Cast your mind back to one of the most iconic adverts of the last 20 years. It stopped traffic, involved two things that were very prominent and featured a supermodel. It was the Wonderbra advert.
Wonderbra’s ‘Hello Boys’ advertisement featuring Eva Herzigova was declared the most eye-catching ad of the previous 20 years. I was certainly sold enough to buy wire bras in every colour because I bought into the message that this bra could perform miracles and transform my lemons into melons. Having always been self-conscious about my fried eggs – that was how a boy at school once gallantly referred to them – I was naïve enough to think that anyone would find me more attractive with bigger boobs. But now I embrace my small boobs (34A if you’re wondering) with confidence in their size. If a man or woman doesn’t agree I now know that’s their problem, not mine.
Truth be told, I found all wire bras very constrictive. I was constantly adjusting the straps to alleviate the pain of them digging into my flesh, so much so, by the end of the day I had red marks around my back. It was always such a relief to undo the fastener and let my boobs hang au naturel.
Then I started to experience pain in one breast and was sent to a breast clinic for a consultation. Suddenly, the fear of possibly something sinister came into focus. I started doing some research and came across Dressed to Kill, a book by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, which discussed the possible link between wire bras and breast cancer. They argue that wearing a bra can be a major cause of cancer in a condition known as breast cancer related lymphoedema.
Bra Free is a website dedicated to fighting breast cancer. “We’re not anti-bra,” they say, “we’re pro-breast.” They are of the belief that ignoring the link between wired bras and cancer is killing thousands of women. Forty years ago, at the height of the feminist movement, women were being told to burn their bras as a symbolic declaration of independence and empowerment, and now it seems burning your bra could actually save your life as well as empower you.
Yet, with other risks such as antiperspirants, genetic links and hormone replacement therapy all cited as possible contributors to the risk of breast cancer, it begs questioning whether all of this is just a persistent internet myth. With the internet awash with mythology it’s hard to not be sceptical about the various things you come across.
A study by Harvard University also dispelled the bra-cancer myth, so during my consultation I posed the question about the possible links between wired bras and breast cancer. The consultant was non-committal as she had not heard of this theory but suggested I invested in some non-wire bras to alleviate the pain in my breast. Despite having an aversion to wearing a bra, and though I would happily go braless if I knew that my boobs wouldn’t sag like two tea bags, I listened to the consultant’s advice and went shopping for a non-wire bra. But I soon realised how grand a task buying a non-wire bra would be.
When you walk into any lingerie shop you are confronted by an array of wire bras in all colours and designs. I ended up walking around aimlessly until an assistant showed me one design. One. Most of them are banished to the back of the store in little white square boxes modelled by premenopausal women. The designs are uninspiring and have straps as wide as tramlines, and some offer no support, just a bit of flimsy lace. One blogger even argued that the only non-wire bra she could find in a store was a nursing bra.
There seems to be a shortage of attractive, affordable non-wire bras. I don’t want to be hoisted up anymore, I don’t want all smoke and mirrors, I just want a little support. Dita Von Teese believes that lingerie is not about seducing men, it’s about embracing womanhood. So, when did bras suddenly become so expensive? Victoria’s Secret do some non-wire bras, but at a starting price of £38.64.
Non-wire bras need a Eva Herzigova overhaul. We need to see posters with models of all ages wearing non-wire bras, not these contraptions that make you appear like you’re smuggling two Chihuahuas underneath your T-shirt. We need a choice. As you’re advised against wearing any bra with wire in after surgery, women who go through the agony of surgery for cancer have the right to feel feminine. Designs that reflect this can support this journey and boost someone’s confidence at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.
So, I would like to hereby declare that I’m too sexy for my bra and definitely not putting up with the choice available. I might be perimenopausal but I don’t want to give the illusion of being menopausal – I want sexy bras because I am sexy, dammit. I am going to embrace the feminist in me and go braless in the summer. As we only have one week of sunshine in England, which symbolises our summer, I won’t be braless for long. But my earnest search for a feminine non-wire bra continues.