Thursday 6 May 2021

‘Bras are a curse!’ How lockdown changed readers’ views of their breasts

 A year since the pandemic started, women’s bodies and habits have changed. Here they discuss underwiring, sleep underwear, and how going bra-free helps with polymastia

‘Lockdown has released me from the bra’

I was a teen in the 70s and morphed into a feminist. I find bras hideously uncomfortable; I only started wearing one in 2018 when I went back to work and the lack of confidence that often besieges women over 60 made me too self-conscious to face the public bra-free. Lockdown has released me from the bra, and the job, and I doubt I’ll wear one again. Jackie, writer, Midlands

‘Underwired bras now seem an unkind way to treat my body’

Underwired bras were my staple. That all changed in lockdown. I lost my job and within a few weeks had decided to retrain as a personal trainer. I’ve spent the past year in a sports bra. The rigidity and harshness of a wire now seems like an unkind way to treat my body. And lockdown has taught me a lot about being kinder. Recently I found a lump in my breast. Fortunately, it was nothing serious, but as I sat in the hospital waiting for the results of the tests, I knew some of the other women sitting with me would not be so lucky. That rather frightening experience further reinforced my appreciation for my little breasts as they are, and I’ll carry on being kind to them. Gabrielle O’Hare, personal trainer, Manchester

‘Covid made it possible for me to go braless for an entire year’ (posed by model). Photograph: Anetlanda/Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Gravity hasn’t had the drastic effect I feared’

I don’t wear a bra when I am at home or working in my studio. A year ago I said: ‘If this lockdown carries on for any length of time, my boobs will be down at my waist!’ But gravity hasn’t had as drastic effect as I feared (yet). Anonymous, Scotland

‘Given the culture of my island, nipples would cause havoc’

I used to always need underwiring, since I’m top-heavy. Post-pandemic, I have given up wearing bras at home and only wear them when out. I wish bras weren’t necessary, but given the culture of my little island, nipples would cause pure havoc, car crashes and maybe even something tabled in parliament. It’s interesting, given that photographs of native women before colonial rule include bare-chested women. How these notions of covering up integrated into our society is something I ponder often. Bras are a curse! Minal Wickrematunge, designer and artist, Sri Lanka

‘Perhaps I’ll never wear one again’

Bra-wearing was always an uncomfortable thing for me. Since I fed my three children, my breasts have grown to a size that made not wearing a bra an impossibility. However, I suffer from polymastia and the third breast that developed into a complete breast after breastfeeding is directly under the right breast, exactly where the lower band of a bra normally rests. Covid made it possible for me to go braless for an entire year and I don’t regret it. Perhaps I’ll never wear one again. Elaine, teacher, Germany

‘I have bought a lot of new bras this year’

I seem to have bought more bras this year than any year previously – all sports bras, bralettes and sleep bras. Isn’t it funny how you think you are the master of your own actions, only to realise you’re part of a much bigger wave? Helen Berry, Cambridgeshire

‘I have ventured back into underwired bras’

Before lockdown I had a partner and I had a selection of underwired bras. The relationship became more strained through the early weeks of lockdown, and we eventually withdrew from each other. Then I found a breast lump in June, and was swiftly referred and diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery in August, and spent three months recovering. My only possible bras were post-surgical ones. These are functional, old-lady-style garments.

Since the new year, I have re-measured my assets (still intact) and gradually ventured into some smooth textured, but now underwired, rather more attractive bras. I find I feel more secure in a sleep bra at night, and sometimes I keep it on a couple of hours in the mornings. After all, there’s now no one else to please, which is a shame … Janet, retired lecturer, Leeds

‘A good bra is a fundamental part of feeling good’

Before my son was born, it was always my intention to breastfeed, so in the run-up to the birth, I bought an assortment of nursing bras in varying sizes with a view to being ready for anything. All the baby advice tells you that your breasts will change, but what it doesn’t say is that they will change week-on-week and nothing will ever fit consistently. I think it’s safe to say I hated the nursing bras! Chronically uncomfortable, with lumps and rolls in the fabric. I finished breastfeeding just a few weeks ago and I cannot tell you the utter bliss and luxury of finally being able to wear a wired bra again.

I’ve come to realise that a good bra is a fundamental part of feeling good. In many ways, the pandemic has helped me avoid the stress of going out in an uncomfortable bra, knowing that I didn’t look right, in other ways it has helped me realise the bizarre way in which it brings structure to life. Good bra on, ready for the day. Bad bra on, things just aren’t right. Vanessa Scanlan, information analyst for the NHS, Essex

‘Going braless was an act of rebellion’

My underwired bras must think I’m dead. When quarantine began I immediately stopped wearing them. I wore sports bras at first, then went full braless for six or seven months (I’m a 36E so this was an act of utter rebellion). Being totally braless wasn’t great for working from home; Zoom calls aside, I never felt like I transitioned from lounge time to work time. So, I finally splurged on two bralettes made for bigger chests. I guess the physical constraint helps remind me that I’m “in the office”, so to speak. Alicia, New York

Photograph: Galina Zhigalova/Getty Images/EyeEm

‘Lockdown made me realise that boobs aren’t everything’

I have no boobs, hence I wear a bra – so I gain some. But lockdown has made me realise that boobs aren’t everything and I’ve spent all my life persecuted by hammocks that just give me pain. One benefit of having no boobs – everyone always looks me in the eyes. Jan Atkins, graphic designer, Hammersmith

‘I dread going back to the daily bra’

I have proudly ditched my bra while working from home and I am sure my 32FF boobs have started to become firmer as they have had to hold themselves up. I dread going back to daily bra-wearing and recoil as I remember the pain it caused me. Societal norms be damned. Anonymous, London

‘I stopped wearing bras altogether’

I live in a fairly conservative city on the Muslim-majority island of Java. I was specifically told before moving here that it’s considered socially unacceptable for women’s nipples to show through clothes. This worked fine for the first year I lived there, but once the pandemic started and I wasn’t leaving my apartment, I stopped wearing bras altogether. On a humid, 35C day, the last thing you want is a heavy cotton bra collecting your boob sweat. Now that the city is reopening, I am daunted by the prospect of going back to daily bras. I’m actually looking into moving to a less conservative island, just to get away from this pressure to cover up. Sydney Michelle, teacher and writer, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

‘Bra-wearers put up with daily nuisance’

The way I think about bras has changed. Why don’t more of them fasten at the front?! It’s really awkward to strap yourself into and fasten them at the back, especially if you’ve got physical issues. It’s not until you stop and think about it that you realise its just another daily nuisance that bra-wearers put up with. Maybe it’s a structural thing, but human beings have built impossible structures before – bridges, tunnels, extraordinary hats – so surely all it needs is someone to take on the challenge. Maybe bridges are just considered of greater importance than the everyday comfort of more than half the adult population. Anonymous

‘I dread going back to daily bra-wearing.’ Photograph: dannikonov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘I became obsessed with finding the right bra’

Lockdown was an absolute godsend for me in the underwear department, as I was recovering from a single mastectomy in September 2019, followed by radiotherapy, which effectively toasted my chest wall and has left me with constant soreness and pain. There was such pressure to undergo reconstructive surgery following the removal of a breast, but I was always adamant that I didn’t want a Frankenboob, so I elected to go flat on my left side.

Enter the world of “foobs” – hospital discharge triangular cushions, realistic NHS silicon breasts, lovingly hand-knitted knockers – a myriad of false breasts, none of which I quite got on with. I spent hundreds of pounds on specialist bras with rigid upholstery that gripped my chest wall like an iron band. Following Facebook groups’ recommendations, I tried cheapo supermarket cropped tops.

My life had become an obsession with finding the right bra. Then lockdown came, and with it the opportunity to dress for comfort rather than to satisfy the constant pressure to disguise my missing breast. Gradually, I became more and more confident about spending time without a foob. I started going foobless around the house with my family, then gradually started introducing short shopping trips and family walks, and within months I had given up on post-surgical bras and foobs altogether.

I came to realise how much pain and inconvenience I had been putting myself through to make myself look “normal” so “nobody would ever know” and “you can’t tell”. I’ve had breast cancer. I can tell. I do still know. I am in daily pain. I don’t conform to a “body normal” standard any more. I am an amputee. I shouldn’t have to hide it. Lockdown gave me the chance to come to terms with this, and to mentally adjust at my own pace, for which I shall be forever grateful. Anonymous, Scotland

(Source: The Guardian)

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