Posts Tagged ‘bras’
A few weeks ago, Autostraddle wrote a long post on bras: What the F Should I Do With These Boobs?—particularly, bras for folks who don’t really want the standard lace-and-bows versions that are the most common at stores. They linked to one of my old posts, More On Butch Bras, where I talked about getting properly measured and how life-changing that was. I’d like to write more about that—and I still think everybody, EVERYBODY, should go get properly measured, because there actually is a difference between a 34D and a 36C, and if you say you wear either one, you are probably not wearing the most comfortable bra for you that you could.
That’s my size, by the way. Or rather, that’s the size I thought I was for a long time. Turns out I’m more of a 34DD, though right now, given the amount of biscuits I’ve consumed in the past year, I’m probably more like a 36DD. Knowing that helped—though that’s also assuming that you’re buying bras which have separate ribcage measurements and cup sizes, which sports bras generally don’t.
I resisted sports bras for a long time. I didn’t like the uni-boob look, something I finally identified as left over from my first girlfriend, who used to say that all the time (who has since transitioned and had top surgery, by the way, so I suppose found a solution for that). But when I started doing “drag nights” in college and wearing more button-downs, the advice from my friend was to wear a one-size-too-small sports bra as a binder, and that ace bandages were really not the way to go.
Still, it took a while before I went through my underwear drawer and got rid of ALL of my traditional back-clasp two-cupped bras in favor of more of a binder. I found this Adidas back-clasp sports bra that gave me enough of a bind, and quickly bought four of them, tossing everything else out.
These dozens of suggestions that Autostraddle posted are great, but for larger breasted folks like me, there was not a single bra on there that I would wear. Though perhaps that’s not so fair, really, because there’s only one that I really wear anyway: the Enell bra (you can get ‘em on Amazon too).
There is an Introduction to the Enell bra on YouTube, but it’s so cheesy that I can’t bear to embed it here. I will however embed the fitting and measuring video so you can see how to wear it:
It has significantly changed the way I look in shirts, and I have yet to find anything better. I used to have a size 1 that I would use for extra-tight binding and a size 2 that I wore for everyday stuff, but I can’t fit into the size 1 anymore. Hitting 30 really has changed my body, my metabolism. I’m trying to be more careful about what I eat and hope I can fit back into the size 1 someday … but that’s kind of another post.
Thanks, all, for the feedback and comments on that last post. Butch breasts and binding and female masculinity are all so deep in this topic, and as one reader mentioned, too, this is also an issue relating to females with large breasts in general. Sure, the gender stuff adds a slightly different dimension, but many women go through this and are challenged by having the right, comfortable bra.
A few more tips, and also some recommendation, since I’ve had a few emails about where to get these butch bras.
First: get the right size of bra. Sports bras obviously are a little less precise in their sizing, but even if you don’t intend to wear any regular bras anymore, figure out your size. It’s amazing how hard it is for us to figure that out. There really is a difference between a 34D and a 36C, and they are not the same size. This seems to be a particularly difficult one for many of the butches I know, because bra shopping is just about The Scariest Thing Possible, and going in there and asking a professional to help figure out what size you really are is pretty much like walking into hell. But, let me just say, it has made a really big difference in my bra-buying since I actually got measured properly, figured out why the sizes are different, and what size I really am.
Now, some product recommendations:
- Title Nine store has a variety of great sports bras divided by size and by “barbell,” telling you the no-bounce factor. The Frog Bra is particular famous for binding.
- Come As You Are has some great genderqueer products such as binders and packers (and my infamous Silky), and has two of the major compression vest brands, the Double (made in Thailand), and Underworks.
- I personally run into a slight problem with many of the sports bras or compression vests because I have some shoulder issues and if the straps are too much of a racer-back shape, it can cause further problems with my shoulder injuries. So for that reason, the best one I have found is a Champion Powersleek sports bra (I found mine at Macy’s – their site doesn’t seem to list it any more, but I think this is quite similar). Also, because it has a clasp, instead of being pulled over my head, I can actually buy a size that is slightly smaller and tighter, which I love.
Bras & binders are primarily held in place with material like elastic, and the stretch on those does give out pretty easily. I’m finding that I need a new one every few months (although, I suppose if I had more of them, I wouldn’t wear them out so quickly!).
Suggestions? Recommendations? What products do you all use? Any particularly good online resources for figuring out your bra size, or that explains why the sizes are different?
I’ve returned to earth – mostly – from the altered state of consciousness of the Power, Surrender, & Intimacy workshop by Body Electric that happened here in New York City over the weekend. I have so very much to say about it, but that’ll have to wait for now, I need more time.
What I do want to write about is breasts. Specifically, mine – more generally, butch breasts.
Last week, I went for one day without my binder, which is really just a tight sports bra that clasps in the back rather than being a solid over-the-head slip-on. I wanted it laundered for the workshop, since I’ve been wearing it practically every day since I bought it.
I wore a backup bra that day, and all day long I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, in storefront reflections, in my button-down work clothes, or when I looked down. I remembered how I used to hate the uniboob problem, which many of my friends and lovers deemed unsexy or mannish, and it’s not that I like the uniboob look particularly, but as my gender has changed and grown and dropped into itself, the uniboob doesn’t look like a uniboob anymore: it looks like a chest.
It is not that I want to do away with my breasts. Don’t misunderstand me here: I think breasts are butch, just as I think the menstrual cycle is butch and pregnancy is butch and cunnilingus is butch – everything the female body does can be butch, because butch (in my use of the word*) has to do with masculinity on a female body.
And because I believe that the things a female body does are butch, and because my gender philosophies are deeply rooted in love and acceptance of my body as it is and in not classifying human experiences as owned by one gender or another, I have been holding back my desire to delve farther into my own masculinity. I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid it means I’ll be leaving my roots in female-ness behind, I’m afraid of being seen as reproducing the heteronormative paradigm or embodying penis envy. I’m afraid of being rejected by feminist and lesbian communities for being too masculine, for becoming the ‘enemy,’ for rejecting femininity instead of reclaiming it.
Breasts are a big piece of this fear for me. Mine are not so small – part of why I rarely pass: a 36DD, and have been since middle school. I’ve said since I was a teenager that a breast reduction is the only surgery I would consider. I read about Jess’s surgery – or others’ surgeries and body alterations – and I’m jealous.
But I’m afraid of what it means to want that alteration, to want to physically change my body to better fit a gendered idea.
After that day last week of wearing a regular bra, I started wondering: why do I even have this in my closet anymore? Why do I own this? My exploration of my own masculine/butch/boy/male embodiment is young – I’ve been calling myself butch since 2001, but only in the last three years have I really embraced it and actively, consciously developed it. And now, the farther I get into my explorations of gender, the farther I want to go.
It takes time to cycle through a wardrobe, and I don’t quite have the disposable income to go purchase all new bras – but I certainly won’t be buying any regular ones anytime soon. I’ve gone through this with my underwear already, years ago now, have cycled through all the old girl undies and haven’t owned any of those in years, only have boxers and briefs now. But that feels less obvious than binders and sports bras – no one can tell I wear only briefs except my lovers, I guess, but everyone can tell I bind my chest.
And see, what’s what it is now: my chest. Very different than boobs, breasts, tits. I have those, sure, but they’re underneath, they’re the other layer, the inner ring, something that now gets protected and covered, not out of shame or denial but simply out of layering, complexities, performance, a rich inner life, a duality, a whole person – me.
* Some say men can be butch, that “butch” is a term for a queer masculinity, or a non-traditional, progressive masculinity. I’m not certain I agree, but we definitely lack language to discuss different types of masculinity, and I have definitely observed some men who have a sense of butch energy.