I fucking hate padded bras.
Frankly, I’ve never been a huge fan of bras in general. Being a lifelong member of the itty-bitty titty committee meant I didn’t get one until I was a teenager, and, to be honest, that had more to do with my pride than with actual necessity. Even now, I only barely fill a B cup, and that’s if the bra is sized on the small side.
There are a lot of advantages to a petite rack: little to no sagging, slim-cut clothes fit well, halter necks and tank tops require no undergarments, my back and shoulders don’t get sore and I never need an uncomfortable underwire. And while men’s magazines and the porn business show a decided preference for humongous flotation devices, my small breasts have drawn nothing but compliments—and often raves—from the menz.
So why the fuck do retailers keep trying to sell me a padded bra?
Every single time I go into a Victoria’s Secret, the saleslady will, without fail, steer me towards a “miracle bra” or a “gel bra” or a “water bra” that will, in effect, give me a boob job for under $100. For all of my teens and 20s, the only A cup bras that Victoria’s Secret carried were so thickly padded they stood up like grain silos. The message was clear: your small breasts—pert and gravity-defying though they may be—do not look good. They need help. You need help.
I remember exploding in frustration at one V.S. saleslady who couldn’t comprehend that I did not want to look like I had bigger breasts. I wanted a pretty bra that fit the ones I had. While that had a lot to do with body image, it was also purely practical. Padded bras may give you good sweater meat, or squeeze some extra cleavage into your neckline, but they’re entirely deceptive; the moment the clothes come off or your date cops a feel, the game is up. I wasn’t interested in giving my boyfriend a handful of padding—I wanted him to get a handful of me.
It was a revelation when I moved to New York and discovered specialty lingerie shops. No more chain or department stores where anything less than a B meant a bra with extra stuffing. At Town Shop on the Upper West Side, a little old lady with a German accent kitted me out with gorgeous—and affordable!—lace and satin bras that fit, and flattered, and had no padding at all. (FYI: Calvin Klein, Felina and Wacoal all make lovely A cup bras.)
Breasts are inextricably linked to our womanly self-image, as my harpy sister Sarah shared with us in the story of her own mammaries. Clearly American women buy into the propaganda that bigger is better: the most popular plastic surgery in the US is breast augmentation and the most popular bras on the market are the kind that claim to increase your cup size. But mine are small, and they’re spectacular. So put the padding away, Victoria. I’m keeping it real. Kthx.