How are we dressing our boobs, and our bodies, and by whom?
It’s something we’ve been doing since the beginning of human civilisation, and I’m not talking about searching for the meaning of life, or figuring out how to brew calorie free alcohol that doesn't leave us with a hangover...
Since the beginning of time ladies, since Eve first covered her lady parts with leaves in the garden of Eden, we have been adorning our mammary glands. The fun sacs that sit on our chests, with everything from whalebone and lapis lazuli, to iron clad corsets and be-frilled bustiers. We’ve pushed them up, and strapped them down, tattooed them and swung them over our shoulders, tied in knots.
And now, from the depths of Burning Man and Secret Garden Party, here and now, in the 21st century, now comes Glitter.
Not just a little glitter, not a hint of shimmer, like the sweat of a sparkling Martian.. but a whole planet full of the stuff. It's like a homemade Christmas decoration fell in love with Kylie Jenner at her gal pals' space cowboy party and made bejeweled, intergalactic stardust boob babies.
I, personally, love it. It’s glittery expressionism, the Picasso of boob art, it’s just what the blank canvas breasts of the modern world didn’t know they needed. Then again, we don’t all live on festival planet, and most of us are looking to adorn our mammary glands in a bit more of a practical, 9pm dash to the Co-Op because you’re out of wine *ahem milk* option.
So, let’s look at some of the alternatives that will have you winning breast dressed, why we need bras and where it all boobgan?
Also...Balconettes, Bralets, Nipple Pasties, Bustiers, Bandeaus, Corsets, Full Cups, Push Ups, Tassles, Underwires, Over Complicated?!
For starters, why do we even wear a bra? Are bras just a symbol of oppression, conjured up by biblical men to curb our sexual prowess? Probably not. In the Western world, though we may have begun decorating our lady lumps way before the 1990's, it was then that the corset was brought in to sculpt the body into the ideal shape for fashion at the time.
It really wasn’t until very recently, practically yesterday in terms of the history of feminine fashion, when in 1889, French woman, Herminie Cadolle, designed and created a 2 piece corset, designed to “sustain the bosom and support the shoulders” - hence the bra was born.
For whatever reasons the modern bra came to be, in this, a time of great technological advances: apps for tracking when you’re ovulating and machines that wash our clothes and dishes for us. Freeing up time for more pleasing activities, like running the world and watching KUWTK, there seems to be 5 main reasons why we choose to indulge in daily torture i.e. wearing a bra:
3. Self Esteem
5. Sexual Appeal
Reasons established, it’s fair to say, for all of lingerie's intents and well meaning purposes, we all have a love/hate relationship with bras, and fashion, in general. Fashion, as much as we love it, is a confusing whirlwind of trends (e.g. underwear as outerwear?!) and to be truthful, no woman loves to shop. It's of course a woman's favourite thing to do. When she finally has some spare time between keeping her house running, the kids alive, having a successful career and remaining hairless in her most sensitive regions, of course the only thing she’d like to do is dash around the shops, wrestle in the changing rooms, and leave with bagfuls of clothes that she simply must have. This is a lie. I know. I work in retail. And 9 times out of 10, the sounds I hear coming from the changing room are not enthusiastic ones.
At best they are self-depreciating groans or sighs, at worst, I hear mock retching in response to the sights of ourselves in the mirror. It comes from trying on countless outfits that just don't look like they do on the models, or in the pictures. From trying to look good in clothes that don't work with our figures, tops that don't cater for boobs, or hips, or small people of Lilliput stature (like myself) as opposed to leggy wonders like Gigi and Kendal.
Ladies, STOP. Before you try that underwired-bra, or that pair of low-rise skinny jeans that hold in your tummy, or that off the shoulder blouse with ruffles that make you feel as though you are an extra in West Side Story, listen to me. What can you expect from women's clothes, when you are buying from an industry where men are designing and choosing them, because the crux of it all is this - it is men that are creating the clothes that are meant for feminine bodies, and not women.
For women, by men?
Let’s allow the numbers to talk -
In 2014, Forbes magazine reported that women held only 3.8% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies, when we focus on retail corporations that number drops to 1.7%.
In 2015, of 91 brands at Paris Fashion Week, only 20% had female creative heads.
Stay with me here -
In 2016, Business of Fashion surveyed 313 brands across the 4 fashion weeks. Only 40.2% of the designers were women.
Only 14% of 50 main fashion industry brands across the board are headed by women.
The UK’s top 10 fashion stores? Men, men, men.
With 550,000 people employed in fashion related industries, and 70% of those people being female, only 25% of women are in leadership roles.
I am not suggesting that men aren’t capable of designing clothes for women, this of course isn't true. What I AM suggesting is that they can't possibly know how our bodies feel, what our bodies want, or what works best for us. When it comes to how we dress our bodies and importantly, our boobs, men don't really know the difference. I’m sure I'm not the only one who went out of my way for a guy, to wear something extra special, for the guy in question to remove said special something, without a second look, because whats underneath is obviously much more interesting than the £89 Agent Provocateur underwear?
So what do we do?
In the times of men choosing our clothes, Miley Cyrus wearing emoji depictions of, well, happy poos, over her nipples, and Khloe Kardashian wearing a tracksuit and gladiator heels (really, only do this if you are a Kardashian, or filming a bad-ass bit of Beyonce choreography in the confines of a dance studio, because honestly, none of the rest of us can get away with the heels/sportswear combo).
What do we do when there are overwhelming amounts of brands selling clothing and underwear which has ultimately been chosen by men, deciding what they want to see women in, rather than wear?
I, Red Handed Jill, the feminist pirate, have for all our benefits, trawled the stormy seas of the inter web, and reeled in some of the breast (aha!), mostly British, affordable, and female underwear designers. All for you to check out before you totally check out and decide to burn those bras and go all 1969 Miss America on us, because we all know our bras support us in ways our lesser halves, a slice of cake and a dose of Valium never could.
No man has ever had to ponder which undergarment would, during his morning run, best stop his knockers from knocking him out, in a way that would show even Conor McGregor a thing or two.
Best Brands & Handmade Lingerie
Bluebella - by Emily Bendell
Chromat - by Becca McCharen, handmade pieces inspired from her background in architecture.
Julie K Lingerie - Scottish lass now living in Oregon, handmade lace pieces that you will love!
Neon Moon - a feminist, ethical brand, with a workshop in the UK staffed by women
The Gypsy Shrine - all the glitter your boobs could wish for!
And my personal favourite, Ellice Lydia, whose website and Etsy stock beautiful, custom made made bras and bralets, for all sizes and shapes.
For all our struggles with underwear
- Gender disparity in the fashion industry, the pay gap (which despite being illegal 1970, still effectively means women work for free for 57 days of the year)
- The first awkward bra fitting (in Hancock & Woods, on the High Street in town, feeling like Britney in her 'not a girl, not yet a woman, phase')
- The shoulder welts and the stick-on bra mishap (when I sweated off half my chest onto the dance floor after busting some moves to Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and the slippery, unstuck, chicken fillet slipped half-way down my torso, resulting in a mad dash to the ladies, and a bottle of ingeniously used eyelash glue...)
...despite all their faults, and whatever you think of bras, for fashion or practical purposes, they are a part of our daily lives.
It doesn't matter if no one sees your underwear, or if your boobs need some extra help, or if you don't need one at all. Why are we worrying about the social pressures to cover our nipples, when we are all secretly chuffed at the minimal chaffing when wearing a bra.
Its an extra bit of luxury, afforded to us as women, to empower us in another way. It's a way to dress up if we like, with glitter, or paint or tassels, or even not at all. It’s a chance to feel sexy, to feel lifted, and at the end of the day, free.
Whichever way you want to take a bra, don't take it on the chin, take it on the chest, on the heart.
If you do choose to dress your breast, always:
And don’t forget, our very own MYA are launching their very own underwear collection very soon, which is absolutely not to be missed!