A little while ago, I remember a friend being absolutely terrified that I, a 22 year old adult woman, own only one bra. It is a black, plain, flat t-shirt bra from Primark which I bought 2 years ago. I wear it constantly and I wash it once a week, or every two weeks if it passes a sniff test. My friend, another 22 year old adult woman, was completely horrified, attesting that this was unhygienic and that I should buy another one right away. Over and over, I’ve found this weird disconnect between women when it comes to how they care for their lady lumps. Whether it be a Buzzfeed video comparing different ways to clip them, or a terrifying Chinese woman screaming at me in a Shanghai fitting room that my (carefully fitted) bra does not fit correctly, there seems to be a veritable chasm of disagreement over how bras work. Needless to say, this all really got me thinking. And then I got really confused and scared that I may be doing the bra thing ‘wrong’, and therefore failing utterly at being a woman. Then I got all feminist about it and felt really angry about the patriarchal emphasis on female appearance which forces me to waste valuable time thinking about this shit. Finally, I decided to document some of my own bra experiences, so that just maybe another woman like me, reading this article, might think ‘Hey, I thought I was the only one who did that! I’m not a freak! Hooray’. But most likely you’re probably just thinking ‘For God’s sake woman, buy another bra!’. Either way, here are my bra-fessions.
1. First of all, to say I own only one bra is not entirely true. I actually own about 15 bras, which are scattered around my room, somewhere, right at this very moment, possibly plotting an elaborate revenge scheme on their neglectful mistress. I own several lacy Anne Summers pieces, which I bought on sale and probably wore once because the lace chafes my nipples. I have one Anne Summers bra in three different colors (it was 3 for 2 that day so I thought, why not?). I have some bras which, as I mentioned before, I purchased in China, and have never worn again due to the lingering trauma I attach to them (bra fittings in China are very….dare I say it…hands on). I have some bras which are wildly impractical, would never ever fit under a mere cotton shirt, and were probably bought ambitiously in preparation for some drunken encounter which neither party even remembers. I even have one of those mythical Victoria’s Secret 7-way strapless thingies which my mom bought me for Christmas one year and I, despite her repeated reminders and warnings, lost one of the removable straps, rendering it useless (sorry mom). Sometimes I think, due to my inability to walk past Anne Summers when I see a ‘sale’ sign, that I may have a bit of a bra-buying problem. But that’s for another post. My point here is, how many bras does one person REALLY need? They’re like glasses: sure you may own 5 very fashionable pairs, but odds are there is that one pair that you carry around in your bag and use whenever you need to read something small and 4 that languish in obscurity in your desk drawer forever. My one bra is comfortable, it fits properly, it is invisible under most of my shirts (most of my shirts are black or other dark, opaque hues), and I feel a friendly familiarity with it, like a childhood toy or a blankie. What I’m saying is, this bra is my blankie, and I will proudly wear it until it, too, falls apart in the wash. Then I will cry, buy another 4 quid bra from Primark, and carry on.
2. What size ARE my boobs anyway? I mean, I don’t think they’ve stopped growing!? My mom’s didn’t until she was like, 26, apparently, so really how am I supposed to know for sure? When I was around 14 or 15 a mean ginger girl from my gym class called me out in front of the entire locker room because my bra, rather than being affixed with a womanly number and letter, was simply size M. I was called size M for a few weeks, after which I successfully begged my mother to take me for a fitting (on a similar note, Becky you know what you did and I hope you know that karma is a BITCH). In my days growing up in suburban Alabama, all the girls went to Victoria’s Secret for their first bra fitting. It was quiet, private, had nice soft lighting, and the women who worked there always seemed smiley and friendly. In their dim fitting room I was measured and allocated my magic number: 34B. And that’s it. To this day, I wear a 34B. I have no idea if this is correct, I have no idea if I’m doing anything right, but my bras seem to fit okay. I once had the wild notion that if I gained a little weight (I was literally a stick bug at that point so ‘a little weight’ meant ‘not looking like I’ve been recently mummified’) my ladies would also gain a little heft. I was so colossally wrong. All the weight I gained went to my waist, meaning most of my bodycon dresses stopped fitting. So I took up daily cardio to lose the weight and gain some muscle and MY BOOBS GOT SMALLER. Then my one bra didn’t fit properly anymore. Honestly, what is even the point.
3. Why isn’t it okay to have your bra showing? Like, I am expected to have 20 different bras, all for different occasions, which fit every type of neckline perfectly without showing even a tiny bit of my boob-cups? Do you have any idea how much MONEY that would cost!? On the Victoria’s Secret website alone you can purchase a strapless bra, a scoopneck bra, a halter bra, a y-neck bra, and even more I don’t care to list. And I’m like, no thanks. No way, Joseanna. I remember very clearly being 12 and having a secret girl code for letting each other know when our bra straps were showing. One of us would whisper, with exaggerated secrecy, over the shoulder of the offender: ‘Hey, it’s snowing in Brazil’. Get it? BRAzil. Hahahahahaha oh god. I also remember the day when one girl, finally sick of all the oppressive patriarchal bullshit, declared ‘SO!?’. The single most powerful word in the vocabulary of an adolescent girl. And thus we were silenced. I don’t remember who you were or what you looked like, mysterious memory girl, but thank you for being a milestone in my journey towards feminism. Similarly, I think we should all, in the face of the tidal wave of patriarchy which says I MUST wear a bra but also must absolutely NEVER let anyone realize it, shout ‘SO!?’ until it starts crying and goes to hide in the girls locker room until lunch period is over.
4. Here is my most shocking, subversively feminist, un-ladylike confessions: Sometimes, I like to go braless. In public. Especially in the winter time. Why? Because I have tiny bouncy baby tits, and I can get away with it. Also, because I wear a lot of layers in the winter time and I really doubt anyone can tell the difference. Also, fuck you Patriarchy Paul, I do what I want. Don’t pretend that you don’t sometimes look forward to taking your bra off at the end of the day and don’t pretend that you don’t sometimes let out a sigh of near-orgasmic relief after finally doing so.
So there. Those are my bra-fessions, do with them what you will. Add your own bra-fessions, or crucify me as a deviant bra user, I care not. My tits are happy and free, and I hope yours are too.