Women! Is there anything more blissful than walking through the front door, unhooking that bra and slinging it across the room? And breathing properly for the first time all day?
You know that feeling, right? So considering how ghastly the whole thing is, it rather begs the question. If a bra is so uncomfortable that you can’t wait to take it off, why wear it at all? Is it time to ditch the bra?
Working at home means countless women have adopted a new, no-bra dress code. In these days of lockdown, with no one to see what we’re wearing, we’re embracing much more casual workwear. We’ve said bye-bye to those irritating, restrictive, downright uncomfortable bras, and embraced the idea of letting it all hang out.
The natural look
Yes, admittedly this all does somewhat depend on size. So while smaller-breasted women might be fine with no bra, those with larger breasts might need more support. Maybe something more comfortable like a bralet could work?
Sales of softer, less structured bras have experienced a massive, er, uplift recently
Basically, those who normally wear a rigid ‘over-the shoulder-boulder-holder’ are starting to ease into something a lot softer, albeit with less support. Sales of softer, less structured bras have experienced a massive, er, uplift recently. And even those who habitually wear a flimsy “two-triangles-of-fabric” have dispensed with their lace.
Bras that give a more natural silhouette have been trending for some time, with millennials and women of all ages rejecting society’s expectations that breasts should look ‘perky’. And new, smaller brands are springing up to sell simpler options. Options that are more comfortable.
This move echoes the actions of the first feminists back in 1968 at a Miss America beauty pageant protest in the US, who slung into a bin all the symbols of male oppression, including mops, high heels, girdles – and at least one bra.
What about, y’know, sagging?
A French study of over 300 women aged 18-35 concluded that wearing bras actually increased sagging, as the muscles underlying the breast developed natural support.
“We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging.” Playtex CEO
Bra manufacturers, as you’d expect, usually take the opposite line. However, John Dixey, former CEO of Playtex, has said: ‘We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle, so keeping it toned up is an impossibility.’
Sagging is obviously part of the ageing process, said Professor Robert Mansel, of the University Hospital of Wales, in a Channel 4 documentary in 2000. He continued: “With age, the supporting structures which are made of collagen get thinner and thinner. That happens to not only the supporting ligaments which are holding the breast up but also the other tissues. If you have a mainly fatty blob on the chest in a bag of skin it is going to hang down.
“It is a complete myth that this is stopped by wearing a bra.”
We can also add in here that bras can restrict breathing and affect your blood circulation. They can give you back pain or rib pain, particularly when the bra is badly fitting. And the ‘visible bra lines’, the sweat, the COST…
So how the hell did we get here in the first place?
Women have been wearing bras for over 100 years. The first modern bra was patented on November 3 1914, and starting to wear one became a badge of womanhood for young girls. A rite of passage we’ve been stuck with ever since. Well, until the end of the sixties.
It’s also fair to say that men like bras. Men particularly like lacy, racy bras. So some of this has to do with the male gaze.
This is changing now. “There is no medical reason to wear a bra, so the decision is yours, based on your own personal comfort and aesthetics,” says The Complete Book of Breast Care, by Niels H Lauersen and Eileen Stukane. However, experts (and most active women) would agree that you do need one when exercising.
Alyson Walsh, fashion journalist, author and founder of That’s Not My Age says of the changing approach to bras: “this softer, more natural look reflects our desire to embrace a simpler life, coupled with the total relaxation of dress codes during lockdown, when we’re all accustomed to seeing each other in our home settings, not the formal workplace. Everyone is more relaxed – even Vogue editor Anna Wintour is wearing tracksuit bottoms…”
WFH en masse has accelerated this trend and taken it to its logical conclusion, as we eagerly slip into a new staying-in style. It’s time to embrace that hot disco look of the seventies, gold lame and nipples on show! Free the boobs!
Annette, 52, is a part-time adopter of being bra-free. “Working from home I feel I can go braless most of the time, because no one can see me,” she says. “I get up, shower, start work and get changed at around lunchtime. I don’t wear a bra even on video calls to work.” As an added bonus, she jokes, “I can hold pencils under my boobs!” And when she goes back to work? “I’ll go back to wearing a bra – I’m in no rush though.”
Francesca, 55, has worn underwired bras since being measured at Rigby & Peller a few years ago, but is now sporting an unwired, virtually seamless bra from M&S’s mega-popular Flexifit range. “Wearing a size 36G I just don’t feel comfortable with no bra at all. I love the smooth finish and simple look of this –and its stretchability is perfect for a WFH day, broken up with a bit of yoga and a walk or bike ride. For that, a lacy, underwired bra would feel a bit overdressed, underwear-wise.”
Heading for total freedom?!
For Carol, 56, bras have always been an unwelcome part of the wardrobe. “Before lockdown, when I was going to work, I had to whip it off when I got in the door at five o’clock, heaving a great big sigh of relief. Then I suddenly realised ‘ooh, I can take it off at midday’, then I realised ‘oh I don’t have to put it on at all!’
“I go out without a bra, too. I went braless in a job interview on Skype recently because they couldn’t see that far down. After lockdown I will go braless as much as possible because I’ve never liked bras. I just resent that strap around my body. When lockdown is over one of the things I’ll miss about it is the ability to be more braless. It does feel like freedom. It’s up there with the skies being quieter and the birds singing!’
With the road map out of lockdown being slowly revealed, and WFH set to continue at least on a part-time basis with a slow, staggered return to old ways of working, going bra-free is a personal liberty we’ll want to keep close to our hearts.
Sling them on, or sling them in the bin. But the times, they are a changin’, and about time too.