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Pandemic Freedom: Women ripping off bras and not putting them back on

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Bras ought to be “relegated to the land of the jockstrap”

IT WON the 2009 Ig Nobel Public Health Prize for Dr Elena Bodnar, centre, and it was before it’s time. The ‘Emergency Bra’ couldbe worn as facemasks by two people. Picture: Reuters

Bras ought to be “relegated to the land of the jockstrap”

Angela Haupt

Kate Chapman doesn’t know where her bras are – or whether she even owns one anymore.

“It’s a delicious feeling,” she says, noting that the last time she tried on a bralette, which is one of the more comfortable variations of the undergarment, it felt so restrictive that she donated it.

“My body doesn’t want me to strap it in for fashion’s sake or because culture says I should. Nope. No more,” says Chapman, 51, a life coach in Colorado.

She believes bras ought to be “relegated to the land of the jockstrap”, and used for exercise only. She hopes that, post-coronavirus pandemic, “free-flying breasts is the norm, not the exception”.

Indeed, over the past 19 months, many women ripped off their bras – just as they once did after coming home from work. But this time, many didn’t put them back on the next morning.

Some, like Chapman, are swearing off bras almost completely; others have simply traded in their underwire for something softer.

In 2020, bra sales dropped about 8%, says Kristen Classi-Zummo, an apparel analyst with the NPD Group, a market research firm. Sports bras were a “bright spot”, with an increase in sales over 2019, and wireless bras performed well.

This cultural shift toward comfort had been transpiring even before we retreated inside our homes in March 2020, with the increasing popularity of less-structured bralettes in all colours and designs: bandage-style, frilled, high-neck, racerback, zip-up.

“Things were changing prior to Covid, big time, within the bra industry,” says Elisabeth Dale, founder of the Breast Life and author of The Bra Zone: How to Find Your Ideal Size, Style, and Support.

“What has happened alongside the pandemic is exploding interest in comfort, more flexible wires, softer fabrics and thinner fabrics.”

It’s not just about comfort, Classi-Zummo says. “Intimate apparel used to serve as an item of clothing that was really worn for someone else. Now it’s become a symbol of empowerment. It’s about how it makes me feel versus how I look to you.”

Vicki Seawright, vice-president of Maidenform, an underwear company, says consumers became “more vocal about their product preferences” during the pandemic. Their No 1 demand: comfort. Bralettes and sports bras have been selling well, Seawright says, but so have “more comfortable underwire options”, like wires wrapped in foam with a soft outer fabric.

Deanna Attai, a breast surgeon at UCLA, points out that a bra’s wire typically doesn’t provide much support: the majority comes from its band. But that doesn’t mean you have to ditch your underwire.

“If you happen to feel that it’s more comfortable for you, or it’s a style you like, go for it,” says Attai, who also points out that there are no health concerns with wearing underwire. Long-time rumours linking underwire bras to breast cancer are false, she says.

On the other hand, there also aren’t health reasons that dictate that you should wear a bra, though “not wearing a properly fitted, supportive bra can contribute to breast pain, especially over time”, Attai says.

That’s particularly true as the ligaments in the breast stretch and the denser glandular tissue is gradually replaced by fat, she says.

Lingerie companies are also coming up with innovations to serve other populations that might prefer to continue wearing bras. – The Washington Post

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