In light of the recent ‘Free the Nipple’ phenomenon, I feel obliged to jump to the defence of the bra. Sure, it sucks that women can’t strut around topless in summer without people getting offended by mere skin. It sucks that those two little bumps under our t shirts are treated so strangely when we get cold, even though it’s a natural and involuntary reaction that men are never derided for. But I might find it easier to consider bras to be evil instruments of the patriarchy if I didn’t need one to stop my boobs from jolting uncontrollably every time I tackle a set of stairs. I would love to free my nipples and let my boobs swing wild and free, and totally respect and recognise your right to do so, but I’d probably find it a bit painful. If I’m not wearing a bra, I can’t shake a ketchup bottle without strapping the girls down with my other arm, so imagine me running for the bus? No thanks.
Unfortunately, a good bra costs a good amount of money. It’s easy enough for most girls to walk into Primark and pick up something that claims to be their size, but if you’ve tired of shapeless cups and stretched-out straps and marched to Debenhams in search of something a bit more reliable, you’re faced with price tags that could make the Queen cry. A basic plunge bra by Freya, for example, costs £32: on a student budget, that could be more than a weekly food shop. Things have definitely improved a bit on the design front since I was a 14-year-old desperately hunting for something that didn’t look like it belonged in your granny’s drawer, but times are still hard for anyone cursed with anything above a D cup.
Poor big boobed girls, you snort, they must have it terribly hard. Except, hang on, what do cup sizes actually mean? Not what we think, it turns out. Lots of people are still under the impression that a DD cup is glamour model big, but it actually depends completely on your back size. A pair of 32DDs and a pair of 36Cs have the same volume, if you do the maths right. To get the right measurement, measure around the bit just under your boobs to find your back size. Then, measure around the fullest part of your boobs. The difference between the two measurements is what makes up your cup size. The lingerie brand Curvy Kate estimate that 90% of women in the UK are wearing the wrong size bra – it might be a little exaggerated, but it’s probably not too far off. Lots of women haven’t been measured in years, or just don’t believe that they could possibly need to wear an F cup, not least because they haven’t seen them in Topshop.
We deserve better than back bands that ride up, cups that sit at strange angles and shoulder straps that leave red raw marks. Taking your bra off at the end of the day shouldn’t be the incredible feeling it’s made out to be, because your bra probably shouldn’t be hurting you in the first place. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to go bra-free, then go forth and free those nipples. But if you need a little (or a lot of) support up top, head to a good, dedicated lingerie shop or section and get measured. Bras in your perfect size might be more expensive, but I promise you, the comfort is worth the investment. Bra wearers of Britain, unite! You have nothing to lose but your back pain.
[Lauren Cummings – @_laurenC]