"I want to go bra-free but have big boobs - what on earth do I wear?!"
So asked Amanda Bolt (D.Phil), 42, in a desperate plea to Loose Debra, where we generally cater for the flat-chested woman and simply leave the more voluptuous to it, recommending they find soft bras without metal wires. The main reason for this neglect being that whenever we bang on about going brafree, friends with bigger boobs eye our chests and say "Well, it's alright for YOU!". We know this myth that larger breasted women are attached to their bras, like Trump to a hair-piece, isn't universally true, because some of our followers have written in about their personal bra-free fashion choices for bigger breasts. True, these have mainly revolved around checked lumber-jack shirts with chest pockets, or simply not giving a hoot what anyone thinks (readers, we LOVE you!!), but nevertheless our readers break the mould.
Having inspired Amanda with our constant championing of bra-freedom and the style, comfort and liberation it can bring, how could we ignore her cry for help and her enthusiasm to get rid of that old booby trap so many fall into?
"Could you run a piece for those of the larger, saggier persuasion?" Amanda asked "A frill to disguise mine looks bloody awful - the girls just look huge and shapeless!"
And so, humorously, Amanda threw down the gauntlet. Well, we only went and picked it up, didn't we?!
As Chief Freedom Fighter here at Loose Debra, I ran to the shops, thinking that the new Autumn trend for wearing strappy cami dresses over shirts would be just the thing. They suit me, after all, and mean I can be right on trend without the world having a clue as to my lack of underwear. But I was wrong. They did nothing for Amanda's beautiful curves and when she looked in the mirror and started to talk about 'sacks' and 'shelves' I knew I had to think again.
I should mention that Amanda, apart from finding that 'with age I feel more comfortable bra-free', also has a diagnosed condition of costochondritis, or inflammation of the rib cartillage, making the bra-strap area sensitive to pressure and bra-wearing increasingly painful, "When I got a 'supportive' bra properly fitted, the pain was exacerbated and even referred to the breast itself." She finds sports bras 'itchy, sweaty and uncomfortable' and favours gently strapped, stretchy vests.
Amanda showed me her favourite Summer bra-free top. It's a blue Joseph sleeveless silk vest she picked up in a charity shop, and she enjoys the feel of the silk directly against her skin. The neckline suits her as does the colour, and they draw some attention away from her chest, but she was still interested that she felt "a bit showy, a bit ostentatious" going brafree in it "which is a weird thing, because it's completely natural!" We started to talk about how we didn't actually feel free to be brafree and "out there" without disguising the fact...
"We've been conditioned to think that free breasts are somehow 'tarty'. There's a confusion about womens' bodies, isn't there?" Amanda said pointing to her breasts, "Even if we're not active consumers of porn, that fascism about our bodies is everywhere".
We agreed that not wearing a bra is political in as much as it can affect your personal power and vulnerability as a woman in a society that favours bra-wearing and the covering and shaping of womens' breasts.
Here we were, two women in our forties, sitting on my bed in front of a mirror, clothes littering the floor around us, both interested in how we felt we should still have to cover up... "almost feeling guilty in case my lack of boob binding might be embarassing others," chuckled Amanda...
So, having failed in my mission, and since Amanda was "happy to test drive anything", I called the Wardrobe Wellness expert Jo Bunner of The Good Clothes Philosophy and asked her to recommend some styles for the larger breasted woman wanting to go bra-free.
Regarding the cami dress/tee combination Jo said "I don't know the combo you tried, but it could work if the tee was a similar tonal colour to the dress and with a similar neckline, i.e. round or v-shaped, as larger boobs are not flattered by high necklines. A longer sleeve could also help balance things, and/or a patterned dress would obscure more effectively. Alternatively, wrap dresses are usually good with a camisole underneath"
What a star! I went out, Jo's advice on my mind, and found two possibilities. Bless Amanda for returning to model them. What do you think?
Amanda felt comfortable in both dresses, but more relaxed in the Printed Cocoon Dress from Mint Velvet, where the pattern obscured nipplage, and the style was less formal.
We talked some more about how we police ourselves for fear of offending the norm, and Amanda was reminded of the Panopticon. I looked blank, and she explained to me that a panopticon was a prison building in which all inmates could be observed at once, and behaviour efficiently controlled, and that, in a sense, we women with chests and breasts on our fronts, might lose our bras but we still had our internal panopticons to confront. She's not a doctor of philosophy for nothing.
Hopefully we're slaying these conditions of worth with every blog we write, giving more women the option to try bra-freedom every now and again and have a chat with that old internal panopticon...
Let us know if you have a favourite bra-free style, and how you feel about losing yours. We're storing all your stories as we edge our way, quietly and gently, towards a beautiful bra-free revolution :-)
Karen Dobres, Chief Freedom Fighter