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Should you bar the bra?


Should you bar the bra?

If you enjoy this article and you are one of those people who believe that many of our items of clothing are unnecessary and you would like to see the world offering more clothing optional situations then you may feel really at home in the respectful and friendly community of ANW.   

The Pros, Cons, and a brief history


The first bra originates back to around 1905, and increased in popularity as the years went by to become an ever-present part of a woman’s wardrobe. It is, no wonder this antiqued undergarment is still a symbol of femininity and a daily part of many of us women's routines. But, if you think bras are the most uncomfortable clothing to wear, what came before bras were even worse.

The Corset

The 16 Century Corset.

The first major shift in women's undergarments was the corset. Women in France embraced it in the early 1500's to achieve the perfect female figure — an inverted cone shape. It kept a woman’s posture rigid but didn’t really constrict the waist, unlike the whalebone corsets that would become fashionable in the 19th Century. These corsets, were made with a long piece of wood (busk) or whalebone sewn into the casting. With laces secured so tightly around the torso, pulling in the waist and pushing up the breasts till the breast line was almost at the top of the armpit. Combined with the very low-cut neckline dresses and yes, the “cup spilling over” was inevitable. So much so, that trendy ladies of the 18th century would apply nipple rouge or makeup to further highlight their “charms” in case of such an exposure. Ironically, while exposing one’s bosoms was a fashion statement, throughout most of the 18th century, exposing one’s ankles and calves was indecent!

Anna du Pire as Granida. By Bartholomeus van der Helst, 1660

Edwardian Era - The Hurdles of Girdles

In the late 19th century, we finally saw a shift from corsets to an early form of what we now call a girdle. The weaving and busk moved from the back to the front, forcing the torso forward and the hips to jut outward, making a woman's figure more of an "S" shape.

1869 The Corset Is Split

In France, the first modern bra was born, called the corselet gorge ("the well-being."), when Herminie Cadolle cut a corset into two separate undergarments — the top supported the breasts by means of straps, while the lower part was a corset for the waist. In 1905, they started selling these new "bras" alone.

The Corselet Gorge

1910: The Modern Bra

Even after the corset and bra were officially split, there was still the issue of comfort. Enter Mary Phelps Jacob, who invented the first modern bra with a pair of silk handkerchiefs and silk ribbons — sans the stiff whalebone.


The bra as we know it today had basically arrived but is that a good thing?

Nowadays, Scientific research on the effect on bras on the sagging of breasts, backs up the old feminist call for women to ditch the harness.

Many people worry that underwire bras and sleeping in a bra at night is linked to breast cancer. There remains no scientific proof that this is so. However, I have known of women who have been advised by medical staff to throw away their underwire bras. So even if the fear isn't scientifically proven why not play it safe? Maybe the feel good factor alone can help.

Bras Support or Discomfort?

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of not wearing a bra in more detail;

The Pros

  1. Contrary to the myth, that says not wearing bras will make your breasts sag. Sports medicine specialist Prof. Jean-Denis Rouillon of Besançon's university hospital in France carried out a 15 year study to assess whether or not bras do cause sagging. The study involved 330 females aged 15–35 years of age, and Rouillon’s findings suggest that wearing a bra can weaken the chest muscles, promoting sagging by an average of 7mm more than those non bra wearing breasts. This may not work if you're middle-aged or older, as Prof. Rouillon's attention, to date, has been focused on the breasts of younger women. But Rouillon concludes that going braless encourages the chest muscles to work harder to elevate the breasts and that breasts even get saggier with a bra, as it weakens the muscles that hold up the breast.

  2. Not wearing bras at night are also said to improve sleep cycles. Tight-fitting garments trigger a decrease in Melatonin - a hormone that helps regulate a sleep cycle.

  3. Not wearing bras prevent dirt and sweat from sticking onto your skin, as it provides more ventilation, lessening the probability of infections and acne that appears due to extreme sweating and dirt.

  4. From a skin standpoint, going bra-free can be beneficial, particularly for those dealing with irritation and breakouts. Wearing a bra can lead to a build-up of sweat under and on your breasts, which can lead to an overgrowth of yeast, inflammation, and ultimately even a yeast infection, says Devika Icecreamwala, M.D., a dermatologist in Berkeley. Signs of yeast and a subsequent infection include redness, itching, and/or an odour under your breasts. Similarly, "that excess sweat can clog pores and lead to breakouts," says Dr. Icecreamwala.

  5. Since looser clothing allows for better body circulation, going bra-less also makes the breast tissues healthier. 80% of women wear a badly fitting bra that can result in back-pain in the neck and the chest muscles, and excessively tight shoulder straps can also affect the shoulders. In those who wear a bra, the shoulder straps are one of the main supports for the breasts. Over several years, this tension may cause a permanent groove in the soft tissue of the shoulders.

  1. The breast is very flexible as it can easily adapt to various changes the body goes through. Such cases are during pregnancy, PMS, or adding some pounds or even shedding some. If the bra is an inseparable part of your body during these major changes, bras can weaken the surrounding skin, which will lead to a deflated appearance.

  2. There's something very empowering about not wearing a bra. For many women, it's the first thing taken off when getting home after a long day at work and you immediately notice your breathing becomes less restrictive. Since the 1960's the removal, binning or burning of the bra has been seen as a sign of feminist liberation and a way of supporting various injustices. The bra, along with the right to go topless, is linked with the fight for equality. Even in the 21st Century there are incidents of women being ordered to wear bras in the workplace and the threat of being fired if they don't.

  3. Opting for the bra-less lifestyle will also save you money - bras are expensive.

  4. They are often detrimental to your outfit. Dealing with unsightly bra straps showing is a pain and often distracts from an item of clothing that you like. The back of the bra is also often noticeable on tighter clothing as it often pulls into your skin removing the smooth contours of you side and back leaving bulges. The colour of the bra can often show through material. The bra, whose main purpose seems to be to disguise the breasts, often show up more than the breast itself does and not just on the chest but the shoulders, back and sides.

  5. Bras can often be misleading encouraging women to imagine that the breasts they see in the mirror are not as large, perfect, self-supporting and shapely as the ones they see in the street. This can not only lead to low self-esteem but also encourage small breasted women or women with sagging breasts to look at cosmetic surgery. If more women were honest about their breasts then there would be a greater feeling of confidence across the ages for all shapes and sizes. Incidentally the first breast implant was in 1895 in Germany and paraffin was used! Silicone was first used in 1962 in the USA.

  6. If we consider our image and the way we look. Surely, the bra does not enhance our looks? Our natural shape must be more attractive than a shape created by an artificial object. Our natural movement and softness more appealing than rigid conical mounds.

The Cons

  1. For women with larger breasts, supporting the connective tissues of the breasts by wearing a bra may help reduce the rate of sagging. Most large-breasted women (those who have bigger than C-cup) often complain of pain in the back, shoulders, when they don't wear bras, which is brought about by the excessive strain in the muscles supporting the breast.

  2. If you do regular exercise it’s important to have some support otherwise your risk damaging the internal structure of the breast. When you don't wear a bra during a workout, your back, neck muscles, and trapezius (a major muscle in the back) have to work a lot harder to balance out your weight.

  3. Some people find the idea of seeing the natural shape of women's breasts and nipples sexually evocative and this can lead some women to feel uncomfortable about such exposure. However, this is only really the case because society has got so used to our natural contours being hidden. If bras were not so common place this would no longer be an issue.


Should you ditch your bra forever?

The idea that women may stop wearing bras en-masse is almost incomprehensible. They have become an integral part of society. Many women are happy to go topless on holiday – and yet will still don their bras before heading to the restaurant along the same stretch of beach. Flat chested women also wear bras when they seemingly serve no purpose. Likewise, many mothers dress their pre-pubescent daughters in bras from a young age. It seems that it is the idea of wearing a bra that is important rather than it having a specific use. Is it that women feel indecent without one and start encouraging their daughters to feel the same long before they actually have breasts to cover?

Very few items of clothing are actually sheer enough to expose anything more than the shape of the breast and should that be anything more shocking than the shape of the bra? If the shape of the nipple or a slight darkness from the nipple is seen through material is that so concerning? It has never been of a concern for men. Most bras do not hide the nipple when it becomes aroused by the simplest of things like room temperature anyway.

A more laid back attitude towards the breast would help society on so many levels. From making it easier for women to breastfeed and confront breast examinations; to unhealthy, demeaning and yet generally accepted, negative attitudes shown towards breasts in films, magazines, clubs and bars. Bras are often designed to make the breasts seem larger, to enhance cleavage and therefore encourage these sexist attitudes. Surely a woman clearly wearing no bra under her t-shirt is not being as attention seeking as the woman whose bra pushes her cleavage up to her chin with the advertising slogan “Hello boys!” echoing in her mind.

Wearing a bra or not is a personal choice. For those who don't feel the need, it should be entirely up to them.

On the other hand, for those looking for support or who feel discomfort due to the weight of their breasts then it is advisable to place your breasts into the hands of experts. Being guided by an experience fitter can really help you to find the correct shape and the right size. If you are going to wear a bra then at least have it do you some good.

Bra-vo... Feeling Free


The bra is basically a contraption for hiding or altering the natural shape of your breast. Not wearing a bra can actually boost your health, confidence, and make you feel comfortable in your own skin. Plus, you will even save some money!

As naturists we understand that discarding clothes in the right circumstances for health and comfort makes great sense and bras are one of those items that we could and should be discarding more often than we do.

Thanks for reading - Steve and Anna.

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Anna and Steve have shared over 150 articles and blog posts on and write regularly for naturist publications. If you would like to collaborate with them on any naturist / nudist promotional activity or quote from any of their work please contact them via email at [email protected]