What happened when I went bra-free for a week
THERE'S NOTHING quite like the feeling of going without a bra. Admittedly, it's taken me nearly 30 years on this planet to be able to shout this from the rooftops, but we got there.
Plenty of women have a love/hate relationship with their bras - never game to shun the over-the-shoulder boulder holder and let the girls roam free while out in public. I get it.
Perhaps that's why mine have always remained dutifully strapped in. A T-shirt bra gives my cleavage just a little more oomph and clothes seem to fit better when sporting some sort of trusty underwire situation.
Buying your first bra has long been considered a rite of passage for young women. One of my earlier memories of my gorgeous mother was watching her effortlessly whip on her bra with expert precision; a two-second morning ritual and she was ready to face the day. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to be all grown up so that I could clip myself into one too.
My 13-year-old self would have undoubtedly cringed at the thought of my 29-year-old self ditching the precious undergarment and daring to set foot in public.
But that's what I decided to do - ditch the bra for a week! - to embrace this fast-growing fashion trend.
Setting the scene
How much do we really need our bras anyway? Barely, according to celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Rihanna and Kate Moss who often pose topless on social media to protest sexual objectification and double standards, and with the #freethenipple movement taking off around the world. But, pushing back on the old push-up is nothing new. The concept is as old as women's liberation, our in-the-know lifestyle editor informs me.
In New York, where I've been living for almost two years now, the free-and-easy trend is everywhere. Big boobs, small boobs, young boobs, not-so-young boobs. No matter the body shape or size, there are bosoms on show everywhere. In restaurants and cafes, bars and pubs, in yoga classes, at the park, in the supermarket, behind the counter at Macy's, even at work!
Beyond that though, I realised I was seriously in awe of the everyday chicks who boldly let their nips poke through their slips as though it was the most natural thing in the world. You've got to hand it to the women of New York, they can and will flaunt their assets in public in the name of fashion and feminism, it truly is a thing of beauty.
So, why not join them?
My week sans bra
I should probably point out that this was just your run-of-the-mill, 30-ish degrees in the middle of summer, week. I went to work, rode the subway, cycled around the city, went for brunch, met friends for drinks, spent a day at a music festival, and exercised (admittedly with very little cardio involved).
The first two days I felt more than a little exposed, especially when rocking up to work and hopping into a packed lift with a bunch of colleagues. I'd be lying if I said I didn't catch the odd quick glance at my chest.
There were also daily outfit meltdowns when I realised my (mostly black) wardrobe was grossly underprepared for such an undertaking, with not nearly enough tops to finally flaunt some glorious side-boob. (Though the experiment did prove an excellent excuse to splash some cash in the name of "research")
By midweek, I'd started to enjoy the way these newly-liberated breasts just kind of did their thing, fitting into my clothing whatever way they damn well pleased. It all became a bit of a luxury really, a personal triumph. It was also surprisingly comfy. Why was I ever afraid of a little unsolicited bounce?
I'm not saying I plan on taking a match to my bra drawer anytime soon, but I'm more than happy to let them gather dust in the dark for the time being and revel in the fact that it's now socially acceptable to stop wearing one altogether.
So, here's what I learnt ...
1. With no constricting band around your ribs, you get to have that wonderful "just took my bra off" sensation. All. Day. Long. That's what freedom feels like.
Have you ever tripped on the sidewalk because you were so excited to get home and take off your strapless bra? Asking for a friend.— Man Repeller (@ManRepeller) June 27, 2016
2. Minimal under-boob sweat. No itchy underwire, no bra-strap sweat patches, endless opportunities to air it all out in the breeze. Not a bad way to beat the heat.
3. Let's talk science. Bras don't actually do anything for your boobs in the long run. University of Franche-Comté professor Jean-Denis Rouillon conducted a 15-year study into the effects of bras on breasts. He found that there were no benefits to bra wearing, and said, "Medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity."
4. Nipples - arguably one of a woman's greatest accessories. Now, it's finally their time to shine.
5. You have the element of surprise. The quick "is she, or isn't she?" once-over from a stranger can actually feel very empowering. I promise.
6. Think of the dollars saved. We all know how much it sets you back when it's time to update your lingerie drawer. Solution: you wear one half as often, you go through them half as fast, and wind up spending half as much. #lifehack
7. Everyone looks fab in a crop top. That's right, bralettes are no longer only for the waifish supermodels. Errybody's doing it.
8. Your circulation improves. Fact: not wearing a bra allows blood to flow more readily around your chest, helping with that muscle tissue building as well as keeping your skin firm.
9. Saggy boobs are also beautiful boobs, as are droopy ones, pointy ones, tiny ones, and asymmetric ones. No two pairs are exactly the same. And that is a very cool thing.
Charlotte Willis is whimn's New York editor