Ready to go braless? Why it’s easier (and more sustainable) than you probably think. Plus, sustainable bras for when you just can’t skip it.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that bras are indeed optional. (Masks are not!).
Sure, you can still burn your bra as they did in the ’70s, especially if you’re a woman making seventy cents for every dollar a man earns(ahem).
But in this new world, you could just forego buying them altogether (unless they’re sustainable) and go braless instead. Undergarments aren’t exactly doing your shoulders or the planet any favors. Do we need to wear bras?
The Crown star Gillian Anderson says no. The 52-year-old announced last summer that she’s ditched bras. “I don’t wear a bra anymore. I can’t wear a bra. I’m sorry,” the actress, explained in a video posted to Twitter. “I don’t care if my breasts reach my belly button. I’m not wearing a bra, it’s just too f***ing uncomfortable.”
She’s not alone. Fans chimed in on the thread with their bra-free anecdotes and tips for going braless.
Do we need bras?
Bras have certainly inked their value in the modern world, bringing shape and support to women of all sizes. Enhancing here, minimizing there. But do we really need them?
It’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Just imagine a world without bras. Not a tribal world where most everyone is mostly naked all the time, but the Western one, where, pandemics aside, we’re street and office-ready. Is it possible? Could you do it?
Turns out Anderson may be right.
“No, it is not necessary to wear a bra,” Dr. Lucky Sekhon, a reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist, and OB-GYN at Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York told Bustle. Even if you’re a larger cup size, you can forego the bra.
Of course, the larger the breasts the more supported one might feel with a bra on, especially when working out or wearing certain clothes. But all the time? No.
Sleeping with a bra on is a bad idea for everyone. They’re constricting and may increase the occurrence of back, shoulder, or neck pain.
But if you want to keep the shelter-at-home comfort, there are a few tips and tricks to make it easier.
How to go braless
1. Wear loose-fitting clothes
You’ve probably been doing a lot of that at home anyway. Celebs like Billie Eilish are making it more fashionable, too. Loose-fitting clothes don’t offer you any support, but they do make it less obvious what’s going on (or not) underneath.
2. Wear a camisole or tank
Is it cheating? Sort of. But not really. A shelf tank or camisole can give you just enough support to feel like you’re not totally “out there” for everyone to see but without all the restrictive strappy hooky bits of a traditional bra. For smaller cup sizes, this is probably already a go-to. Camis and tanks also come in more natural fibers that are softer to the skin and easier to find in sustainable materials.
3. Wear layers
It’s almost like combining the previous two recommendations in one. Layers help make breasts less visible, and if one of those layers is a bit tighter, like a ribbed tank, and others looser fitting, it’s easier and more comfortable to be braless. School drop-offs, supermarket runs, or even real-life business meetings. Feels good, doesn’t it?
4. Wear sports bras
It’s cheating a bit, but underwires are a different beast. Clasps and hooks and straps—they’re not the same as a sports bra—a tight tank top, for all intents and purposes, right? If you absolutely feel like you can’t go without, look at the least restrictive options possible. And there are many manufacturers now making supportive underwire-free bras. There are also sports bras that reduce the smooshed-together look, too. Core 10 makes great bras for larger cup sizes, and most sports brands make a variety for smaller cup sizes.
5. Just burn it (but don’t actually burn your bras!)
Who cares what people think, right? We’ve just survived a pandemic, we’re battling a climate crisis, a social justice crisis, and anyway, it’s your body. Who. Cares. About. Bras. Go braless and let the girls have their moment and do like your grandma did, and burn those bras. Well, recycle them if possible. Free the nipple—and all the rest of it.
Are Bras Sustainable?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 11 million pounds of undergarments end up in U.S. landfills every day. The apparel industry, which includes lingerie, creates more than 15 million tons of textile waste every year. EPA data show fewer than 3 million tons of that are recycled. Most of that waste goes to landfills.
But the real problems start with the supply chains that rely on virgin materials and resource-intensive processes. This linear system model has made fashion a big polluter. It currently contributes about ten percent of all CO2 emissions and produces nearly 20 percent of all global wastewater.
Bras are unwearable unless they’re comfortable. But materials, like cotton, which is used in a number of bra styles, is one of the biggest polluters. It requires more pesticides than any other crop and uses an intense amount of water. A single cotton t-shirt can use as much as 3,000 gallons of water—twice as much as it takes to make an average-sized steak.
Nylon and polyester—two of the biggest materials used in bras—are also big threats to the environment. While cotton eventually biodegrades, neither nylon nor polyester do. They’re not as water-intensive as cotton, but they do require petrochemicals, which are big a problem for the planet both in drilling and in the pollution created.
There are innovations happening in polyester, mostly in the form of making recycled polyester fabric out of plastic waste like water and soda bottles or ocean plastic. Sportswear giant Adidas has created Primeblue and Primegreen—textiles made from ocean plastic waste. Other designers are working with sustainable materials like bamboo viscose or innovations such as low-water or natural dyeing processes.
Can’t totally let the girls run free? Sometimes wearing a bra is unavoidable. Give these sustainable bras a try.
1. People Tree
A leader in sustainable fashion since 1991, People Tree uses eco-friendly materials, including those that are Fair Trade certified. It doesn’t just source quality materials, though–they’re working in compliance with the Small Producers Organizations Code of Conduct in an effort to support artisans and textile growers alike. The first company to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organisation product label, People Tree is guided by principles of fair trade, fair wages, good working conditions, transparency, environmental best practices, and gender equality.
It’s easy to see why women in the 1960s and ’70s were so keen on bra burning. Have you seen what was available back then? Nothing short of corsets, bras were thick, overloaded with straps and hooks hard to get in or out of. Enter: Cosabella. It’s an ethical lingerie brand committed to making the world a better place and it offers beautiful pieces, whether you’re looking for a plunge, push-up, or a nursing bra.
If a happy medium exists between the bra wearers and the braless, it’s most certainly the bralette. While it may sound like an excessively feminine twist on the sturdier bra, the bralette is a more multi-functional camisole soft meets sports bra utility. And for PACT, it’s also a medium for social change: the brand is committed to sweatshop- and child-labor-free practices. The bralettes are made with organic cotton and at least 50 percent Fair Trade materials.
Trying to go undies-free, too? That’s totally doable. But if you need undies to go with your bra when it’s that time of the month, try these sustainable period underwear brands. And learn how to wash your eco clothes and undergarments the safe way.