Recently, several women who write about breasts and proper bra fit came together to create the Bosom Bloggers group with the goal of helping each other and our readers. Naturally, the topic of modesty arose during our interactions with each other, usually accompanied by “I should blog about that someday!” Well, someday has come! This week, each of the following bloggers has committed to sharing a perspective on the subject of modesty.
Boosaurus: Growing up in the Christian Homeschooling Subculture
Braless in Brasil
Bras and Body Image: What I wear is none of your damn business!
By Babys Rule: Modesty and Breast Implants
Contrary Kiwi: More clothes = more holiness?
Fussy Busty: Why I choose not to cover up
Fussy Busty Pt 2: I’m fat and ain’t no one telling me what to do!
Hourglassy: Stares Bad, Breast Private
Hourglassy Pt 2: Feminism isn’t a four letter word but modesty should be!
Miss Underpinning: Why I like taking my clothes off for the Internet, or on modesty
Obsessed with Breasts: A Word Vomit of Thoughts
Red Hair and Girly Flair: It’s not your body
Sophia Jenner: Where do you stand?
That Bra Does Not Fit Her: We have a great selection of minimizers!
The Tit Rambler: Modest Panel Crashing
Thin and Curvy: Dressing Modestly
Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed:
Windie Gardie: Modesty
You will find the viewpoints of a mother, a feminist, an overweight woman, a corporate climber, and so many more. Modesty plays a vital role in our everyday lives, whether it’s adding a camisole under a low cut top to avoid cleavage, abiding by corporate or school dress codes, observing religious requirements, or determining which bras to buy. Every day, we actively engage in some degree of modest dressing whether for personal, professional, or religious reasons, and as part of the modesty panel, I want to discuss how the emphasis on modesty translates to the bra shopping experience.
Before ever entering the fitting room, a woman’s modesty impacts how comfortable she will feel with a stranger seeing her in a bra. We visit beaches and pools, where swimsuits cover as much if not less than our undergarments, but then swimsuits are not referred to as “intimates.” Bras and underwear are often viewed within a sexualized context, and thus, the idea of showing those garments to another person, especially a stranger, is also viewed as potentially shameful.
Couple those feelings of awkwardness with the slew of body image demons rearing their heads at the first sight of a mirror, and you have a recipe for women feeling uncomfortable with a process that can be fun and positive. My goal as a fitter is never to judge you. I am not there to critique your body, the bra you came into the store wearing, your personal preferences for bras and underwear, or even your religious observances. The latter sometimes creates problems for fitters unaccustomed to working with women who cannot allow a person to see them undressed.
For all the women who feel more conservative about modesty, there are also women on the opposite side of the spectrum. These women announce that they have no modesty, and they are not shy about taking off their bra or allowing the fitter to touch them. Interestingly, just as some women feel apologetic about their desire for more privacy, others feel the need to apologize for their lack of it.
Regardless of your personal preferences, bra fitters should be respectful of your decisions and never make you feel strange or guilty for them. If you do not want a fitter to see you in your bra, then she should instruct you how to measure yourself and talk to you about the way a bra should fit. She should be open to guiding you through the process with explanations and pictures instead of through a hands-on approach. If you do not have issues undressing, that’s okay too. There’s no shame in doing what will help you to maximize your appointment and your comfort level.
Having said this, it is easier for fitters if we can evaluate the fit of the bra in person, but it is not essential. Never allow someone to make you feel uncomfortable in the fitting room. Ever. Whether the issue is modesty, comfort, or something else entirely, you should always be respected and treated warmly.
Once in the fitting room, the next step is deciding what style of bra suits your needs. The most-desired characteristics by my customers are a smooth cup with some foam padding. A good bra should lift, shape, and support but do so quietly and discreetly without revealing itself to anyone. Even more the bra should conceal the nipples entirely because the visible outline of this body part often interplays immodesty and sexuality. However, the connotation typically revolves around women as men with erect nipples do not face the same level of criticism. In fact, women’s breasts and modesty are so intertwined that there are even instances when using them the way they were intended (breastfeeding an infant) provokes rebuke. By extension, it’s no wonder that the nipples natural response to cold temperatures must also be concealed and hidden away.
Visible nipples underneath a top invites embarrassment. Our breasts and nipples are body parts meant to be kept under wraps, and once exposed, it’s something that generates mocking, stares, or snide comments. For example, Ann Hathaway’s Oscar win was almost completely eclipsed by what seems more like poor dart placement than visible nipples. I completely understand why women will seek out the thickest foam cup in an attempt to never fall prey to that kind of harassment.
When I was 13, I went shopping with my mom and brother for a homecoming dress. The temperature in the store was rather brisk, and the dress I tried on did not allow for a regular bra (this was my pre-boobs period.) My mom mentioned I may need to add something to the dress because my nipples were visible. Leave it to my nine year old brother to bellow out: ”You’ve got poppers! Look poppers!” Our fellow customers were rather amused, but I was completely mortified. It’s the first instance where I can actively recall feeling shameful and embarrassed about my breasts.
As a result, I understand and empathize with women hoping to avoid the social stigma of showing nipples, and I also understand women wanting their bras to disappear under shirts. What I find interesting is that modesty can be defined as “the state of being unassuming.” Unassuming—the word cuts to the core of the issue, does it not? Modesty and bras have become so thoroughly intertwined in part because we have been indoctrinated into thinking undergarments should be unassuming. In essence, they should do their job without advertising they are doing it.
In 1959, Helen Nielsen wrote in Reader’s Digest that “Humility is like underwear, essential but indecent if it shows.” We are trained to buy bras which are modest—no, unassuming—because if they reveal themselves, the result is indecent, trashy, tacky, unstylish, or whatever other negative adjective you prefer. Yet, I find the entire concept rather paradoxical. We are instructed to buy something which is unassuming under our clothes, but at the same time, everyone is assuming we are wearing one. If they did not believe we were wearing bras, then the insults shift. How often have we seen celebrities skewered on the front page of the tabloid trash for not wearing a bra and for their lack of support, nipple coverage, or modesty associated with the decision?
We train women to wear a bra. Literally starting with the aptly named “training bras,” we teach little girls that bras are something they need to wear. Every person you meet most likely assumes you are wearing a bra, but if they can prove that assumption, then you have transgressed. You are guilty of violating a subtle social taboo because you turned your undergarments into outergarments, and that is not appropriate.
When women visit the shop, they love the pretty bras. The eye-catching prints, the ornate embroidery, the stunning colors, and the decorative lace draw the eye, but the practical “must-have” t-shirt bra is what they buy regardless of whether a molded foam cup maximizes their shape. In some cases, it’s a budgetary issue, but more often than not, they buy the bra that is more socially acceptable to wear under their clothes.
If buying t-shirt bras is truly your choice and is the style that makes you happiest to wear, then buy it, wear it, and love it! However, if you are only settling on this style because it is expected of you, then maybe you should branch out to something new. No one should be made to feel bad because of the bras she chooses for herself whether they are minimalistic, over the top, or somewhere between. They are hers and hers alone, and she does not need nor deserve reproach for buying the things that make her happy. You should not be made to feel immodest for wearing a bra with a seam or be criticized because the bra that makes you happiest isn’t completely invisible under clothes. If your nipples show, you shouldn’t be penalized for your body’s natural response.
I consider myself to be a feminist, and in my opinion, I believe the core principle of feminism should be allowing women the freedom to make the choices which suit their personalities, their goals, and their lives. Life is so abruptly, tragically short after all, so why would you waste the energy and time wearing bras that do not make you happy?
P.S. Feel free to weigh-in in the comments section. Modesty is such a controversial topic, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts here!