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.Β 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.

16 thoughts on “The Braless Eighties”

  1. Nicely done and a good job of selecting pictures. Your final cartoon is the topper. I was a teenager when the whole bra burning took place so naturally I was a big supporter. Of course it was hardly for political reasons. I was never sure of the reasoning behind the protest. I know what people said but it always struck me as an odd way to strive for equality.

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  2. My understanding is that the removal of bras was akin to the idea of removing a symbolic corset, the restrictions and limitations that oppressed women, and it was a gimmick that got the movement coverage and thus enabled them to spread their message of equality and equity of opportunity. Clearly they were right since we still talk about “bra burning” now. Your post makes me wonder what the equivalent would be now. We obviously had the “pussy hats” in recent years but I – very definitely a liberal and a feminist – found those a tad problematic and I don’t know that they will last the test of time to be as iconic as the “burned bra”. Bras were definitely a good choice of symbol as far as I am concerned as I cannot wait to whip mine off at the end of the day. If I had smaller boobs, I would be tempted to go bra-free. Happily for my budget, I am not ample bosomed so can purchase affordable bras that contain minimal engineering.

    PS The doves on those bra cups are just ridiculous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That all makes sense. The irony is that people facing sagging would actually go back to the corset nowadays rather than being bent toward the floor. But at least that’s a choice they get to make.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know about all that but I’m sooo glad the underwire came along. I’m guessing it’s easier to go braless if the boobies are on the smaller side. I’m a C, almost a D. If I don’t wear a bra during the day I will get pains in my chest and back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen. You’re preaching to the choir. Gravity pulling down is a wretched feeling. Going braless is not freeing for me at all. Maybe if they stayed up where there were, but not when they drop a foot LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was a “burn your bra” women’s libber. It really was to call attention to how women were being restrained from attaining this best life. I think the organizers knew that anything to do with women’s breast would gather an enormous amount of attention. The last cartoon is priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

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