We need to talk about bras

I want to talk to you about bras. Not in a titillating, coquettish way, but in an autistic, sensory way.

I remember when my life changed. When it went from everyday, straightforward, childish friendships, to complicated rules and losing my way. There were red flags on the horizon, but I didn’t see them for what they were, like the curious cat, I drew closer instead of running away.

One of those precursors was the sudden arrival of crop-tops. T-shirts were no longer enough, all the girls – seemingly overnight – had received a transmission from on-high that extra fabric was now required to cover the portion of flesh betwixt neck and stomach.

I complied. It itched. I remember the lace around the edges, horrific and pinchy. I hated it. I lasted two days. That was the first divide. I now had to change for PE in secret, so no one knew I wasn’t a part of the gang. It was one of many ways I found myself trying to cover up the things I needed in order to fit in.

Time passed and bras loomed. I was taken to be measured for one, but the idea of a stranger touching me set off all my alarms, and smelling the fear my mother and the measurer flinched away. In the harsh lights of a glaring changing room, surrounded by moving images of me, I was hurled boxes of scraps of fabric to try on.

More lace. They all had lace. Scratchy and pinching, like a small mammal constantly scrabbling its claws against my chest, I learned to accept one more thing to get through. Just as I had with all the other “one more things” that had come before. Just one more thing scratching for my attention in a sea of things. I slipped beneath the surface and learned to hold my breath for as long as possible before tearing the things from me and gasping for air.

I wore them and grimaced. I wore them in pain. I wore them through good times and bad. Maternity bras whilst nursing, push up bras for partying, t-shirt bras for lounging, sports bras for… lounging as well. I searched for the perfect fit.

This year I think I may have finally succeeded. Thank God for fashions and young people with flat stomachs. The bralette is now a thing. A crop-top-like creation with wide straps and no fastenings. I have found laceless, cotton bralettes that, whilst never being perfect, are as close to perfection as I am likely to reach. I have cut off their labels, and rejoiced.

Bras were created to torture Autistics; this is my firm belief. It’s time Autistic women’s needs are considered in bra design. Smooth seams, wide bands to spread the pressure, breathable fabric, firm support, these are things that need considering.

Perhaps it’s time to burn our bras on a new political stage; for neurodiversity and sensory needs. Bras are revolting. In more ways than one. Vive la revolution.

71 thoughts on “We need to talk about bras

  1. I totally agree- hateful, scratchy objects! I have a more generous set and getting a bra that doesn’t slice my shoulders in half is a task and a half!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And I always thought I was the only girl who hated being forced into training bras. My mom would even check me before I went out because I kept trying to avoid wearing them. I HATED that part of growing up. I’ve been following you for awhile now and just got diagnosed a couple months ago with HFA/Aspergers at the age of 40. I had a blog I wrote about my experiences with my son who is on the spectrum and am now expanding it to include me and my other issues. I’m finding it to be much more daunting to write about my experiences being on the spectrum though. Your blog is helping me work up the courage to be upfront about my diagnosis. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It has made such a difference for me to hear that it’s not just me. If you are curious here is my blog: http://thewyldlife.blogspot.com/

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for sharing that with me, I will definitely check it out.

      It is moments like this when I remember why I started this blog. Sometimes I worry that I don’t post enough, or share things enough, or do all the things I should be doing to interact, but actually, this is why I do it. Because when I reach out, people reach back, and I’m not alone in my ways anymore. We are all part of something bigger. Different, not less. We all have shared experiences.

      Congratulations on your diagnosis. It’s no small thing to put yourself out there. Welcome to the family 😊 💐

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lace is a 4 letter word. Underwire is 2.25 four letter words. For me also, nylon against the underarm skin is a make-me-smell-like-a-homeless-person-in-30-mins no no.

    There is only one bra. It is the bra for me, and perhaps it is the bra for you. This bra does not ride up either, like I find with all back-fasteners. All cotton, printed label – no label to cut out either. They are available online.

    https://www.amazon.com/Fruit-Loom-WomensCotton-Pullover-Sportsbra/dp/B0013XWDDU/ref=sr_1_2?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1498180098&sr=1-2&nodeID=7147440011&psd=1&keywords=fruit+of+the+loom+cotton+bra

    If you want to try them and they won’t ship to the UK, let me know we can figure something out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s so very kind of you. I will check it out! Is this what it’s like to have a big group of women around you who understand your needs and can make recommendations?! Amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you so much. I have been struggling with what to do for my daughter who is on the autism spectrum as she has developed breasts at 10 yrs old as well as wanting to be a boy. I don’t know if is the autism or that she is not comfortable with her assigned gender. Is hard to know what she is stuggling with but it is much worse now that puberty is setting in. I will check these “bras” out for her but have to think up a name for them other than “bra” as just the word or the mention of breasts will throw her into an all out refusal to talk or function. I want to help her through this but am seriously lost. Not looking forward to her start of menstration either as she is,afraid of blood.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, and as always interesting to read of your experience. Mine’s a bit different and a bit the same 😉 I don’t remember getting my first bra as a particularly traumatic experience, in fact I don’t remember it much at all. At some point my mother decided it was time and took me to get the same kind of bra she wears, i.e. a simple non-wired, non-lacy soft white fabric thing. I’ve stuck to that model pretty much ever since. I’m not bothered much by labels, and on the whole I just put the bra on in the morning and pretty much forget about it. I do, however, take it off as soon as I get home, and on weekends I only put one on when I leave the house. I do find them restrictive, but mostly I can suppress the irritation and I don’t really think about it all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always great to hear different experiences. Many autistic people don’t have the same sensory issues. It’s always worth remembering just how different we all are 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yupp – and I spend a lot of time knitting socks… Funny thing with knitted socks – I can where them even when “normalsocks” drives me crazy. On the other hand, hand made socks breathe. In summer I like thin silk/wool ones. Seen yarn with bambu/wool and cotton/wool but haven’t tryed those yarns yet ☺

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Always hated bras. First thing I do when I get home is to take it off. M&S always used to do soft cotton ones, still not ideal – but years ago they revamped their underwear and it all became padded, lacy, and wired…. uuggghh! Just looking at one and I can feel the scratchy lace and wires… I now get their teenage cotton bras, but still not right… will check out all the suggestions. Thanks! x

    Liked by 2 people

  6. No accident bras were designed originally by men. Jane Mansfield iconic pic led to push ups and Ann Smmers brought titillating to the High Street. Sporty Spice made sports bras trendy as dictated my music moguls. Bras like knickers should be about women but seem more about men.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think a lot of women feel the same but conform anyway. I’m not autistic but I really don’t like bras, they are uncomfortable and unnecessary. Luckily due to my small size I can often get away with not wearing one 😀 Great article, really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Agreed so much. Finding a bra that isn’t torturous is a pain. I too hate lace, and absolutely hate metal wires and padded cups. And any thoughts of strangers measuring my boobs.
    I have found some that i get by. Sports bras are more comfortable, so i have a big pile. Feeling some pressure around the whole chest area isn’t that bad as long as the boobs are contained and flattened, like they should be for running. For normal use I found some neat barely there brand ones: soft, soft, no lace, no padding, oh and no labels. And I don’t have to go to physical stores to buy them, as amazon has them.
    It would be lovely to have smaller boobs and not needs any bras.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had the same growing up, they hurt, they itched, they pricked. Then came the push up bras into fashion and I wore those. But more an more my breasts started to hurt. They would hurt well over an hour after taking the bra off. During pms time I couldn’t even bear the duvet on them. I was in absolute agony. So I stopped wearing them, I have small enough breasts for that. Freedom followed. I did have to get used to feeling a bit less feminine and flat chested, but I’m okay with it now (most of the time). Soon they stopped hurting, only on rare occassions they still did. I can say it improved 90%. They are still very sensitive, and not wearing a bra made the nipples over sensitive at times because of fabric rubbing, which is another problem on it’s own. But I use nipple covers for that at times. There is just no simple solution. Sport bras and all still feel too confined now that I am used to go without. We do desperately need something very comfortable and non restrictive.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am an enby and have discovered for those times when a new is considered required (like, at work) that something that is somewhere between a sports bra and a binder works for me. The best combination for me is a kind of compression crop top over a cotton tank top (the material that gives good compression makes me uncomfortable if itbis directly against my skin)

    But yes, bras are terrible. I don’t actually feel a need to “bind”… except as an alternative to wearing a bra

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You read my mind with this – and I’ve said similar to people before an they haven’t gotten it. And I get so pissy when I find a bra I like and then they discontinue the damned thing for a “better” version?!?!?! So I’m strictly on Lululemon sports bras – Lululemon has a potentially untapped market with the spectrum ladies. 95% percent of their stuff is so comfortable and worth every penny.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ditched them 8 years ago. and would be completely happy with that, if other people could also ditch their interpretations of what that supposedly “means”, implies, and stop asking me about why i’m doing it 😉

    on top of that it pushes all my feminist buttons that i have to be so paranoid about details of my upper body showing or not just because i’m female. i do have a right to physical comfort, to not be restricted in my movements, same time not to have to be constantly prepared for people interpreting that in some sort of sexualising framework.

    just saying, as this has been a huge issue for me.

    (on top of that i’ve never identified with the gender my body is, which probably makes all this more intense and extreme – not only having body parts that seem wrong, but then having to cover them up in clothes that are essentially torture at my level of sensitivity, yes.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. This us very helpful for me with my daughter. I’m trying very hard to help her be who she is without making herself be a target to others. I don’t want to make her conform to anyone’s expectations of who or what she is I just want her to find comfort with herself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. aw … ya actually i was just like your daughter :-/ i developed at 13 (so a few more years of kind of functional childhood) but yes … i would freak out at the mere word “bra” and … i actually had very, very heavy gender dysphoria – that i wasn’t aware of, because i wasn’t aware that most women don’t feel that way about their bodies.

        this is really a difficult topic. if you feel like talking, i’m happy to discuss my experiences in this area if there’s a chance that they can help somehow. of course every person is an individual and because for me things were one way, doesn’t mean they are the same for your daughter.

        also my blog has some personal stories related to puberty/ bras/ gender dysphoria/ autism etc., although that’s perhaps more cautionary tales and it may not feel too good to you to read that i imagine.

        https://sensitivityisstrength.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/aspie-puberty/ (includes gender identity crises)

        https://sensitivityisstrength.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/the-autistic-type-of-gender-dysphoria/ (includes bras and communication difficulties – whether autistic or not – regarding my feelings)

        regarding bras as such, @skyscape’s solution is very good. if she really, really refuses bras and/or doesn’t have a big chest, another well-known “solution” (among queer folks at least) is to 1. wear layers of buttoned & brightly patterned guy shirts on top of stuff (patterns & folds in the fabric often hide what’s to be hidden) 2. some guy shirts that have pockets in the requisite places which also helps.

        there’s also things, forgot what they’re called, to glue to the inside to the shirt to basically mask the nipples and protect them from irritations (never used that tho so no opinion).

        but ya, as a teen that’s all hard. :-/

        the whole bra thing reminds me of debates over compulsory burkas and such, thank god we don’t have that but there are historical remains.

        Like

  13. in any case, it’s awesome that you even notice and respect that your kid is going through this and you are willing to be supportive (while also protective). that’s a lot. that must be so much better than being alone with it or not being taken seriously.

    dealing with it openly now can help her avoid mental health problems and potentially having to turn her life upside down as an adult to deal with such identity issues (as sometimes happens when they are suppressed). if it she is met with acceptance and support now she won’t have to fight it alone as an adult. at least i’d hope.

    Like

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