Do I need to wear a bra to work? Short answer: no. My body, my rules. So, I guess I could just end this blog right here.
However, with the incessant policing of women’s bodies and societal expectations placed on women’s appearance every day, it’s sadly not always as simple as ‘my body, my rules’.
I generally don’t wear bras anymore as I find them uncomfortable. On the rare occasion that I do wear one, regret sets in around lunchtime.
On my way to work one sunny morning, I was wearing the outfit pictured below. We don’t have a strict dress code, but I wondered whether my outfit was inappropriate for work because I wasn’t wearing a bra.
During the winter months, I’m usually drowning in layers, so going braless isn’t a big deal. But it’s a different story during summer.
You risk being leered at by men or side-eyed by disapproving women at the mere sight of your hard nipples or natural shape of your boobs. And for these reasons and my own insecurities, it’s this time of year I feel self-conscious of the natural shape of my boobs and worried I’m offending someone with my nipples poking through my t-shirt.
It’s so strange that something as simple as not wearing a bra can evoke such responses. But alas, that’s the world we live in.
It’s unsurprising then that women wear bras even at times when they would feel physically more comfortable without one.
I asked the girls in the office what their thoughts were on this topic, and their responses weren’t surprising.
They all said that they did not like wearing bras. But, they felt uncomfortable and self-conscious by the thought of going braless to work (and in general).
It’s not for everyone, so I completely understand that.
However, their reasoning for this was because they would feel uncomfortable in front of their male colleagues – let that just sink in.
I assume that other than their own – understandable – awkwardness, one of the main reasons for their discomfort is fear of their body being sexualised in the workplace and in general when walking down the street. This is the kind of thing many women have to consider every day when choosing an outfit.
They also felt that there was a greater expectation placed on women with larger boobs to wear bras so as not to offend others, because putting other people’s comfort above our own is what we do best, eh?
It’s well-known that during summer women have to endure and increase in catcalling and men staring that our chests. Not wearing a bra is likely to put you at greater risk of this.
So, maybe I should wear a bra to work…
There seems to be this unwritten rule that women should wear bras all day every day for numerous reasons, be it for support, to give them the ‘correct’ shape, or to deter unsolicited attention.
The workplace presents a unique set of obstacles regarding this issue and varies widely depending on the type of company you work for.
As you may or may not be aware, under the Equality Act 2010, an employer’s dress code must not be discriminatory with respect to age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation.
However, we also know that these laws don’t always adequately protect people vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace (and not in general for that matter). Remember the case of Nicola Thorp who was sent home from work for wearing flat shoes back in 2016?!
One of the key principles a company’s dress code needs to follow is that they must apply to men and women equally (although different requirements may apply to each sex). So, theoretically an employer can’t insist women wear bras if our male counterparts don’t have to.
(But, boy, would I love to see an employer justify that.)
Yet, many women still find the idea of leaving the house without a bra outrageous. If fact, my mum’s reaction to my braless chest when I got home from work was the decider in writing this blog. She couldn’t believe anyone would dare leave the house without a bra, let alone go to work without one.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to make their own choices about their body. I’m certainly not saying everyone should burn their bras, after all, they serve an important purpose for many people with boobs.
But, whatever your reasons for choosing to not wear a bra, be it a feminist statement or simply for comfort, you shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable by others.
But, there’s a lot to unpack here:
Why do we continue to wear bras at the expense of comfort? Why do we put the comfort of the people around us above our own? Why are nipples so offensive? Can we change people’s perception of this? If so, how? Why do we feel self-conscious about the natural shape of our boobs?
I couldn’t address all of these questions in this blog, but I plan to do so in the future. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this in the comments.
And as for whether you need to wear a bra to work, the answer is still no (unless not wearing one puts your safety at risk).
Thanks for reading!
Photos by Ella Patenall
Yellow Floral Dress from The Vintage Scene
Vest top – my mum’s wardrobe
Mom Jeans by Zara
Adrian Smooth Loafers by Dr Martens