The Braless Eighties

Bra-burning began 50 years ago among protesters of the Miss America pageant, an emblem of radical feminism. Having not been alive 50 years ago, I cannot fully comprehend their behavior. I imagine most of these women would have been svelte, small-bosomed ladies like my mom and most of my friend’s mommies. Today, however, those who are fuller figured and into the C and D cups, who spend over $50 per bra, wouldn’t dare burn them. Not even for political gain.

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Of my generation, I never knew anyone to go braless, though we did see Baby Boomer women who did, and we did witness the jiggly antics of Chrissy Snow on “Three’s Company.” This was not something we wanted to emulate. So when I see braless pics in the pages of my new (but old) 80’s Vogues, I assume it was purely for fashion reasons.

It started out subtle.

Jan 84

In the most androgynous of ways.

It presented a united front.

Apr 84

Then it got scary.

And then it took a turn into the new career woman’s ensembles.¬†What working woman would be caught dead sans camisole, with a V nearly to her naval? And what’s with that belt? High fashion indeed.

It would have been impossible to saunter into an office and ask folks not to stare. It’s like J. Lo in her green dress. Too much liberation, with risk of escape!

One thing I do know for sure is that they sold bras in the 80s. The problem was, save for Jane Russell’s Cross Your Heart Playtex bra, they nearly all look like training bras for middle schoolers. No underwire, no support. And little cooing doves on the cups made them posilutely silly.

I can’t imagine a grown woman wearing this. I can’t imagine a bra that you could crumple up into your hand. Many of today’s top-selling bras are minimizing, taking you one cup down, having wide straps that don’t leave indentions in your shoulders, and they’d never fit in one hand. Then again, we are in an obesity epidemic. If you’re lucky enough to be able to find function in that duet brassiere, thank your lucky stars. Your back thanks you as well. You are spared the burden.

So, ladies, whether your bosom is a Dolly Parton or a Kelly Ripa, one thing is for sure: our country sure has a love/hate relationship with them.

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