On my 14th birthday my mum took me on a very special trip for my first ‘proper’ bra fitting. I was an early bloomer, and though by that point I was a healthy B cup, my collection consisted of a white tesco bra and a purple ‘Mr Men’ number for when I was feeling sassy. So picture me, a naive and slightly tubby teen entering the world of lace, push up, balconnettes, padded and to my astonishment ‘water’ bras. I was overwhelmed with what I perceived to be the glitz of the Marks and Spencer’s underwear section and delighted in choosing a range of garments that were wildly inappropriate for anyone who’s body is still developing. The ‘Fitting’ itself was incredibly awkward, the sales girl asked me to ‘get ready and call her’, which I did, but then found out that the rules of Bra fitting decorum dictate that you don’t take off the bra you are already wearing and wait with your arms over your head. To be fair to fourteen year old me, the only other time I’d ever been semi nude not at home had been at the GP, so I still maintain it was an obvious mistake to make. Anyway, what I assumed would be a highly technical procedure with a group of scientists carefully measuring every dimension of my breasts turned out to be as simple as the sales girl wrapping measuring tape around my torso, telling me I was a 32B and going off to laugh at me with her colleagues. My first Bra fitting left me completely underwhelmed and set the tone for my relationship with Bras up to this very moment.
The ‘right bra’ is part of the modern woman’s mythology at the same level of a ‘good’ pair of jeans and as elusive as the G-Spot. Most of us find bras incredibly uncomfortable, experience back pain and feel constricted when wearing them. We blame this on ‘poor fitting’ but let’s face it, how hard can it be to measure your own torso, I refuse to believe I’m that incompetent. Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon is not the first scientist to tell us that bras can be harmful, in fact in the year 2000 a study conducted in Britain yielded similar results. What rocked the scientific community as a ‘controversial’ study resonated with many women as simply true. Rouillon found that the Breast of women who went bra-less in his study were firmer, and sagged less as they’d been allowed to form a natural resistance against gravity. He concluded that ‘Medically, Physically and Anatomically- breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity’ and that the women who didn’t wear a bra were no more likely to suffer from back pain.
There are also studies that link wearing a bra full time with breast cancer as the bra applies pressure on the lymphatic system. As modern feminist women we know that a wonder bra isn’t strictly necessary for our health – we know that bras are a way of instilling a uniformed sexuality and yet we still wear them. It seems possible that one day we may look on bras as being as damaging as wearing a corset, or as crazy as the practice of foot binding. However, Rouillon wouldn’t advise women to go completely bra less full time, the reason is that he hasn’t been able to study the effects of this longer term. This seems to me a small concession to the billion pound industry of our social norms, but then again I’m not a scientist. In light of this research I decided to conduct my own study and go bra-less for five days, in true glossy mag style I kept a short journal for your entertainment.
Day one: Have my boobs always been this shape? That’s weird. I’m crippled by a surge of paranoia walking to work. I’m pretty sure the old man who walked past me could tell my breasts were unstrapped and free. I’m wearing three layers of clothing and a coat so it’s possible that this is all in my head but still, 87% sure this is actually happening. Everyone is judging me.
Day Two: I’ve completed two eight hour shifts bra less. It was amazing. Usually I have to re-arrange my straps and tuck my rogue left boob back into the cup so it was great not having to do this. I’m normally really aware of my breasts when I work and the discomfort on my back. Back pain is gone, I also breathe a little easier. Loving life.
Day Three: A bit concerned that I have a shy nipple. Did some research on this and apparently women used to ice their nipples in the 90s. Scared that this might make me incredibly sexually aggressive, so for now I’ll settle for my boobs looking like they’re winking. Asked my coworkers if they could tell I wasn’t wearing a bra and they were all shocked and said no. They said I was being ‘brave’. After gushing in disbelief they all agreed to try it.
Day Four: My dad is worried that going bra-less makes me slutty. Sigh. How is not wearing a bra more provocative than wearing a push up or a wonder bra?. Wearing a push up bra is not slutty as it’s a controlled presentation of sexuality. Loose boobs wreak havoc. My sister’s response to my experiment was ‘Why don’t you want to be attractive’. I happen to think my real breasts are really attractive but ok. The power is going to my head, I keep looking at other women wearing bras and shaking my head in a knowing way.
Day Five: Over all less tired than I would be after a week of work. Not having the back pain is incredible. Also, added bonus, it feels like I’m going everywhere in my pajamas. Getting used to the shape of my breasts and appreciating the bounce. Thinking about how much better it would be if we could all see different breast shapes, would prevent a lot of angst over not having perfectly round boobs that sit closer to your neck than your chest. Contrary to what I thought before, having my boobs bounce around is not what causes the pain, it’s my back taking the pressure of lifting up my sand bags. Feel more comfortable with my breast shape than ever, it’s only been five days but I’m strangely confident, I feel like my body moves easier and it’s nice not having red marks on my skin. Oh, and did I mention, NO BACK PAIN.
Fuck you Bra.
By Emi d’Escrivan