Image courtesy of Grown Up Stuff.
I had never been a huge supporter of Free the Nipple, and I certainly have never been a huge fan of bralettes (sorry bra industry, I don’t want to spend $40 on a piece of lace), but when I got sun poisoning on my shoulders and back this past summer, my views on not wearing a bra completely changed.
I’m a natural red head, and though I wasn’t blessed with having a face full of cute cheeky freckles, genetics still dealt me the pale skin essential to the ginger look. I know my skin burns easily, but still, every summer I just can’t resist when my naturally tan friends invite me to a poolside tanning session. A part of me always thinks “well, you’ve already been out in the sun a lot this summer, you can handle it!” or even though I don’t normally get very tan, “this will be the year!” Well this was the year, the year I got a splotchy tan once the rows of blisters on my raw purple shoulders and back finally healed.
I know what you’re thinking, it sounds awful and yes, I learned my lesson about staying out in the sun. But I also learned a different lesson, one I never thought I needed to be taught.
The day after my sunburn began to blister, I spent almost an hour trying on all my sports bras and strapless bras (I promise I don’t own that many bras, it was just a struggle to even put my arms over my head). I found that I didn’t own a single bra that didn’t irritate my skin, so I decided to do the unthinkable, something I hadn’t done since I was 11 years old, I decided to go braless, in public. Here’s what happened when I did:
1. I felt 10 degrees cooler all the time.
Without the extra layer and your boobs being pushed together chafing each other constantly, you sweat so much less! Which brings me to reason two:
2. No more chest acne!!
Usually every few days during the summer I would get a pimple or two on my chest, but once I stopped wearing bra, my chest became less oily since I was sweating less and my breakouts completely stopped. Seriously, I haven’t had a single pimple since!
3. My posture improved.
I never knew how much I relied on my bra for support until I stopped wearing one. I started slouching over because I wasn’t used to having to carry that weight, which made my chest feel even more heavy. Since my poor posture was something I could now physically feel, I began to compensate for the support I was used to having by straightening my back every time I felt myself bending over. Having good posture was something I had always struggled with, but straightening up now is almost reflexive.
4. I became more confident.
When I first stopped wearing bras, my friends (especially my female ones) took notice. Though at first I felt uncomfortable when they would ask me about it or when strangers would look at my shirt clearly trying to solve the mystery, it always seemed like they were more uncomfortable than I was. I had people telling me what I was doing was inappropriate, or too revealing. I would explain to them my sunburnt shoulder situation and they would be more understanding, but it made me mad that I had to have an explanation at all. It made me mad that people felt I needed to be ashamed of my body, even though it was covered. And that’s when…
5. I started to see the problem with the bra industry.
I think it’s awesome whenever a woman can feel sexy and empowered, but the bra industry has a tendency to oversexualize women, and make us feel like bras are key to feeling and looking sexy. And for a while, I really bought into this. And I mean really bought into it. I got to a point where I was spending $80 on ultra-padded push up bras that would contort and double my chest size. And of course in addition to this I would buy the matching underwear. There’s something about wearing a matching bra and panty set under your clothes that really makes you feel like you’ve got your life together. But at the end of the day, there’s nothing you want more than to set your girls free.
Bra ads have a way of making us feel like bras are essential, required even, you can get a bra for pretty much any occasion whether it’s working out (sports bras), going on a date (Victoria’s Secret’s PINK “date” bra), or literally just wearing a T-shirt (the T-shirt bra). And for some women, bras are a necessity. I said earlier my posture improved from not wearing bras, but for women with larger breasts, bras can be necessary for having good posture and for preventing back issues. If this is you, PLEASE keep wearing bras if you need them or do whatever it takes to keep your back and bones healthy! But if you’re rocking an A/B cup like me, you know that the bra industry is more about telling you that you need more support not for the sake of your back or shoulders, but to look more busty and curvy. Almost all size A/B bras have added padding, especially if you go to specialty bra stores. It’s the industry’s way of subtly telling you that what you were born with is inadequate, like without all the cotton padding, tight clasps and sparkly lace, you’ll be something less than beautiful. What not wearing a bra taught me above all else, is that my body is already beautiful, and that feeling confident and comfortable in my own skin makes me feel sexier than any bra could.