< Bras and Bikinis A Short Pictorial History:
Cultural Attitudes Towards Female Breasts
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Jennifer Lopez got away with this daring dress she almost wore to the 2000 Grammys. She has the body and the attitude to carry it off. J-Lo is obviously braless in this picture from the 2004 Golden Globes.
Angelina Jolie on the red carpet in a braless outfit at the 2004 Oscars. She was upset when her nipples were erased from the front of her jumpsuit in advertising for "Tomb Raiders." Going braless seems to be a trendy fashion among celebrities, like Brooke Shields in this photo from an appearance on "Live with Regis and Kathy" in July, 2001. But it is not always necessarily attractive or appropriate.
Gwyneth Paltrow received a number of negative comments about her sheer gauze top and bulky black dress at the 2002 Oscars. A fashionable evening dress that doesn't allow a bra may show a bit more than the wearer intended.

Even small-breasted women who go braless may not escape unnoticed. Cool weather or even friction against her own clothing can cause a woman's nipples to become erect. Knowing erect nipples are inevitable, she has to decide in advance to enjoy the attention or ignore it.

It is more obvious when well-endowed women, or women with large nipples, go braless. Large breasted women who go braless in public may be flaunting it for sociopolitical reasons, may not care, may just want to be themselves, or they just enjoy whatever head turning they encounter.
Wearing an attractive evening gown that doesn't allow for a bra takes some confidence and perhaps a little willingness to let it hang out.

Braless in Public

Even if a woman can reasonably go braless in public, comparatively few women choose to because of social attitudes and peer pressure. If a woman's breasts move freely and her nipples are evident, she is often seen in a sexual way and sometimes from a negative viewpoint.

It is very common to find braless models in magazines like Vogue, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar. While these models are socially acceptable, there continues to exist a double standard for women who go braless in public. They may be seen as sexually available or just lacking in good taste.

Depending on the country, culture, venue, event, the kind of top or blouse worn, and on the size of her breasts and nipples, a braless woman can receive an wide array of responses. The woman's attitude will determine how she carries herself. She may be flaunting it or simply not care what attention her braless bosom gets.

A small breasted woman can get away with going braless, even on the job, if she wears an appropriate top or camisole underneath. But she still runs the risk of a cold draft or even friction against her own clothing causing her nipples to become erect. Being obviously braless is in some circumstances can be somewhat provocative or perhaps inappropriate.

Well-endowed women may draw attention, and they know this when they choose to go braless. If they are at the supermarket, they may be ignored. But if they are at a football game, they may get a very receptive audience.

No evidence has been found to sustain the notion that womens' breasts will sag lower over her lifetime without a bra than with one.

"…wearing a bra…has no medical necessity whatsoever... Except for the women who find bras especially comfortable or uncomfortable, the decision to wear or not wear one is purely aesthetic—or emotional... If you don't enjoy it, and job or social pressures don't force you into it, don't bother."

Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, by Dr. Susan Love

Some medical professionals believe the wearing a bra can actually increase breast sagging later in life. This is because the chest muscles that support breasts are used less and atrophy from lack of use, just as our leg muscles are weaker if we do not run regularly.

Bras are not required except by social convention. There is no medical reason to wear one. While unsupported breasts will obviously move when a woman walks or moves, this is a natural movement, and there is likely a good reason for it. For example, it is known that wearing a bra restricts movement of the lymphatic fluids within the breast. The lymphatic system removes toxins from the body. Blocked lymph nodes can result in painful cysts.

Some experts are concerned that wearing a bra may contribute to breast disease, including breast cancer. Dr. Sydney Singer and his wife Dr. Soma Grismaijer studied 4,500 women in 5 cities across the U.S. and their habits in purchasing and wearing bras.

  • Three out of four women who wore their bras 24 hours per day developed breast cancer.
  • One out of seven women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed developed breast cancer.
  • One out of 152 women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day got breast cancer.
  • One out of 168 women who wore bras rarely or never acquired breast cancer.

The experts counsel women to go braless whenever possible, certainly when at home and always while in bed.

So while it is possible if not recommended that women go braless whenever they can, very few do. In fact, women are more obsessed about their breasts then men. They buy all kinds of bras to make their boobs look good under that certain t-shirt, sweater, blouse, or dress. There is a huge market for all kinds of brassieres, except for the plain white cotton bra.

Hollywood Ahead of the Curve

Apparently ahead of the curve, going braless seems to be an increasing trend among Hollywood celebrities. Brooke Shields made an appearance on "Live with Regis and Kathy" in July, 2001, obviously without a visible means of support. Some would have to ask, "What was the point?"

Actress Jennifer Lopez received a lot of attention for the green gown, split to her pubic bone, that she wore to the 2000 Grammys. The TV network, afraid she would pop loose at any second, kept the camera on her from the neck up whenever possible. Rumors flew that she used toupee tape to hold it in place. She regularly shows up at award shows in fashionable, designer clothing, sans bra, including the 2001 Oscars and 2004 Golden Globe Awards, as illustrated at left.

In 2003, actress Gwyneth Paltrow wore a sheer gauze blouse to the Oscars and was roundly panned for her lack of style, though not solely because of her sheer top.

Some women's fashions, such as evening wear, may not be designed to be worn with a bra, and a woman who chooses such a gown always runs the risk of an occasional accident, like those women below.

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A woman who wears a dress sans bra knowingly risks the occasional accident.



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