I decided to stop wearing a bra in Grade 11, when I was 17 and in boarding school. Before that I always wore padded bras because all my friends did – it was the norm. I thought they offered added support to my growing boobs, although the feeling of a wire strapped on my chest was not particularly comfortable. During high school my bra size grew to a 34C, and wearing a padded bra made my upper body look very bulky. I was also tired of the constant tugging and pressure from the bra.
At the time, the #freethenipple movement was gaining momentum. It was controversial, and my friends and I started to discuss this topic in the boarding house. I started wearing a bra less frequently.
Then there was an incident where everyone from the boarding house went to the school pool because of the intense heat that day. We were only allowed to go with a boarding-house assistant to the pool. We all got dressed and were ready to go when the assistant suddenly said: ‘Girls, you have to put on a shirt when you go to the pool.’ We were being told as girls to cover our bodies as it would make the boys feel uncomfortable.
That day four of my friends and I decided to go braless for the rest of our school year. Going from padded bras to letting my boobs stand completely free was quite a change, even uncomfortable at first. I felt exposed with my nipples visible through my shirt, but after a while I started to feel a strange confidence that I’ve never felt before.
The next thing that happened was we were called in one evening and addressed for not wearing bras to the dining hall. The boys had complained. This enraged me even more: I was not going to hide my natural body for the sake of the boys. We stuck it out and got through the year, although the school didn’t like it.
Going braless was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I don’t feel restricted in my movements or trapped any more. It wasn’t just about not wearing a bra, but also getting over my own insecurities about my breasts. We are constantly bombarded with images of perky large breasts but for many of us, this isn’t the reality. Although I’m much more confident without a bra now, I still have to reassure myself from time to time that my breasts are perfect the way they are.
By Anna Stegman for Marie Claire