Training Bras and Thoughts on Modesty

By Gaby Martinez

“Charlotte was the type of woman who only has two kinds of bras: both of them grey”

The Girl With Bangs, Zadie Smith

A couple weeks back my youngest sister got her first bra. But “don’t worry,” she said, “It’s just a training bra.” I tried my best not to roll my eyes and my mom replied with a slight smirk. She’s only 10 and it’s only innocent.

While bras are not anatomically required, their functional purpose alone has relieved women with a bigger bust size of pain that often accompanies their anatomical makeup. When mine started coming in I thought my growing pains were cancerous. To my relief, it turns out I was just “becoming a woman”. The rest is history and I’ve been tucking my bra straps in ever since.

However, in moving from pre-pubescence-y into full-blown womanhood, it seems like fashion over function prevails. For me, this begs the question; what exactly is the training bra, training girls for? Whether we like it or not, our bras (or lack of) are just another defining factor of femininity—regardless of our own awareness of individual training.

Lets consider the most obvious example; Victoria’s Secret, the holy mecca of intimate fashion. I know I’ve asked one two many questions already but can someone explain to me the secret? Herein lies the unspoken and paradoxical nature of bra culture that fascinates me. Was letting my bra strap fall off my shoulder during church service a stumbling block at 11 years old? What’s the point in hiding something that everyone already knows is there? It is easy to point out the explicitness of a Victoria’s Secret advertisement, and therefore drawing conclusions about the nature of the woman presented, is even easier.

When women appraise each other in this way, this gives permission for our peers to do the same. Acceptance of the claim as truth, that there is a difference between the girl with a Target bra versus the girl with a VS Demi Perfect Contour Bra, comes with consequences. When we place each other into boxes, we are dangerously reinforcing that beauty and modesty begins with dress. We are inviting everyone around us to do the same.

It is important to remember that words hold enormous weight. This isn’t a free the nipple sermon. It is just a friendly reminder that you have the choice. You’re not damned if you do, and most certainly not damned if you don’t.