Every now and then, I wake up in the morning extremely uncomfortable in my own body. This always leads to BRA ANGST. I try on every bra in my collection (which is only about 5 because bras in my size are fucking expensive), find each of them wanting, and threaten to cry. Most of the time, I somehow manage to ignore the bra problem, but when it forces itself on my consciousness I become infuriated about the fact that I do not own a single bra that makes me happy. The most comfortable one I own gives me a uni-boob and makes me look like I’ve experienced some kind of cosmetic surgery disaster (at least this one was cheap). My two sports bras give good support, but dig into my rib cage in a way that becomes painful by evening. The nicest bra I own gives good shape, but not fantastic support.
I have been professionally fitted and the bras I’ve been sold are still NOT COMFORTABLE. At my size, almost all bras and under-wired and I don’t care what anyone says, these things are NOT COMFORTABLE. Having wires around your boobs and incredibly tight elastic around your ribcage is NOT COMFORTABLE. The best I can say is I’ve got used to it. And I’m sorry, braless feminists, for me, going braless is not comfortable either; I’m very top heavy and engaging in any vigorous physical activity without a bra is positively painful.
Of course, one of the problems with bras is the way they try and mould our bodies to conventions that have nothing to do with nature – pert, firm, lifted and separated. My bra shop informs me that their bras will “lift my breasts up to where they’re supposed to be”. Um “supposed to be”? by whose standards? Since this is not how breasts are naturally supposed to look, it obviously takes strenuous effort on the part of the bra to get them into this position, hence discomfort.
There is only one shop where I can find bras to fit me and every time I enter it, I do so in an embattled state of mind. It’s not just the frustration of the difficulty in finding a bra that fits, it’s the heteronormativity – the insistence on femininity, the assumption that all I want to do with my breasts is “make the most of my curves” (read: attract men), the general implication that comes in all the advertising that, “Well, you may be fat, but at least you’ve got big boobs and men like big boobs so you’re probably not a complete failure as a woman!”. The one “soft cup” bra in the entire collection (rarely in the actual shop) is accompanied in the catalogue by the suggestion that you might be a bit weird for wanting “everyday comfort”.
The fact that it’s such a damn struggle to find a bra with even a moderately good fit (standing in a changing cubicle with bras piling up beside you and an increasingly flustered sales woman is a very disheartening experience), you start to feel as if it’s your body that’s somehow wrong. But it’s not, what’s wrong is the idea that women’s bodies can be standardised. Women are always being told that most of us are wearing the “wrong size bras”, as if it’s women that are stupid rather than the bras. Surely there’s something wrong with the bra production system if so few women are able to find bras that fit them!
The real problem is of course that women are highly individual in this area and in a sensible world, all women who want to wear them would be able to have good quality, affordable bespoke bras made for them individually.