By Jo Bunner Of The Good Clothes Philosophy
I recently became a 32DD. Having previously been a 34B, I was most impressed/chuffed/surprised by this turn of events and embraced my new size with pride. After a few short weeks this waned as I found myself very conscious of my new bra: how it pinched, how my flesh oozed over the sides, how constricting it was around my ribs. By the afternoon it was just plain uncomfortable (sorry bra-fitters, but my ‘wrong’ 34B was sooo much comfier!) such that I would long to be home just so I could whip the damn thing off.
Post Wonderbra the focus has been boobs, Boobs, BOOBS!
Then I met Karen from Loose Debra and was reminded of a time when I rarely wore a bra – for most of my 20s and into the early 30s (you can read more about this on my blog) – and how I didn’t ever give this a second thought, nor feel any self-consciousness. Probably a lot of this was down to being back in the pre-Wonderbra 80s (although it was invented in the 1960s, the Wonderbra didn’t become all-encompassing – ‘scuse the pun - until the 1990s) when all the focus was on boobs, Boobs, BOOBS!
Vogue Says Cleavage is Over
Good news though, it seems things are about to change. Vogue have declared the cleavage is now out. Or should that be in? After around 25 years of pump it up and push it out, we now appear to be heading towards a more Rational Dress (read about Rational Dress here), where comfort wins out – Oscar Wilde would be pleased! (See also my blog Down with Heels!? as we’re also opting for flats over breakneck heels).
Whatever the reason, and I suspect it has something to do with the growing number of women (Go Loose Debra!) wanting to feel physically and emotionally comfortable with their assets, we should soon be seeing a greater selection of bras, bralets, camisoles, etc in the shops, i.e. underwear that is supportive of this movement!
The Problem of Going Brafree...
Since thinking about being brafree I’ve trialled removing the underwires (more comfy, but still too tight around the ribs), wearing a soft sports-ish type bra (better, but flattens them) and going without (so much better comfort-wise, but I do feel more self-conscious). Then Karen featured Amanda on her blog and asked me for some advice on how to dress her larger breasts, which got us both to thinking……
What Do You Wear If You Want To Go Brafree But Have Boobs?
Now there is no doubt that a well-fitting bra does give shape and form to our bodies. For some it gives a more defined waist, for others it helps to balance our hips. A bra allows us to wear skimpy tops without fear of nipple peakage - or peekage! - and that bit of extra padding adds curves to an otherwise straight body. All in all a bra does perform an important task; much like a good sheepdog, it rounds ‘em up and points ‘em in the right direction.
The Guide to Breast-Dressing in Bra Sizes :-)
So how can we corral our puppies when they roam free?! Here are my A to I (geddit?) of ways, applicable to both the flat and the full-chested:
A. Layer up. A thin vest top or camisole adds an extra material barrier between your nipples and the outside world - most important when it’s chilly. The more tight fitting they are, the more they will control movement, but if you don’t want to flatten them, try to find ones that have a bust shaping.
B. Patterns. A patterned top, particularly one that has vertical and/or dark patterning will help disguise your brafree status.
C. Looser fitting. Yes, the bleedin’ obvious in that the tighter the top the more your unconstrained boobs will show. But you don’t have to wear a tent, instead choose semi-fitted shapes that create curves
D. Colour blocking. Judicious use of colour will help to break up the eye and remove focus from your breasts. The column of colour is a great trick that does many positive things for us; a single colour top and bottom half with a contrast colour (cardi/jacket) over the top will serve to elongate as it creates a visually unbroken line from top to bottom, and the top layer acts as a distraction from what’s going on underneath.
DD. Deeper necklines. Most of us who’ve larger boobs know a deep round or v-neck is far more flattering than a high neck as they help draw the eye downwards and effectively dividing the breasts and creating a cleavage
E. Longer necklaces or scarves. These have much the same effect as wearing a deeper neckline, with the added advantage of creating a focal point away from your boobs.
F. Thicker, heavier fabrics. Particularly those with a texture or pile will help to cover your modesty. Thin and silky fabrics – particularly plain colours - whilst feeling wonderful against the skin, will only cling to you, so better to keep this fabric for your underlayers, unless you opt for patterned and loose fit.
G. Breast pockets or pleats/tucks. Normally these would be something I’d advise fuller chested women to avoid as it just adds more bulk, but if you are going brafree, this extra layer not only provides a bit more nipple protection, but especially if the pocket has a button it can ingeniously serve to position the boobs on the body! Do keep pleats/tucks vertical though, else you will just make your chest appear wider!
H. Cardigans or wraps. Particularly edge to edge or waterfall shape cardis will break up lines and create movement away from your breasts. Wraps (pashmina-stylie) will hide or reveal as much as you want.
I. Bra cups. If you’re handy with a needle and thread, then bra cups (try this link) could be a great solution for tighter fitting tops or camisoles, creating a bit of shape and control but without the tightness around the ribcage. Plus they come in a good size range (A-E).
As we are all individual both in body and boob shape and in personal style, not all these tips will work for everyone – but they're a good start. Would love to know which work for you and any other ideas and suggestions you have for dressing your breasts!
I leave you with some examples for the A to I List above - check them out and have fun dressing your boobs...
This one-shoulder dress from Asos combines colour blocking, pleating and a bandeau top making it great for the brafree...
Jo Bunner, Champion of Slow Fashion and Eternal Style