For much of my life, I rarely saw breasts like mine. After a few hours of flipping through glossy mags or watching my favorite teen dramas like Smallville or The O.C., adolescent me walked away convinced that I was the only one with sideways-facing ta-tas. Approximately 15 years later, however, the popularity of underwire-free, breathable bras suddenly boomed; and I found myself realizing that bralettes were helping me love my saggy boobs.
There was a time when I never could have imagined saying "love" and "saggy" in one sentence. For me, the word "saggy" was synonymous with ugly. I didn't want to sag. I wanted to perk — rather, I wanted to be perky, like a Lana Lang or Summer Roberts, whose blithe strides were accompanied by the subtle bounce of boobies that didn't rest nestled near their belly buttons when they sat down beside their equally heartthrob paramours.
Until bralettes became trendy a year or two ago, my lingerie drawer consisted of push-up bras and poking wires, pieces that were designed to give me "three times the lift" or "four times the oomph" or "13 times the rawr." Sometimes I felt hot as sh*t. I'd stare down at my cleavage and pat myself on the back. The only trouble (besides the discomfort of often-poking wires) was that I was becoming increasingly unaccustomed to my regular boobs. When I did have to look at them — unretouched and un-perked after a bath, for example — the image staring back at me cut even deeper. I felt even more like a failure.
Pre-bralettes, my tits' relationship to gravity held the utmost potential for emotional upheaval because saggy boobs weren't just saggy boobs. They were a reminder that I may not get the job or the partner or the outfit I so desperately wanted because "flawed" women never seem to be allowed as much cool sh*t as conventionally pretty ones.
In retrospect, it never occurred to me that a lot of the imagery we consume is manufactured to appear "perfect," or that the definition of "perfection" changes subtly with the times and the beauty standards accompanying them. It never occurred to me that the existence of close-to-perfect bodies (if "close-to-perfect" means simply "close to the beauty standard") needn't negate the value or attractiveness of imperfect ones. It also never occurred to me that bra trends may be at least partially responsible for what I considered "normal" breasts.
Bralettes have, at least for me, redefined boob-related normality. Their heightened popularity seems to align with the buzzword-level status of body positivity. The more people have been discussing the worth of all bodies, and the importance of representing the bodies made to feel invisible by mainstream media and fashion alike, the more retailers seem to be producing bralettes. It could be coincidental, but it doesn't feel like it to me.
This is not to say that seeing saggy, droopy boobies in movies or catalogues is the new black. Still, we're at least being presented with more of them. Plus size writers have reclaimed sag while proving that bralettes are fit for busty ladies. Style reporters have photographed themselves in bralettes and push-ups alike, ultimately noting that there's nothing inherently wrong with a little sideways-falling ta-ta action. These are images that didn't exist when I was growing up. They are the kinds of images that ultimately encouraged me to experiment with bralettes for myself.
I fell in love with the way bralettes felt long before I fell in love with the way they looked — for me, a bralette feels delicate and soft and easy to wear, giving me the sensation that I'm treating my body rather than imprisoning it. I know a lot of folks adore their wired push-ups, and there's nothing inherently wrong with this. I didn't, though. I hated how these kinds of bras felt on my flesh, but I loved the way I was received in public because of them. I loved feeling celebrated by others because I could never celebrate myself.
The thing about bralettes is that, to me, they quickly became a way to celebrate my body. They were a garment that didn't seem designed to shift or mold any part of me into anything else. Rather, they shifted and molded onto what was already there. They decorated those big, saggy boobs that I was never so sure of — and in doing so, they taught me that those big, saggy boobs were worthy of the decorations all along.