The death of the bra: will the lingerie liberation of lockdown last?
July 5, 2020 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Lockdown has changed a lot of things about the way we present ourselves to the world, and for many women, ditching their bra has been a particularly popular one. (Emine Saner, Guardian) “I just don’t see bras making a comeback after this,” tweeted the Buzzfeed writer Tomi Obaro in May. Her tweet has been “liked” more than half a million times. The feminist satire website Reductress ran a headline last week reading: “Bra furlough extended.”
posted by Johnny Wallflower (116 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
i hate not wearing a bra for the same reason i hate walking dogs off-leash, even when you're completely alone. bc someone might get hurt.

underwires can rot in fucking hell tho
posted by poffin boffin at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2020 [43 favorites]

I respect the experience of the women who say they can go without, but I cannot imagine it for myself. A G cup? How does she do it? I need a little something unless I am lying down. Same with pants: people joke about going pantless, but I need some support and consolation in my personal region.

However, if this leads to the death of the underwire bra, that would be just fine with me. I have been working at home for a while now and I have slid away from the Nice Bra and to the elastic bralettes (cheaper but they break down after a while; not ideal; I need a new brand). I can no longer imagine how I sat comfortably in an underwire bra.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2020 [46 favorites]

i have been wearing elastic front closure surgical bras ever since my reduction ~5 yrs ago and i will never go back to "real" bras, and yes, ugh, they wear out so fast. but it's WORTH IT. no stabby wire, no itchy horrible lace, no stupidly skinny straps that couldn't hold up a single pea and whose only purpose seems to be to cut deep red lines in my shoulders that never go away, no gross sweat-soaked foam cups that cling clammily to my flesh.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:48 AM on July 5, 2020 [21 favorites]

Every time I hear complaints about how being compelled to wear something uncomfortable & inconvenient is a violation of the first amendment I just think excuse me I've been compelled to wear several uncomfortable, inconvenient and extremely expensive items that I had no interest in wearing every day of my life, for no actual reason* except to be accepted for performing femininity correctly. A better world is ahead of us!

*Sometimes bras are practical and necessary but it should be a choice just like everything else!
posted by bleep at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2020 [75 favorites]

I am much happier in a bra, even an underwire, being a somewhat large size and no longer young. I hate the saggy look without one, adds to my existing depression to look in a mirror. Good for all the young, small, and don't give a shit no matter what size or age women happy without one, but that is not me. Nor is it all women. Some will keep wearing a bra that works for them, some will not.
posted by mermayd at 9:51 AM on July 5, 2020 [40 favorites]

Yeah, I keep reading these articles, and that's a big old no for me. Maybe if I were spending the pandemic sitting around the house watching Netflix, but today I have helped the home health aide clean and bathe my mom, met with the hospice nurse, cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed the entire apartment, and mopped the kitchen floor. I am wearing a bra. (I am in fact wearing an underwire sports bra.) I am wearing pants. I have FF boobs and a bunch of physical work to do, and I am not going braless.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2020 [28 favorites]

I respect the experience of the women who say they can go without, but I cannot imagine it for myself. A G cup? How does she do it?

Yeah. I asked my G cup wife about the whole braless thing and she’s just like “no, no way, I couldn’t do it”. Only in bed where she can lie down basically.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:54 AM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

It took me pretty much my entire adult life, but I finally found two brands that make comfortable (to me) underwire bras, and I love them. But I can’t even begin to count the number of different bras I have tried to get to these two brands. And weirdly, I’ve never been able to find a non-underwire that felt supportive and comfortable (I can find one or the other, but not both).

I find going braless pretty uncomfortable after a few hours, and in the summer that leads to itchy, painful, underboob rashes. I’m glad it works for other people, but I would like to keep my bras, please.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2020 [17 favorites]

I’m one of the braless hordes and I don’t see this continuing to take off unless style changes to accommodate a braless silhouette and either visible nipple outlines are socially destigmatized or blouses and shirts start to be made of different materials.
posted by Selena777 at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2020 [48 favorites]

I've been living that bra-free life for years (around the same time I stopped shaving-- in my early 20s I completed my metamorphosis to scary hairy queer feminist). I do wear bralettes or sports bras sometimes depending on weather/what outfit I'm wearing/level of activity required for the day. Often I'll wear a tank top under my main outfit and I find that pretty much serves the same purpose in terms of preventing chafing.

I am pretty jazzed for the cultural reassessment of how much work we want to put into our appearance in absence of an audience. The immediate pushback against going braless from others in this thread feels a lot like the comments I used to get when I first stopped shaving, or when I got my first buzzcut-- "Fine for you, but I could never do that." And it's okay to have personal preferences! But also I do think it is good to examine how much you are rewarded for having preferences that align with normative femininity, and how much of that reaction is a flinch.
posted by mystikspyral at 10:04 AM on July 5, 2020 [32 favorites]

yeah the flinch is from physical pain, read the room.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 AM on July 5, 2020 [75 favorites]

I'm always kind of delighted reading things like this, because I've gone rather in the opposite direction. For whatever reason, I've added an ultra-femme element to my wardrobe (...and my me?), and bought a couple lacy, pretty, underwired bras for the first time in years! It is very fun to be able to play with my gender presentation to this extent. Anyway, mazel tov to everyone else who is finding what brings them comfort, I am happy for all of us.
posted by kalimac at 10:06 AM on July 5, 2020 [12 favorites]

Tweet: "Now that I'm living through a time of plague, I finally understand why so many Italian Renaissance paintings are just people lying around with their tits out."
posted by bartleby at 10:14 AM on July 5, 2020 [131 favorites]

People should be allowed to decide not to do things that are painful for them indeed. Just like everything else bras are painful for some people and painful to be without for other people. But as it is now if it's painful for you you don't have a choice not to wear it. And that maybe we have the opportunity to change that. Maybe 1 (one) nice thing we can have.
posted by bleep at 10:17 AM on July 5, 2020 [22 favorites]

I've been living either braless or in sports bras, and now what I really want is more variety in silhouettes for the latter, to make them wearable with a wider range of clothing styles.

The couple of times I've had to put on a regular bra--the ones I used to consider my most comfortable--I've basically counted the minutes until I could get it off. I never want to go back to that as my daily reality.

I'm old and saggy and a D-cup so I need something, just not the confinement of a traditional bra, if I can help it.
posted by Superplin at 10:18 AM on July 5, 2020 [12 favorites]

In the last five years or more, one of my top criteria for picking tops and t-shirts has been -- can I go without a bra under this? I end up with darker fabrics and boxier cuts than otherwise as a result but the trade-off is well worth it, especially in hot Austin summers.
posted by of strange foe at 10:19 AM on July 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Some years ago, my daughter found an old family group picture (which is quite lovely), and was totally shocked: no one was wearing a bra!!!! But in that time and place, no one did. I don't think I ever wore a bra before I was 20 or something. When my daughter found the picture, no one went without. I think it is about habits. Today I bought a lovely blue-and-white striped kaftan at H&M (strongly recommend) for wearing when home, because at this point even the elastic waistband of my sweatpants feels restrictive. My younger daughter, who like me has big boobs, feels the same. The bra goes off seconds after she enters the apartment, sometimes in the hallway, I don't think she goes braless to work, though.
posted by mumimor at 10:21 AM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

Forget braless, I wish I could go boobless.
posted by LindsayIrene at 10:22 AM on July 5, 2020 [87 favorites]

As someone who started estrogen during the pandemic and is starting to grow some boobs, I've been wearing a bra every day. It's gender-affirming.
posted by SansPoint at 10:24 AM on July 5, 2020 [58 favorites]

For some of us, going braless really isn't an option. We need the support to be comfortable. And I wish the small-breasted women who are declaring the death of the bra would remember that before they make any sweeping statements.

But I'm all for the end of women feeling they have to wear a bra for any reason but that of their own comfort/preference. My mother has told me how, when she got married in 1962, she had the hardest time finding a strapless bra to wear with her wedding gown (a strapless white satin with a lace jacket over top that she had made herself). She went into store after store to ask for a strapless bra in a 30AA, only to be told loftily that "they don't make them that small, dear", and slink away in mortification. I asked her why she didn't just go without, and she said one just didn't go without a bra back then, that she never even thought of that.
posted by orange swan at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2020 [15 favorites]

What I don't understand is that everyone who likes their bra is in here acting like they won't be allowed to wear them anymore and that's what the real issue is. That is never, ever going to happen. The only thing that's going to happen here is actually nothing at all. Nothing is going to change. So why don't you let those of us with sensitive rib cages live for like 1 minute.

(This isn't about boob size either. Everyone's anatomy is different.)
posted by bleep at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2020 [58 favorites]

I went braless for years, all through college and about a year into graduate school before I realized I was constantly adjusting my movement and positioning to make it less obvious I was going braless. Walking slower, wearing cardigans when it was too warm, wrapping my arms over my chest, etc. I do not have small breasts but I have never found going braless uncomfortable, at least not anymore than wearing a bra. But when I do my breasts jiggle and slap and bounce at the slightest movement and it is obvious and once I started seeing clients it just wasn’t feasible anymore.

I finally found a bra that didn’t totally suck (which took forever because somehow the ideal figure is small waist huge boobs, but no one fucking carries DDD/F in small band sizes!) and started wearing it regularly in the last year or two. I felt so much less self conscious—not more comfortable, but I wasn’t constantly bracing and trying to hide the movement of my breasts, which I know I am being judged for as a professional.

This article seems to presume that like... we don’t know that it can be much more comfortable without a bra (for some people)? Like the reason we wear it isn’t because we don’t know how great it is to go braless (for some people). It’s because of the harsh judgement we get if we don’t. The pandemic has changed nothing about that. The reason we get away with no bras right now is the webcam doesn’t show your chest. It’s just making it so that men don’t have to see it. Not changing anything about the male gaze.

Idk. I’d love to continue being braless but I don’t get to be that and be a professional. I don’t see that changing just because of the pandemic.

Also please remember there are plenty of big breasted people that want to get rid of their bras. I’m one, my partner is even bigger than me and neither of us have ever found the “support” anywhere near helpful enough to override the discomfort. It’s not just small breasted people who find it more comfortable to go braless. If you need one that’s fine but maybe don’t make generalizations about the people who find going braless more comfortable.
posted by brook horse at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2020 [45 favorites]

I love all you people out there living your best braless life but I hate the feeling of my skin touching my skin way more than the feeling of bras so I'm team pants forever, bras when not lying down.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2020 [24 favorites]

Count me in the "nothing's changed" group. Actually, I'm still mostly in underwire, too. Most non-underwire bras feel like they're squeezing me in half. I'm very jealous/happy for those that can make the switch. If I ever had a reduction -- something I've fantasized about several times -- I would spend all summer in cool, strappy shirts with no bras.
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

So why don't you let those of us with sensitive rib cages live for like 1 minute.

I don't think anyone is saying that you should have to wear a bra, though?

I'd like to not have to wear a bra and can go comfortably without one most of the time. But I'm also large enough that I need one in order to avoid the harsh judgement that brook horse mentions. It's not just professional contexts either - we just aren't going to relax our standards for women's bodies that much.

Many women have stopped regularly wearing bras during the pandemic in the same way they stop regularly shaving their legs in the winter.

But if you go out there without your bra ... I am 100% in your corner.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:56 AM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

But if you're not wearing a bra, then how do you know you're at work *taps forehead*
posted by unknowncommand at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2020 [17 favorites]

I hate the feeling of my skin touching my skin

WHY IS THIS A THING why do we have this. it's the worst thing.

but also why is corporeal existence the norm. why are we shackled to this fleshy prison.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2020 [80 favorites]

I would be fine if "fewer people wearing bras" led to "bra makers actually put some effort into making good ones to keep customers." But what I worry about it leading to is "if you don't look good without one, your body is wrong."

What I mostly want is for women's bodily comfort to matter as much to manufacturers as men's does.
posted by emjaybee at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2020 [42 favorites]

But if you're not wearing a bra, then how do you know you're at work

a white man with less experience is making more money than me
posted by poffin boffin at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2020 [169 favorites]

Also on the pro-bra end, from Jezebel. This line in particular resonated with me:

A bra of any sort, including the low-impact sports bras that I favor now, functions as a human Thundershirt, providing a gentle hug around my ribcage that makes me feel like I’m ready to start the day

I've definitely got some sensory preferences here--I like having a bra on, and clothing that's too loose/flow-y makes me uncomfortable, and I end up constantly readjusting things. So I'd happier if the pandemic discourse was "wear what makes you comfortable!" as opposed to "no bras and sweatpants for all!"
posted by damayanti at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2020 [12 favorites]

I don't think anyone is saying that you should have to wear a bra, though?

No but there's a really weird running theme that it's offensive to talk about not liking having your arm in a vice all day long as if you're all in danger of the arm vices not being available for purchase anymore & everyone finding it very important to reaffirm that not liking your arm in a vice is actually very strange & unusual & vice arms are actually comfortable and it's like congratulations that the status quo works for you, you won $5 from the patriarchy! Personally I would find it pretty rude to say a whole lot about all of my random good fortunes I was born with.
posted by bleep at 11:03 AM on July 5, 2020 [12 favorites]

a white man with less experience is making more money than me

Correct! I would have also accepted, "I am awake."
posted by unknowncommand at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2020 [9 favorites]

But what I worry about it leading to is "if you don't look good without one, your body is wrong."

I think this presumes people only go/want to go braless if they look good without a bra. Let me be clear: I look horrible without a bra. Absolutely awful. But I go braless anywhere I can get away with ignoring people’s opinions of me. So grocery stores, restaurants, family visits, whatever. But in professional context I have to wear one because it could actually get me in trouble. What everyone is advocating for is that your workplace should not give a fuck what your breasts look like as long as they’re clothed. It shouldn’t matter that I don’t look good without a bra. My job is not to look good.
posted by brook horse at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2020 [37 favorites]

there's a really weird running theme that it's offensive to talk about not liking having your arm in a vice all day

I didn't get that from the conversation at all. I think that people are reacting negatively to being told that bra wearing is going away, not to people saying they don't like bras and would like not to wear one.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

There's definitely a judgemental undercurrent of "the COOL girls are ditching their bras this year, why aren't you, squares??? Scared someone will see your nipples??? Nerd!" to a lot of this but whatever, I'm nursing right now (so feel free to tell me what my boobs ought to be like at any given moment and I guarantee you'll be wrong!) and even when I'm not I have such sensitive skin/sensory issues on my chest that I can't comfortably go without a bra ever. I have exactly one brand I can wear without being driven insane by itching and poking, and luckily it's cheap (Uniqlo <3). But I will defend to the death your right to go without a bra if that's more comfortable for you. Must be nice!

Bras for some, no bras for others! Kang/Kodos 2020!
posted by potrzebie at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2020 [34 favorites]

I have been loving being braless these past few months. Previously, I always took it off as soon as I got in the house. But I am just not quite sure I can get myself not to feel very self-conscious about not wearing one once we are out in public again. I might try though, since I don't go to a professional office. If I did, I feel like not wearing one would definitely have negative repercussions.
posted by mkuhnell at 11:28 AM on July 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

brook horse:
yes yes yes
posted by mkuhnell at 11:29 AM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Bras for those who want them! No bras for those who wish to be braless! Stays or jumps for those embracing their inner 18th century!

more seriously: I don't know how I got through the first 30 years of breast ownership before discovering minimizer bras. Support and reduction all in one - and much less button gaping on shirts. They still have underwires, but I'm used to them by now.

I need to wear a bra, not so much for support (though that's part of it), but also to feel not exposed - that's just me, since I associate no bra as being in pjs, and wouldn't want to answer the door /see anyone outside my immediate family without either a bra or a housecoat overtop. But chacun son goût.
posted by jb at 11:31 AM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

your workplace should not give a fuck what your breasts look like as long as they’re clothed

This. Except for some idiotic reason having visible nipple outline is regarded by many as “unclothed”.
posted by nat at 11:34 AM on July 5, 2020

I would ask that we not say things like it "must be nice" to be more comfortable without a bra, when the whole point of this is many people are forced to wear bras anyway despite them causing significant pain, nausea, etc.

Let's just acknowledge that boobs are hard no matter your size or shape.

This. Except for some idiotic reason having visible nipple outline is regarded by many as “unclothed”.

Even if you manage to cover them (those stupid little silicone flowers that I had an allergic reaction to), if your breasts move even a little bit, you're basically seducing the entire office. Unacceptable!
posted by brook horse at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2020 [13 favorites]

how can we mod nipples to emit a visually damaging radiation
posted by poffin boffin at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2020 [27 favorites]

I fucking loathe bras. I refuse to wear anything other than a sports bra but even so I hate having this ... awful, constricting THING gripping me and reminding me of this bodily feature I just want to go away. And the ones that actually hold them up and dig into them and form them into shapes such that my boobs are the first thing going forward as I walk about the world? I am seriously having a weird panicky moment even reading this conversation and thinking about it. I've hated them for as long as I've had boobs, I resisted them as long as I could as a kid, I've got all sorts of weird issues bound up with the feeling of being a failed, disgusting female because I didn't want to wear a bra and wasn't happy about having boobs and my mom had to stop me from going to school without a bra for my own sake ...

And yet, I still can't bring myself to go outside without one (well, not unless it's cold enough to wear a sweatshirt or coat). I managed to free myself of makeup a few years back and feel GREAT about that, but there is still way too much shame bound up in letting my boobs go unbound. I want to ignore them but feeling them move as I walk just sets off panic bells in my head - stop, you're failing at being a woman again, you're being gross and nobody wants to look at that! Bad, sloppy, gross!

Fwiw, I agree 100% with brook horse and bleep about the weird vibe in this thread that feels like preemptive shutdown of talk about choosing to go braless maybe gaining some modicum of traction as a valid option - I am utterly loving how much less often I am wearing one right now (because I'm staying home much more, not because I can bring myself to go braless in public) but I don't hold out a lot of hope for this continuing. I would LOVE it if somehow it were possible, though, and I think that permitting space for people who don't want to wear them would be a nice thing. I realize people who like to bras aren't trying to drown anybody out and I would never want to deny anybody their choice, but right now it very much isn't a choice for many of us and I don't entirely get the rush to defend a status quo that I do not think is going to go away within any of our lifetimes.

I obviously have a lot of baggage about this matter, though, so what can ya do.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2020 [17 favorites]

My best purchase of quarantine has been a short-sleeve hoodie. I look like Bill Belichick, but I can throw it over my comfy pajama tops and not have to put on a bra for zoom calls.

The men in my life were like "just wear a T-shirt as pajamas?" and I was like "Yeah, but then I would still have to PUT ON A BRA because god forbid any men be exposed to nipples that are not encased in the socially mandatory minimum of two layers of fabric." Short-sleeve hoodie to the rescue!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:46 AM on July 5, 2020 [15 favorites]

Post mastectomy, a friend said something to me about how soon enough I would be able to go braless "all the time" (which presumed I ever went braless. I mean, I sleep in my bra). She meant because I was having reconstruction, her understanding was that fake boobs = braless. I had explain to her that implants or no, I would never go braless because wearing a bra is completely ingrained in me. What someone said upthread about a thundershirt, yes, exactly! I don't feel 'right' physically or mentally without a bra. I was fifty when I had my mastectomy and reconstruction. The ship has sailed for me. I can't leave the house without a bra (and technically I don't even have have breasts).
posted by marimeko at 12:08 PM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I didn't really mind bras before (though I took them off when I got home), but wow I suddenly hate underwire (I don't feel comfortable going out without anything at all). I have a whole selection of crappy bralettes, which are acceptable, but look unattractive in v neck tops, which I have a lot of -- I'd love to find comfortable yet attractive non-underwire cotton or mostly cotton bras. But I'm in Canada. Luckily I don't have to really make any decisions for a while, so my crappy bralettes/reasonably tight tank tops are ok while I desultorily google for bras.
posted by jeather at 12:10 PM on July 5, 2020

I don't know if my breasts count as large enough to join the big boob crowd, but they are certainly saggy and do not generally meet the modern ideal chest shape even with a comfortable underwire, and I love the fact that I don't have to wear a bra in my day to day life. At most I've been wearing nursing tanks which have minimally supportive elastic shelves which I never thought would be an option. Do they make me look "presentable?" Not at all.
posted by muddgirl at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

orange swan: For some of us, going braless really isn't an option. We need the support to be comfortable. And I wish the small-breasted women who are declaring the death of the bra would remember that before they make any sweeping statements.

I'm a 40H (large-breasted woman) and I haven't worn a bra since mid-March and it's the best thing ever. Sweeping statements go both ways.
posted by tzikeh at 12:16 PM on July 5, 2020 [20 favorites]

I'm on Team Bras Are Essential to my Comfort and I really resent that many cute house bras or bralettes don't come in my size and I hope that instead of the total death of the bra there will, in fact, be more comfortable bra construction for all kinds of bodies that still want them.
posted by TwoStride at 12:19 PM on July 5, 2020 [17 favorites]

Oh, another "fun" thing about bras that I wish I could just burn in a dumpster: as I mentioned above, I only wear sports bras, and even with that there are a very few that I find "comfortable" (relatively speaking) enough to even be a possibility. The ones I end up going with very drastically restrict the kind of shirts I can wear, because of course not only is there shame in going without a bra, there's also shame in letting anybody see that you have a bra on (it's like being a woman in public is inherently shameful no matter what - crazy). Anyway, SO FUCKING MUCH of women's wear has a wide neck that exposes my sports bra straps - when I'm not at work I usually wear t-shirts, but my work wear is severely restricted to polo shirts and other things that fit close to the neck. In all honesty I'm more comfortable with closer-necked fits anyway, but it's really depressing when I see a cool shirt with pineapples or birds or whatever all over it and try it on, only to find my bra glaring back at me.

I hate bras and having to wear a bra so, so much.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:21 PM on July 5, 2020 [10 favorites]

I am in the large-boob-hate-bras camp. (yes! we are all at summer camp now! flitting freely through the woods wearing or not wearing whatever we like! later the different camps will get together for some fun intramural sports that don't involve much running or bouncing)

My solution is - fit and flare dresses in stretchy materials for the tiniest bit of support, and I'll throw on a nice drapey scarf if I need to go somewhere where the bobblin/nipple hints would be frowned upon.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:26 PM on July 5, 2020 [9 favorites]

My bras are not exceedingly flattering to my large boobs - the bras do a bit more flattening than lifting and separating because they're sort of jogbra-style, but god dammit, they're comfortable enough that I willingly wear them even while slobbing around the house. (It helps that I tuck my phone into my bra, so it means I always have a place to put my phone.) Decent Exposures makes them and I've had nothing but happy experiences with them, so, yeah, big thumbs up there.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:58 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have large-ish boobs that are a pain to deal with and I've always been irritated by those 'shelf bra' tanks that I could never wear but I took a pair of scissors to a Spanx (?) tank (one of those 'slimming' for was an occasion, okay? God that was hell to wear.) and now I'm thinking that all of those 'smoothing' tanks and shelf-tanks that are floating around my closet, never worn, will make excellent pseudo-bras when I cut the top half free. I wore the one from a 'compression' tank all yesterday and no wires, no digging, no nothing. Like a sports bra, but lighter. I wasn't quite all over the place but I was also not exactly not all over the place.

Nice for the big boobed who want to hide their thunder just slightly in front of their families.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also it's humid AF. Putting a bra on in humidity is a special type of hell.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:23 PM on July 5, 2020 [16 favorites]

Fine for you, but I could never do that." And it's okay to have personal preferences! But also I do think it is good to examine how much you are rewarded for having preferences that align with normative femininity, and how much of that reaction is a flinch.

the choice-choosy "personal preference" framing of not liking a thousand-percent increase in vocal verbal harassment and explicit threats is...noted. free free to condescend to large-breasted women some more, though. the bigger the tits, the less examined the inner life must be, is that it

women's clothing is very frequently made to be larger at the chest and smaller at the waist. when your breasts are not in the same place they were when you bought the clothing, the clothing may or may not continue to go on the body. not "look good" according to "normative feminine" "preferences; not go on. not having enough money for a new wardrobe of buttoning shirts is not a cute little self-deceiving "personal preference" in the way you frame it, either.

physical freedom to run and jump and recline in comfort, which for some excludes bras and for others necessitates them, has already been thoroughly covered.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:51 PM on July 5, 2020 [18 favorites]

Yeah, honestly, the only reward I get for wearing a bra is not getting neck spasms.
posted by LindsayIrene at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Ever since I discovered the tank tops with bra bits in them, I refuse to wear real bras except for one time a year where my mom makes me. (At one point while staying at her house, I showed her how badly it was digging into me and she didn't care. I had marks all over my ribcage.) I have big enough boobs that I shouldn't be doing it and I just don't care. I'm sick of underwire.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:20 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I too dislike the sensation of skin on skin so a good fitting bra that lifts my 38D boobs away from my sweaty ribcage is greatly appreciated. One of my breasts is also larger than the other by a cup size, and a bra helps equalize everything. It's nice. However, I do spend most of my time bra-less now because I am at home and because I can. The only time I put on a bra is for Zoom meetings even if I am not in camera. That's definitely a cultural/social norms thing re: "professional" attire. In fact, many of my anxiety dreams as of late involve me showing up to work without a shirt or bra on. I think that's pretty telling. I *never* have dreams about not wearing pants or underwear. Just being topless in public and feeling exposed.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 2:29 PM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have one of those bra sizes that regular stores just absolutely do not carry. Since gaining weight I don't even know what my current correct size is, but I know that last time I went bra shopping I tried on 8 different sizes and none of them fit right. I ultimately had to buy some that were both too big in the cup and padded in order to get the right band fit, and now I look like I got implants when I wear them, but my old ones were stretched all to hell and I needed SOMETHING asap because I was starting a new job where I needed to look "polished."

When it's possible to get measured at a fancy bra store again I will do that, and then I will go on a quest for the most comfortable bras that exists in that size, because I do like the way I look in bras when I'm dressing up.

BUT. I have also not been bothering to put on my uncomfortable bras when I go out to the grocery store or the bodega, and it's been great. I worry about the nipple thing because mine are pierced and so they're never not sticking out, but luckily I haven't gotten any harassment about it and hopefully that will continue. And the next time I go shopping for regular clothes, I might just grab some specifically to try on braless (because as stated above, it just doesn't work with some clothing). Including men's tees, because the fabric is often thicker, probably for that exact reason.

I remember my mom about to take me to the grocery store braless when I was a kid, and my INSISTING that she had to put a bra on before we left. She went ahead and put one on. I feel like I should call her up and apologize!
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I've got big boobs and can't go without a bra, as it's uncomfortable and unpleasant on the eye. But unless I'm going out, I stick to stretch comfort bras. I usually buy a size down, as they tend to not give enough support otherwise. My favourites are a couple of cheapies I bought in Peacocks, which is a low-end chain store. Really firm support and very comfortable.

I've not worn an underwire bra for years, and doubt I ever will again now.
posted by essexjan at 2:44 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have enormous, saggy boobs. I do not wear a bra at home, ever. I'll wear one to go out, but yeah, not having worn one regularly since mid-March means even my comfy, non-underwire ones are itchy and constricting and unpleasant.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would like to write something really smart, and I have tried and deleted several comments but this is a subject that angers me. So now you get the simple version. Ever since I first developed the boobs I have been angry, in spite of being in a lovely bubble where bras were not necessary for the first many years. I did know there was another world outside.
I was angry, very angry from day one, because when you are born with a female body, you are always an object, and your body is always open for public discussion. I never heard of any of my male friends being stopped on the street because their nipples were showing. I've never had a 50-year old male colleague being assaulted at work.
And what is this whole thing about men not being able to work if they see boobs moving? If they are that uncontrolled, they really shouldn't be in control of anything like dangerous machines or nuclear weapons. Or other peoples' lives.
Some people my age and older miss the objectification. They feel invisible and left out. I don't, I love being old and less visible. But I can still be angry at how women are essentialized, and how the boobs are part of that.
Weirdly, I'm about to get a mastectomy. A big part of me, the biggest part, feels this is a good thing. Obviously it is good for my survival, but I also feel it realigns the perception I have of myself with the person people see. My current body is almost a caricature of femininity, my future body will be more me, not androgynous, but not hyperfeminine either. On the other hand, the surgery is a huge thing that I can't comprehend.
posted by mumimor at 3:09 PM on July 5, 2020 [53 favorites]

I made several bra-style covid masks. They were relatively easy once I had the pattern and it made me wonder if I could make a really comfortable bra. I am thinking of two layers of fabric with t-shirt material for the band but I'm haven't figured out the straps and the seam would have to be horizontal rather than vertical. Experiments will be necessary.
posted by Botanizer at 3:28 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have recently become extremely resentful towards how, my entire life, I've just believed that I could never go out in public without a bra, and how I just never questioned that until now. Due to the pandemic, I've realized that, 1) it's not actually uncomfortable for me to go braless all day, despite my large boobs, and 2) I think that some of my clothes look better without a bra, which is not something I expected to ever think. The gape disappears on some of my button-down shirts! Some of my dresses lay in a more flattering way!

Part of the resentment stems from how all of my bras make my boobs sit higher than their natural shape. Why do my boobs need to be up there? To look perkier? To look bigger (one of the last things I want)? Is lifting them that high contributing more to my back pain?

Despite all of this, I am definitely too nervous to even attempt going to work braless when this is over, despite working in an industry with a very casual dress code in a city also known for its casual dress. And that just makes me even angrier, because my personal choice of bra vs no bra shouldn't matter that much, but there's such an immense social pressure to wear one that it doesn't feel like a choice.

(I also wanted to chime in that I'm uncomfortable with the "this trend just doesn't work for large-boobed people" generalization. Obviously going braless is not comfortable for everyone, but I'm a 32FF/H (UK/US), and I'm one of the people who want this trend to continue and hopefully become socially acceptable.)
posted by catabananza at 3:34 PM on July 5, 2020 [19 favorites]

I hate the feeling of my skin touching my skin

Ugh, this. I have a daily struggle between hating the feeling of my bra band around my rib cage, and hating the clammy feeling of the underside of my braless breasts against my rib cage. Half the time I sit around the house with the middle part of my t-shirt tucked up under my breasts as a buffer, which leaves part of my not-so-trim tummy hanging out below. The weight of the boobs hanging halfway to my navel holds it in place. Maybe that's a post-pandemic professional look that will catch on!
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:35 PM on July 5, 2020 [23 favorites]

As a saggy DD+ who does not care for the sweaty underboob sensation of bralessness, and as work-from-home employee for several years pre-Covid, I endorse the ThirdLove Lounge Bra and this (pricier but stupid comfortable) True&Co number for anyone else who refuses to wear an underwire ever again but wants a teensy bit of lift.
posted by naoko at 4:40 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Half the time I sit around the house with the middle part of my t-shirt tucked up under my breasts as a buffer,

to combat summer cleavage sweat i sit around with a folded pair of socks betwixt my sweaty boobs, i bet you could just tuck a single folded sock underneath each and be fine. i'm using smartwools that wore out their heels in under 6mo so at least now they have actual value to me.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2020 [10 favorites]

i'm using smartwools that wore out their heels in under 6mo so at least now they have actual value to me

poffin boffin, this is genius... I have a whole bag of socks with holes in them that I refuse to throw out because "I'm sure I could use them somehow!" They have not been as useful as rags as I thought they would be, but I bet they would make amazing boob shields. Bless you.
posted by brook horse at 5:33 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I remember when these peculiar things were on Shark Tank and I'm thinking corona-times might be the time to try them.

I'm team sports bra but that's mostly because the surgeon I saw for strange breast pain said I had a "soft tissue injury" and needed to reduce their movement. That's apparently a thing that happens.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:22 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don’t really have much of a problem with bras. Most of mine are pretty comfortable and i have the kind of boobs that require support for movement. I wear sports bras for exercise and underwires for everything else, because i also like dresses with structured bodices, even in quarantine, because literally the only part about being a woman i have ever truly enjoyed is the clothes. But we’re all different. Wear a bra. Don’t wear a bra. But god help the soul that ever tries to come between me and my collection of crinolines
posted by thivaia at 7:10 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

This topic and thread made me really examine how desperate I am to have small breasts and how much sadness I feel about it. The comment ""Fine for you, but I could never do that." And it's okay to have personal preferences!" particularly hurt me. It's not always a personal preference to wear a bra. It is a safety necessity for me. My breasts are saggy (and I'm young! Comments relating youth to small perky breasts can also go away..) and they move a lot when I walk. The comments I've endured from the few times I went braless were emotionally triggering. My breasts cause me a lot of emotional pain and I would love nothing more than to have a small, more androgynous looking chest. So I use bras to flatten flatten flatten minimize then flatten some more. I hope to one day have a reduction but, of course, money.
Some people act like not wearing a bra makes them somehow more enlightened, more feminist, or whatever. All while maybe not realizing it is a dream for many of us that are stuck with breasts that are so large they cause us emotional pain, not to mention harassment and abuse when we dare to try going braless. I would love for a world where large, pendulous breasts are just as acceptable as small perky breasts when going braless. I think people with the privilege of "acceptable" looking unbra-ed chests may not realize how difficult it is to do the same with GG cups (for some. I don't want to speak for all large-breasted people)
That said, I will never ever hate hearing that bra-wearing people are more able to make the choice to not wear one (if they find it uncomfortable). It's heartening and a wonderful silver lining to this whole pandemic mess. Thank you for coming to my TedTalk.
posted by eggs at 7:34 PM on July 5, 2020 [26 favorites]

And I realize the point of the article is that we aren't going out as much and are therefore subject to less scrutiny. This comments thread, however, feels a little more general. At home I am okay to not be under three layers of compression (usually just one nowadays) and that has been quite freeing. Still doesn't change the fact that the moment I step outside, I know I am putting myself in the crosshairs of misogyny.
posted by eggs at 7:40 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

the choice-choosy "personal preference" framing of not liking a thousand-percent increase in vocal verbal harassment and explicit threats is...noted. free free to condescend to large-breasted women some more, though. the bigger the tits, the less examined the inner life must be, is that it

women's clothing is very frequently made to be larger at the chest and smaller at the waist. when your breasts are not in the same place they were when you bought the clothing, the clothing may or may not continue to go on the body. not "look good" according to "normative feminine" "preferences; not go on. not having enough money for a new wardrobe of buttoning shirts is not a cute little self-deceiving "personal preference" in the way you frame it, either.

Yes hello I did not mention my breast size in my comment. People of various breast sizes like or do not like bras; that is pretty much what this thread has established.

My whole earlier comment ["But also I do think it is good to examine how much you are rewarded for having preferences that align with normative femininity, and how much of that reaction is a flinch."] was really directed at people who say that they wear bras because they like to. A lot of the first comments were saying "Fine for some people, but not for me!" and I wanted to say: hey, I am some people, but at one point I was not. It took me years before I felt comfortable trying out some socially unacceptable things, including going braless in public, to realize that I am nonbinary and figure out how to be happy in my skin. Yes some people need the support for their physical comfort, but mandatory bra-wearing is a gendered expectation. People who vocally enjoy fulfilling that expectation makes it that much harder for people who hate bras to feel comfortable deciding not to wear them.

It's also okay to try it out and not like it, or decide it's not worth the stigma. I am fully aware of the social ramifications of not wearing a bra. I just think that those are the reasons that more people should try not wearing bras; to normalize that and make wearing a bra a choice that can be a preference instead of the rule.
posted by mystikspyral at 7:55 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

i'm having trouble finding the right words to express how unpleasant it feels to me to see "not being constantly sexually harassed and/or not experiencing constant debilitating physical pain" categorized as a "reward".
posted by poffin boffin at 8:07 PM on July 5, 2020 [26 favorites]

mystikspyral, I think a lot of the push back on your comment stems from the assumption that people haven't tried going braless. Sometimes that "reward for having preferences that align with normative femininity" is just feeling safe in the world. Not everyone is in a position to try socially unacceptable things at the cost of harassment and abuse.

I always feel bristly when I see people essentially say, well I tried it and it worked for me so maybe if you just became enlightened enough to try it too, you would like it. I know that's not 100% what you are saying but it touches the same nerve, at least for me. And I'll say it here first, I experience a lot of pain and dysphoria surrounding my chest so my feelings about this whole thread are coming through that lens. Take my comment with a grain of salt I guess.
posted by eggs at 8:08 PM on July 5, 2020 [14 favorites]

I also dislike the somewhat rigid connection folks are making between bras and "performing femininity." That's not the only reason people wear bras. Not all bras make your breasts look like two perfect melon halves. Some bras minimize and flatten to reduce "performing femininity." I don't wear a bra to appease men. I do it to make my chest look a lot smaller and help with dysphoria.
posted by eggs at 8:12 PM on July 5, 2020 [15 favorites]

“People who vocally enjoy fulfilling that expectation makes it that much harder for people who hate bras to feel comfortable deciding not to wear them.“

So does that mean that people who are fine with it... ideally shouldn’t mention that they are?
posted by Selena777 at 8:25 PM on July 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Tip for anyone who wants to go braless but has some physical discomfort: it won't be a panacea for everyone of course, but working on your upper body strength can really help in some cases. Chest muscles for less discomfort around bouncing, back muscles and general core strength for helping decrease discomfort with the weight in general. Even breast-havers who prefer wearing bras could potentially benefit, in the latter case.
posted by eviemath at 8:29 PM on July 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

I definitely agree that you should wear a bra if it makes you feel comfortable, whether that "comfort" is physical comfort or psychological comfort or social comfort. Like, you do you, right?

What does interest me about the whole no bra thing is more of an aesthetic argument. I think going braless highlights the idea that there are soooooo many different breast shapes and therefore body shapes, and seeing more of those different shapes out "in the wild" would actually be a beautiful and affirming thing. Because I think it is true that most bras do have the goal of creating a specific shape (or a small set of them, depending on if we're talking sports bra or underwire or whatevs), and so going without opens up the aesthetic possibilities around body shape. So perhaps one good thing would be that bra manufacturers listen up and start to create more products that actually celebrate the variety of human bodies while still providing the support that obviously many people with boobs do still want.
posted by k8bot at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

Uugggghhh who was it that said we should go BOOBless, not braless? Please please sign me up for that.

I'm undecided about bras because not wearing a bra means I can't run. And I'm late a lot, so I'm constantly running (at least, "dignified" run-walking where you try to keep your upper body very stiff to convey an impression of total adulthood/professionalism and use the power of your mind to stop yourself sweating) to meeting rooms and my car and so on.

But I'd ditch bras in half a second if I could be guaranteed my boobs wouldn't flop around while I'm just trying to get through a day. Goddamn I'd give a lot to not have boobs! As it is, I don't think I can afford a cosmetic double mastectomy, I'm not even sure they allow it? and I'm not sure I can handle dating as a woman who has gotten rid of her boobs, so. Dream on, me.
posted by MiraK at 8:53 PM on July 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

It's not that performing femininity is the only reason that *exists* for wearing them it's that for some people that is the only reason *they* are making themselves uncomfortable every day and they'd just rather not but it's not a choice they can make if they want to have a career. There's a huge difference between wearing something because it does something for you which is obviously fantastic, and wearing something whether you like it or not but you're just trying to get by in the fucked up system you were born into, I can't believe this is so controversial.
posted by bleep at 9:48 PM on July 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

If you include my H-cups (H for humungous) with my unnaturally fat chest and pendulous belly, I may never be able to button up another shirt designed for a woman. Also, I remember one particularly flatchested colleague getting negative student evaluations because she didn't (want to or need to) wear a bra to keep her boobies corralled, so I would be everlastingly shamed by the patriarchy with askance glance (or cruel comments or loud shouts from passing vehicles or gossip or complaints to HR) from any gender with a stick up their arse (or equivalent orifice) and with no manners. That said, I have been at home except for doctors appointments for last 6.5 months, and they swing free and comfortably. It is just so wonderful, especially as I have had respiratory issues and coughing all day when you have a belt around your chest and two thin straps digging into your shoulders is no fun.
posted by b33j at 10:15 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm G-cup +/- 2 (never really been sure, but large), Team Skin Must Not Touch Skin, terrible posture, messed up back muscle chain, very weak neck muscles.

On a whim I bought a tube top made of medium-weight sweatshirt material before the pandemic hit & it's become my daily bra replacement: keeps skin from touching skin, keeps boobs from flopping around without putting weight on my neck/shoulders, provides maximum still-clothed sun exposure when I go out into my Arizona backyard for exactly 90 seconds every day.

I've been working on my posture/ muscle shittiness as a minor quarantine project & whenever I switch back to a sports bra I can feel it jacking my shit up within the first half hour. Don't think I'll ever go back.

Have also been working on sitting ergonomically instead of Stereotypical Bisexual Sit-Wrong but that's a topic for a different thread
posted by taquito sunrise at 10:18 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I broke my arm in November, and with that and the pandemic I have hardly worn a bra since. I still put one on if I'm going out where other people can see me, but I hardly do that, and it is so comfortable not to. I have been experimenting with going out to my local shop without, but with some sort of tight top, and as far as I can tell no-one has noticed. My breasts are quite large but reasonably non-wobbly, which helps, It also helps that I'm an Old, and so effectively invisible to strangers (which is generally brilliant, by the way).

Bras definitely need a radical re-design, although perhaps not as much as the things fiercekitten linked to, which look as if they would really strain your neck. My strategy in the past has been to get myself measured somewhere reliable (John Lewis in the UK), then buy them online from somewhere cheaper (Marks and Spencer usually), which at least gets you something that fits, but even so underwires are bloody uncomfortable and the back fastenings are a nightmare. In hot, humid weather I find it often impossible to do the "fasten at the front then slide round so the fastening is at the back" maneuver because everything sticks to me, and it was completely impossible with a broken arm. So now I am researching unwired, front-fastening versions, preferably ones that don't look too sporty (personal preference) and was wondering if I might end up attempting to make my own, despite my limited sewing skills, but there have been some interesting alternative suggestions here, and now I'm wondering about some sort of front-fastening tube top arrangement. Perhaps I should cut up some old t-shirts and experiment.
posted by Fuchsoid at 11:14 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am one of the bra burners of the 1960s. Never ever found a bra I could stand. I have a large skeleton and ample breasts and they just don't make bras big enough to go around my chest that don't depend on hanging 16 tons of boobage from my poor sore shoulders. I've tried one or two on every few years and I just can't deal with the pain. Yeah I sag and my nips show but I just don't give a fuck. Celebrating over 50 years of freedom!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:02 AM on July 6, 2020 [12 favorites]

All of this is making me want to say that really nearly none of us know what the wide and wondrous world of breasts looks like when everyone's chest is doing its own thing. They've been squeezed up and around and pointed different places for so long. I have learned in this isolation game that mine do make my back hurt with regularity either way, and in the context of the society I'm in, no bra makes me look like I have utterly given up.

I may have utterly given up. I may just be tired of handwashing one particularly expensive sink-load of clothing. I know I can run (or even, just, jog across the street before the light changes) braless without putting my hands up to support, but never ever if I want to not be just utterly dehumanized.

Is it that boobs are a sign of aging more quickly than other body stuff? Is it that they're just sexualized from the beginning? I remember looking at my mom's chest and thinking "uh-oh" and learning about the pencil test and then going from fail to pass in the pencil test in a matter of two pain-ridden, stretch-marky weeks when I was 17.

I don't even know what word to use for these things up front here. It felt like a victory when I moved to a Big Time City and got to go to the fancy bra shop with less money than I knew I had to bring. Was it a victory? Is frumpy the worst thing to be? It was a real weird kinda dehumanizing experience, stripping down for a women who did know what all the boobs look like. She said, "Wait here," and then brought back a few bras that actually made sense. They all cost at least sixty bucks. And I thought I was getting ripped off by the shop experience until it was clear that she was good at her job and was correct and holy shit my underwear costs sixty dollars at least. And I resent it!

So I agree that the bra situation is fraught. And to the wishes above, I have often wished aloud that I might just screw off my boobs or scrunch and pull or whatever so I can leave them on the side table where the keys go. Blop, blop. Time to get things done. I will buy a tray for their keeping. I am so sick of breasts and of breasts being sexualized. I hate it all over and I hate it the most in the forward direction, toward which I point most involuntarily, always, all the time.
posted by lauranesson at 12:40 AM on July 6, 2020 [18 favorites]

And for real thank you to people posting things about bra recommendations to just squeeze 'em in there. Please consider this encouragement for more of these reccies. I'm 34G, if you have any advice. I am so tired of boobs.
posted by lauranesson at 12:43 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have small boobs, and can definitely go braless in terms of aesthetics, shape, etc. But I hate the feeling of fabric brushing against my nipples, so I'm only really comfortable braless when I'm not moving around much (like lying in bed).

However, I have been experimenting, because I want to find what I've been thinking of as a "day to night" outfit, by which I mean that I can wear it on zoom calls and while eating dinner / on the sofa, but also at some point just roll over and go to sleep without having to get changed. The best I've found so far is very tight tank tops, which as a component of a pajama set, or underneath a pajama top, stop my boob-skin from being assaulted by brushy fabric, but also don't constrict me so I feel like I can't breathe while sleeping.

Lately I've been changing out of pajamas around 10am when my first zoom calls start, and going for a run as a lunch break in the early afternoon. Then I shower and get into my afternoon pajamas/tank top combo, throw a hoodie or cardigan on top in case of more zoom calls, and I can go straight from that to bed later on. I reckon by the end of the pandemic, I will have eliminated that awkward non-pajama period in the late morning too...
posted by lollusc at 2:09 AM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am a have-to, but I went underwire-free last year and it made such a difference. Based on anecdata, the big shift in bra wearing will be the move to more sports/atheleisure/comfort-orientated bras.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 3:55 AM on July 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Half the time I sit around the house with the middle part of my t-shirt tucked up under my breasts as a buffer, which leaves part of my not-so-trim tummy hanging out below. The weight of the boobs hanging halfway to my navel holds it in place. Maybe that's a post-pandemic professional look that will catch on!

I would happily join your professional society of improvised t-shirt bras. This is the look I'd like to rock most of the time, and the t-shirt that is the best for this is a shirt from a past work event, so maybe it's technically professional.

Alas, I'm sitting on a work call right now wearing an underwire bra, and my camera is off, so why am I even bothering?
posted by gladly at 6:05 AM on July 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I can only make it so far into a day at home without a bra. My boobs are not remarkable in size, shape or bounce or sag at least as far as I can tell. They are the yinnest part of my body, and it gives me confidence that they have a layer of protection. I wish I could get used to a bra-free existence, but I am not that person.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:22 AM on July 6, 2020

The small women-only Slack I'm in takes up the question of bra or no bra every six months or so (I... am not sure why, we all just like talking about boobs I guess) and we're split down the middle on the question. Size doesn't matter, we've got large-breasted women on both sides of the question - it really seems to be a "can I stand my skin touching my other skin" and "which way is less clammily disgusting for me" thing. (Underboob sweat is gross; damp fabric-covered elastic is also gross.)

I'm still holding out for the anti-gravity field generator to solve the whole question for us.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have boobs that have nowhere to put a pencil. For years (long ago) I was confused about "the pencil test" because on me the pencil falls straight to the floor as soon as you let go of it. There is no "pick the boob up, put the pencil under it" because there's nothing to pick up. I am not made that way. (I'm fifty. This is not a 'youth' thing.)

I wear lightly-lined "full coverage" bras in most circumstances because I am not allowed to kill the men who comment on visible nipples. If I don't wear this sort of a bra, there is nipple commentary, always. Something like "You cold, honey?" or "Did you leave the headlights on?" or "You smugglin' some raisins?" and I'm sure that crap is supposed to be redneck funny but it always comes out as "I CAN SEE YOUR NIPPLES AND I AM ALERTING EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ROOM TO THIS FACT BY MY COMMENT SO THAT THEY, TOO, CAN STARE AT YOUR OFFENSIVE NIPPLE-DISPLAYING TITS UNTIL YOU COVER THEM UP LIKE A DECENT WOMAN". (Whatever I may lack in the boob department, I do not lack at all in the prominent-nipple department.) At the moment I'm down to ONE underwire bra that isn't broken* (and therefore poke-y). So today I spent $254 on underwear (four bras) that I don't like so that I can keep from killing men who, let's be honest, at the very least deserve a solid smack upside the head for their injudicious commentary aimed at policing unruly nipples.

*For the folks in this thread who are not familiar with underwire bras... they have wires under the boobs. These wires sometimes snap in half. And then the poke-y ends of the wire poke the bra wearer and the bra doesn't make the boobs look "right" anymore and the bra is dead. Broken underwire=dead bra.
posted by which_chick at 6:47 AM on July 6, 2020 [20 favorites]

because I am not allowed to kill the men who comment on visible nipples.

If you are seeking permission, you have mine.
posted by phunniemee at 7:21 AM on July 6, 2020 [20 favorites]

If an underwire breaks or pokes out, I will totally slide the wires out of the pockets and keep using the bra. It's not as good -- it just looks like a bralette -- but it's something, and those bastards are expensive.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:30 AM on July 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I haven’t had an underwire break since I stopped drying my bras. Machine wash in a delicates bag, hang up to dry.

I am still wearing bras, mostly underwire, because I feel undressed without one. Why? Because of all the men (and boys too, and even fellow girls; “oh no you have nipples” started before high school) who cannot resist commenting on it.

One time I really remember was an asshole kid in swim class; being male, he was wearing swim trunks. And had to announce to everyone about how he could see my nipples under my swimsuit (a suit meant for speed, not looking good; I was a competitive swimmer at the time). I wish I’d had the guts then to respond about how his were rather *more* visible.

So, I have doubts the braless trend will catch on if it is only happening now because women are less exposed on Zoom than they are in reality.
posted by nat at 10:30 AM on July 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

My kingdom for affordable, smooth (no lace!), wire-free lounge bras/bralettes that come in a good range of actual cup/band sizes. I HATE the skin-on-skin feeling of going fully braless, and prefer a little support plus nipple coverage for both social and comfort reasons; I hate the chafing of looser fabric rubbing against my nipples all day. But I am about a 30E and most lounge bras come in S/M/L type sizing that is either too small in the bust (S), resulting in my boobs being squished together (ew! skin on skin!) or spilling out over top. Or I size up and it's too large in the band (M-L), resulting in chafing around the band or feeling nearly as unsupported as going braless.

I bought a wireless bra from ThirdLove that is so structured it might as well have wires AND fits much tighter in the band than their other bras of the same size, so it's actually less comfortable than the wired one I got in the same order. Which brings us to the other issue of bras during quarantine - I don't really feel comfortable going shopping and trying things on, but also don't have the time/money/energy to order a bunch and return the ones that suck, which is likely to be most of them.

To be fair, I hated bras and bra shopping enough that I never could muster the energy to do it even pre-quarantine, which is how I ended up wearing bras that I realized were probably 10+ years old even though they didn't fit and were falling apart.
posted by misskaz at 10:37 AM on July 6, 2020

I found that menopause totally changed my relationship to my breasts. I used to wear underwired bras and really enjoyed the crazy feminine ones with lace and shit on them, which were expensive because (well because bras are stupidly expensive but also because) I'm a 40G. But then I hit menopause and my give-a-crap broke and I'm much less feminine-presenting now. The worst was that wired bras went from mildly uncomfortable if they sat in the wrong place on my underboob, to sheer torture. I have switched to the kind of unstructured sports bras that are actually just fabric bags for your boobs. I can't do without them (chafing and back pain) and envy the people who can comfortably go braless.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:45 AM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

I haven't worn a bra except to exercise in years. I just can't. I've tried everything and they all hurt my rib cage, make me itchy and uncomfortable and I can't stand it. I'm 56, I've breastfed two kids and I don't know my cup size anymore, but my breasts are big and they definitely hang. I haven't worn a bra to work in years. If I feel uncomfortable about layers, I'll wear a camisole. I'm not happy about it. I've seen pictures of myself and I'm all hanging boobs and belly, but nothing has worked for me. Shelf bras, molded cups with no elastic, bandeaus, they all make me feel terrible. So I know I don't look that great in clothes because they're not made for the fat big-busted braless lady, and sometimes I care enough to try again, but I always go back to not wearing one, usually after the first 10 minutes.

YMMV, of course. I feel embarrassed sometimes, but I care about how I feel more than I care about how I look at this point.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:29 AM on July 6, 2020 [8 favorites]

I used to have a figure that would let me get away with going braless - wee little wisp of a thing with teeny pert breasts that stood up on their own power, but were kinda small. Back then my biggest concern was finding a bra my size that fit, but did NOT have excessive amounts of padding (my biggest complaint once was that all the bras my size had so much extra padding that I could have used my lingerie as throw pillows).

Then I hit middle age and things started to...not sag, so much as gravitate downward. I also started to gain weight finally (I was notoriously underweight all through my 20s). Suddenly, if I wore a bra, it gave me cleavage. And I liked that.

Then I went through a solid ten years of being super broke ass, and any good bra was expensive. Combine that with my body also morphing size, and I no longer know what fits me. However, I still longed to recapture that "wait, I have cleavage now" feeling.

So ironically, one of my first post-Covid splurges is going to be a visit to the boutique that is supposed to be the best bra fitters in town, where I will be asking them to fit me out with the best size bra and I will then invest in the frilliest, most sex-kitten thing I can get away with because dammit I deserve to look bodacious at last and if a bra will help that happen then so be it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on July 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

I do wonder what, if anything, will come out of a large amount of women all at the same time realizing they don't want to wear their existing bras. My hope is that the most common bra types will change to become more comfortable and less shape-manipulating, and that it will become more socially acceptable to go without for those who desire that. ("Socially acceptable" encompassing everything from "not subject to harassment" to "not being considered 'unprofessional' at work.") My more realistic expectation is that the first thing will happen to some degree, but I honestly don't have much hope of the latter, because my faith in people is pretty low right now.

For those asking for suggestions, I bought the Chantelle Soft Stretch Padded V-Neck Bra a few weeks ago and I've been happy with it. I think the key for me has been very large straps with a high back, combined with a low amount of support (I've tried a few wireless bras that try to offer the same amount of support/lift as wired, but so far that has just translated to a lot of load on my shoulders). Many brands have this general style, but this particular one has different proportions so that it fits low-band/large-cup sizes despite not being band/cup sizing. My boobs do touch each other, but they're not squished together like an ill-fitting sports bra. For reference, I'm a 32H in that brand, and I got the M/L in that particular bra.

Evelyn & Bobbie's Defy Bra looks very similar and has similar sizing, but they've been sold out in my size for a while so I can't offer personal experience. Wacoal, Knix, and True & Co also offer this style, but unfortunately they don't make a band/cup combo that would fit me, so again no personal experience.
posted by catabananza at 12:21 PM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

My home desk set up is such that I am only visible in video from the shoulders up, so I go without bras at home. I do feel self-conscious when I have to walk my dog in the front yard. If I'm leaving the property, I wear a bra, for the same reasons as mentioned above.

I have to say, though, since the pandemic: underwire can go to hell and stay there. My tolerance for discomfort is low. I'm not even a fan of most sports bras, most of which were tourniquets in their previous lives. My kingdom for a front-close, wirefree, lace-free bra!
posted by corvikate at 12:24 PM on July 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

...I just realized I said "low amount of support" when I should have emphasized the low amount of lift. I have bras with much lift and relatively poor support, which turns into back and shoulder pain. But if there's less lift, there's less support needed to get that lift. Anyway I'm trying to find low-lift (is there an actual bra-search term for this?) bras right now, but it's not a popular idea, so I haven't been very successful.
posted by catabananza at 12:33 PM on July 6, 2020

Sometimes these discussions become tinged with the idea that if you do X (like wear a bra), then you are a victim of the patriarchy and not an agent of your own decisions. This can absolutely be true. Then again there are also reasons women would do X as they have determined this is the best course of action for themselves. It's hard to prove your own reasoning though, and I don't necessarily think you should be required to. I still bristle at one discussion on the blue over wearing makeup, where I and other women chimed in to say we happen to enjoy makeup for various reasons. One guy wasn't having it, though, and his last comment in response to me was something to the effect of, "people don't want to admit they are victims." It really fucking pissed me off. I don't know if this adds anything to the conversation but I felt like getting that off my chest (ahem).
posted by JenMarie at 1:24 PM on July 6, 2020 [15 favorites]

One guy wasn't having it, though, and his last comment in response to me was something to the effect of, "people don't want to admit they are victims." It really fucking pissed me off.

Someone said something similar to me during an online discussion about leg-shaving. I think my response was something like: "let me get this straight. You're saying that I am not capable of coming to an independent decision about my body, and you're saying that the reason I am not capable of making this independent decision is because I am a woman?"

…If memory serves correctly, they didn't have anything to say to that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2020 [10 favorites]

sports bras, most of which were tourniquets in their previous lives

One time as a kid my tired arms couldn’t take off my bra and I started crying thinking I was stuck forever
(*not a kid but this still happens)
posted by trig at 2:47 PM on July 6, 2020 [6 favorites]

I would love nothing more than to have a small, more androgynous looking chest

As a small breasted person, some of the comments here about small breasts from folks who do not have them make me profoundly uncomfortable. The example above is a perfect illustration of this, because so often women with small breasts are coded as more androgynous/less feminine. As a cisgender woman who likes to dress very feminine, I am reminded regularly that my breast size is not coded as feminine thanks not just to the way dresses are cut in the chest by mass clothing production sizing, but to comments like this. I know small breasted folks have different issues than large breasted folks, but just because these issues are different does not mean life with small breasts is worry free.

I can assure y'all from having to wear bras my whole life because nipple stigma in professional settings is Very Real that A-cup folks in my area of the US midwest have as much difficulty finding bras in stores as folks with larger breasts. The specialty bra stores online for small breasted folks sell bras at prices similar to bras for folks with larger breasts. Finding a well-fitting bra becomes even more difficult for folks like me who are sort of overweight or broad shouldered with small breasts, because small breast makers often assume small cups = small chest circumference. Also, virtually every item of clothing I own for someone with my waist size has way too much fabric in the chest because of the assumption that size 10-12 means at least a B cup or usually larger.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:40 PM on July 6, 2020 [12 favorites]

I recently got a stereotactic breast biopsy. I am wearing an underwire bra that was the first one I grabbed from my bra drawer, as the biopsy area is painfully uncomfortable if I do not wear a bra providing some support and / or compression. I initially wore a sports bra as recommended but putting on and taking off the bra was such a pain (literally) that I'm just wearing my regular bras for now. Going braless is not an option for me currently.
posted by needled at 3:44 PM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

The hostility in this thread — all of it apparently among people with breasts who wear or have worn bras — is depressing.

Some of us have large breasts and are happier and more comfortable wearing bras. Some of us have small breasts and are happier and more comfortable wearing bras. Some of us have large breasts and are happier and more comfortable not wearing bras. Some of us have small breasts and are happier and more not comfortable wearing bras. Some of us have large breasts and find binders most comfortable in some respects and intensely uncomfortable in other respects. Some of us have small breasts and find binders most comfortable in some respects and intensely uncomfortable in other respects. Some of us have had medical procedures and found that wearing a bra during recovery was the best choice. Some of us have had medical procedures and found that wearing a bra during recovery wasn't the best choice.

It sounds like everyone here pretty much agrees that the current range of bras and other support garments isn't good and fails to meet many people's needs, and many or most of us resent feeling like our personal clothing choices are significantly affected by other people's opinions about our bodies, breasts, and/or nipples.
posted by Lexica at 4:11 PM on July 6, 2020 [11 favorites]

I have small breasts (which I wish were larger, I'm not a small person and so clothes always kind of fit awkwardly, anyway) , and have found that even though I love nothing more than taking off my bra when I get home from work , if I'm home all day I prefer to wear a soft , non-underwire bralette. I don't think this has anything to do with the patriarchy or being conditioned (my mom hates bras), it's just what's comfortable to me. I've thus invested in tripling the number of "house bras" I own. These are quickly becoming acceptable as outside bras too. If more choices on how we work with our breasts is a side effect from Covid, great.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 4:31 PM on July 6, 2020

Well in case anyone is not doing anything, here is the Wikipedia entry on the history of bras.

They weren't always as they are today.

I guess someday underwires will be viewed like corsets. I don't see how that could go any other way. "Hey, remember the good old days of heavy gauge underwire under our boobs? That was fun!"

There's no way to work through bra stuff without weighing in sexism though. I *have* to wear a bra in professional settings (not true for everyone!) But I would literally not be promotable. I'd just be the woman with the flying boobs. They wouldn't even remember my name. Culturally it isn't okay in my little culture, but we all exist in these little micro-cultures with our own specialized engineering problems.

Anyway--I don't really feel contentiousness in this thread. Just exhaustion and sweaty tits and having Had It With Things in varying ways and pretty much everyone seems like they could use a shower and some lavender cornstarch powder or whatever.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:34 PM on July 6, 2020 [13 favorites]

I would add that strapless bras are an abomination and so many gorgeous dresses* and tops are evidently made for people that can a) manage to make a strapless bra work for them or b) have the sort of lithe, almost, but not quite flat-chested model body that allows for fashionable bralessness.

*Like 95% of the eveningwear I like.
posted by thivaia at 9:29 PM on July 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

one of my first post-Covid splurges is going to be a visit to the boutique that is supposed to be the best bra fitters in town

I'm a big proponent of having a proper bra fitting, even if the bras will themselves be expensive (I'll buy one from the fancy store, which I see as part of the fee for the fitting). I had no idea that I was wearing the wrong size for most of my 20s, and now my bras are more comfortable and more flatting. One thing is that I was wearing a much too large band and too small of a cup - and getting the smaller band and bigger cup means that the band supports more of the weight and my shoulders feel better. I can EVEN wear a strapless (occasionally, they still mostly suck, but they stay up).
posted by jb at 11:24 AM on July 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have one dress (the late modcloth iced tea dress) which had a nice empire waist and I tried going out for coffee in it, braless, and when I am not completely conscious of it, it was just fine. I guess I just need more dresses with that cut. (I also tried picking up a few wireless bras for eventually. I have a bunch of very low support sport bras for at home/no underboob sweat already.)
posted by jeather at 12:21 PM on July 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I rather like my breasts and have so many people in my life who are having to have theirs surgically removed and it makes me look at my own in a new light, like I need to really appreciate them while I still have them. And I've actually always liked pretty bras, even underwire ones, and feel an odd kind of urgency to enjoy them, even though I'm working from home and nobody expects me to wear a bra. I just ordered a pretty cream lace Natori yesterday. So, we're a very diverse lot here.
posted by HotToddy at 2:25 PM on July 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I feel like my boobs are on the bigger side of average, to the point where they are pretty floppy when I walk around without a bra, which I do at home 100% of the time. I'll go bra-less in public if its a short errand and I have a big/thick sweater on, but even then I walk differently because I dont like them flopping around. It's like a body part that I have no control of and I don't like it.

So, my issue is generally with summer dresses, in that they are not usually made to be worn with a bra. However, this thread has inspired me! I'm thinking of going shopping and hoping I can find one that I'd be comfortable in without a bra, because I really really want to wear summer dresses with tiny straps! (I have little hope though because anytime I'm shopping for something specific, I can never find it).
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:01 AM on July 8, 2020

Just a quick rec: Despite my previous rant in this thread about hating S/M/L sizing, I took a chance on ordering this bra from Target and I have to say it's surprisingly decent. I'm a 30E and the small fits well without squishing my boobs together too much or spilling over the top. Because it's slightly longline, the band is wide and not pinchy and sufficiently prevents skin-on-skin contact under my breasts that I personally despise. It's not particularly supportive but enough to look "presentable" (and there are very light pads for nipple coverage).

My only complaint is getting the damn thing on, especially with the multiple straps, but I do like how it looks so for me it's worth the effort. Pretty decent lounge bra for the price.
posted by misskaz at 6:17 AM on July 16, 2020

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