women. A reliable study should be done with every subject wearing a well fitted bra, not just “a” bra and for that supervision would be needed, regular fittings, ensuring that all women were wearing the right bra for them. And that can only be done by very experienced people, and it is very hard to find someone with that kind of knowledge out of the industry, be it a lingerie brand or a bra shop and out of the two probably only a company would have resources to conduct the study.»

        • Ana
          21/08/12 at 13:08

          P.S.: by “improving breast shape” I meant a result lighter than a breast lift, not helping women to change the shape of their breasts from pointy to round for example.

      • mfelia
        21/08/12 at 17:15

        I just wanted to add that the research could be organized not by a company but with a help of such. Then it would be both unbiased and reliable :)
        There’s no sense in conducting such a research without the supervision of a brafitting expert (and here I mean real expert, Playtex spokesperson does not qualify as one)

        • 22/08/12 at 20:25

          I still disagree, mfelia. If a company is sponsoring research, they’re not doing so out of a sense of altruism, but because they’re hoping to recoup the cost of research through sales of their product (i.e. they’re looking for results that support their bottom line). I would strongly doubt the results of any study on lingerie that had the backing of a lingerie company.

          I’ve heard that some areas in sports medicine and sports science are looking into the physics of boobs though, so there’s still some hope. :-D

          • mfelia
            23/08/12 at 11:12

            A research institute could hire an expert who would just assess whether the participants wear correctly fitting bras. It should be an institute with quite a budget then, but still theoretically that’s possible ;)

            http://www.port.ac.uk/research/breasthealthresearch/ I think this is the research you’re writing about. It looks very promising :) It’s really great that bras are treated as a serious research area.

    • Megan
      22/08/12 at 0:38

      “Claims that not wearing a bra is good for you are never made by big busted women, of course for someone with small breasts it is comfortable to be without a bra, for a full busted lady it is quite different though.”

      I just wanted to say that I am a DDD cup and I LOVE going braless. I take my bra off shortly after getting home and spend my days off lounging around braless as much as possible. The bras I do own are very supportive and I like the way I look in them, but I hate wearing them 24/7. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but I am a busty woman who loves going braless; I felt the need to make this known.

      • Lindy
        22/08/12 at 3:36

        Ditto this. I’m a solid F while breastfeeding and almost never wear a bra while at home. Granted, ease of access is a part of that, but even when they’re not a snack bar, I’ve always prefered to be bra free when relaxing. (and was a DD-DDD pre babies)

        • 22/08/12 at 20:30

          Thanks for your comment, Lindy and congratulations on your little ones! It definitely looks like there’s more to the bra/braless conversation than just cup size, which is really the whole point of the article.

      • 22/08/12 at 20:29

        Thanks for sharing your experience, Megan! This is definitely the kind of article where the more points of views we have, the better.

  6. 21/08/12 at 2:10

    I loved this article. Now, I had a slightly different problem with bras though it was too based on somek ind of “social stigma”. I have very small breasts and rather wide back so while I was growing up I had real problems finding a bra. My mother would always go bra shopping with me…now I prefer to go on my own :). Anyways, I would always hear from her like I need a push-up because my breasts are small and that I can never wear unpadded bra because…that would simply be OUTRAGEOUS! Only this year I´ve realised how harmful this commentary was regarding my body confidence, not that I would be overly unhappy over the fact that my breasts are small but I didn´t really feel free. And then I ordered a bra online and had no idea it would be unpadded. When it came I was shocked and thought of returning it but then I wore it a couple of times and loved it. It made me feel much better than all those padded bras I´ve gotten in the past. Now I almost exclusively search in shops for unpadded bras and even made a few outings without a bra..which I consider a victory. It is easier said than done and it´s a slow process but once you do it, you feel great. Once you realise that it´s your choice (and not anyone else´s) to wear a bra. Thanks for this great article! xx

    • 21/08/12 at 2:30

      Such a good point! The conversation on bras and breasts has definitely shifted towards the more full-busted end of the spectrum, but I think it’s important to remember that women of every bra size and shape and symmetry are dealing society’s ideals of how are breasts should look. I hate when people automatically assume a smaller busted woman needs a push-up bras. There’s nothing wrong with push-up bras, of course, but it goes back to the idea in the article…when someone is telling you what you must wear to be socially acceptable, that’s not okay.

      I’m glad you’ve found bras that work well for you and that you’re even okay going braless now. Body confidence is a beautiful thing. :)

    • Amaryllis
      22/08/12 at 4:52

      That’s such a lovely thing to hear, that you’ve been able to see negative comments for what the are (even when well-meaning, they can be so harmful), and to move past them. I am so pleased for you – as another small chested woman who doesn’t feel the need for every bra in her wardrobe to be padded – being able to embrace your shape and love it is a wonderful thing. I hope you go on from strength to strength. XxX

  7. Zoggi
    21/08/12 at 5:51

    Those “every woman has a figure problem” ads are horrible! Let’s not forget though that contemporary ads still give us the same message, albeit less explicitly. The root of the problem is this notion that a woman’s body is simply not acceptable in its natural state, that it *must* be modified in order to meet the minimum standard. Contrary to what they claim, the idea of a woman who confidently owns her own body is something that mainstream culture, particularly the beauty industry, is at war with – and this is why I’m always suspicious of any product that I am told will boost my confidence.

    • 22/08/12 at 20:38

      Yes…so true! Looking at those ads from the past is actually what motivated me to write this piece…I realized that the messaging of 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and today was almost exactly the same. “Your body is deficient (and unattractive and unhealthy) without this garment. You must wear this garment.”

      We all wear things we like that make us feel good. But the idea that you have to wear something you don’t like which doesn’t even help you feel good (and that’s honestly how some people feel about bras)…well, as much as I love lingerie, that’s not really a message I’m a fan of.

  8. 21/08/12 at 6:17

    Awesome post! I hate the do’s and don’ts imposed on women’s bodies. Candid cameras and pictures of celebrities committing the “sin” of not wearing a bra (or not wearing a bra deemed supportive enough) make me cringe.

    • 22/08/12 at 20:59

      Ditto. It just seems mean for no reason, and is definitely a part of body snark culture.

  9. Hnnnh
    21/08/12 at 8:05

    And yet:
    The moment someone drops below an ‘average’ band size, the lingerie makers lose interest. Some DD+ brands also include the small band, but not many others.

    I tend to feel as though companies are screaming ‘go braless, you’re worthless to us’ at me, while I’d like to scream ‘Take my money’ back at them in exchange for a well-fitting and luxurious underthing.

    Comfort and function, as Treacle said, is key. For some, it lies in a bra, for others; the perfect thong. And for all, it should lie in a well-fitted garment that enhances the self. Onlookers the benefit/appreciate are merely a coincidence.

    • 22/08/12 at 20:59

      Absolutely. You’ve hit it spot-on with the words “comfort and function.” Thanks for commenting!

  10. 21/08/12 at 12:07

    Haha, I just wrote a very similar sentence, free the boobies!
    I’m very smallchested myself and I can go braless without any pain, so I’m doing it a LOT in summer. (Note, it’s got around 30-35° here in Austria atm!)

    And yes, I’m a lingerie blogger, and yes, I love my bras, but sometimes I really don’t need one.

    • Annmarie
      21/08/12 at 12:43

      Just to clarify the weather issue for the US crowd who may thinks it’s freezing in Austria right now: Assuming you mean 30-35 degrees Celsius, that translates into 90-100 Fahrenheit.

      • 23/08/12 at 3:06

        ahaha, thx annmarie!
        Yes, of course I meant celsius. it’s HOT here.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:02

      Exactly. This sentence could describe me too, “yes, I’m a lingerie blogger, and yes, I love my bras, but sometimes I really don’t need one.” Always good to see you! :)

  11. 21/08/12 at 13:23

    Bravo for this article!

    • 22/08/12 at 21:02

      Thanks for stopping by, Kath! Glad you liked it. :)

  12. Thanks, Treacle. This is a fabulous post. Wearing a bra should be up to the individual. We have such a constrained notion of what boobs should look like that we all walk around wearing the same “breast plate” (padded, contoured cups). Where’s the individuality? Wear a corset, or a bra, or nipple covers, or nothing at all. It’s your choice, your freedom. Maybe then we wouldn’t get so upset when a woman beast feeds her baby in public. It’s time to reclaim your own breast life!

    • 22/08/12 at 21:06

      So glad you’re here, Elisabeth! You’re the breast expert, and I was hoping you’d take the time to leave a comment. I hadn’t thought about the link between our culture’s aversion to public breastfeeding and our feelings about braless woman, but now I think there’s something there. If anything, it reinforces the concept that a woman’s breasts are always for others, but never for herself.

  13. fennec
    21/08/12 at 14:03

    Just wanted to say, for all those who are suggesting that a full busted woman would never suggest going braless is ok and non harmful/comfortable – I’m a 32G in UK sizing, and I only wear a bra about half the time. Partly because my few bras don’t fit perfectly and I can’t yet afford more, but I’ve gone mostly braless my whole life. I pretty never wear one at home or at one of my jobs – which is quite active. I don’t have back pain or any sort of pain, really, I don’t feel uncomfortable not wearing a bra. I don’t feel that not wearing a bra has made my breasts super saggy or messed up in any way. The only thing that does bother me about going braless is knowing that people may be looking at me and judging me for it, which makes me incredibly uncomfortable – but I also refuse to wear a bra just so people who judge me for one thing can find something else to judge. I wear a bra when I want a certain look or support for certain activities.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:07

      Thanks for stopping by, fennec. I was hoping we’d hear from some fuller busted who prefer going braless in the comments. And I absolutely agree that judgey people will always find something to judge you on…which is just another reason to make sure you’re looking and feeling good for you.

  14. Rachael
    21/08/12 at 14:03

    When I quit my retail job one year ago and started working for myself, I immediately stopped wearing a bra, almost entirely. At my job I definitely felt like it was a social necessity to wear a bra; an unspoken part of the uniform. I felt like the potential of having my nipples show was rude and distracting for customers. But I definitely FEEL more comfortable without a bra on. I am a C cup. I sometimes prefer to wear a bra for exercise, but not always. And I definitely prefer to not wear a bra for every other part of my life. There are sometimes outfits that I wear a bra with because they look better that way, but usually I wear tank tops or dresses braless.

    I love wearing nice or fancy bras! I love dressing up in bras and corsets. I don’t need to wear them every day to appreciate them though.

    At first I did feel a bit of the social stigma. But I realized that it was mostly in my head. For me it became clear that I was being self conscious and paranoid that others were going to judge me based on my lack of a bra. That wasn’t real though! There is no social reason for me to wear a bra every day! Nobody criticizes or ostracizes me for my decision. And at this point I am completely comfortable going braless with clients and in public and social situations. It is never a problem. There is the occasional glance (or stare) when I walk down the street, but it isn’t a big issue. Nothing is going to make people stop staring at boobs.

    I completely understand that this is my personal experience, and other women with different sizes or social situations might not be in the same boat as me, but it is also possible that the social stigma is actually more of a self conscious/ self image issue than it is an issue of morality, social standing or public ridicule.

    Thank you for writing this article, Treacle! It is something that I consider often. It is nice to hear your opinion on it.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:09

      That’s a good point, Rachael. I hadn’t really considered that where someone lives might influence the treatment they get going braless. But it makes sense. When I lived in Georgia, for example, I felt a lot more self-conscious going braless. But now that I’m in Seattle (which is much more casual/informal), I feel less self-conscious. Of course, that could be because I’m always layered under sweaters and jackets due to Seattle’s weather, but still something to think about! :-D

  15. Meredith
    21/08/12 at 16:13

    I’m full-busted – 30G – and while I occasionally wear bras they’re not practical for me to wear on a regular basis as I have extremely loose joints and the band tends to push my ribs out of place. You can imagine how much fun that is. I like how I look when I do wear them, but I also like how I look without them (just as well!) and by and large I don’t think there’s a huge difference.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:10

      Oh gosh…that sounds so painful! I’m wincing just thinking about it.

      It’s interesting that you say there’s not a huge difference with one and without one. I wonder why that is?

  16. Kim
    21/08/12 at 17:51

    Thank you! I was surprised when I first learned that there is no conclusive medical benefit to wearing a bra, but since I do have small breasts and can go braless comfortably, I have been wearing them less and less! It’s much more comfortable and in the summer, less sweaty. When someone hears that I almost never wear one, they are usually very surprised (“What? People do that??”) but usually not judgemental. love bras in certain situations, but for everyday wear, braless feels better to me. I’m so glad you’ve mentioned this on your blog, Treacle! I

    • 22/08/12 at 21:10

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences, Kim. It definitely looks like a lot of women prefer going braless…especially in the summer. And understandably so!

  17. mfelia
    21/08/12 at 18:12

    I agree with Ana’s doubts regarding the studies that you quoted in the article and I do believe that results of studies of such questionable value shouldn’t be promoted. We might agree that It has not been proven scientifically that wearing correctly fitting bras affect our breasts’ health and look in any way, either good or bad.
    However, I do not think that medical influence should be even mentioned in this case. Practically, it doesn’t matter if bras are good or bad to you. What matters is that every woman should be free to decide about her body and looks. We have the right to make both good and bad decisions and no one is entitled to comment on them or ridicule them.
    It’s scientifically proven that too much coffee is bad for health. Does this make it any less rude to tell it to a person who orders a triple espresso? Of course not!
    Everyone knows best what’s good, comfortable, esthetic for them.
    And I do think the same about body hair. It does not deserve social stigma either.

    • Amaryllis
      22/08/12 at 5:14

      That’s a really excellent point – that we don’t have the right to judge others on their choices regardless of science, medicine, health, or social norms. I thought you summed that up beautifully – it’s so often that you hear the excuses that people are making criticisms for the ‘benefit’ of the recipient, backed up by selective evidence of health/harm. But really, it isn’t anyone elses business, or right, to make snap judgments on what another person can/should do or look like. And I’m totally with you on the body hair, too!

      • 22/08/12 at 21:14

        Hey…I was hoping you’d stop by. :-D

    • 22/08/12 at 21:14

      You know…you’re right. It doesn’t matter if there’s a study or not. What matters is every woman doing what’s right for her. Thank you for saying this.

  18. 21/08/12 at 19:39

    I like this a LOT! love it really. this is really great Treacle…. thank you!

    • 22/08/12 at 21:14

      You’re so welcome! Thanks for commenting. :)

  19. 21/08/12 at 22:07

    I never got into wearing them. I’m 47, my nips still sit centre, they’ve sagged a little but I’ve seen worse on younger women. I found them to be uncomfortable and restricting to my movement. Wearing a bra when breastfeeding made my shoulders and neck sore. So..yeh. I just went without.

    I think the whole fashion industry is a lot about “the Emperor’s new clothes” and very little about really works for the unique range of women they are supposed to be catering to.

    But that’s just me.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:16

      No, it is definitely *not* just you. I love fashion as much as the next person (maybe even more), but you can’t get too caught up in that world. After all, it’s about fulfilling a fantasy and altering reality.

  20. Sally Edwards
    21/08/12 at 22:19

    I don’t know if anyone is familiar with the TV show “Embarrassing Bodies” but they’ve done a couple of excellent shows about breasts and breast health:

    Am I Normal: Breasts (for teenagers): http://www.channel4embarrassingillnesses.com/video/am-i-normal/am-i-normal-breasts/ and

    Breast Cancer Check (has pictures in the background of a lot of different breast shapes and a women’s roller derby team of breasts being taught how to check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5BfDPlVN08

    I love good lingerie but I love going braless too. I’m a DD and I figure that I can wear what feels comfortable for me. If anyone is offended, they don’t need to look, though I’m perfectly happy with how they look, braless or in a well fitting bra, too.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:17

      Thanks for those links, Sally! I hadn’t heard of that show, but now I’ll check it out.

      And yes, spot on about how people who don’t like don’t have to look. I’ve never understood making the extra effort to ridicule anyone, but maybe we’re just weird…

  21. Sally Edwards
    21/08/12 at 22:39

    And one more about Normal Breasts for good measure: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=b07feXkilqU&NR=1

  22. 22/08/12 at 3:41

    This was a fantastic post, thanks so much for tackling the question so diplomatically! I have smallish breasts so I can get away with not wearing a bra more often. I have scar tissue from a broken rib that rests just where my underwire does and it’s really painful. I started sewing my own bras from vintage patterns and found that they were much more comfortable for me! (it also turned into my career, by the way!) On the note of clothing options, I challenge myself by going clothing shopping without a bra, and anything that doesn’t pass the bra-less test, doesn’t come home with me.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:18

      Thanks for this great comment, Anna! I love that shopping tip…if something can’t fit braless and you enjoy going without a bra, maybe that thing should stay on the rack. I’m off to look at your lingerie patterns now; always good to have another resource to refer my readers too!

  23. 22/08/12 at 5:10

    Yes. Just yes to everything in this article.

  24. Amaryllis
    22/08/12 at 5:29

    I really liked reading this, and the comments too – it’s obviously a subject that people have very passionate beliefs and feelings about. Brilliant to be starting this discussion, LA, bravo!

    I go without a bra, or wear soft cups, often. I also wear push ups and padding, bullet bras and smooth cups… and corsets… my preference is for what I feel like wearing that day! I really haven’t found that any option is better than another, although for certain styles of dress – ie vintage 50′s dresses – you do have to modifiy the body to make it fit properly. Rather than thinking of obtaining the ‘perfect’ shape through underpinnings, I think of it as an adventure of a dressing up box, that lets me subtly change my shape on a daily basis :)

    Someone asked earlier in the comments how people deal with the issues of clothing fitting – and it’s a good point. I have a small chest size, a small cup size, and they’re slung low by design. Then add quite a high and small waist and big pear shape hips… dresses don’t tend to fit at all! But I really do wonder who does find clothing that fits them every time? Fitted clothes definately aren’t made for going braless, often. But there are plenty of options that are either loose cut or stretchy, that adapt to the shape you are. Really, there are clothes for every body shape and every type of woman, you just have to let go of preconceived ideas of what you should be wearing, and experiment until you find something that you love wearing.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:23

      Hi Amaryllis!

      I love the way you think about lingerie, because it’s really what I try to have the blog be about. Lingerie is like fashion…like dress up. It should be fun and liberating and open-ended, not stifling and confining because of someone else’s arbitrary rules. I think that’s why so many women are intimidated by and uninterested in lingerie…because the conversation is always about fixing things (your body, your relationship, etc.) and less about enjoying it for it’s own sake.

      Thanks again for stopping by…great comment.

  25. Sondra
    22/08/12 at 9:28

    In comment to the “concealing” bra that makes all women’s boobs look the same: I did an informal survey of all of my male friends, and they absolutely hate them. Without exception, all twenty-two of the men I asked stated they much preferred to see the real shape of a woman and not this one size fits all that is going around. Some preferred different sizes, shapes, and styles of breasts, but every one of them liked a woman to look natural and not like a cartoon.

    I go without a bra at home and sometimes out. I am a large breasted woman, and I just don’t care. If you don’t like it…look away. I cannot spend my time worrying about what all of society thinks. I choose to please my husband, and he’d rather have them loose and free anyway.

    • 22/08/12 at 21:25

      Isn’t it funny how women are constantly told that men like certain things, but it turns many of them don’t at all? Case in point, my fiance doesn’t care much at all for lingerie, despite the dozens (if not hundreds) of articles that say I should wear lingerie “for my man.”

      You’re right…everyone’s opinion about how you look doesn’t count equally. And if the people you care about and are closest to think you’re beautiful, well…that’s really all that matters.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Sondra! :)

  26. Sandra
    22/08/12 at 15:55

    I’m a DDD. I cannot, unless I’m sleeping, go braless. One, my breasts are those awkward kind that point down and are heavy at the bottom and two, a little lopsided. If I were to go braless at any time my t-shirts/tank tops wouldn’t fit. Don’t think I’m exaggerating because I’m not. If I went without a bra I would suddenly have long lumps that hang to my stomach. I would look and feel terrible. My breasts have minds of their own in which way they want to go when I’m without a bra and during the summer they sweat and get sticky. That’s disgusting to me.

    I wouldn’t enjoy being stared at, I frankly wouldn’t want to put up with any commentary either (I live in NY, one hour from Manhattan, believe me when I say that here, people here can be very nasty and verbal about not liking the way you look). Or the pain for that matter. My breasts/nipples get irritated from how much they get banged into on the average day if I go braless.

    If you like your body and the way you look without a bra then more power to you. Some of us have to wear them and prefer the way we look in a bra.

    • 22/08/12 at 19:10

      I don’t think you’re exaggerating at all. Women’s breasts come in all sizes and shapes. That’s why I said several times in the article that if you love bras, for whatever reason, that’s a wonderful thing. As the comments show, there are women at both ends of the size spectrum who prefer going braless and that doesn’t invalidate your preference for bras in the slightest. This piece isn’t about converting people away from bras or saying that bras are terrible. Rather, it’s about reminding everyone, no matter their bra size, that it’s okay to not wear a bra if you don’t want to.

  27. Catherine
    23/08/12 at 8:55

    So I logged in whilst on holiday to see the POST OF MY DREAMS!
    YEARS I’ve been avoiding saying that I only wear lingerie for fun or if I really can’t avoid it. But most of the time I am working from home in my version of pyjamas, and frankly for someone with neuropathic pain like mine it’s way more trouble than its worth under those circumstances, even with my latterly greatly increased cup size.

    • 23/08/12 at 11:42

      Shouldn’t you be on vacation? ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by! Always good to see you.

      • Catherine
        23/08/12 at 13:23

        I am on holiday, aye, I’ve worn a bra 2 days out of 5 so far I think? But as we’re in Sweden I’ve also been ambling about doing naked sauna and swimming a fair bit :D

  28. 23/08/12 at 17:04

    I really liked this post, but are there really no health benefits at all to wearing a bra? Even for the very large chested? I hear from many larger chested women that being without a bra can be very uncomfortable due to the back/shoulder/neck pain they endure. Those would be classified as health problems, wouldn’t they?

    Regardless of that, I love the sentiment and it got me thinking :)

    • 23/08/12 at 19:25

      Absolutely! If you’re more comfortable with a bra on, for whatever reason (health or otherwise), that’s great. As several comments from full-busted women in the article reveal, not every large-chested woman requires a bra to be comfortable, but that’s certainly not a condemnation of those who do.

      Glad you were able to pick up on what we’re getting at! :)

  29. Sam
    24/08/12 at 2:20

    I’m fine with someone going bra-less. If you can do it and feel good about yourself go for it. I just have a problem when I’m at wall-mart and I can see there boobs trying peek out from under their shirt at the bottom.I think boobs are beautiful but I don’t want to see someones boobs unless I said I’m ok with it. I would like to state that i think boobs should always be cover by something in public (nudist colonies are different), if not a bra, a shirt at least. On another subject I think a good fitting bra feels awesome! I just wish finding a good priced, pretty one was easier to find, I think companies think that if your bigger than a D to DD that you don’t need colorful options that aren’t just one solid color. :)) Sorry if I offended anyone, I just thought that it was something that should mentioned that some tack needs to be used when going bra-less. It doesn’t happen often, but It’s something I really don’t know how to deal with. “Excuse me mam, but your boobs are showing?”

  30. Keera
    25/08/12 at 0:56

    Treacle,

    This doesn’t really deal completely with this article, but I just wanted to share with you how your blogging has the potential to really help young women.

    I really wish there was more education on bras when I was growing up. Logical things about proper bra sizes, proper support, even the fact that I didn’t need to wear a bra unlike what my female family members were preaching to me. That whole sagging myth…

    I grew up with large breasts. So large, I had a reduction when I was 21 because they were just too big for my frame. Now, I was wearing a DD at the time. I know from how proper bras fit now that I was wearing the wrong size. Probably many cup sizes too small. There was absolutely no one in any store that could help me find a bra that fit that didn’t look like something my grandmother would wear (no offense, Granny). I got a lot of shrugs. I didn’t want to wear something frumpy when I was a teenager, in high school, in gym class… So I opted for the biggest size in the bras I liked. Uncomfortable!

    These days, the internet is a wondrous thing. I really wish I had the selection of so many large busted bras at my fingertips as most women do today. Also, there isn’t a fear about talking about these kinds of things anymore. It’s not generalized as simply “women issues” anymore. There are people like you blogging about the things we should be enjoying as women and embracing, instead of trying to hide or squish them into a sports bra!

  31. Alison
    26/08/12 at 5:44

    Thanks for the blog post Treacle. It was really encouraging and I agree that women should do whatever we feel like doing! I have big breasts that are already a little saggy in my early 20s, and I’ve never gone out in public without a bra because it’s VERY obvious when I don’t wear one. Perhaps I’ll summon the courage to do so one day when i feel like it ;)

  32. Hollie
    13/10/12 at 3:34

    I know this blog post is like 2 months old, but I just stumbled across it, and I feel like I have to share how it made me feel.

    Recently I’ve been wanting to wear bras less and less because I just feel way more comfortable without one on. I’m one of those gals that as soon as I get home, I change into sweats and a t-shirt and the bra comes off. However, I’ve been raised in a society where it’s basically considered immodest for a lady to go without a bra on, as well as “gross” and “ugly.” As such, I felt like I had to wear a bra everywhere I went even if I didn’t want to.

    After reading this article, I felt validated in a way realizing it’s fine if a woman doesn’t wear a bra. It’s not immodest, because it’s not like I’m walking around without a top on, so why did I ever worry about that? And it’s not gross to let my body rest the way God made it. If God (or nature) wanted me to have naturally perky breasts, they would have been made that way. No, I won’t throw away all my bras and start going around braless all the time now, but I feel a whole lot less weird and pervy now that I realize there’s nothing wrong with dressing in a way that I feel comfortable.

    Thanks so much for this post. It was way helpful.

  33. 15/10/12 at 7:28

    I wish I could get away with printing this out and showing it to half the people I’ve worked for over the past 10 years. My breasts are stupidly large (H-cup), and I find bras incredibly uncomfortable. So for a while, I didn’t wear one. Simple as that. I figured things were going fine until I got hauled into my manager’s office one day and was told that complaints has been made against me because I wasn’t wearing one, and that they considered not wearing a bra to be the same as wearing a low-cut top. Inappropriate for the workplace, and overemphasizing my sexuality, which made people uncomfortable. Result – having to wear a corset because at the time no store in my city sold bras large enough for me to wear, and a corset I’d found was the best alternative.

    I tried again at another job, and took precautionary measures. I wore a shawl all the time, a big shapeless one, and kept my arms underneath it whenever I could so that people had a harder time telling what was my arms and what was my breasts. Result – getting told that if I continued to dress like that, I wouldn’t be considered for promotions because I wasn’t pressing professionally enough. Never mind my skill level, it all came down to how I dressed.

    On paper, there’s no hard and fast rule about what kind of underwear a woman has to wear in a business casual setting. But even if she wears clothes that look good otherwise, that fit all the rules, if she doesn’t wear a bra, it’s been my experience that she’s pretty much asking to be fired because some people consider the whole no-bra look to be too provocative and unsuitable, to the point of harassment, and she’s also never going to get anywhere in the company but entry-level. If that.

    I totally support going without a bra. I still hate wearing them. They’re uncomfortable, even painful some days. But until the rest of society sees that, unfortunately, it’s going to remain a problem. :/

    (I also kind of envy the people who suggest that many larger-breasted women who have discomfort while exercising because of their boobs aren’t wearing a properly sized and fitted sports bra. I envy them because it’s likely that they don’t have much of a problem finding a sports bra in their size. ONE store where I live SOMETIMES sells bras in my size. No sports bras. And it’s expensive enough to buy a regular one; I know I sure as hell can’t afford to go drop $60+ online for yet another bra that may or may not actually fit properly when it gets here.)

  34. 08/11/12 at 7:02

    I have small breasts (80B in EU), and I wear bras mostly to keep my breasts warm! I really don’t need them at all (unless I’m wearing a thin t-shirt), but I do feel the difference temperature-wise when I don’t wear one. So for me, it is all about keeping them warm :)

  35. Jane
    08/11/12 at 8:23

    Sorry for the late post but I only just saw this (via Tumblr). I am in my early 30s and have never worn a bra regularly ever. My mother bought me a training bra when I was maybe 11/12 but it felt uncomfortable so I went into the loo at lunchtime and removed it and never bothered again. I’ve worn a bra on probably fewer than 50 occasions in my life (generally only when I want to do the dressing up thing in the bedroom, or if I’m going to a party and fancy the cleavage look for a change). It would never even occur to me to wear a bra for normal everyday stuff. I am only a 32A but I feel lucky that I’ve never experienced any pressure or made to feel it was odd to not wear a bra.

  36. Clementine
    09/11/12 at 4:03

    I have small breasts and I go braless pretty much all the time! Personally, I don’t like wearing too many layers of clothing. I also don’t like the look or material(s) of most bras. In fact the only bras I do like are designed by Agent Provocateur (and I can’t afford them anyway, hahah)!

    And I think you’re right, Treacle, about bra-wearing being a cultural ideal. Women went without bras for millennia! I don’t need one, so I’m not going to wear one.

  37. 12/11/12 at 14:25

    I have small breasts (30A) and I love going braless…at home, in private. For me, because I am so small, I like having a little shape under my clothes when I am out in public. I simply feel my clothing fits me better when I am wearing a bra. It’s so annoying when bra fitters tell me I don’t even “need” a bra; maybe I don’t “need” for support, but I “want” one for modesty and shape! I know there is nothing wrong with having small breasts, but I simply feel more feminine and confident when wearing one.

    But hey, if you don’t want to, rock it out.

  38. Kitch
    15/11/12 at 10:26

    What I’m interested in is how tall are these fuller busted ladies that go without bras (and pain)?

    I’m 5’3 with JJ breasts, there is no way in hell I could go without bras. Even sleeping braless causes me pain.
    I’m just thinking, if the lady is taller, wouldn’t the weight be more evenly dispersed and be less likely to cause pain?

  39. Lorla
    15/11/12 at 12:17

    I have just read everything above and I’ve seen some really good points for and against bras. But I personally think it’s a personal preference weather to wear one or not.
    I’ve got bigish boobs and a narrow back (uk 30G) and i don’t wear a bra all the time but when I’m not wearing a bra i normally have good structured clothing that will hold me in place (some clothes i own just don’t fit with a bra) such as a hidden support top or heavy fabric that has been tailored t more to my shape. so basically in one way shape or form my boobs are being head in place by fabric, lol I find it inconvenient to not have them held in place in some way but then that is my reason, and some be ppl who agree and some that disagree.
    But i think that ur confidence and natural boob shape has a lot to do with it.

  40. LadyKnight
    01/12/12 at 0:29

    Thank you for this article! I am a small busted women (32B/A) and I recently gave up on bras altogether, unless I am at a formal event where I need to look “traditionally” presentable, or the occasional lacy bra sexy time encounter. Bras for me have always been uncomfortable and painful, and I don’t need the support. Since I started working in an outdoor physically intense jobs, they just got in the way more than helped. I realized that the ONLY reason I had been wearing a bra was as a way to prevent the shape of my nipples from showing. I have found from people reactions that there is a cultural idea that if your nipple are even slightly visible, then you are a slut. Since going braless feesl better for me physically, I do it anyway! But occasionally I still find myself crossing my arms over my chest to hide my unpadded boobies!

  41. Ksenia
    01/01/13 at 20:10

    I have to go braless, usually a shelf bra or a cami. Currently I am around a 34DD 36Dand I have a high ribcage, meaning that underwire hits me at the rib and hurts like hell. My ribs are also deformed, the right side jutts out from the left and there is a big space between them, meaning bras will never fit me perfectly without corrective surgery that I don’t really need to have. Breasts are heavy things. so my back and shoulders hurt a lot from trying to cover my breasts and trying to make them look smaller. My breasts hurt too, not sure if they’re still growing or not. My mother and grandmother have around the same problem, my grandmother has the biggest breasts in the family. And of course bras don’t always work as concealment. Any large-breasted woman will sometimes have nipples showing even if she’s wearing a bra, they’re just not made for bigger breasted women. I want to see large bust sizes in regular stores, I don’t have the money or the interest in going to VS, the only other place for it.

    From the anthropological standpoint, bras and corsets didn’t really exist where I come from until modernization by Peter I, a luxury to wear a corset. All you wore underneath your dress was a long shirt, maybe you tied a sash to give your dress an empire waist. The poor women who toiled the wheat fields must’ve had it bad! And when bras became available, they were the small pointy ones, large busts and large bodies are frowned upon as old, nonathletic, and gluttonous, the “ballerina figure” and the specific way a ballerina should look very much factors as the ideal, as a lot of girls do ballet as children and are taught what it is to be beautiful through that.

  42. Pia
    19/02/13 at 18:12

    Hi,

    I moved from Switzerland to the US about 1 year ago and am slowly learning to navigate the lingerie market here… the (cheaper) brands they sell in Europe are not sold here. Not that easy to go back 15 years and again try all different kinds of brands ;)

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that this cultural pressure on women to look a specific way becomes much more clear when comparing two different cultures…

    I noticed that here in the US, lingerie seems to be much more about “molding” the body in one or the other form. In Europe, many women above B/C cup do not wear padded bras, and shaping underwear is way less common. Women with A or B cup might even wear bralettes (those are the ones without wire, right?) and being caught in some shape wear is seen as much more embarrassing than seeing a nipple…

    At the same time, there seems to be much more discrimination for larger women in Europe. I see many full-figured women here who really dress nicely, wear beautiful makeup and very obviously care about their appearance. In Europe, they often seem to “give up” and not care anymore.

    In Scandinavian countries, which many people claim are the most egalitarian, I heard often that dressing feminine is interpreted as a lack of brains or “collaboration with the enemy”. I am sure the former is wrong, and I think the latter is too…

    I am really wondering if we’ll ever have a society where women (and men) are not expected to do the most ridiculous things to modify their looks in some way and at the same time have the freedom to do so when they want to????

  43. Ali
    09/04/13 at 19:49

    I am loving your blog– making my way through it one post at a time, and I’d love to add my two cents:

    I don’t personally care if a woman goes without a bra, but my main concern is an issue of modesty and the cultural obligation we have to keep ourselves decent in public. So I would have a problem with a woman going braless with an especially tight or sheer top, or in any other revealing manner in public. Like it or not, we have breasts and they garner a large amount of attention that is mostly sexual in nature. Debate the wrongs or rights of that until the end of time but it doesn’t make it go away. I had a girl in one of my high school classes that had the largest breasts I’ve ever seen and she never wore a bra. Also, she always wore thin sheer t-shirts. Now, I would never insinuate that this is an indication of her morality, but it was nevertheless indecent, and it made her the butt of a lot of jokes (not necessarily made by myself).

    I have gone braless myself many times, but I always try to wear something like a large sweatshirt to keep myself covered.

    My mother likes to go braless in the evenings (don’t we all?) for comfort, and it makes myself and my husband very uncomfortable as we cannot look at her without seeing in great detail her nipples because of the shirts she wears. Not really something I want to see when I’m visiting my parents.

    I’m not a prude, and I don’t condone ridiculing people, but I think each woman needs to think about these kinds of things before they go braless.

    If the shoe was on the other foot so to speak with men, I think we’d all agree that going without underwear is fine, as long as your pants are opaque and loose enough to keep us “in the dark.”

    I’ve been back and forth on the idea that “breasts are just breasts,” vs. “breasts are sexual,” and while there is truth to both, we cannot ever fully divorce breasts from their inherent sexuality (at least not in our culture).

    Do whatever you want with your bra, but keep your breasts to yourself please ;)

  44. Alicia
    02/05/13 at 17:38

    I appreciate this well balanced article. I love bras to play dress ups in the bedroom, but that’s their only purpose for me now. I love my breasts when I am naked more now that I am not comparing them to how they look in a bra every day. I am in my late 20s, and I was starting to get really depressed about my breast shape. So, I drew a line in the sand and decided to live without bras during the day. I have found laundry much easier since!

  45. Elizabeth
    16/05/13 at 20:31

    Hey, just wanted to thank you for this article. I have bloody giant boobs, so I only don’t wear a bra when I will be doing something languid and carefree (i.e. not running for the bus, that’s a fun time) but when the time comes to lie in a field of daisies or what have you, I love not wearing a bra. I used to think my breasts were weird looking, because they weren’t bra shaped. If only we had public baths here like they do in Japan, young girls would get exposed to all kinds of bodies at every age. Ah well. I think you’re doing good work for all types of women on here, keep it up.

  46. Lynn
    29/05/13 at 17:25

    I think women should wear properly fitted bras if they feel like it, and no bras if they don’t. I do however think that they should wear some type of vest underneath sheer tops, just so that one cannot see everything. I find it kinda creepy if I can basically see a person’s naked anything!! The sad thing is that the reason many women don’t want to wear bras is because they hurt them. And more often than not this is because their bras are completely the wrong size.

    As for me, I have gigantic (32J) boobs, so absolutely must wear a bra (outside my home, I mean) in order to have clothes sit right. Furthermore, I have an hourglass figure, and since I have been wearing correctly fitted bras, you can see the lovely waist to hip ratio I have. As soon as I started wearing correctly fitting bras people told me I had lost weight even though I hadn’t. It was just that I was finally able to show off my waist and underbust, both of which are the smallest parts of my body.

    I do always take my bra off when I relax at the end of the day though, as I am much more comfortable that way. I cannot for the life of me figure out why women sleep in bras though. Bras to me are functional in that they allow me to walk fast or run for a bus, and because they flatter my figure by lifting my boobs and thus showing off my waist. Without a bra, I would not be able to move at the pace I want outside my home and I would look bigger. I don’t notice mine when I wear them, but I definitely enjoy the sensation of going braless at home when I am relaxing.

  47. Sandy
    29/07/13 at 23:10

    I love this blog and feel some of your pain in wearing bras. Recently, I switched to a cami called BreastNest and love it. Bras never fit me correctly or were too snug. BreastNest feels great. It’s time for comfort.

  48. JJ
    10/03/14 at 11:23

    Awesome article Treacle, and some really interesting comments too. I have always been a disciplined, hardcore bra wearer, spending all my waking hours trussed in sturdy undergarments. I wouldn’t buy a bra that didn’t reach my standards in comfort, fit, shape, support and aesthetics. Being a lover of fashion I would choose a bra specifically to suit whatever I was wearing that day, to give me the shape I wanted. I became seriously ill a couple of years ago, and was hospitalized for six weeks. I wore a bra under my jammies every single day I was in there, despite the fact I was too weak even to get to the loo without a wheelchair.
    Then I heard tell of the suspected link between bras and cancer… As a young (ish) British woman of 33, the statistical likelihood of me developing cancer in my lifetime is extremely high, and as I am unable to exercise (exercise being known to reduce cancer risk) due to the illness I have been suffering, I’m inclined to do whatever I can to reduce my risk.The bra/cancer link is hotly debated, and I don’t want to comment on that here, save to say that if doing something as simple as NOT putting a bra on in the morning can make a difference, I’ll do it!
    I haven’t worn a bra since mid January, and am finding the experience very interesting. My boobs are a 34DD, and fairly droopy (I blame my fragile blonde skin). I am 5′ 8″ and have always had a very upright posture. At first I felt incredibly naked, and I noticed my posture changing. Now I have got used to the feeling (mostly) and my posture has ‘settled down’, but I am still trying to work out the wardrobe issues!
    I’m still quite ill, and mostly house bound, so I don’t have many opportunities to try out my new found freedom on an admiring (or not) public, but I do go to a christian house group most weeks, and I worry about my outfit every single time. Some strange quirk in society means that teenage boys are less affected/embarrassed by boobs that are pushed, primped, hoisted and molded into a paragon of sexual attractiveness, than those that swing long and loose, so I feel obliged to disguise my bralessness as much as possible.
    It’s winter here in the Western Isles, so wooly jumpers and plenty layers are in order – I just pop a spanx vest on underneath whatever I’m wearing, for the sake of those poor defenseless teenage boys. Things could get a little more complicated come the summer…
    It has been a surprise to me that neither comfort nor aesthetics have been the main issue, but that perceived social disapproval has been my major stumbling block. I would happily wear a bra if I wanted to for reasons of my own, but I really resent the fact that my asymmetrically hung nipples should be an offense to society.
    After a period of adjustment I now find going without a bra more comfortable than wearing a well fitting bra, and WAY more comfortable than a badly fitting one, even on the rare occasions when I’m fairly active.
    My wardrobe has taken surprisingly well to the change, though it took me a while to get used to my new reflection in the mirror. Stripes are out, as they really show up the asymmetry, and boyfriend jumpers, surprisingly, look dreadful, as they drape between my breasts. I’m better with something a little tighter. That said, tops with a draped neckline look pretty great. Tailored garments actually look better, as, me being proportionally large in the chest, they tended to pull at the bust. I was surprised to notice that squishing my boobs with a tight vest looks much worse than wearing something fitted but soft – the letting natural shape show seems to be best.
    My new sleek (ahem!) silhouette has changed the way I choose and combine my clothes, and presented me with a few challenges, but mostly, I just had to get used to my bust line being nearer my elbows than my chin. Other people haven’t noticed as such, but have commented that I have lost weight, one saying my legs look thinner, another saying my face looks thinner. Strange, really.
    The most difficult thing for me to deal with is that one of my breasts is a good cup size bigger than the other. Bras dissimulated that fairly well, but having one nipple poking out an inch lower than the other is very obvious, and so, while I can deal with having pokey outy nipples in principle, I’ll stick a vest on underneath my clothing to try and keep them out of the limelight whenever I feel self conscious.
    In a land where head scarves, tweed skirts and wellies are de rigeur, I feel I have had an easier time getting used to my new look than I would have had living in a city. Here I can go out in wellies and no makeup (and no bra) without feeling like I’m letting the side down, and there are plenty crofter ladies going around looking far less fashionable than I.
    Which begs the question- why do I feel the need evaluate myself according to how good I l, and to compare myself to others? Oh dear oh dear!

  49. JJ
    10/03/14 at 12:00

    Ooh, and I forgot to mention – my pre-period breast pain has disappeared! Yay!

  50. Sydney
    27/05/14 at 13:07

    I have pretty small boobies and wear sports bras 99% of the time… if I’m wearing a tank top or dress or something and you can see the bra sticking out somewhere, I go braless and I am perfectly ok with that.

  51. Katherine
    29/05/14 at 2:47

    My breasts are 38D and am braless most of the time. Granted, I went braless when I was a C cup and didn’t realize the growth over time. I find it very comfortable. Any back pain (for me) is due to bad posture that I’ve recently corrected with yoga. I own two bras: a sports bra, and a regular bra. I wear the regular bra under certain clothing but not very often.

    Sometimes I do get stared at and, yes, sometimes it is uncomfortable. But wearing a bra all of the time is even more uncomfortable.

  52. Riya Ghosh
    25/07/14 at 18:37

    I am a small-breasted woman who’s had a couple of surgeries on her breasts, and the reason I don’t wear bras is because it seems well-nigh impossible to find a comfortable one! I can’t wear post-surgery bras because I still have my breasts, so that doesn’t work; and I can’t wear normal bras because in my size they all seem to be under-wired and padded-up to the moon, which rubs against my scars and is in any case absurdly uncomfortable. I have one or two that I had to get from special boutiques and which were quite expensive, which I use when I feel a bra is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, I wear camisoles and vests underneath my tops, and since support is not an issue this works quite well. Interestingly, none of the men I know have ever had a problem with my going bra-less, even when they’ve noticed — and they seem to notice it more than women (since when they’ve been drunk my male friends have occasionally commented, and I’ve never told them). But when women, including some of my close friends, have realised I usually go bra-less (and they only seem to realise it if and when I or someone else — friends or family who already know — tell them), the reaction tends to more negative. It’s odd: they don’t even notice it but they have a firm opinion on it. And at least once I’ve been told that men won’t like it if I don’t, which is an assertion I have not found to be borne out by experience, and which in any case is still hardly reason to subject oneself to a wire rubbing a tender scar raw. Fortunately, professionally it’s not been a problem, though I am always careful to have enough layers underneath to avoid any inappropriate exposure

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