If the past two years have done nothing else, they’ve relieved our entire gender, fifty percent of the population, of the encumbrances of wearing a bra. Underwires in particular are the devil’s work. Locked down and isolated, we’ve dressed for supreme comfort and it’s been divine. Even women who are still working and subject to online zoom meetings have been able to angle the camera to slightly above chest level and enjoy not having their breasts scrutinized.
We’ve always been told that we need to wear a bra to keep the girls “lifted and separated”. Why? We can thank aggressive marketing by Playtex and other manufacturers for that bit of dubious advice. Who says uni-boobs are unacceptable? Why can’t we strap ’em down under snug spandex tank tops to keep them from sagging and rolling around when we walk? Gravity is inevitable as we age and comfort is totally unrelated to aerodynamically designed undergarments that pinch and bind the ribcage or bite into our shoulders.
As someone with scoliosis (an S-shaped spine) I’ve always struggled to get comfortable in a bra. One strap is always too short and must be adjusted but that throws the horizontal band of the back of the bra off-kilter. Fortunately, I am not overly endowed, so I found the easiest solution was to eschew bras altogether and adopt stretch camisoles or tanks under shirts and sweaters. Sports bras offered some level of comfort but I still struggled with the binding around the ribcage; it either rolled or pinched.
In the fifties, cone-shaped breasts were all the fashion. The sixties introduced more boyish shapes when we baby boomers started wearing all the cute little Twiggy-style mini dresses. Flat chests were in. Then, everyone went crazy getting globe-shaped implants and sporting foot-long cleavages which required lift and support. Those of us who were not inclined to surgically alter our bodies stuffed silicone cookies or chicken breasts into the pockets of our bras. Somehow men’s bodies were not subject to the same scrutiny and demands for alteration.
Padded bras. Padded shoulders. Padded bums. Why do we constantly bend to fashion trends that do not respect our natural body shapes? You don’t see men walking around with padded crotches and bums. Their anatomical shortcomings are accepted. They wear what is comfortable and generally rate perception as the number two priority in the world of fashion.
Far too often women’s fashion is designed by men who never have to wear their creations . . . at least not out in public. We’ll never conform to the Photoshopped images we see in fashion magazines and online ads. A very minute, extremely tiny portion of the population is tall and skinny with no hips, a wasp-thin waist and bushels of thick, luxurious hair. They’re genetic flukes.
Joy to the world; we’ve finally been liberated from the oppression of wearing a bra if we choose not to. That is a definite upside of COVID. Nearly three years ago I sent thirty-two bras to the charity bin (I Marie Kondo’s my bra drawer and feel so uplifted) and don’t regret it or miss them one bit. Lightened my load, so to speak.
Will the experience of the past two years drive underwires into the world of foot-binding and corsets? I hope so. We have also eschewed high heels and while that’s more an outcome of ageing, let’s grab whatever freedoms that pass our way. At the very least, bra manufacturers have come up with many more choices in wire-free designs and seemingly invisible fabrics that mould to our body shapes.
It’s a strange state of affairs that COVID has contributed to furthering the emancipation of women. We’ve been granted a temporary (??) reprieve from wearing a bra and high heels, from shaving our legs, from bothering with makeup and new clothes, and even sitting in the hairdresser’s chair for hours getting our very expensive colour attended to. I wonder how many of these changes will become permanent.
However the future shapes up, let’s celebrate our bodies whatever their shape. If that means wearing a bra or no bra, a Spandex tank or a stretchy sports bra to keep the girls in line then be proud of your uni-boob. At least we’ll go to the grave without red marks from bras pinching our ribcage and shoulders. That is what I call truly resting in peace.