When no two faces are the exact same then how can two breasts be the same? There is no fixed mold for your twin assets. They vary depending on your genes, body weight, bone structure, nipple size, and shape. There is no “normal” set of boobs; round, pointy, tubular, wide-apart, large, small are all descriptions of healthy breasts. Examining your boobs and getting familiar with them will not just help you find a comfortable, supportive bra but also help you get over your insecurities and increase your self-esteem and overall mental health.
Insecurity around breast size and shape
Insecurities around boobs are often rooted in patriarchy and the image of perfection created by marketing firms. Larger boobs are often seen as assets as they appeal to the male gaze. Women with more petite boobs tend to feel they are less appealing to their partners. However, this is not always the reality. In a survey conducted amongst heterosexual individuals (men=25,524; women=26,703) ranging from 18-65 years of age, 70% of the women were dissatisfied with their breast size, whereas 56% of the men were satisfied with their partner’s breast size. Clearly, women are more conscious of their size than men are.
Stuti, who is 21-years-old, says, “I wasn’t happy with my boobs 5-6 years back because they were tiny, because I believed big boobs were attractive. But, recently, I put on some weight, which led to an increase in my breast size. They make me feel conscious and insecure since they’re prominent in whatever I wear. Also, my favorite dresses don’t fit me anymore, thanks to my boobs. I feel conscious while running, and my back hurts. When I share my feelings about this with my friends, they dismiss it by saying ‘It’s sexy’ ‘Boys like girls with bigger boobs’ or ‘You look better with bigger boobs’. But I DON’T like them!” We often forget that it’s our body and society or popular opinion shouldn’t determine how we feel towards it. With larger boobs comes problems like back pain, saggy boobs, pricier bras, limited choice in clothing, etc.
19-year-old Khushi says, “My boobs grew when I was 14, and by 16, they were already saggy!”
Anxiety around breasts is even more pressing in women with small boobs. They feel societal and family pressure to have larger boobs and often resort to massages or exercises to increase their cup size. Body image issues aren’t rooted in body types; they arise from one’s insecurities. They are a reflection of how messed up society is. It teaches women that they should be insecure about it no matter what they have (or don’t have).
The bottom line is- there is no perfect boob size or boob shape. Every pair of them are valid and normal.
Why we need to stop looking bras the way we do
It’s impossible to talk about boobs without mentioning their support buddy, bras. Most people would agree that they like the look of bras. We want them to be pretty, supportive, and sexy. Our bras are a metaphor for us. We expect from it what the world expects from us. And since the notion of what it means to be a woman has changed over the last 100 years, isn’t it time for our bras to change too?
Laura Tempesta, the only person with a Master’s degree in lingerie design in North America, says, “I’ve spent a lot of time studying bras, and I believe that they’re broken.” A chiropractic and osteopathy study found that 80% of women wear the incorrect bra size, with 70% of women wearing too small ones and 10% wearing too big ones. In a poll consisting of more than 1300 women, it was found that approximately 59% of them suffered from back, neck or shoulder pain due to their bras.
“It’s been 13 years since I started wearing a bra. My mom has been wearing it for more than 25 years. But we both haven’t been able to figure out our right sizes. I suffer from the constant chest, back and shoulder aches. I wish I never had to leave the house or be in the company of people. At least that would allow me to get rid of it!!” says 20-year-old Kriti.
Evolution of bras
A lot has changed in the past 100 years. A multitude of innovations has entered all spheres of our lives. So why are we still putting on the same contraption every day in the name of support? Are the bras good enough to justify a design that has remained unchanged in 100 years?
According to Laura, the answer is no. She says, “Manufacturers of most types of clothing, including bras, know it’s easier and cheaper to maintain the status quo by making the same thing they’ve always made, just changing the colour or print. They’ve trained consumers not to expect modernization in these types of goods, which leads consumers to believe that true innovation in what we wear isn’t possible. And it is ironic because with most other things we buy, things not even directly related to our comfort, we expect the manufacturers to constantly up their game.”
You might question how an industry can remain unchanged for a century. There must have been some advances. Indeed, there have been some: the addition of microfiber and stretch in the fabrics, padded straps, various types of underwires, moulded cups. Voila! Look how far the bras have come.
Well, this is what a bra in 1930 looked like,
And this is what a bra in 2021 looks like,
What’s of concern here is not just the design or how it hasn’t evolved or the fact that the bras aren’t doing for us what we need, but how we have been taught by this industry what we think we need. And the fact that we have been misled. Let’s consider why we wear bras?
- We’re told that we’re supposed to wear them.
- Social norms have taught us to feel ashamed of our breasts being uncovered or unattractive if they are drooping. Bras are thought to stop our breasts from sagging.
- If you have a larger breast size, it might be uncomfortable to not have one on during physical exercise.
Well, surprise! There is no scientific evidence that wearing a bra prevents your breasts from sagging. In fact, there is counter-evidence that your bra might contribute to breast sagging. While it’s an ongoing debate, it might be that keeping them artificially supported might weaken the breast-supporting muscles. Breast sagging is a pretty natural thing to occur, regardless of whether or not you wear a bra. The only difference is that the sag gets covered up with the bra. So, if you’re wearing a bra to ‘prevent’ sagging, you’re wearing it for the wrong reasons.
"All bras are training bras. They train us from a young age that this is how things are, how things feel, how you come up short, and there's nothing you can do about it. Bras have become an icon for the status quo. I'm not saying we should all be burning our bras, but we can do better than this. If we don't question something as small and persistent as the first thing we put on every day, how can we question the bigger things?" and on this note, from Laura Tempesta, we have come to an end of this article. I hope the next time you look at a bra, you know that no matter whether it's the latest collection of the season, it is still a garment 100 years old. Good day to you'll and may you be 'supported' in all your endeavour.