[Last month, a French researcher ignited controversy with a study questioning the benefits of wearing a bra. Amie Heenan, co-owner of Toronto’s Melmira Boutique and a regular Lingerie Talk contributor, offers her perspective on the issue.]
Have you heard about the recent controversial study conducted in France? Professor Jean-Denis Rouillon followed 330 women (ages 18-35) for 15 years in order to study the medical, anatomical and physiological effects that a bra has on the body.
After 15 years, his ‘preliminary’ results determined that women might be better off not wearing a bra, which he called “un faux besoin” — a false necessity.
Initially, upon reading it, we at Melmira chuckled and dismissed the article. Over the next few weeks, many of our customers and friends, including the barista at our local coffee shop, asked us our thoughts on the controversial findings. I’ve decided to share my reactions to what I consider to be some major points made by Rouillon in this study.
Melmira’s reaction: The way I interpreted this was that Rouillon concluded that the breast tissue does not regenerate with the wearing of a bra, and therefore proves no use! Interestingly, my first impression was that this (sorry, I have to say it again) 15 year study may have missed the whole point.
It is inevitable: Age, babies, weight gain and loss, genetics and, well, gravity all take a toll on our breasts over time, and wearing a bra will certainly not prevent that from happening. Last time I checked, that wasn’t the reason that women wore bras.
While there is an argument that wearing a bra may assist in preventing stretch marks when going through the many fluctuations our breasts endure, the effect of a bra is not over time, but rather instant! Simply put, we wear bras because of the effect they have on our figure while wearing them. And to quote Treacle from The Lingerie Addict: “Sagging is okay. More than okay, it’s perfectly normal.”
Melmira’s reaction: In our most recent Fitter’s Philosophy tips, I wrote: “While Oprah says 85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, I believe, more often than not, women are wearing the wrong style.” We can’t know for sure whether or not the women in Rouillon’s study were wearing the correct size or style for their bodies.
Having helped women for over 20 years in the lingerie business, we meet many women on a daily basis who suffer from back pain from the weight of their breasts. In addition to that, we also witness the same number of women find relief from a good supporting bra.
The science behind this? The teeter-totter effect! As funny as that may sound, it is a very simple fact: if your bra is riding up in the back, your breasts are falling down. Our natural reaction is to then tighten our straps to pull our bust line back up to where it should be. The consequence? The weight is anchored under the breast and, as a result, the back rides higher, straps fall off the shoulders, and pressure builds in the mid to upper back and shoulders.
When this happens, the bra can most certainly be “harmful in terms of posture and muscle tone,” as Rouillon has indicated. By wearing a bra that is nice and snug and stays parallel front to back, all of the weight of the breast is then managed by the bra and not the back. Outcome? No more pain!
I am very curious as to whether the women involved in the study were properly fitted and educated on the consequences of ill-fitting and improperly worn bras.
Melmira’s reaction: Agreed! We have an idea. Let’s ask 3,300 women (as opposed to 330) whether they feel their breasts are causing pain or discomfort in their bodies. Let’s have them all visit a professional fitter and, two months later (instead of 15 years), let’s interview these women and ask them if they feel any better! We can then conclude whether bras are important to a woman’s wardrobe.
In addition to the medical benefits that we feel a good supportive bra can provide, it extends well beyond that as a service to women. While it is most certainly true that not all women need or want to wear a bra (and all the power to them!), I can say with much certainty that the beneficial psychological effects can be endless.
I believe that while the body is beautiful in its “natural” state, beautiful lingerie can really accentuate a woman’s curves and make her look and feel very sexy. Just as importantly, a nice bra can make a woman feel much more comfortable about her shape and, as a consequence, add comfort and confidence.
Photo: Simone Pérèle.
Melmira Bra & Swim Boutique is a Toronto lingerie salon. Melmira’s staff offers expert bra shopping and fitting advice to Lingerie Talk readers each month.