In addition to all the curriculum writing, travel, family organizing (not just my grandma — someday I might talk about it here, but right now, it is not a safe story to tell), yoga, and other general life stuff, one way I’ve been spending my summer is trying to find a bra that fits. I don’t know that I’ve gained or lost any significant amount of weight overall, but my body has undergone a shape change over the past several months. The bras that sort of, just barely, almost but not really fit before — well, I can no longer pretend.
Particularly for anyone who wears a not-easily-available size — hi, that’s me! — this is a process. There are additional steps if one has a hard-to-fit breast shape in addition to bra size. The whole thing requires an investment of time, money, and research that I just do not have during the school year. (Without a daily commute, I drive way less in summertime. I am spending what would be gas money on bras.)
It can be really frustrating to bra shop alone — or with people who can voice, intentionally or unintentionally, a body negative attitude. I’ve definitely had problems feeling like:
- My breasts are wrong and ugly because they’re two different sizes (quite common, I know, but it’s slightly more than a cup size difference).
- My breasts are wrong and ugly because they’re wider and shallower than other breasts that are my equivalent cup volume.
- My muscular upper body — chest, back, shoulders — is wrong and ugly because there are some parts of them that will just not move in order to make things easier for bras and breasts.
- My torso is wrong and ugly because there’s fat there, and a properly fitting bra band (i.e., one tight enough to support my bosoms from the bottom up) accentuates that.
Obviously my body image issues are my own responsibility, but it’s nice to be able to call in reinforcements.
So I’ve been reading some bra bloggers (for folks who didn’t know, there is such a thing as bra bloggers), like The Lingerie Lesbian and Bras and Body Image. (As one might imagine from their titles, those blogs regularly feature images of people in bras, underwear, and sometimes other lingerie. May not be advisable for clicking in all circumstances.) And I’ve been reading and asking for advice at /r/ABraThatFits, over on Reddit. (While Reddit at large has some Serious Issues, there are certainly pockets of decency and civility. This is one of them.)
I guess I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I started reading a whole very lot about breasts and bras. But I gradually came to the realization that spaces like these are — happily — body positive spaces. (By “spaces like these,” I mean the bra blogs and message boards I’ve personally visited. I can’t vouch for the ones I haven’t visited and do not mean to make a sweeping claim.)
For one, people post pictures of themselves in just bras. (Not in a pervy way, and if you’re someone who creeps on people like that, I am judging the shit out of you right now.) How is that empowering? Because it’s such a bigger variety of body shapes and sizes than are typically shown in lingerie adds — or, really, in pretty much any type of positive media representation. In terms of a full range representation, it’s not perfect — but it’s a start. Moreover, these are real photos, capturing people as they actually look in those moments, free of major Photoshop interference (the occasional pixeling of a nipple or personally identifying marker notwithstanding).
Real photos show ribs and rolls, bones and bloat, scoliosis and scars. They show breasts that are pointy, pendulous, and every shape in between. They show sizes that are large or small, shallow or deep for any given frame. They show different size body frames. They show ill bra fits with side spillage and ill fits with bullet boobs. They show the same cup fitting differently on the left and right boob.
In short, they show lots of different people having lots of different experiences — both good and bad — with lots of different bras. This is the reality of having a body. Nobody looks like an overly retouched print advertisement — because no real body is meant to.
Beyond that, I’ve found that overwhelming philosophy — explicit or implicit — of these spaces is to find the correct bra for the body you currently have. Even if your breasts are very large or very small. (Caveat: There is an assumption that if you’re visiting a bra fitting community, you probably do not want to go braless, at least not all the time, even if your breasts are very small. Which is probably valid, given the context.) Even if you’re still growing or pregnant or breastfeeding or losing weight. You still need well fitting clothing to dress the body you have now.
There’s no assumption that people of one size will of course want padded or push up bras (unless folks specify, of actual course) or that folks of a different size will of course want minimizers. Nor is there an assumption that people outside certain size ranges should settle or give up (though for some outliers, there is frank discussion of the benefits and drawbacks). If a particular bra does not fit, there’s a careful analysis — size, shape, style — of why this bra is wrong for you.
There is a very solid assumption that each body, each person, deserves clothing that fits.
This is not the pithy rainbows and unicorn farts of paying only lip service to body acceptance. This is doing some of the hard work of body acceptance, reaffirming, person after person, day after day, that even the most intimate parts of ourselves are just fine as they are.