A faint glimmer of light catches my eye. Like a flash I can’t locate. I sit down to catch my breath. I take a small inhale and a long exhale. I’ve been told that is the right way to slow down your nervous system. Apparently I’ve been breathing wrong my whole life. When you inhale you are taking the world in and that excites your brain. When you exhale you are blowing it out trying to keep it all at a distance. Unfortunately the world has always been too much for me to take in, vast and abrasive.
After a few exhales I don’t really feel more calm, maybe a little numb. I wait till the last possible second for my lungs to take up their a rhythm again.
The truth is I’ve been having this constricting feeling in my chest. Like the air all around keeps collapsing into me. Today I’m wearing a bra. It consists of two metallic wires, niched in fabric, holding up my breasts, and pushing stubbornly against my diaphragm. This morning I chose to get dressed in regular clothes, in the hopes of feeling some semblance of normalcy. I work from home you see, and usually can’t be bothered. Turns out I’m incredibly uncomfortable wearing this thing.
The metal rims of my bra are compressing my ribs, tightening around my solar plexus. I think of how women used to wear corsets that chocked them from the bottom of their hips to their armpits. The rigid strands of wire would constrain their lungs so they could parade their narrow waists. They had to pair up, two at a time, to get corseted. One would pull on the strings with a strong grip, while the other one held her breath and vice versa. They couldn’t get dressed alone. They were interdependant, reproducing the pain they had just experienced onto each other. Absolutely savage.
Today, there is so much we take for granted. We have inherited immense freedoms thanks to the ongoing fight against misogyny. Yet, there are still, in our daily lives, remnants of oppression. Take the thin wire under our bras for example: it is the last vestige of the corset. We have managed to strip it all down to that last piece of metal.
I find myself thinking of what the next generation of bras might look like. What will women wear in the 2050’s? Let’s start by looking at the past, shall we?
In the 1940’s and 50’s the ‘bullet’ bra was de rigueur. In a decade steeped in violence, arms races and world war boobs had to be on their guard. We would show off in these iconic weapons waiting patiently for our next victim. A mere hug could prove to be fatal.
In the 60’s and 70’s we burnt our bras. Bye bye bullet and hello freedom. The first woman on acid looked down at her conic shaped boobs and saw them flying aggressively towards her. She started running and thats what started the first women’s march at Berkeley.
In the 80’s and 90’s everyone wanted to be a vixen. No matter your boob shape or size —everything was possible with the “wonderbra”. You could defy gravity, trick men into thinking you were a bombastic bombshell, redefining sexy. With such dramatic cleavage, women finally got to be CEO’s, enter politics and run their own lives. Men were too busy looking down their shirts while they got ahead – classic decoy tactics.
Fast-forward to present day. Did you know that since Covid, sales of homeware and intimate apparel have surged? The lingerie market is valued at 42 billion dollars in the US. It is forecasted to reach a value of 79 billion by 2027. So I ask myself, how will the pandemic affect the next generation of lingerie?
Women are consciously and unconsciously affected by social perceptions of the ideal female body shape, which evolves according to the taste of the decade. The push-up bra of the 90’s dominated the market as it fit with female standards at the time. But bra trends are definitely changing. The pandemic may have permanently altered our sense of style. Within the confines of our own personal spaces, women have been freed from the everlasting judgement of society. At home, in the absence of any ‘male gaze’ it feels absurd to wear a push-up bra, doesn’t it? Instead it’s being replaced by the more discreet and flexible bralette. Thanks to Covid and the absence of the ‘male gaze’ in our daily lives we might finally start wearing what we want rather than what we think we should wear. And thus, we’ve reached new heights of freedom.
When I take off my bra, something alleviates. I let the weight of my breasts surrender to gravity. My breathing smoothes over. This period of forced inactivity caused by the pandemic has made me hyperaware of every sensation in my body. I didn’t used to be this way. In our usual daily lives we carry an infinity of microscopic burdens. From the clasp of a wrist watch to the underwire of our bras. We shape and constrict our figures to conform to a mold. Maybe this uncomfortable pause in time caused by the pandemic will enable us to seek more comfort in the future. We will find the freedom to live at our own pace, to meander without purpose, to take a few breaths of fresh air and enjoy the relentless movement of our lungs.
Instead of a series of sporadic hot flashes I hope to find an ecstatic sense of my own physical lightness.