The Story of Your Life, As Told By Your Bras
06.14.17

1. Training Bra

For as long as you can remember, your chest was just a chest, but now, suddenly, it is “in training.” Training for what, exactly, remains to be seen, but it seems that triangle-shaped safety nets are a crucial part of navigating the impending obstacle course. Potential hurdles include, but are not limited to: acne, mood swings, smelly armpits and unrequited love. In the midst of this turmoil, you take comfort in the daily ritual of donning two, interconnected cotton hammocks, ready and waiting to cradle the middle-school evolution of your budding boobage from puffy paint circles to Hershey Kisses to kiwis, at which point those trusty hammocks start to protest.

2. Honest-to-Goodness Practical, Skin-Colored Brassiere

Congratulations! It’s time for something with more support – a real, honest-to-goodness brassiere with hook-and-eye closures in the back and adjustable straps – skin-colored, because mom is still buying and it is an unspoken rule that all moms must remain steadfast in their appreciation for the practicality of flesh-hued undergarments. The fun news is that no matter how big your boobs are, the transition from training bra to regular bra makes you feel like Marilyn Monroe underneath all your clothes. Joke’s on you, mom.

3. Victoria’s Secret Push-Up Bra

You’re finally old enough to start purchasing your own bras unattended. Hallelujah. At the mall, the siren call of Victoria’s Secret’s pullout drawers beckons you. After you and your friends finish spraying each other with bad perfumes and giggling at the lone male shopper trying to buy an anniversary gift, you scurry into dressing rooms, arms overloaded with purple polka dots, synthetic lace trim, complicated cross-back straps (“it’s like five bras in one!” the saleswoman tells you) and, most importantly, your very first push-up. The gelatinous padding lifts your chest like a cheerful buoy on the crest of a wave. “Cleavage” is no longer just a mythical possession of television actresses and older female cousins. Your posture has never looked more regal. Scoop-neck T-shirts are about to take on a whole new identity.

4. Bralette

With college comes the age of the bralette, or occasionally, its tubular sister the bandeau. Ushered in by the rise of musical festivals (whether you actually attend them or not) and pretty much singlehandedly facilitated by Urban Outfitters, this phase often coincides with an affinity for high-waist jean shorts and gladiator sandals. Since bralettes are essentially bras that tread a fine line between underwear and outerwear, they can easily double as the crop-top cherry to your denim cutoff sundae. Comfortable, cute and timesaving: the collegiate dream.

5. Fancy, Grown-Up Lingerie

Once out of college and freshly launched upon the “real world” of adulthood, you feel an itch to invest in some fancy, grown-up lingerie, otherwise known as a matching bra-and-underwear set made of a nice-ish material like silk or satin (none of that synthetic business). You go to a boutique with a French-sounding name and select a few things to try on — maybe a “balconnet” bra and matching briefs or a demi-cup with lacy boy shorts — elegant, but not boring. You slip them on one by one inside a white-walled dressing room with a lavender curtain and soft lighting while you take sips of sparkling water offered in a tall glass. You purchase the demi-cup (the “balconnet” was a little too expensive). The first few times you wear it underneath your work clothes, you feel as though you have discovered the best-kept secret to feeling put-together, and suddenly “adulting” doesn’t seem like the world’s most ridiculous made-up word after all, even though it still annoys you when other people say it out loud.

6. That One Black Bra

A year later, you’ve lost the underwear that matches your blah bra, or you realized the bra wasn’t that comfortable anyways, or you got tired of hand-washing the both of them. You find yourself gravitating toward a single black bra that is pretty without being fussy and looks good with everything from tissue tees to cocktail dresses. You don’t even bother putting it away in your underwear drawer anymore because you know you’re going to wear it the next day anyway. It’s a lot like the philosophy around not making your bed – why do it if you’re just going back to bed 12 hours later? Instead, you hang the bra on the post of a shelf or drape it across the lip of your hamper. You realize you should probably wash it at some point — because you’ve been wearing it for months — but who even knows what the proper cadence is for bra-washing?

7. …Back to Square One

Like most things in life, your bra preferences come full circle. Midway through early adulthood, it dawns on you that, truly, no bra has ever been more comfortable than the training bras of your late childhood. So you ditch underwires and revert back to the stretchy triangular hammocks of yore, except these are intended for the audience of your older self and therefore are a touch more attractive. You’ll occasionally opt for an athleisure-style sports bra, because what are sports bras, really, except for slightly tighter, thicker training bras primed for (100% optional) cardiovascular intent?

Watch out for the next phase, though. Those flesh-colored bras you hated at 14 are lurking, inevitably, on your middle-aged horizon. And so the cycle continues.

Illustration by @CrayolaMode. 

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  • Mulan

    That was beautiful.

  • jdo719

    Lolz bralettes. A girl can dream. Can we get a version of this article for the DD+ set?

    • dietcokehead

      Complete with A LOT of phases of shoving yourself into one band size bigger but one cup size smaller so you can buy at more stores or get a strapless; buying balconette after balconette that can barely keep your nipples contained; and eventually one day coming to the glorious, life-changing revelation that you’re like four cup sizes bigger than you ever knew and the lingerie industrial complex has been lying to you so you’ll keep buying from Victoria’s Secret.

      • Diana McNeill

        32G, here. It’s a bitch.

      • lateshift

        YES. This, so much this. I literally spent 20 damn years of my life flopping around in 32 before I realized that just because The Gap and H&M didn’t want to admit that human women come in any smaller band sizes than that, let alone smaller band sizes with larger cups, did NOT mean that those sizes didn’t exist somewhere on the planet. Thank sweet jeebus for the interweb.

        (speaking of which: hello, retailers – if you sell clothing for children and adolescents, you are capable of making women’s clothing and bras that fit me and the millions of other women in my size range. Seriously, I would like to be able to buy at least ONE thing at Old Navy in my lifetime that doesn’t make me look like I’m a 10-year-old raiding mom’s closet. No, buying kids’ clothing with cartoon characters and crystals and weird slogans on it won’t work. K thx.)

  • 007Kaff

    the black bra! I thought I was the only one. I have been wearing the same black, t shirt bra for around three years. true. story. I have dabbled in the bralette/bandeau territory but as I turned thirty they got tossed to one side. my boyfriend thinks it’s gross, i DO wash it, but maybe not as much as i SHOULD wash it. It all stemmed from it being troublesome to find a bra that fitted, the hassle, the cost, the discomfort… was all too much. So I just started to wear the one. The underwire has started to creep out, but I just jab it back in when i feel it digging into my sternum, simples!

    Tell me I’m not alone? Can i get an amen for the SingleBlackBraCrew! xx

  • Abby

    28 years old and all my bras are nude or black t shirt bras. Comfy, invisible under clothes, and the only person who sees them is my husband, who has holes in all his stained briefs. I became a grandma so early in life.

    • Cristina

      LOLLLLL.

    • Bex

      You get me !! – my undergarment drawer consist of two colors: nude and black in both bras and seamless underwear from Uniqlo (those are amazing, I’m never buying anything else). I don’t care that’s boring…it’s practical when I only have 5 minutes out the door !

    • lateshift

      ah, I remember that stage well. ok: speaking as a minimalist who basically only wears black clothing and has never gotten bored with it, and spent a good 10 years exactly where you are now on bras (usually two each of black and nude at any one time): I can’t tell you why, but lingerie is different. It just is. Trust me – you may think you’ve reached grandmotherhood, which implies some sort of finality to this stage, but someday, probably 5 or 10 years from now, you will get bored. And then you will get violently annoyed by the sight of these bras. And then you will reach the phase where you never want to see another goddam black or nude T-shirt bra again, and will start gooing to elaborate lengths to AVOID wearing them and opt for something else, even on occasions for which a black or nude T-shirt bra is pretty much the only viable option. This may seem unlikely or impossible to you now, but believe me: it’s coming.

  • I’ve recently ditched bras completely (save for when something is sheer or while working out) and I have never been happier! I realize as an A cup I am one of the lucky few who can do this, but it gives me comfort after years of not fitting bras correctly/feeling bad that I was flat.

    • lateshift

      I know your joy is pure and true, and that’s where the comment comes from, and I’m not saying you don’t have a right to gloat, but…damn.
      Yes, there are just a few of you. Yes, you are very lucky. Congrats on winning the genetic lottery, I guess.
      Sincerely, DD girl

      • Hey, not meaning to gloat at all! Sorry if it came off as such. For most of my life I felt like the chest I was dealt was quite the opposite of winning the genetic lottery. Only in the past few years have I grown to love and accept my littles.
        Sincerely, an A with her foot in her mouth.

    • sum

      I’d love to ditch bras completely or go back to training bras! Size is
      not my problem either, but my nipples show through everything unless I
      wear a padded bra! Even layers of a thin bra, a t-shirt and a sweater.
      Sometimes that’s ok but mostly I just don’t feel comfortable like that. I
      still feel lucky about my small cup size though!

    • Me too! And when I need to wear a bra I wear a bralette because fuck underwires.

      • Caitlin Crow

        Amen. Eff underwires all day every day.

    • Lil

      Same! If I really need one I’ll don a sports bra or a lightly padded bralette because I’m uncomfy with my nipples showing

    • Rheanonn Perez

      yaaaas the A team!

  • Danielle Cardona Graff

    This was so Hillariously on point!

  • Adrianna

    I honestly wear sports bras almost every single day. The kind that have four hooks in the back. I’m 28 years old, and wear bras sized 30FF. At this point I’ve bought my favorite kind in nude to wear underneath white t-shirts. Otherwise, I only own one nude lace bra, and one nude push-up bra. My boyfriend (of five years) likes it when I wear a regular bra because “they move,” but otherwise he doesn’t care or get the appeal or lingerie.

    • Harling Ross

      Lol to “they move”

  • Lindsey

    OMG genius! I am currently a mix of “that one black bra” and “back to square one” because I all I wear is that one nice, lacy bralette I bought while on vacation in Italy. I never put it away, I always feel bad that I don’t wash it enough, and I don’t wear anything else because nothing else is as comfortable. Honestly, I’ll probably just buy only black bralettes from here on out and be done with the whole thing.

    • Harling Ross

      YES. I bought two bralettes from Aerie a couple years ago (one black, one white) and I wish I’d bought multiples

  • Cristina

    I feel like “owned a bra in every color” should be added to college age. Then, later in life like late 20’s+ you realize you really only need like 2 bras. Haha. That is me now.

    • Harling Ross

      hahahah so true

    • Charley

      Precisely. And one of those *happens* to be flesh-colored.

  • Currently in the Fancy (ish) stage of my bra life and I shudder to think that I’ll ever return to wearing the same, unwashed bra every single day. Maybe I drank the cool aid from the woman at Journelle, but wearing the same bra every day is just going to make it fall apart that much faster – not to mention gross. And handwashing bras is a total game changer. (Shout out to The Laundress!) Having a variety of bras that are very pretty and clean make me feel so much better about myself as I’m getting dressed.

    • Harling Ross

      you are my dream woman

    • gracesface

      so hand washing is worth it!?

      • If you have a fancy washing machine, you can definitely get away with machine washing your panties on delicate. But if you’re like me and rent in a building with decrepit machines in the basement….hand wash. Definitely hand wash your bras either way. They stay so much nicer! And I cannot cannot CANNOT recommend The Laundress Delicate Wash in the scent Lady enough. It is the most fantastic detergent.

        • gracesface

          good to know! thanks alice! i’ll look for an unscented version because I just really dislike scented laundry…weird, I know.

  • Chrs

    I certainly wear one style of black bra nearly all the time, but if I wore one garment for days on end I might as well go braless for all the support it would provide. I can only conclude that the people who get away with this are either blessed with a small cup size, or they know about some secret source of bras with quality wing construction.

  • gracesface

    I ordered four bras last night – 3 bali and 1 sports bra. God I hope they fit. I am definitely of the opinion that I need four or five basic bras and that is IT. I’m tired of buying different brands where I am a different size in each. So fingers crossed these bras work and I can just buy duplicates from here on out.

  • Love Life

    This young journalist has not yet had the experience of the nursing bra! The comfy bra you wear long (really long) after you’ve stopped nursing because it’s comfy and who has energy to buy new bras with an infant or toddler in tow? Bwahahaha!!

  • Jay

    OMG This is so me!!!! And actually got a perfect black training bra….

  • You write like an angel.
    Who has a had a lot of enriching personal experience with bras.
    Thanks for writing this! @harling_ross:disqus

    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I have mostly nude and black, but also very pale pink and peach. When I was growing up, bras came only in black or white, and my mom bought white one for me.

  • Melissa

    I like to think of myself as a special snowflake to whom none of this “things everyone has done/owned/said” applies
    But this is very much accurate
    Shit

  • and some days, it’s back to the training bra all over again