I have a hate-hate relationship with bras. I have been subjected to these ghastly garments since pre-teen hood, and being the owner of larger than average boobs, I have no choice but to wear them. There is no part of bra-wearing that fills me with any joy, and I honestly wish I never had to don one again in my life.
I have various issues with bras, but the resounding reason for the hatred is the incredible discomfort they cause me. Scratchy straps with plastic/metal adjusters slung over both shoulders, and rigid wires pressed against your rib cage do not make for easy, comfortable wearing. And when you enter into the realms of odd bra sizes, namely small back and huge cups, or just plain old huge cups, you must spend a small fortune on them as the likes of M&S et al don’t cater (well) for such sizes.
Now, before all of the bra police pipe up about incorrect sizing etc., let me just tell you that I am the bra police. I know exactly how to fit a bra (you fit a bra, you don’t measure for one). I know how a correctly fitting bra should hang, I know that different brands have sizing discrepancies… Trust me, I just know.
In addition to the terrible discomfort, there is the process of bra shopping. Bra shopping is probably a more stressful shopping experience than Christmas shopping late on 24th December with young children in tow. Cue sweaty, undressing and re-dressing in cramped changing rooms on your quest to find the right fit (these days, usually with an audience of my mother and children). I love shopping, but this kind of shopping fills me with dread. Online shopping is no better. You have to spend a couple of hundred quid on several bras of different sizes, then find the time to stand in the queue at the post office, returning the ones that didn’t fit (in my case, probably all of them).
I have a collection of well-fitting and ill-fitting bras. My body is constantly fluctuating in size and shape. This is the legacy of having two babies in short succession. I own nursing bras which would fit one day, but be too small/big the next, and still losing baby weight means that I have some bras which no longer fit. However, I do own some which fit well, and can remember a time when my body was less changeable. It doesn’t matter how well the bra fits, I have always found them to be equally as uncomfortable, annoying and incredibly unnatural to wear.
In recent years, and particularly after breastfeeding my second child through the sweltering summer of 2013, I have found myself preferring to adopt an ‘unsupported’ way of life when I’m at home. It just became way more comfortable to not wear the things, especially with frequent newborn feeds. Some people are horrified that I choose not to wear a bra at all times when at home, citing the risk of premature sagging as a real issue. Being scientifically-minded, I came to my own conclusion that a thin piece of material holding my boobs was not going to prevent sagging. Indeed, after looking into this topic further, there are numerous scientific articles on the internet to support (excuse the pun) this. Sagging is something that occurs naturally with age and is certainly not prevented by wearing a bra at all times.
I had also begun to conclude that bras were so damn uncomfortable, that they had to have been invented by someone who would never have to wear one: a man. So I was surprised to discover that they were actually invented by a lady called Mary Phelps Jacob who, to her credit, went about inventing the bra as an alternative to the horrendous corsets that were the only form of support at the time. (Incidentally, the corset was also invented by a woman.) So I guess I should be thankful that I no longer have to don a corset every time I need to pop to Waitrose!
Bizarre as it may seem, with all of the aforementioned discomfort in mind, I would never dream of leaving the house without a bra. I would be terrified of causing a stir similar to that of Ground Force’s Charlie Dimmock. But I also religiously wear bras out because my clothes look better with one on, or at least, that’s what my brain is conditioned to believe. We have been conditioned into the idea that our bodies look better when they’ve been contorted in various ways by restrictive undergarments. Our clothes don’t hang so well unless we have boobs that tickle our chins, perfectly smooth silhouettes and nipped-in waists.
I don’t want to tread too deeply into the realms of gender (in)equality, but this bra topic is most certainly an extension of the nonsense that women ‘have’ to do to appear ‘presentable’, where their male counterparts do not. Men don’t wrap and bind their bodies into all sorts of bizarre garments so that their bodies appear more appealing underneath their clothes. Can you imagine taking a man to bed for the first time, only to discover that his body looks nothing like it promised to look like when he was previously clothed?
With that in mind, I confess that the reason I throw comfort to the wind and don my bra is really because I also subscribe to a lot of the above nonsense. I spend time covering my face in cosmetics to look less haggard from looking after children all day more youthful and perfect. I wear high heels from time to time because they make my legs look better in a dress. I fork out on expensive bras to maximise the appearance of my boobs under my clothes. But when you take a step back and really think about all of these rituals that women do and believe in, it really is quite silly.
But for me, that’s where the fakery ends. I don’t personally have issues with my body image. Mine isn’t what is deemed as perfect, especially after having two children. I was most happy with it just before I was pregnant with my first child, where I was leaner and fitter. I know that it has the potential to return to that state. I wouldn’t hoist and haul myself into anything more restrictive than a bra underneath my clothes and do believe that a truly healthy body is a good-looking body – slim (not skinny), strong and fit.
Anyway, I seem to have digressed onto a philosophical rant about women’s fashions, which I never intended to do at the start. I guess that I wanted to highlight my grievance with a garment that was invented to replace another garment that supposedly enhanced our appearance. But really, a world which had a totally different perception would probably be a more comfortable place to live in. Perhaps I have more in common with the bra-burning feminists of 1968 than I ever realised. Now there’s a bombshell.
Do share with me your thoughts on bra-wearing. Are you fortunate enough to be able to get away without them, or do you love your colourful collection of brassieres?
Till next time.