Popular culture tells us that big breasts are for the bedroom – ultimately desirable in a sexual and pornographic context. High fashion on the other hand, barely acknowledges their existence. How many girls with big breasts do you see on the runway? Or shopping at your favourite high end department store? How many cocktail dresses have room for anything over a D cup? I can tell you the answer is few to none. I am very big breasted – a 32FF in fact. Last week I went to a swanky fashion party sans underwear. I’m not just talking about bra-less, I mean commando too and in a wispy white slip no less. There were bright lights, lasers, the lot, and plenty of ways my secret could have been exposed. Whether people noticed, I don’t know, but what I do know for sure is that being bra and panty free felt incredibly liberating. Being an early bloomer meant that while most of my peers were perusing Tammy and floral and lacy numbers on the training bra racks at Marks and Spencer, I had the joyous experience of choosing between an unsightly black, white or nude (I am black in skin tone so the colour never matched) boulder holders that made me feel so awkward. Then all the questions came, ‘why are my breasts so big?’, ‘why do her breasts look different from mine?’, ‘how come she can wear that and I can’t?’.
Almost all the options send subliminal messages that big isn’t pretty
Of course, these are trivial issues, but the 13-year-old me couldn’t help but drown in a sense of embarrassment and shame, especially when they started to catch the eye of my male classmates, *cue* misogynistic remarks, gawps and jeers. When I got to 18, I started to embrace my breasts, I had been actively having sex for two years and knew that while I wasn’t going to be for everyone, men really liked the fact that I had a bit of a body, the antithesis of the mid '00s waif models that I had been brainwashed into thinking were the archetype of beauty. Mind you, there was still not any bra I would be caught dead in, DD+ specialists' idea of a ‘chic beautiful design’ always looked like something out of 1950s Laura Ashley catalogue and the leap to Agent Provocateur's racy numbers were too financially steep for me, so I just stuck to the plain black soft cup bra, incognito but inoffensive. I wasn’t happy about it but I figured something basic was better than some elaborate print that I hated.
Now that I'm 27 and have more money, I've discovered a lot of brands who cater for size and tastes whose designs I adore, namely Mimi Holliday, Heidi Klum Intimates and Lonely Lingerie. But I am always mindful of the women who may not have the funds to buy anything they like or who may live outside a city as expansive as London, complete with a clothing store on every corner. Feeling like there's nothing nice available to you is demoralising. And when almost all the options send subliminal messages that big isn’t pretty and that your breasts don’t need to be supported or shown off, but confined to underwired shackles, you can quickly lose confidence. The free the nipple campaign shows no sign of batting down or covering up – a cause I am fully in support of – but I have started to wonder whether the movement would be perceived in the same way if the women at its forefront had larger chests? Are people as comfortable seeing large breasts that have a slight droop and uneven shape as they are seeing the girls with placards fighting for the right to bare all with breasts reminiscent of models in an American Apparel ad? And I don’t think this ends at just bras either. Sick too am I of dental floss style thongs and non-breathable panty fabric that has my poor vagina in a state of suffocation. If my friends and I had a penny for how many chafes and wedgies we have had to endure at the expense of a more incognito VPL, we’d be rich women. So maybe the idea is just to opt out. Now, this isn’t to say that I am through with bras entirely and forever – of course having support is good for my breast tissue and some things just look better with a bra. My point, dear reader, is that I am not ALWAYS going to reach into my underwear drawer. It’s not a break-up – more like a hiatus. Sometimes I just wanna hang loose and join my B-cup sister in a crop top, and sure, might people notice, they might even stare, but you know what? That’s OK, because I'm just not into my bra literally and figuratively holding me back any more.