Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Modesty Panel: How Well-Fitting Bras Made Me Cover Up

Typical neckline and fit for what I used to wear
before finding out about correctly fitted bras.
For me modesty seem to essentially be about not drawing attention to yourself, something I've never been good at. Ever since I could even talk I've always stated my opinion and always questioned everything that seemed non-logical to me, no matter if it meant getting into an intellectual verbal fight with teachers or the nine-year-olds at school when I was 6. I was never aiming at getting attention, the attention I got was just a consequence of my lack of fear of questioning authorities and my inability of keeping my nose out when I felt someone was treated unfair. Modesty as a concept as always seemed very strange to me and I never really understood it, despite living in a country with a culture more or less based on the idea that you should not stand out. Why diminish yourself in order to be seek some sort of peer approval? To be open to the ideas of others, yes! Listen and respect each other, absolutely  Be open to new perspectives, definitely  But does that mean that we as a group need to make each and every one of us smaller as an individual in order to be able to do these really basic things? And if we demand that sort of modesty in order to respect another human being, do we even respect the person to start with?

How modesty was forced upon me 

The difference in neckline my new bras forced me to
make to be sure my bra would never be seen.
When I was for the first time fitted in truly well-fitting bras it was in a 28G Pollyanna. The difference was amazing in all the ways it usually is. The back pain I never knew I had was suddenly gone, I could suddenly run in stairs without holding my breasts down and they were lifted up where they never been before. There was just one problem, what was I supposed to wear with my new well-fitting bras?

Trying to survive the summer heat in the highest cut vest
top I could find  in an XS and the lowest cut bra  I could  find. 
This was before there was any lower cut bras available, before the time of Freya Deco and before I knew to look to Poland. The only options for bras that fit were bras covering me almost up to my collar bones. For a 19-year old girl with a love for fashion it honestly felt devastating  I wouldn't be able to wear the clothes I loved anymore. It wasn't society, it wasn't religion, it wasn't my family, it was the lingerie industry.

The double standards

To blame it all on the lingerie industry might sound a bit harsh but for me that was really the case. Just as I found bras that actually fitted me and started to feel somewhat normal after blaming my body for being so hard to fit, I was thrown back by the lack of options. I could wear fun and cute prints, or sexy sheer bras, but I was not given the option to have some cleavage, or even show some skin. Even worse, I couldn't find a single nude bra without bumping embroidery or contrasting lace so I couldn't even wear light-coloured clothes either.
So many gorgeous bras but where is my nude bra when I need it?

Trinny & Susannah kept talking about v-necks and wrap necklines to visually break up the chest. I tried that. Standing in a fitting room I looked in the mirror and half my bra was showing. Slowly I started replacing my wardrobe with high-neck tops, not because I wanted but because this was my only choice. I even tried the clothes from Bravissimo, but even those where too low cut to wear with the bras I could find. Not even the company that claimed to designing with my boobs in mind did design with my bras in mind. The experience that in the beginning was empowering and made me feel normal made me feel even more outside the norm than I've ever felt. 
Having less choice in necklines gave me an
opportunity to play with the backs of my dresses.

The one savior I found to not have to replace all of my old wardrobe was to wear vest tops under my old clothes. While I almost despise the commercials for modesty panels, for me, my version of it was liberating. It brought the choice back to me and gave me back the power to chose what to wear.

Things are changing

Thankfully there are many more options today. Within a year from my first well-fitting bra the Freya Deco was launched which for me was amazing, as it was both nude, moulded and a plunge and came in my size and both Panache and Bravissimo do have options today as well. Pepperberry, which Bravissimo now sells clothes under, has actually slowly realised that the clothes they sell also needs to be made with bra in mind, not only boobs. Companies like Urkye and BiuBiu are great at cutting their clothes with bra options in mind, like making a halterneck dress with regular straps instead for the larger cup sizes.

Though the double standards still exist

Despite this, the mental challenge of being fitted into often a band smaller than one ever thought one would fit in and cups sometimes bigger than one thought existed isn't the only challenge. Still many bra manufacturers seem to believe that the only thing worth selling to women with bigger busts are minimizers and heavily padded bras to those with a smaller bust. While I'd never believe that there is any genuine badly meant from the companies part, this is still very problematic as it once again enforces the norm that there is one ideal and one ideal only that everyone should aspire for.
Statement by the brand Soma. Apparently everyone of a C-cup or above
is in need of making their bust smaller to be "more proportionate".
Who defined that women with a cup size larger than a B can't be proportionate?

Modesty on it's own is problematic but as a women the additional layer concerning my body gives it a whole new dimension, especially as my body is something which I have no direct control over. While I would never see the fashion industry as the cause behind this, they can chose to reinforce the current norms or to empower women to be in charge of their bodies. A bra fitting puts a women in a highly vulnerable position and the way her body is treated can make or break the process of building body confidence. Claiming that a minimizer or a full coverage bra is the only option implies that a fuller bust should be covered and made smaller just because of it being a fuller bust, regardless of what the woman wants. It takes away the choice and the power. 

Covering up some bra rather than cleavage.


Still, today I'm five cup sizes bigger than I was that autumn, but I show more cleavage than I did back then, mainly because I can. I wear low cut  wrap v-neck tops together with plunge bras (and I promise, those tops does not minimize my bust so maybe I shouldn't have trusted that much in the recommendations anyway... :P) and I wear shirts buttoned up almost all the way, all depending on my mood. Finding clothes might not be easy still, but knowing that they do exist does alone mean a lot. Finally how much I cover and reveal is now my choice and my choice alone.
With the right fit it's neither a question of bra size or bra model. :)

I still wear my black vest tops as modesty panels under my boob-friendly tops occasionally. Not to earn someone's respect, not to fit in and certainly not as some sort of duty as a woman. I do it because it enables me to wear any bra style I feel like. What and how much I chose to cover up is my choice and my choice alone.

For more perspectives on modesty:

Recently, several women who write about breasts and proper bra fit came together to create the Bosom Bloggers group with the goal of helping each other and our readers.  Naturally, the topic of modesty arose during our interactions with each other, usually accompanied by “I should blog about that someday!”  Well, someday has come!  This week, each of the following bloggers have shared their own perspective on modesty:


  1. I found your post through the Modesty Panel link up. I had never thought about this aspect of modesty before, but in truth, I struggle with it too!

    I have often been frustrated by the lack of plunges and whatnot in my size (I'm pregnant right now, but before I was wearing a 30J in UK sizes). I often have to wear a camisole underneath my clothes because otherwise parts of my bra show (like the high center gore, or the lace trim on the edge of the cups). And while I'm delighted that there are non-granny bras available these days, I agree, sometimes I want a simple nude bra. Hard to find sometimes.

    It's nice to see someone put into words a frustration I didn't realize wasn't unique to me.

    Thank you for your post.

  2. Modesty definitely goes a long way especially in bra selections. For years, I had trouble finding bras that helped detract attention from my larger than average busts until I went to see a bra fitting who gave me great tips. I found some bras that provided the ultimate comfort and complimented my body well.