Why do women wear bras?

See also:
Why women wear bras
Do bras prevent sagging?
Breast size varies a lot
Fibrocystic breast disease & breast pain
Bras and breast cancer


Why wear a bra?

Over 90% of Australian women wear a bra, most without ever asking why.  People just think it's the thing to do and don't question it. This article talks about different reasons people wear a bra, and questions those. Of course you are free to wear a bra if you want to - for whatever reason - but many women in today's society are actually led to believe it is some kind of necessity, which it is not. And for some women, going without bras can bring a tremendous relief from breast pain.

The modern bra actually developed from corset. And why did women wear corsets?  If you study history books you will find the corset was invented to mould a woman's body into a "supposedly" pleasing shape, as determined by FASHION INDUSTRY.

In today's western culture bra has been turned into a sexual garment - its main purpose is to emphasize the sexual nature of breasts.  In most cases bra is not for practicality - though for women with very large breasts a bra (or some kind of support) can be a necessity in some situations.

Do breasts really feel more comfortable with or without bras?

The thing is, most women are so used to bras that they don't notice the slight discomfort from bras. But thinking about it, can you feel any discomfort and tightness from your bra? When you take your bra off, do you feel something similar to the feeling when you have eaten your belly full at a restaurant, and you loosen your belt a little?  Can you possibly even see little red marks on your skin after taking bra off?  If you answer yes to these questions, your breasts may be trying to tell you something!

"Asked if a bra is uncomfortable, most women will respond "no", even though the evidence is there. This may be the result of conditioning towards certain social "rules" actually outweighing the physical discomfort. In other words, it is more uncomfortable to be braless in today's society."
A New Look At Breast Cancer 
By Brian Sanderoff and Craig N. Fryer

Bras and breast cancer risk

bra-wearing has been linked to breast cancer in a study done by Sidney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer.  They found, for example, that women who wore a bra 24 hours a day had a 113-fold increase in breast cancer incidence compared to women who wore bra less than 12 hours daily!  They suggest that bras exert enough pressure to the breast and surrounding areas to inhibit the flow of lymph, which then lets toxins and other waste material to remain in the breasts instead of being flushed out.

Now, this effect may be due to the fact that most women just wear the wrong size bra that is too tight somewhere. No one has done any studies investigating how well the bra fits and a possible link to breast cancer. Either way, for your breast health it is better to avoid wearing bras whenever possible, and on those occasions when you do need one, get a real well fitting one that is NOT tight anywhere. You may have to visit a professional bra fitter to really get this done - or get custom-made bras if your breasts are of uneven sizes.

Most people think that the pressure from bras (or from other tight clothes) is not a health hazard.  We do know clothing and the pressure it creates does matter in some other body parts - why not for breasts? A study that investigated the pressures exerted by two different types of bras (a conventional brassiere and a newly devised low skin-pressured brassiere) found that there was a difference, and concluded: "Our data indicate that the higher clothing pressures exerted by a conventional brassiere have a significant negative impact on the ANS [autonomic nervous system] activity".
(Effects of clothing pressure caused by different types of brassieres on autonomic nervous system activity evaluated by heart rate variability power spectral analysis. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2002 Jan;21(1):67-74.)

Another study found that wearing a bra decreased melatonin production and increased the core body temperature.  Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and hormone that promotes good sleep, fights aging, boosts immune system, and slows the growth of certain types of cancer, including breast cancer.
(The effects of skin pressure by clothing on circadian rhythms of core temperature and salivary melatonin. Chronobiol Int. 2000 Nov;17(6):783-93.)


Are bra's good for us?

Article by
Mavis Davis



a necessary garment?



Why do you wear a bra?

  • "Because breasts need to be supported."
    There is no medical reason to wear a bra.  "...wearing a bra... has no medical necessity whatsoever", says Susan M. Love, M.D in her "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book".  Breasts were fine before the invention of brasserie.  This is similar to the myth that women supposedly need corsets to support their stomach muscles.

    Also there is no proof that bras would prevent your breasts from sagging.  Your breast is supported by ligaments, and if breasts ligaments act anything like other bodily ligaments, they may atrophy from the constant unnatural support from the bra.

    Someone might say, "I'm large-breasted and I need a bra to support the weight of my breasts."  That may be so; but you can experiment going without bra and see how you feel.  One medical doctor made a study on shoulder pain treatment in women with large breasts.  The patients removed the weight from their shoulders for a period of two weeks, either by going braless or by wearing a strapless bra.  Only one woman chose a strapless bra and all the others went braless. Quoting the article, "Long-term outcome was presence or absence of muscle pain and tenderness. Seventy-nine percent of patients decided to remove breast weight from the shoulder permanently because it rendered them symptom free."
    (Ryan, EL, Pectoral girdle myalgia in women: a 5-year study in a clinical setting. Clin J Pain. 2000 Dec;16(4):298-303.

    If you need a bra, find a bra that is not tight and without side panels or under wires, because under wires can create extra pressure and tightness.  You could get it fitted right with professional fitter.  Also try give your breasts as much 'free time' as possible.  Take your bra off whenever you can, and at least do not wear it to sleep.

  • "Because I feel 'immoral' or 'indecent' going without."
    Morality is not really connected with the type of underwear you wear.  

"In all of my questioning, I've found no one who has ever been able to tell me what it is about the human female breast that is so immoral, obscene, or indecent. Nor has anyone ever been able to produce anatomical facts supporting the general concept that women's breasts are primarily for sex.  I've concluded that the female breast is the most misunderstood part of the human anatomy. The sight of one (that's not being used for sexual or commercial purposes) is only detrimental if you want it to be." 
by Whitney R. McCleskey,
TERA articles page

  • "Because everybody does so, or in other words the unspoken rules of society so dictate."
    The culture we live in affects us greatly and it is not easy to do things differently from most people.  But at least you now know bra wearing is not necessarily helping your breast health.  So now you can at least reduce/minimize the time you wear them. Or, try going bra free for a month, say, and see how better your breasts feel!  It is an easy experiment to undertake, won't cost you anything, and shouldn't have any negative side effects (like drugs).  Women who go bra-free report swelling before periods disappearing, no lumpiness, no hardness in breasts, no PAIN!
    Chris's story      Margaret's story




of the bra












breasts of pregnant woman





  • "I need to wear bras for my job since it's the 'dress code'."
    Try wear a camisole/vest or another alternative for bra.  A good camisole made out of elastic material will give some support to your breasts so they don't 'bounce around', and you will probably be surprised how little people notice.

    Also, companies that require bras probably do not have a policy that defines what a bra is. Some cropped camisoles look very much like bras.  Some camisoles even have adjustable straps like a bra.  Basically, if it looks professional, it should be OK.  And, don't worry if you absolutely need to wear a bra occasionally.  It's what we do on a constant basis that matters.

  • "Because I hate the thought of my breasts sagging so much."
    It's understandable to feel that way - but can you analyse who put that thought in your mind? The media bombards us constantly with the image of 'ideal' breasts being those of a teenager - oh, if we could change our thinking that all breasts are IDEAL since they can all fulfil their precious job of feeding the young one. It's pretty normal for breasts to sag. Only young teenage breasts have that perky upright look - by far the majority of women's breasts have that lower and relaxed adult position.  See the breast gallery for pictures of normal breasts.



Also, the idea that breasts will sag unless we "properly support" them with bras seems to be a MYTH.  There is no research to prove that the bra will prevent the breasts from sagging. Read more on the sagging issue.

"A mistaken popular belief maintains that wearing a bra strengthens your breasts and prevents their eventual sagging. But you sag because of the proportion of fat and tissue in your breasts, and no bra changes that."
Susan M. Love, M.D. in her "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book."

  • "Because they jump up and down while I exercise and do sports."
    Exercising is not doing any damage to breast tissue or to the chest wall, and actually, movement of breasts aids the lymph flow.  However this is again an issue to experiment with, whether you can exercise without bras or not. Again, if you need bras, choose fitting ones that are not too tight.

"That was 6 months ago, and my eyes are wide open now. The monthly breast tenderness is gone, in fact, it was totally relieved by the second month. As for tripping over them, NO WAY, in fact they are the firmest they have ever been in my life. Even during my aerobics class (I was sure I would have to wear a bra there), and granted it did feel a bit weird not wearing one in class for a while, but I think that was the most important place not to wear it! The way my friend put it, and I believe it now, is that breasts need exercise just like any other part of your body, and muscles underneath can go a long way to prevent sagging if they are given a chance to work.."
Fibrocystic Breast Disease case histories


"...when are we going to start to respect the body, nature, and women properly? In many parts of the world the breast is considered an important organ, not an icon of sexuality. That, I'm afraid, is an invention of our culture, and a sad one at that."
A New Look At Breast Cancer 
By Brian Sanderoff, Craig N. Fryer

  • "Because I am breastfeeding and I need to wear nursing bras."
    Nursing moms (or pregnant women) are indeed told to buy nursing bras and wear them. There is no medical necessity to wear nursing bras either. Of course nursing bras is a handy way to hide the leaking of breast milk, and maybe you want to wear one in order to avoid society's pressure.

    However be careful because wearing a nursing bra may cause breast engorgement or sore breasts. It might be safer just place a towel under you during the night to catch the leakage, and not worry about breast milk spots on your T-shirts at home, where you can easily go brafree. We got a comment from one experienced mom whose engorgement troubles were over when she quit wearing a bra:

    "I stumbled on your site trying to find some information about the link between breast cancer and breastfeeding.
    I breastfed my four kids all for an extended time. The youngest is six so it has been a while....
    I found something that really helped me with my babies.
    You know how they tell you that you need to wear a bra when you are beginning to breastfeed? I would wake up after finally getting some sleep with a huge bra-shaped engorged breast. With my last two children I decided to go braless during those times and just let the breasts drip. It was very effective for me for treating and preventing engorgement. I think the movement of the breasts also probably helped keep them from getting hard. The bras I ended up wearing the most during those nursing years were some old thin sports bras that my sister had handed off to me. It did elicit some comments ("You need a new bra") but it was probably more natural than those other nursing bras that didn't work well for me."

    Thanks for your site.


So should I wear one or not?

All that said, the choice to wear a bra is still yours. Obviously many women are very used to wearing bras, and feel uncomfortable in public without them. Or, certain social occasions may basically require you to wear one. Bra wearing is not going to kill you (or 'kill' your breasts) if you follow the simple guideline of giving your breasts free time as much as you can - at home, while sleeping. And, if you wear one, remember to always wear a good fitting bra. It should not leave marks on your shoulders or under your breasts, or feel tight. Find a professional bra fitter. Or order custom-made ones. Don't sacrifice your breast health to fashion.

Some healthy bra alternatives

There are many healthy alternatives for dressing bra free (some women prefer the positive term "bra free" rather than "braless" because they say women don't really need to wear bras).

  1. Camisoles are inexpensive, and there is a huge variety at many department stores with variety of fabrics and weights, from silk to cotton.  Some have straps similar to those of a bra, with adjustable clasps, so others may assume that a bra is being worn or that there is a bra under the camisole.  You can find thin and/or cropped camis for summer.
  3. Men's singlet undershirts, also called A-shirts, sleeveless undershirts, etc.  They are inexpensive and comfortable.
  4. Vests, similar to those of a man's 3-piece suit, over a blouse at work to hide breast outline or movement.
  6. Shirts with pockets over both breasts; extra fabric layer conceals.
  8. New alternatives include tops with two layers in front and one in back.
  10. Loosely fitted tops.
  11. One new possibility might be a product called "Simply Shapers" two silicone bra cups that adhere to your skin and are connected with a clamp.  There are no straps, wires or anything - just the adhesive cups.
  12. Or simply wear no undergarment depending on weather, confidence, self image, and nature of overgarment.




































Some healthy bra alternatives


One new possibility

Simply Shapers


Sources and information

A mini history of the corset

A New Look At Breast Cancer 
By Brian Sanderoff, Craig N. Fryer

The 'Purpose' of the bra from

The Self Study Center - Singer and Grismaijer website

The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras by Jeff Rockel

Fibrocystic Breast Disease Case Histories - women going bra-free

Prevention and Treatment of Fibrocystic Breast Disease 
Case histories of women who found relief from fibrocystic disease by going bra-free.

Breast Massage for better health

Self Care For Your Breasts
Instructions with pictures how to massage your breasts to help the lymphatic flow.



Copyright 2002-2005 Anti-Bra. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: Information here is not medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, nor to replace the advice you could get from a health professional. If you are in doubt, please see a doctor (or several). So if you're in doubt, and especially if you have some other symptoms, please see a doctor.