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What happened when I stopped wearing a bra

image by questionallers

My chest was still completely flat when I started asking my mother if I could get a bra. I remember perfectly the first set of underwear with panties and top that she bought me. On that same day I posed for a homemade photo shoot, wearing that set and my high-heeled sandals (which were actually only three centimetres high). These photos live somewhere in one of the many family photo albums.

So I started wearing a bra (or something alike) when I did not even had breasts to be ‘hold’. Little by little the use of this piece of clothing became more frequent — as my breasts also grew — until it became constant. Getting out to the street without a bra became as unthinkable as going outside without panties. Without bra I felt naked and unprotected. Also for a long time I wore bras that gave my breasts the looks I thought they should have. The size (larger), shape (more rounded) and location (higher up) that I thought made me look more desirable. The bras I wore created volume through sponges and fillers, tightened my breasts toward the center and pulled them up through wires and grips.

On the other hand, as time passed by, the use of the bra began to bring more and more discomfort. To the point of being the first thing I took off when I got home (often even before taking my shoes off). I then avoided wearing “filled” bras and afterwards stopped using underwired bras. For some years I wore bras that looked more like the first tops my mother bought me when I was a small girl, but with sexier fabrics and shapes. Yet these fabrics were not the most comfortable thing for me as the elastic bands were tightened .

A couple years ago I slowly stopped wearing bra when going out to do something fast, such as taking out the trash or running some errands at the end of my street. At first I felt a sense of nakedness and that I was doing something wrong or even a little bit shameful. Then I realised that the sensation was just that, a simple sensation, with no real reason. That feeling faded, and I began transgressing more and more often. Transgressing was exactly what I felt I was doing every time I left home without my bra. That feeling also faded away, until one day I realised that it no longer made sense to wear something which physically caused me so much discomfort.

I decided to stop wearing bra two years ago, by the end of the winter. After a couple of months of freedom, but with several layers of clothing that helped concealing the lack of that piece of clothing, there came the tops, dresses and t-shirts season. The time to really put up with my decision had come. Now it was pretty obvious that I was not wearing a bra. The shape of my nipples was noticeable at times, the actual location of my breasts too (a good eight or nine inches lower than their ‘sustained’ version). What initially caused some embarrassment became truly liberating. Plus I started wearing some clothes that I had not used before because I did not like the way the bra was visible when I wore them.

Even before I stopped wearing bras I would go top-less on the beach, but now it was just nonsense to wear a full bikini. There was only one occasion when I still wore a bra: for running and exercising. I still believed in the myth that the breasts could suffer some kind of injury caused by its free movement during jumps and more abrupt movements. One day, about a year after I had stopped wearing a bra on a daily basis, I decided to go jogging without a sports bra. And I was really surprised that when running, the movement did not cause me any kind of pain or discomfort. Only the year before I would get my breasts sore when running or jumping!

Since then I am 100% “bra free”. Since then, my breasts are firmer (though I’m past 30) and never got sore again after a jog. “Bra free” is like the “barefoot movement” but for the breasts, it is one more type of minimalism, it is about eliminating something that, in my case at least, did not bring any benefit beyond the social prescription.

Some studies point to the correlation between the use of bras and breast cancer, and there are already many platforms that advocate that ditching the bra brings not only comfort but can also help to fix some types of headaches and backaches, improve breathing and increases self-esteem, among other benefits. I know I have a small pair of daisies, but do not think that only people with small boobs can be “bra free”. In fact there are a few online personal testimonies of women, with all breasts sizes, who explain how ditching the bra improved their lives.

So, what are bras for? “Bra” is short for “brassiere” that comes from the French word “brassière” — shoulder strap (17c.) — and/or from the Old French braciere — arm guard (14c.). Its definition in the dictionary is: “a piece of women’s underwear that supports the breasts.” Well, in reality there seems to be some evidence that the breasts ultimately do not benefit from artificial support.

We wear bras because we learn that it is an indispensable garment and we do not normally question its real need. We use it because in our society there is one of these unwritten rules that says that female nipples are offensive or libidinous, and therefore worthy of censorship, while male nipples are not. Society also states that breasts should be pulled up (to please the eye) but should not move too much (as so not to draw too much attention to themselves?!).

There are women who like to wear a bra or do not feel comfortable without it. The purpose of the “Bra free” movement (and this article) is not to make all women stop wearing bras, let alone criticise those who do not give up this garment. But to defend the freedom of choice of either wearing or not wearing bra, without the concern of social acceptance nor the pressure of unsubstantiated health myths.

Studies on the use of bra and its relation with cancer

1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131–135.).

1991–93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras(Avery/Penguin Putnam, 1995; ISCD Press, 2005).

Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000).

A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451–3.)

“Bra Free” platforms

Bra Free women testimonies

Evidence that breasts do not need support

“questionallers” seeks to encourage questioning, leading us to think “outside the box” and no longer do things just because that’s how they were done up to this moment.

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Ana Margarida Fialho

Ana Margarida Fialho

Accessories designer among many other things. Interested in writing, gender-neutrality, veganism, solidarity, sustainability, holistic health and philosophy.

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