Most people assume that not wearing a bra is a privilege for the small breasted. I was recently approached by a friend with larger breasts than myself who expressed frustration with bras and wished she had the option to go braless. When told that she totally had the option, she sighed and said, “I know, but…”
There is an unfortunate and confusing taboo surrounding not wearing a bra. It is often linked with lesbians, feminists, and women seeking sexual attention. Aside from these strange labels, women are also afraid of their nipples poking through their shirt when it’s cold and are anxious about their real breast size and shape being known. For larger breasted women, sagging is considered disgusting and unseemly. This is all a product of growing accustomed to wearing a bra and believing it is natural and normal to do so.
Like most of you, I grew up with an understanding that bras are simply an item of clothing women wear, as simple and obvious as socks and shoes. I didn’t ask any questions. Why would I? It makes perfect sense. They’re functional. They… wait, what do they do again? After doing some research, I learned some interesting facts about bras you probably never knew.
Myth #1: Bras provide comfort and necessary support. Busted! The support a bra gives is mostly psychological. Granted, if you are extremely heavy breasted, wearing a bra can feel more comfortable than going without (we’re talking triple D and beyond here), but for the average breast size, wearing a bra is basically unnecessary. Check out this study from the Female Intelligence Agency done in France:
250 women who practiced sports stopped wearing a bra for one year. They were followed regularly with questionnaires and biometric measurements. At the 6-week checkup, the ladies experienced some discomfort from abandoning the bra, but this disappeared later, and by the end of the year 88% of the women reported improved comfort compared to before the study.
If you think about it evolutionarily, our bodies were not made to need extra support.
Myth #2: Bras prevent sagging breasts. Busted! Wearing a bra prevents breasts from sagging while you’re wearing the bra, but once you take it off, your breasts are actually more likely to sag than if you never wore a bra.
Believe it or not, breasts are going to sag eventually no matter what. It happens naturally over time for every woman (unless you have very small breasts) because there are no muscles in breasts and gravity is a thing. However, the ligaments in your breasts are there to support you—that’s literally their job. If strong enough, they can postpone and lessen the inevitable sagging. When you wear a bra, the ligaments in your breasts atrophy and get weaker because they are not being used, and then they can’t do their job when they need to! The only time it makes medical sense to wear a bra is when jogging or working out. Severe bouncing in large breasts can put a strain on the ligaments and sometimes injure them, so if you’re athletic, don’t throw out your sports bras!
Myth #3: Bras assist in shaping the breasts. Busted! It’s just not true. There is absolutely no evidence that wearing a bra will change the shape of your breasts once your body has fully matured. Apparently, there is some research to suggest it can have a slight effect for girls under the age of seventeen whose breasts are still growing, but after that, your breasts are staying the way they are. Sorry.
If all this is true, you’re probably wondering why women worldwide spend a total of $16 billion on bras every year, make clothing purchases based on the bras they own, and stress out about ever going braless in public. Where did this phenomenon come from?
Fashion trends. Modern day bras, though not nearly as restricting as corsets and girdles, boost breasts up and present them in a round, smooth fashion. Just like the corset and the girdle were considered necessary for health and modesty in the 1900’s and beyond, the bra is yet another cultural development meant to mold and control the ideal female body image of the time.
This comes from the age-old destructive cultural standard of not appreciating women’s bodies in their natural shape. Some women feel so uncomfortable with their own breast shapes that wearing a bra isn’t enough and they spend millions surgically altering their appearance. Our culture has always demanded that women present themselves in a certain way, and the bra may seem like a liberation from these expectations, but it is really just another step in the evolution.
Moral of the story? Do what you’re comfortable with. I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t wear a bra, but realize that it is a choice you make and not something you should feel forced into. Wearing a bra may not be necessary, but it isn’t going to kill you, as long as it fits properly and you give your breasts time to breathe as often as possible.
It has taken me months to become comfortable enough with the shape of my breasts to go without a bra, but I am happier for it. Many girls probably heard what I did from health classes and mentors growing up, that breasts come in all shapes and sizes, but unfortunately our culture does not reinforce this healthy perspective, and actions speak louder than words.
You should also read:
The Lingerie Addict: “Yes, It’s Okay to Not Wear a Bra”