Bras, and my breasts in general, have been a point of contention since my 12 birthday. I was a bit of a late bloomer. When my friends were “developing” — shaving their legs, experimenting with makeup, and showing off their newfound cleavage — I was still looking for the smallest sign of swelling. I was still hoping to get “breast buds.” Eventually, something started to happen. My nipples puffed up, everything was tender, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I ran to my mother. I showed her my developing body, and I asked to go shopping. I begged to go shopping. Because I wanted and needed a training bra.
My, how things have changed.
Today, I can list dozens of reasons why I don't like wearing a bra. They are tight and constricting, the underwire digs into my sides, and regardless of what size I buy, or style I select, I hate wearing bras is because my breasts are just really freaking tiny.
Despite how badly I wanted one, I never really outgrew the training-bra phase. At their biggest, my breasts were B-cup, but today, they barely fill in an A — and I mean barely. Before long, my bras became a symbol of everything I wanted but didn’t have. They became an ever-present reminder of the one, well, two, things I hated most about my body. And buying, wearing, and caring for bras became a chore. A pointless, useless, and expensive chore. I’ve given up on bras before — I rarely wear them in the winter (because, hoodies), I never wear them in the house, and who needs cups when you have a coat? — I've never truly gone braless. Until this month. Until this experiment.
The premise of this challenge was simple: ditch my bras for a full month, and live and let live. No underwire. No bralettes. No padding. No push-ups, and no “chicken cutlets.” And while I was a bit apprehensive and nervous, especially in cold weather (and around my extended family), I was mostly excited. I couldn’t wait to be free.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this experiment, I was positive I would be comfortable. I was hoping I would gain confidence. And I was assuming I would gain perspective. More than anything, I hoped I'd learn to love my breasts, itty and bitty as they may be.
I Felt Free
Day one sans bra was relatively uneventful. In fact, most of week one was unremarkable. I am a work-from-home, stay-at-home mom, which means I rarely go out, I rarely get dressed, and I never, ever wear a bra in my own abode. It's just my style. So for the first few days, nothing seemed different. Nothing felt different. Mainly because nothing was different.
But then Saturday rolled around and my husband and I had a day full of appointments and chores. (We even ate a real, adults-only lunch!) And while I didn't give much thought to the fact I was bra-less, the fact that I didn't give any thought to my breasts was huge. I wasn't pulling a cup down here, or lifting a boob up there. I wasn't futzing with the straps or readjusting my shirt. Instead, I was focusing on other things.
I gave up my conception of what a “perfect chest” was supposed to look like. I gave up my idea of what “perfect woman” was supposed to be shaped like, and I was able to appreciate and embrace the uniqueness of my body and my unconventional sexuality.
It was the first time in a long time that I didn't think about my boobs in public.
I Felt Happy And Sexy
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been self-conscious about my breasts for years (years!) because I'm not well-endowed. I don't have cleavage or a voluptuous chest. It made me hyper-aware of my chest. But when I went bra-less and stopped worrying about lift and padding, something changed.
I gave up my conception of what a “perfect chest” was supposed to look like. I gave up my idea of what “perfect woman” was supposed to be shaped like, and I was able to appreciate and embrace the uniqueness of my body and my unconventional sexuality. Sure, I might not have a full C-cup chest and my body might not curve in all the right places, but when I went sans bra, I felt sexier. My clothes fit better without a bra. And instead of trying to bulk up my breasts, I was now focusing on my other assets, like my neck, my shoulders, and my broad, and beautiful, back. I stopped trying to fit into that conventional mode of beauty and let my own beauty shine.
And immediately I felt better because I physically looked better. I felt sexier because I also felt confident. And I felt sensual. I felt hot.
My Body Felt Better
Aside from the aforementioned freedom and emotional positivity I felt from shedding my bras, I also felt better, like physically felt better. The pain in my shoulders lessened not from the weight I was carrying but from the tension I kept on my straps. (Before this experiment, I spent a lot of time trying to lift and push my small breasts together as much as possible.) Now though, with all the extra freedom, my back felt looser, and according to science — and Dr. Stafford Broumand — my breasts were actually healthier without a bra:
Breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra...[and f]or younger women, not wearing a bra will lead to increased collagen production and elasticity, which improves lift in a developing breast.
My Clothes Fit Better
Lingerie commercials make everything look so easy ... and so sexy. The clean lines, the smooth fit, the perfect curves. Underwire provides lift. Padding gives us small-chested women a boost, and by the time I put on a shirt, my A-cups can look like full C’s because ... magic! Unfortunately, there isn’t a bra out there — at least not one I've found — which can accommodate for two completely different-sized boobs.
Yep. My left is breast is a “baby B” my right barely fills in an A. If I buy a 32-A my left breast is always popping out, and if I wear a 32-B, I have to deal with "cupping." And even though I know unevenness is normal, it's the one thing about my breasts I am most self-conscious about. It is the one thing I'm most embarrassed by, and it's half the reason why I always cover up with baggy sweatshirts.
However, without a bra to adjust or yank and tug on, I noticed my embarrassment was minimized. I stopped focusing on my breasts. I didn’t have to worry what others could (or would) see as my outfits sat flush to my body and, on some most days, I actually totally forgot about my "flaw."
Will I Ever Go Back To Wearing A Bra?
So what did I learn from this experiment? I learned to let go of my fear. I learned to let go of the self-loathing that I so often reserve for my body and the way it looks. I learned to let go of societally-imposed beauty ideals and unrealistic expectations. Here's the thing: I am, and likely always will be, a small-breasted woman. I am not going to have surgery or procedures done to enhance my breast size. I've accepted that much, but I've been punishing my body for all these years because it doesn't look a certain way. And yet, when I let go of my bras, I was able to see my beauty — my natural, uninhibited, and unrestrained beauty. And it was not only freeing, it was sexy.
I know I won't always feel this way. I know there will be days and times when I want to wear a bra or when I look at my body and feel like a bra will "fix" my small chest. But today, I am a content and almost-entirely braless woman. Sorry, I still need the occasional sports bra on long runs.