Bra Politics

politics bras breasts

A while back, I worked with a client who didn’t own a bra. OK, to be fair, she owned several soft, relatively shapeless sports bras, none of which gave her breasts any support or shape. Her goal for the consult was to look more polished and professional for upcoming speaking gigs and press appearances, and when I saw how her clothes looked minus brassieres I knew this had to change. With some gentle nudging, she agreed to be fitted by a lingerie expert.

I left the consult feeling triumphant, and when we went on a personal shopping excursion a week later I could see a marked difference in her silhouette. As she tried on new clothes, she looked taller, more balanced, more like that hourglass shape that so many women strive for.

But thinking back, I realized how utterly hypocritical my thinking had been. I’ve been doing one-on-one style consults for more than six years, and this gal was one of a select few I’ve worked with who loved her body. Totally and completely. She had some fairly traditional figure flattery priorities, but there was nothing she wanted to downplay, mask, or hide and she was fabulously confident in her figure. She’d been doing just fine in her sports bras until I came along. To be fair, she agreed that traditional bras were something she should explore and potentially invest in, and she actually texted me after her fitting because she was so excited to finally have “grown-up lady bras.” She agreed that the change furthered her goal of looking more professional, and I never twisted her arm. But I did force her into conforming to a social dressing standard she’d shunned successfully for ages.

I also thought back to my reactions as we worked through the consult. Seeing relatively support-free breasts underneath clingy knits and form-fitting dresses struck me as “messy.” That’s the word that resonated: Messy. And how screwed-up is THAT?!? Braless breasts are breasts in their natural state. There’s nothing “messy” about them. Nothing that needs fixing or tidying. And yet, there I was eager to tidy up my client’s lovely figure.

In the end, I foisted some of the blame onto the clothes themselves. It’s certainly true that we’ve been socially conditioned to expect breasts to be lifted, supported, high, and facing forward. It’s also true that style experts and laypeople alike feel free to criticize women whose breasts don’t behave in these ways, regardless of figure, size, personal preferences, or circumstances. But clothing designers are reinforcing it all. My client’s clothes – especially her garments with defined bodices – expected her breasts to be inside a bra. They were designed to work with a body that included breasts, but those breasts needed to be lifted, supported, high, and facing forward. No question. And when that expectation wasn’t met, the clothes failed to look their best. And so did my client.

Hopefully, most of you know that early feminists didn’t run around torching their bras throughout the 1960s and 70s. But bras have been cited as instruments of oppression again and again because women in nearly all Western cultures are expected to wear them any time they’re seen in public. And because there is no equivalent figure-moulding garment that men are required to don. And for countless other reasons linked to discomfort, sex and sexuality, the patriarchy, and other forces too numerous and varied to list here. Breasts are controversial, but bras are downright political.

This is not me coming out against bras. I am fortunate enough to wear an easy-to-find size, to have both of my breasts, and to be able to afford investing in quality bras. So I like them. I prefer my own figure when I’m wearing a bra, and know that the bras I have can transform my figure and silhouette. I also have sensitive breasts that change throughout my cycle, so there are times when it’s incredibly painful to go WITHOUT a bra.

And beyond myself, I have worked with and spoken to countless women who feel that bras make them look and – more importantly – feel better about their bodies. Much of that stems from social conditioning, it’s true, but I believe that dressing is a social act and that we enter into social agreements when we dress and go out in public. Some of those social agreements are insidious and harmful, some are relatively innocuous. And it helps to know which ones are doing what and why. But if we are to move about in public as clothed bodies, we must conform to some extent if we expect to be respected and accepted by our peers. Unless you are a celebrity who has been taped into a backless gown, you, as a woman, are expected to wear a bra in public. By other people and by the folks who have designed your clothes. You can certainly push back on that expectation – as my client did – and doing so can start conversations and promote awareness of the political nature of bras. Unquestionably, that has value. But you will find certain doors closed and certain opportunities unavailable to you. Is this fair? Not remotely. Is this likely to change anytime soon? Not unless there are some truly drastic shifts in human culture and gender politics.

I know that some of you loathe bras, and others are lingerie devotees. How do you feel about going braless in public? Do you feel like your clothes fit differently with or without a bra? Can anyone think of an equivalent garment-wearing expectation for men? Specifically one that will make people look askance at them if they push back on it?

Image via The Mary Sue.

This is a revised and refreshed post from the archive.

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  • Hi all. A reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent this my way, and I asked if I could share in the comments here. She has some great insights! Her response below.
    – – – – –

    I am 62, about a 40 D, and choose to go braless in public. This has to do with several factors.

    – Although still in a professional job, I work at home
    – I realized that I began to actively avoid going out of the house, because I felt obligated to “bra-up” and I didn’t enjoy myself because I was uncomfortable in a bra.
    – I’m post menopausal. This matters! As the hormones leaked all the way out, I cared less and less.
    – I’ve hated bras since I was 12.
    – I’ve always looked forward to “invisible old age” – it struck me as a perk, not a reason to despair.

    The challenges
    – It took me about two years to really feel comfortable going out, especially in the summer, without a bra
    – As you so ably put it, a lot of clothes are designed for a high, front and center prow, so it involved a certain amount of research to find looks that struck me as aesthetically pleasing. I settled on Indian Kurtis, Kaftans, traditional ethic clothing like Poet and Peasant, and that nice 80s Big sweater over slim pants look.
    – Getting used to being an Apple. I am not as thin as I used to be, and no bra makes me look larger. I decided that this was an acceptable trade-off, but it did take me a while to get used to it.

    The helps
    – With the right clothes, the bra doesn’t make that much difference
    – Advice from an older friend: “When the girls point south, you can quit wearing a bra!”
    – A massive scarf collection
    – Support from my husband instead of a bra
    – The fact that my young 20 and 30 something colleagues don’t notice. When I mentioned to my 29 year old friend that I had not worn a bra with a very lightweight top to a festive dinner, she replied “obviously I don’t spend enough time looking at your boobs!”
    – I am not climbing a corporate ladder
    – I feel no need to look “hot”

    • Jenny von Gogh

      Hey, this is me! Also 62, hate wearing bras. I live in a ht climate, so I can’t hide behind layers of clothing, but the best weekends are when we have no visitors. I call them “no undies, sundays!”

      For me it is all about comfort. And those underwires! What pervert invented them?

      • Amy

        I call that “pervert” a lifesaver. wearing a good bra with lots of support (almost always with a wire) is the ONLY way I can be comfortable. I fully support that they are not comfortable for you but not all people’s bodies are like that.

    • Katja Stokley

      Your anonymous commenter is my long-lost twin. I’m also about a 40D, I find wearing a bra (either shaped or sports) uncomfortable, and I do my best to choose clothing that disguises my preference for not wearing one.

  • Kelly Patchell-Michael

    First I want to say that I LOVE your blog. I came across it at the beginning of the week and I have been reading your posts since. They seem to resonate with me on all levels of fashion and body image. So thank you! And thank you for this post. I am a young (28) mother of three who loves and hates fashion. The parts I hate are all of the societal standards placed on women to “Look good”, yet I love putting together outfits and accessories, makeup, etc. Sometimes I feel guilty that I enjoy it so much, as if it goes against what I stand for. I know this isn’t true, but hey…any way. Thank you for this post. With all of the changes that happen during and after pregnancy bras are currently my fashion nemesis, second only to pants because none seem to fit me how I want or expect them to. The expectation that women’s breasts should (and do) actually look the way they do when confined in a bra is one that drives me crazy. I even hate when people who (even lovingly) call women’s breasts “saggy”. For one it is such an ugly word and two they are not “saggy” they look like breasts are supposed to look on that individual. Our bodies are constantly changing throughout our whole lives. There is not a “right way” for breasts to look and anything that deviates needs to be labeled as “ugly”, “saggy”, “messy” ;). However because of these expectations I feel very uncomfortable going into public without a bra, I will endure wearing an uncomfortable bra so that my silhouette looks a certain way, and am willing to and have spent lots of money for a “good bra”. And it’s all because of the insecurity I feel due to unrealistic representations of women and what is attractive in all forms of media and even on an institutional level (I remember a girl in hs who “got in trouble” bc she didn’t wear a bra and was big chested). Don’t get me wrong! I truly do love my body. I love my breasts! I just wish that people would begin to see breasts as a part of the body (just like a leg, arm, abdomen, etc) instead of an object that exists for the hetero males sexual gaze or pleasure. They are not accessories I put on every day for other people’s viewing. They are me, they are mine. But sometimes with all of the societal pressures they start to feel like the former more than the latter. There is not one garment that men are expected to wear in the same way and I feel this is something that most women and men don’t even think about. And I feel it all goes back to this perception of breasts existing for a others pleasure. I have a strong background on the subject of gender issues and studies with a degree in psychology and a minor in sociology with a focus in women’s and gender studies. I’m so glad to see someone bringing this subject to light. Especially from a body image perspective AND a fashion perspective. I love the discussion and want to say thank you again 🙂

    • So glad you’re here, Kelly! Thanks for your kind words and for sharing your story and perspective. It’s so true that this particular issue is very male-gaze-centric, which is one of the reasons it’s so frustrating. Another reader asked about taboo secondary sexual characteristics – nipples, “camel toe” – and I’m working on a post about those. Though, as with this issue, I don’t see an easy or straightforward way to fight back against these subtle ways society seeks to control women’s bodies.

      Anyway, welcome again, and looking forward to hearing from you on other posts!

  • Personally I have DD boobs and don’t like the feeling I get from not wearing a bra. It is uncomfortable. Much more so than wearing a bra. I also prefer the shape it gives me. If I had smaller breasts I might feel differently.

    bisous
    Suzanne

    • I am the same. While I won’t sleep in a bra, the rest of my time, even lounge time I wear some sort of bra or an item with a shelf bra/soft cup in it. I am more comfortable (my girls are HEAVY), and honestly? I like how I look in a bra. I love my breasts, and I love how they look in a bra. Once I got professionally fitted I realized bras don’t have to be uncomfortable even with an F cup.

      I would have done the same as you, Sal. For professional settings there are some expectations placed on both men and women and I do think a bra is one of them. 🙂

  • I really appreciate this post.

  • Eve Benoit

    Hi Sally ! Your wrote: Her goal for the consult was to look more polished and professional for upcoming speaking gigs and press appearances, Your were NOT a hypocrite in your thinking by suggesting that she should be fitted for a real bra ! You gave her a needed piece of advice.
    Unless you are an AA-cup, it is hard to look professional and polished if the bust is flopping around. Your client will be on public display and believe me, in our society, this would have been noticeable, distracting and not to her advantage.

    Personnally, I stopped going braless in 1972 after two years of chafing and unwanted stares (32 B then). I was young and defiant then !

    • Leslie Le

      You have a valid point, Eve– she DID ask for something specifically for professional speaking gigs and press appearances. So, in those circumstances, a bra is appropriate. That DOESN’T mean she has to wear them all the time.

    • K_Line

      I completely concur Eve. Whatever one believes about wearing a bra or no, “braless” and “professional” are not two concepts that align well. I cannot think of one senior professional (in any workplace I’ve been in) who goes braless. For better or worse, there are connotations associated with the act of eschewing the bra.

  • Monica H

    Sally, thanks for this thoughtful post.

    I think that what I find interesting is that (in our culture at least) while you are correct there is no analogous male garment, in some ways males are expected to dress in such a way as to conform to the “male gaze” as well. For them it is not about what they MUST wear, but about what they MAY NOT wear without appearing “gay.” Men may not wear Speedo-type bathing suits, leggings, or skirts for example. Part of the presumption I think is that if you are showing these things off, A) men might look at you, and B) you will signal that you’re probably gay and showing off your body for men (not women) to look at.

    I do think bras are an interesting intersection of gender expectations and fashion. Because, as you say, dressing is a social act. It does seem sloppy and unkempt and certainly unprofessional to not wear a bra. Nipples shouldn’t be visible through your clothes, even in outline (nor other sexual parts). To me this seems to be in the same category as letting your underwear show or visible panty lines. There are things underneath that simply don’t need to be seen in public, especially not in a professional setting.

    I have very small breasts (36AA) and while I could go braless, I rarely do unless I’m specifically trying to be sexy. For one, my nipples tend to chafe against my shirt, and become visible under clothes. Still, I do draw the line at wearing padded bras intended to increase my bust size, even though many clothes do obviously expect my breasts to be larger than they are. But since it’s not me, it’s the clothes, I either choose different styles or have them altered. Since I have a large ribcage, a lot of times it turns out ok, the space is filled with my torso where other women might have boobs. 🙂

  • what not

    I’m a 32B, with a wide root and shallow breasts. This means that my breast tissue is spread out a lot rather than front-and-center (and doesn’t look at all like our idea of a B), and I don’t need “support” in any tangible way. However, I have prominent nipples.

    Thus, the entire focus of my wearing bras is to spare the world the sight of my nipples and spare myself the world’s reaction. Very few bras fit me unless they’re full-coverage, but having to cover all that tissue just for my nipples feels dumb, and I’ve never been physically comfortable with the straps and the squeezing. So I resent wearing bras.

    My solution? Eight months a year it’s chilly enough to layer, so my standard outfit includes a tight tank (keeps the nipples in check) under other tanks, thicker knits, and/or slouchy layers.

    For the warmer months, I have bras that are very light and cute–one hot pink, one stretchy mesh, two repurposed bikini tops, things like that–and with interesting straps like racerbacks that I’m happy to let show as part of my “look”. By the end of the day the straps and band are usually bugging me and I’m still glad to take them off at home, but I feel a little subversive in my bra choices, and I only get to enjoy them for a scant few months before I pack them away for the cooler seasons anyway.

    • Monica H

      One solution I have tried for the nipple issue is reusable silicone nipple covers. They are a bit… odd in some ways, but do a good job of providing coverage for me and also preventing chafing which is one of my issues without a bra. They are my go-to solution for backless dresses, and when I’m backpacking since bra straps and band get irritating rubbing under my pack. How’s that for diverse usage, LOL!

  • Talia

    As a very small chested woman (32AA), I don’t even think about leaving my house without a bra. Wearing a bra gives a form to my clothing that is otherwise not present. I no longer wear a padded bra (I used to wear a bra that was so padded it made me look like I was a B cup) as I am quite happy with my size. As a runner and a 49 year old woman, it is delightful to finally accept my body for all the wonderful things it can do – not how it looks.

  • Leslie Le

    I had a breast reduction surgery when I was 14. As such, my breasts are perky and not all that saggy 20 years later. When I’m home? NO BRA!! Woooo!!! But I *do* put one on when I go in public. I stick with a simple cotton just-my-size with an underwire, nothing fancy. They do the job. But I’ve recently taken out the underwires in an older one, and have deemed it my “house bra.” I can wear it around the house when I’m doing housework, and my back doesn’t hurt after.

    The other day, I wore my “house bra” out in public. My chest wasn’t as supported as if I were wearing an underwire, but I felt “decent” and didn’t mind. Now I’m thinking of taking the underwires out of a few more bras! (I have tried soft bras in the past, but they always feel weird and look too “granny” to me.)

  • Sewing Faille

    To me, bras are oppressive because they are such a money sink– they’re expensive, and they wear out fast. My fashion bras cost around $40, and you’re supposed to replace them, what, every six months? That’s hundreds of dollars a year I could have spent on something way more interesting. My sports bras don’t do that. Guys don’t have to do that.

    • Brenna Goode

      I keep my bras for several years – when I take care of them, why in the world would I get rid of them every six months? It probably does help that I’m small chested, so they aren’t under too much stress daily.

  • Sewing Faille

    I’d also like to add that in the 1930’s, when bras were relatively unsupportive, garment bodices were relatively shapeless, not tightly fitted. Improved bra technology and more fitted bodices evolved in tandem.

    • Um, shapeless? 1930s was the height of the bias cut, which is a VERY highly shaped garment, requiring exacting skill to create. The 1930s was also when separate bras & girdles began to be heavily manufactured & marketed; this slowed down in the ’40s due to WWII, but the technology began in the ’30s.

      • Sewing Faille

        I’ve drafted and sewn bias-cut evening dresses from scratch, and I’ll stand by my assertion that they don’t require much fitting– the bias has a great deal of stretch and can accommodate a wide range of sizes and body shapes. In fact, when Vionnet was considering selling her dresses in stores, she didn’t consider selling them in different sizes. The only accommodation she made to different sizes was to provide a lot of length in the skirt so that they could be hemmed for the individual– the bigger around you are, the shorter the skirt would be. Betty Kirke reported trying on one of Vionnet’s own dresses, and found that this worked. Vionnet was a very different size than her, but the dress still stretched to fit perfectly, aside from the skirt length.

        But, for an example of what I’m talking about in general, scroll through the patterns from the 1930’s here (http://www.evadress.com/30s-01.html) and notice how rare it is to see any kind of bust shaping, especially in the earlier patterns. The most common style is no shaping through the bust, a belt to define the waist, and tightly fitted hips. Compare that to the 1940’s styles (http://www.evadress.com/40s-01.html), where you see many more examples of darts, princess seams, and gathers for shaping.

        • Except that all of those ’30s styles you point to (which I’ve worn) are very, very body conscious & quite revealing of the bust & hip curves, when draped correctly. That’s why they require firm undergarments; they were not meant to be worn bra-less or girdle-less. Cutting on the bias introduces stretch, which clings, & reveals the body. This was daring for the times, & needed secure underwear.

  • Mercy Morris

    Really thought-provoking, thank you for being so open and honest. I cannot and would not go without, my mother was anti and it took her a long time to admit that I needed to go and buy my first one. I am a 32 DD/E and a runner, so it would just be terribly painful. But everyone should conform to their own norm, not other peoples’.

  • Rebecca Roueche

    I’m quite ok with the idea of women wearing bras when guys don’t because in MOST cases our chest areas are very different. True, the urge to get the “look” of breasts in bras is very much a social thing, but I don’t think you can use the argument that bras are a symbol of oppression because guys don’t have something comparable. If their breasts looked like a typical woman’s breast they’d wear them too, you know? They also wear cups while playing certain sports. It’s just body shape.

  • As an amateur (but lifelong) fashion historian, ‘what to do about the boobs’ is something every Western culture has dealt with in some way or another since at least the 12th century when clothing technology to make fitted garments became more widespread. I’ve drafted a 14th-c. women’s fitted gown, and when done accurately, the bodice is supportive, flattering, & comfortable with a bra-like fit (here’s one example fwiw: http://www.trystancraft.com/costume/2013/01/20/a-gothic-gothic-fitted-dress/ ). Just some perspective that the bra idea isn’t new.

    So what’s the alternative? Do you want to go paleo & wear skins & furs w/out a bra? Grecian tunics bra-less? *shrug* I’m not fan myself, but if someone wants to, they can knock themselves out. I won’t judge, after all, I wear some pretty wacky stuff 🙂 But clothes are part of the societal contract, & what we wear will get us judged by someone, guaranteed. I wear my CorpGoth office wear & weekend costumes accepting that judgement. And so should any woman who chooses to go bra-less. She’s got about 8 centuries of Western society judging her, unfortunately.

  • Roberta Johnson

    I found the comments very enlightening, because as a triple D (thank you Guy Fieri for changing the connotation of that phrase) I assumed enforced bra-wearing was all about the well-endowed gals. Clearly it isn’t! I hope to have reduction surgery in the next few years and look forward to wearing, at least more comfortable bras, if not quite going without.

    On the other hand, I always felt sorry for men that had to wear ties every day. The idea of tying a choking knot around my throat for 8 hours sounds just as bad. It’s not like the tie does anything to improve a man’s physique, they’re really expensive, and you’re always at risk for a salad dressing stain that will ruin them.

    • Amy

      My dad rebelled against that and started wearing bollo ties -and no he is not a cowboy. He got pressure at his state bureaucracy job and he just said “it’s a tie – where does the rule say cloth tie?” He wore them the last 15 years before he retired and some of them were truly beautiful – great stone and metal clasps.

  • K_Line

    Fascinating question Sally! You know I am bra devotee bar none and, due to my chronic pain issues of late, I have actually been known to go braless for 2 weeks (over vacation) and to take off my bra at work (while at my desk, when working). I often walk home bra-free. And my chest is sizable. Here’s the point – of all the human beings in the world, I’m the one who would be least likely to undergo this experiment, and I’ve done it and – you know what – the world did not end. In fact, people don’t even notice (and I’m observant about body language – plus I’ve asked coworkers to be honest!) I don’t sense it’s going to make my tits saggier (though I’ve always been of the belief that that outcome is largely genetic – or the result of wearing bras that don’t fit). Now, will I do this without wearing a topper (a cardi or jacket)? No way. My image is is very constructed – I dress to be noticed and my clothing is very fitted (though well-fitting). Do I want my boobs to be the only thing people notice (because they’re not conforming to the bra-wearing norm)? Nope. But I would suggest that it’s not the size or shape of ones boobs that determines your perception that the look is “messy”. Even small breasts, unsheathed have a look that clashes with our cultural norms. Western wardrobes are designed to be worn with bras. When we don’t wear them, the eye reads things as “off”.

  • K_Line

    I should also mention that I’m fairly shame-free. I went shopping at a fancy Mtl boutique (where all the ladies are perfect, rich and svelte) without wearing a bra over Xmas. My mother was scandalized. But I was all, whatever. When I wear this sweater next, it’ll be with a bra. And I’m pretty competent at fitting, so there was no problem when I did put on a bra, with the fit of the garment.

  • livi

    I’m 36 and wear a 42 H. I feel like I’ve spent so much money and time on bras it’s ridiculous. My size is impossible to find in a store so I always have to take a chance online and pay for shipping. I won’t go in public without a bra because I feel too self conscious about them swinging around, but in a fit of wanting to save money and not caring anymore if my breasts are lifted and separated, I bought some Just My Size bras that are like the Genie bra. I tried it on in the store and it was so comfortable I stuffed my pinching bra into the box and wore the JMS out of the store. Currently those bras are all I own and I may never go back. I refuse to be uncomfortable, and button up shirts never fit me well anyway so there really isn’t a reason for me to wear a bra that pinches so so my boobs sit a little higher. All I really need is to keep them from swinging wildly and these $15 bras do the trick.

  • Maureen Roberts

    Your client sounds suspiciously like the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. 🙂 Or me. My go-to bras are well-worn sports bras from Target, ie very little support. I’d go bra-less if it were more socially acceptable. I am small so I feel better without the constraints of a bra. I understand women with a larger chest may feel better wearing a bra. At home I never have one on. I do own some really nice ones that lift and shape and push things up and make me look more busty. I wear them occasionally and like how they look, but even though they fit well, they aren’t as comfortable as going sans.

    Another issue is visible nipples. Mine are sometimes visible through several layers of clothing (like when jogging – supportive sports bra, t-shirt, and long-sleeve t-shirt and still they are showing!) and that makes me feel self-conscious. It seems like that is frowned upon, but I think that’s kind of stupid.

    All in all, I follow few wardrobe and makeup conventions for women, but I still find myself bristling at the fact that I feel obligated to do what I do.

  • Thursday

    http://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2012/08/real-talk-not-wearing-bras.html

    First off, I think your advice was appropriate, given your clients parameters, however, fully acknowledging that it is entirely her choice whether to wear a bra or not. There are certainly possible ramifications for choosing not to comply with societal norms, but it is still a choice. Will wearing a bra make her any better at her job? Highly unlikely. But if it will meet her aim of adhering to the expectations of how a professional woman looks, your advice is sound. Maybe just keep in your arsenal some clear ideas of how you would approach such a situation next time to ensure that your client understands that this is a choice as much as any other style guideline.

    Personally, until only a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined going out in public braless (and I’m on the smaller side for my frame at a 40B). But I also tend to react to the silicon strips in strapless bras, so I started going braless in halterneck dresses, growing comfortable with the support provided by the structured bodice. I felt self conscious a bit at first, but now it doesn’t faze me. There are still circumstances under which I would feel very uncomfortable braless, especially in a work environment, and most of the time I do wear a bra, but I have grown to prefer soft cup bras to moulded (they’re just so much harder to find in my size!). I feel like I have regained the confidence to choose when to wear a bra and be happy with all the different ways my breasts can look in clothing. And I think it’s very important to push back against all the bra and breast related conditioning we are subject to.

  • Amy

    Honestly I feel like my bra liberates me. I wear a generous D cup and without a decent bra I can not walk – let alone run, jump dance, practice yoga, hug people, etc. without them hurting and getting in my way. I hated wearing a swim suit until I found versions with actual bra-like support. I always joke that my bra would be the one thing I’d grab in a fire. My only reaction when I see someone without one (larger than a scant B) is to wonder if it hurts – not fashion judgment. Everyone’s body is different and I’m all for wearing what makes you feel confident and comfortable and the best you for you – but for me they are more akin to my glasses – a need not a fashion item.

  • Sarah O

    As a long time bra-wearer (I’ve worn a bra every day since I was about 10 years old). I wouldn’t say I have huge boobs, but I feel naked without my bra and I don’t feel comfortable without a bra in public.

  • oohlookasquirrel

    I’ve got small boobs in an easy-to-find size, and I like the way bras make my body look. I wish I could afford more pretty ones and didn’t end up wearing the same few practical ones all the time, but ah well. I prefer wearing bras when I’m out and about, except in the summer, when I cannot stand them and strategically plan my clothing to get around wearing bras unless I’m staying in the AC most of the time. I have yet to find the ideal summertime bra. Fortunately, I’m small enough that I can frequently get away with a bralette or layering tank tops, depending on the garment. Those shelf bra tanks are pretty convenient. Sure, there’s a little jiggle, and nipples are a reality, but for casual, everyday wear, I’m quite likely to skip the bra. I need to invest in some pretty, comfy bralettes.

  • Sarah Rain

    I’m 39 years old and a 34D and just started wearing bras two years ago. (Before then I only did for exercising.) I hate them and have yet to find one that’s comfortable. I began wearing them because I’ve been gaining weight, and wearing a bra (even Genie-type bras, which I usually wear because they’re not AS uncomfortable as more fitted bras, which I wear when I REALLY want to look good) makes me look more shapely. Getting to take them off when I get home is a huge relief. I wish I didn’t feel the need to “look good” professionally at my office, or that I was secure enough to just go without and accept that people would find me less attractive.

  • I never thought about bras this way but you are right. But…. it is not that much different from other dressing expectations. As you said we enter into social agreements. It is up to us whether we want to conform or rebel. I have always thought high heels were to keep women in their place as they are ludicrous and they hurt.
    Greetje
    PS I am a conformer… I wear bras and love them. And I wear high heels.