The importance of bras and the boobs in them. 

Sometime centuries ago, women collectively designed the first garments for the purpose of covering, supporting, or enhancing their breasts. Greek and Minoan women of ancient civilisations were found to have worn girdles, bust support and other bra-like garments. The bra is fundamentally an expression of womanhood and the desire to be perceived in different ways, both in self-perception and outward appearance. Like all clothing, choosing what to wear is underpinned by expression and experience, and bras are no exception. Mesh, lace, embroidery or basic black are integral considerations for the bra-wearer, and this is something I have learnt through becoming an expert ‘bra-fitter’. 

Fast forward centuries from the Greeks, Minoans, and my own ancestors in India, comes myself. Ironically, as a teen excited for womanhood, my love for bras developed before my chest had a chance to. Shopping with my mum and seeing how many different styles and colours I could buy eventually, was thrilling. It had nothing to do with sexuality or perception but more so with a connection to womanhood (yes, I was also excited to get my period before you ask). I managed to get my first bra from Matalan, and I saved it for special days, like school trips (naturally). From there, the obsession and the collection grew. 

When I got to university, I was graced with a part-time job at Victoria’s Secret. This was exciting mainly because everything American is exciting to British teenagers, but also because I could be paid to mentally shop all day and help others pick and choose. They trained me quite quickly to measure customers, which was initially plain and simple: measure around the bust, and just below. It wasn’t until I asked, ‘what’s the occasion?’ to one certain customer, that my appreciation for lingerie and womanhood deepened. Her response was that she had recovered from her eating disorder and was finally able to shop for bras at a healthy weight. Admittedly, I did step out to have a small cry in joy for her, but then I was back to business. From then, the stories came flooding in. Affairs, miscarriages, and joining the gym were some of the many reasons why women were seeking their perfect new bra. My colleagues did note that I must have a trustworthy aura about me, because they weren’t hearing near as many stories as me, but I’m taking it gladly as part of the feminist journey. The bra, to me, became a symbol of change, seduction, and self-esteem which I feel is very overlooked. Many women claim that their partner ‘wouldn’t even notice’ their new bra, which highlighted just how personal lingerie can be and that there is a common misconception about when a woman chooses to wear sexy and skimpy underwear.  

While my place of work shifted to Boux Avenue, my passion didn’t falter. I’ve helped young girls with autism, brides-to-be, and transitioning women with their bra needs, and I’ve felt connected to every story. The decision to share your size and insecurities with a stranger is admirable but scarier for some than others; being part of that process is rewarding. There are ties to culture, sex, and motherhood which I would have never considered had it not been for the wonderful women I have met over the last three years. I’ve seen blood, sweat, and tears in the process of working part-time like most other uni students, but it means much more than that to me. The idea that those ancient women thought to decorate and enhance their chest, just as we modern women do, is somewhat poetic. Imagining that the woman centuries ago also felt the same withering self-esteem, shows the long-time prevalence of feminism and misogyny in one small garment. Developing from the no-bra movements, it is more liberating now than ever that women can choose to or not to wear a bra. If they choose to, there are hundreds of styles they can choose to express themselves, for themselves. 

The CoppaFeel! Uni Boob Team is an incredible chance for me to express my love for boobs and bras – and find a place where boobs are an acceptable term for your chest. While bras and breast cancer have no causal link, my love for feminism underpins the connection. There is an often neglected connection between mastectomies, breast cancer and bras which plainly relate to how women deserve to feel beautiful regardless of their illness. Raising awareness about breast cancer allows me to help potentially preserve boobs and bras, allowing bra-wearers to continue feeling sexy and represented. Introducing the bra-bin on campus is a chance for me to spread my love, highlight how many people are wearing the wrong size, and make them feel like their best selves as a result of donating and finding out more!  

Whether you push them up, cover them entirely, or free the nipple, checking your chest is at the centre of it all. Putting a pretty pink bra on top is just a bonus! Make sure you check your chest, get measured, and feel good doing it this international women’s day. 

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