Fashion Beauty Lookbook

How bralettes taught me to embrace my small boobs

My best friend handed me a lovely white bralette with flowers sewn on.

“Here try this on,” she instructed.

“My boobs are too small. I could never wear that,” I replied.

This was in 2016. Bralettes were a relatively new trend and to me embracing this trend felt bold and risky. I am not a bold or risky person.

Instead, I wore padded bras that made my boobs appear bigger and gave off the illusion of cleavage.

Since then bralettes have become increasingly mainstream and many of my friends have started wearing them. This is largely thanks to movements like #FreeTheNipple and Slutwalk.  The fashion industry has capitalized on bralettes of all shapes, colors, patterns, and sizes. Wearing bralettes no longer felt so bold and risky. And so I joined the trend.

Before I started wearing bralettes I was ridiculously insecure about the size of my boobs. A lot of these insecurities had been shaped by the media and society which tell us, as women, that we have to look a certain way in order to be considered attractive. Many trends in women’s fashion are shaped by the male gaze. The male gaze tries to project women as objectified and sexualized subjects.

Like many women, my relationship with fashion has been influenced by the male gaze. Up until recently, I rarely bought clothing items because I genuinely liked the item. I bought clothes that I thought were trendy. Clothes that other people would approve of. Clothes that made me look skinny or that made my boobs look bigger. And ultimately, clothes that helped me conform to society’s standards of beauty.

There is nothing wrong with dressing up to look attractive. We choose clothes that make us look good and feel good. But there is something wrong with feeling so tightly prescribed to society’s standards of beauty that we are not dressing up for ourselves. The clothes we wear indicate a great deal about who we are to those around us. For this very reason, we should be choosing clothes that we actually like.

This is why trends that cater to a diverse range of bodies are important.

Previously, the fashion industry told women with small boobs that they should always wear extra padding. Bralettes changed this. Bralettes told us it’s okay to have small boobs. And that women with small boobs can still wear pretty bras. That women with small boobs can still feel attractive and sexy.

Wearing bralettes also made me realize how much I hated padded bras with underwires and that I don’t need to wear bras all the time. The plus side of having small boobs is that they don’t need much physical support. Wires digging into my skin are a thing of the past. And believe me, the bralette and bra-free life are a million times more comfortable.

Being able to wear underwear that doesn’t change the natural shape of my boobs taught me how to embrace my boobs as they are. Fashion that doesn’t try to change the shape of women’s bodies is necessary.  Necessary in letting women know their bodies do not need to be changed.

What we choose to wear should be entirely up to us. And many people prefer bras with extra support or padding. And that’s okay. There is no set standard of beauty. But a more inclusive and diverse fashion industry plays a pivotal role in the body positivity movement and letting young women know that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

By Alice Draper

Alice Draper is a freelance writer based in South Africa. When Alice isn't behind her laptop or book you may find her experimenting in the kitchen, trying (often in vain) to keep her garden alive or drinking wine with a friend.