Why my big boobs make it hard to get on board with the ‘no bra trend’

Words by Charlotte Dallison

In praise of the bra.

As an ample E cup, I don’t quite know what to do about the anti-bra trend. When I observe women sans bra I feel inspired – yet the nonchalance and modernity that surrounds such a fashion choice is something I can never seem to muster, no matter how hard I try.

I can’t quite get there because I feel I look absurd without a bra. My big boobs have inflated and deflated over the years, with various weight changes, hormonal fluctuations and stress (yes, I find that my boobs are a good barometer for my internalised stress). Basically, they’re big, and they aren’t as pert as they once were. At this point, I feel most comfortable when they’re supported.

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The other factor at play here is that I love lingerie – old fashioned lingerie, corsets even. For me frilly knickers go far beyond the bedroom, they are part of my daily life. I remember becoming obsessed with lingerie as a small girl. Spending hours longingly looking through my mother’s underwear drawer and obsessively asking babysitters whether they “had a bra”.

Beyond that, I’ve had big boobs since I was about 12. By the time my mother took me bra shopping, I was already a B cup, and then somehow I went from a B to an E within the space of a year. That moment of being allowed into the fold – the fold being the women’s intimates department – was groundbreaking for me. I felt so thrilled when I walked away with the prettiest Elle Macpherson piece after an afternoon of try-ons.

I even enjoyed the sales associate measuring me up with one of those dreaded measuring tapes which everyone else despises. I was hooked. This obsession eventually led me to a few years of working in the lingerie industry. First as a press assistant, and then as a shop assistant, for famed British brand Agent Provocateur.

Spending those days in the sample closet, or on the shop floor, filled me with joy. I loved helping customers, stylists and the like, to find that perfect piece they were looking for. This experience has also left me the proud owner of a drawer full of luscious lace, nylon stockings and silk slips. However, I do often wonder whether my commitment to lingerie, underwire and all, makes me daggy, unfeminist or unfashionable.

As it turns out, I’m most comfortable when slightly uncomfortable – underwire yes, soft crop no, heels yes, sneakers no, etc. This sentiment does not tend to align with today’s trends. But personally, I like to be neatly pulled together under layers of fabric, rather than floating free underneath the relaxed look favoured today. I’m also pretty well endowed by anyone’s standards, so I do sort of need a bra for physical support, but more than anything I want one.

Susannah Constantine, a fashion journalist, recently described herself as “not big, but bountiful” on her podcast My Wardrobe Malfunction. She said so while discussing the various latest trends in fashion which were making her feel “matronly”, along with her guest Dita Von Teese, the reigning queen of vintage-style lingerie. I couldn’t agree more with Susannah’s sentiment, nor have I ever felt so seen in terms of describing my own body.

“Not big, but bountiful” is precisely how I feel. And for me living in that kind of body requires some extra reinforcement here and there. Regardless, the burning of bras in the ’70s is a statement which I am spiritually on board with. The symbol of a man made garment keeping us in shape for the male gaze is despicable and truly antiquated.

I’m also on board with all the people who I witness on the street, relaxed and gorgeous in their more comfortable clothing. In fact, I’m on board with anything as long as the choice to wear what you are wearing comes from within. All I will say is whatever your preference – be it a coordinated lingerie set with stockings, or no underwear at all – do it on your terms, as that is what true contemporary style is all about.

Looking for a bra that works for big boobs? Try this list.

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