It’s an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon, so I decide it’s time for the annual closet reorg. Thick sweaters and warm leggings shift to the back while tank tops and shorts move to the front. Boots move down the shoe shelf, and sandals move up. Socks and scarves will slowly be phased out of the lineup, while swimsuits and hats slowly filter in. I get to the bra drawer and hesitate, the anxiety begins to sink in.
The biggest problem with the bra is that often you find yourself thinking more about external factors rather than your personal feelings about it. There are several considerations other than size and fit because there are so many bra faux pas one can commit every single day, and people are more than happy to point them out to you. The irony of this whole thing is that you will never win this game. You’ll always find someone that has a problem with your bra. If it’s heavily padded people will say you’re trying to make your breasts look bigger, but if there’s no padding, you’re a slut because your nipples show when you get cold. Although you shouldn’t care about this, you do, because the last thing you want is the women of the office talking about how inappropriate it is that you’re wearing a push-up bra in combination with a low-cut top so that your cleavage is on full display. You conform because you have to. If I were more flat-chested, I would opt out of the whole damn thing. Unfortunately, my boobs are just big enough to warrant the drama.
As I rummage through my bra drawer, I try to make a case for keeping some of them: Holes, wayward underwire, sweat stains, broken straps, shrunken bands—these are all okay, right? SIGH, I guess I have to toss these out and start anew. Shopping for bras is worse than shopping for jeans. The problem is that a 36C is never really a 36C, the fit will vary from brand to brand and design to design. So if I’m buying a demi-cup, I have to make sure it doesn’t cause the 4-boob effect in which half your tits spill over the cup. If I’m buying a racerback, I need to make sure the straps around my chest don’t dig into my back fat. But it’s not just that, I also have to avoid the trappings of soft fabrics, beautiful patterns, and gimmicks that promise to change my bust for the better. Bra shopping is like Target shopping: You say you’re only there for one item, but you end up walking out with over a hundred dollars worth of stuff. It’s virtually impossible to escape.
Brahood used to be simple until I began puberty and I started feeling the compulsion to express myself through my underwear. At the time, I thought this was an original thought, but in hindsight, the blame lies solely with lingerie marketers. During the 90’s, lingerie brands like Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood were at their height. Whether it was on TV or in print, these brands pushed their sexy supermodel advertising in your face. My older sister used to get the catalogs so I would flip through them when she wasn’t around. Each spread promised the fantasy of a new persona, a new life. The message I took away was that real women used their undergarments as a form of self-expression: Sexy vixens wore lace, classy ladies wore satin, and demure women wore cotton. It’s great, as your hormones are raging and you’re trying to figure out your identity that there’s a 50-page catalog detailing all the ways in which you and your flesh-toned training bra are not enough.
Over the years I would spend thousands of dollars on bras, laboring under the misapprehension that they made me more feminine and more desired. My comfort was always the last consideration when determining whether I should buy a bra. It was all about how they made my boobs look, and what the bra said about ME. Was I mysterious and sultry, or fun and frilly? I tried a little of everything, and the only thing I ended up learning was that Victoria’s real secret is that guys don’t care about lingerie. There’s this myth that men will go wild over it, but unless the guy has an underwear fetish, he won’t care. He’s not going to admire the craftsmanship of the bra or the intricate design of your delicate lace thong. He just wants to rip it off and get busy. Don’t believe me? Test it. Buy some new lingerie and don’t say anything about it. Wear it, do the deed, and then quiz him afterward. I bet half the dudes won’t even be able to identify the correct color or material. Even more of them won’t notice that you even had on new lingerie. It sounds crazy, but being a woman is enough, believe me.
After all this wokeness, you would think I’d be immune to the undergarments marketing gods, but they took me in once more. In the last couple of years, the industry has shifted towards a new advertising angle: real beauty. On the surface the message is altruistic–be yourself, love your curves—but underneath the surface, you’ll find that it’s the exact same thing. These brands are still using aspirational ideals to sell their products, except now the personas are modeled after “real women,” not supermodels. Today’s underwear is all about the hippie chick, cool girl, career woman, or plus-size goddess; women so real that they have visible stretch marks and fat rolls in their ad campaigns (WOW). It’s the same shit, and yet somehow I got sucked into this cycle all over again. That’s why my bra drawer is filled with casual racerbacks, longline push-ups, and athleisure. FUCK ME.
This summer, I’m saying fuck all that. I’m tossing the bras that are fucked, donating the ones I’ve never worn, and only buying what’s absolutely necessary. I won’t be seduced by perfectly photoshopped catalogs and perfectly real Insta girls. I won’t even walk into a store, I’ll do it all online, and I’ll take a medical approach to it. I’ll need a bra that provides upper back support, doesn’t pinch, and offers full coverage of the breasts.The most practical and affordable option will be selected, nevermind that there’s a really cool bralette with lace backing and a lovely spring-inspired floral pattern. No, I don’t need a bralette, they’re useless, I might as well wear a camisole. SIGH. I’m not saying this is going to be easy, but I’m going to try. Maybe I’ll start with a flesh-toned all-in-one style, to take it back to where this shit all started. Now THAT’S fresh.