I love bras, because making my boobs look good is one of the few things about my body that I feel I have a lot of control over. Besides: I am either a 40D or a 38E, depending on the bra and the time of month, so generally speaking, going braless isn't an option.
I haven't left the house without a bra since I was 13. So I decided to see if I could go a for week without wearing a bra. It was just as uncomfortable as I worried that it might be — but not for any of the reasons I thought. Here are the unexpected things that I learned.
Day 1: I learn how going braless in public makes me feel like I'm breaking some sort of law.
I get dressed for my first day ever in public without a bra. When I walk into the office, my overwhelming feeling is that being without a bra feels like getting into a car without a seat belt: careless, dangerous, and something I could get in trouble for if I got caught.
"I'm going braless this week," I feel compelled to announce to my group at work. It feels a little bit like I am confessing to a crime, and hoping that if I'm upfront about the bad thing I'm doing, the law will go easier on me.
Everyone shrugs in response, like this is no big deal. This actually sent me into a bit of a worry spiral — am I actually just this saggy all the time? I go into the bathroom to both evaluate my boob situation, and also to adjust myself because at some point one of my nipples got caught under my waistband.
I felt pretty naked that day, but when I look back at pictures of me in that dress — I can't even tell that I'm not wearing a bra.
I still feel strangely guilty. I don't get up from my desk unless I have to. On top of this, it's 65 degrees, so while I am incredibly sweaty under my boobs, my nipples are giving me a hard time, which only seems to reinforce to me what a terrible idea this was.
Day 2: I realize that my breasts are incredibly lopsided, and how insecure I am about that.
I get a little braver today, and wear a jersey dress. For a hot second, I really enjoy the freedom that comes with not having to worry about wearing a bra that can be seen either through my clothes, or in the places where my clothes don't cover it.
But my significant lopsidedness is now fully on display. I walk into the office and feel like I'm letting the world in on one of my deepest, darkest secrets: that I actually have very saggy boobs. This isn't really my fault, exactly. I suspect that past a certain size, all boobs are saggy. It's just physics. Regardless, it's no minor thing.
I keep feeling compelled to blurt out to people that I am going braless — I find that I will do this more and more as the week goes on. It's a bizarre feeling, like the compulsion a lot of women feel to apologize for everything, except I'm apologizing for my subpar boobs.
Everyone responds more or less the same way: "I can't tell, but I'm not looking to check, either."
So if no one can tell and no one is looking, then why do I still feel like I need to explain myself? Why am I banishing myself to my desk for an hour so as not to subject anyone to my nipples?
Day 3: I learn that people are more mature about cold nipples than you'd think.
I put on my thinnest T-shirt, and I am in full droop mode. I look in the mirror, and my saggy boobs appear to me like a pair of sad puppy dog eyes, averting their gaze in shame for what they have done.
At this point, I'm almost daring people to notice. No one does — and I know this because I am checking in with everyone, trying to make sure I'm not doing anything distracting or rude. Regardless, the insecurity of being braless puts me in a horrible mood all day. It weirdly also affects my posture -- I feel oddly compelled to curl myself into a ball, in order to make myself seem smaller so that people can't see.
I decide at one point to stop hiding behind my crossed arms when it gets cold. And it ends up being fine. Either everyone I work with is very mature and understanding, or everyone has way more important shit to worry about besides somebody's nipples. Probably the second one.
I begin to realize that no one is going to punish me for breaking the rule about not wearing a bra... except me.
Day 4: I discover that not wearing a bra isn't as painful as I thought it would be.
"I can't imagine how painful this is for you" is a thing I have been hearing a lot, which is strange, because I realize today that going braless has been more or less painless.
So painless, in fact, that I had forgotten that it was even a worry of mine before I started this experiment. That is, until I run up a staircase, and am suddenly reminded that I am not wearing any sort of seatbelt for my chest. But if I'm being honest: My boobs didn't suffer any more than they normally do.
Granted, I haven't attempted to go to the gym this week — I can already tell that would just age my boobs about 15 years in 45 minutes. There is still a time and place when a bra really is still mandatory.
Day 4 was also when I did the unthinkable: I went clubbing braless.
To be honest, it ends up coming in handy when it gets super hot and I don't have an extra layer of fabric heating me up, or bra straps that constantly need to be stopped from escaping down my arms. So, given the right outfit, I'd definitely go braless clubbing again.
Day 5: Someone finally notices that I am not wearing a bra.
I go to another party, and I spill a drink all over myself. On my boobs. In public.
Shortly after this, some drunk guy tries to flirt with me and stares pretty intensely at my boobs. Yeah, he's figured it out, I realize as he tries to get into a pretty in-depth conversation with my nipples.
For a second, those old feelings of shame over not wearing a bra come back. There is a part of me that really wants to borrow a jacket — and another part of me who wonders if I brought this on myself.
But then I remember that Creepy McNoChill would probably be doing the same thing even if I weren't wearing a bra — so to hell with putting on a jacket. It's too hot, anyway.
Plus, I see someone in the corner who is uncomfortably trying to hike up their strapless bra, and I do NOT envy them, at all.
Day 6: I realize that I take for granted much abuse my bras inflict on me.
I actually don't miss my bra by this point — when I take off all my clothes, I notice that the pressure points all over my chest that are normally well-worn from my underwire, band, and straps have faded significantly.
Until it's all healed, it didn't really occur to me how much I am just used to this kind of everyday wear and tear on my body. Especially the older bras; good bras are unbelievably expensive, so I tend to wear mine for longer than I should. And now I can see how much giving my body a break has made a difference.
Day 7: The day I'm actually sad about going back to wearing a bra.
On the last day of this experiment, we have BuzzFeed Brews with The Voice judges — I end up sitting in the very front row. I am wearing a wrap dress that, as I unfortunately discovered a little too late, was threatening to expose me at any moment. Which, yikes.
But it was totally fine — I didn't get in trouble; my sweater puppies did not stage a daring escape. If I can go braless in front of Gwen Stefani and live to tell the tale, I can be braless in front of anyone.
To be honest, a part of me was a little sad when the week was over — I didn't realize all the annoying, painful things that I tolerate from my bras until I took them out of the equation. Plus, I realized that I've got a few dresses where I really can get away with free-boobing.
So what did I learn from my week of going braless?
1. The only person who is forcing me to wear a bra is me, which means that I should only do it because it makes me feel good.
2. No one can tell the difference if I am wearing a bra or not, so I don't need to worry about wearing a bra to be taken seriously.
3. Going without a bra for a while can actually be a nice vacation for your boobs.
4. No one will freak out about your cold nipples if you don't freak out.