I find bras extremely uncomfortable and itchy, whether at work or at leisure. But looking around, I seem to be in the minority. What are the rules for going braless? Is it okay to show my nipples or is that rude? – Eddie, Madison, Wisconsin.
You’re not the only one having an anti-bra moment. As many dressing habits went out the window during pandemic lockdowns, the no-bra movement, which has re-emerged regularly since the 1960s, began to gain steam again (led, in part, by Florence Pugh, above).
However, when it comes to the “bra or not bra” question, especially with us back in the office and summer drawing to a close, there are actually three types of issues: literal, physical, and sociocultural. .
First things first: There are no rules, no laws, governing women’s underwear. Instead, the laws focus on the parts of the body, and what can and cannot be shown. IndianaFor example, the law prohibits public indecency and then defines it in part as “exposing the female breast without fully covering any part of the nipple.”
However, a number of states, including New York, Utah, and Oklahoma, and many other cities (including Madison) Allowing women to go topless in public. It also means braless.
It gets a little more complicated when it comes to workplace dress codes, according to Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute. She said New York City was the first jurisdiction to insist on “complete gender neutrality,” which means an employer can “require an individual who identifies as female to wear a bra or hide her nipples, but only if the same rule applies to a man.” employee.”
It’s possible to imagine “SNL” having a field day though. But the current situation is better than it was in 2010, when investment bank UBS issued IOUs 44-page dress codewhich, among other things, required its female employees to wear flesh-colored underwear.
When it comes to the federal law, Ms. Scaffidi said, “it just requires that the dress code be gender equal in terms of burdens such as cost.” It is not addressed whether bras pose an additional financial burden.
Regarding the notion that bras are essential to a woman’s health, Kassan Blake, MD, chief of breast services at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida, said: Health blog that there is no specific medical reason to wear a bra (and that bras do not prevent sagging)—although women with particularly large breasts may find that a sports bra relieves back strain.
Which brings me to the elephant — or cat sound — in the room. After all, ditch the bra isn’t just about changing norms when it comes to undergarments. It is about gender norms, the reality (and historical fear) of women’s bodies, power struggles, and sexual stereotypes.
Confronting liberated breasts, whether the nipples are visible or not, means having to confront deep-seated prejudices about all of this, which is both annoying and distracting for a lot of people. Especially at this very moment, when control of women’s bodies and their reproductive purpose has once again become a hot political issue. It reminds me of the uproar a few years ago when the father of a Notre Dame student complained about girls wearing tights, saying they distracted boys.
Of course, it is not your job to make other people comfortable or to help them sort out their feelings about all of the above. Although if you’re already at work, it’s also true that group dynamics are important, and you may not want to spend a huge chunk of time with colleagues who have to discuss your breasts. At least for now, it’s still your choice.
Your style questions answered
Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s question about fashion, which you can send to her at any time via e-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.
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