Today's guest blog post is about a choice many large breasted women face: whether to consider cosmetic breast reduction surgery or rely on a better fitting bra. Ellen Lewis, of Lingerie Briefs, provides insight into this decision from the perspective of a full-busted woman and an industry professional.
I’ve been wrestling quite a bit lately over the plethora of articles about breast and body shaming. I applaud social media for this phenomenon.
I have been part of the lingerie industry for over 30 years. For most of that tenure, star power belonged to intimates designed for women smaller than a D cup bra. It is a very recent trend, maybe less than ten years old, that foundation companies have recognized the gross margin power inherent in the larger-breasted woman. Yes, the fit is a requirement, but more important, fashion is now a prerogative. I have a personal stake in this statement.
From the time I was very young, I have not had a positive relationship with my breasts. I grew up in the 50’s coming into my teens in 1963. I was on the cusp of feminine change. By the time I had my period I was wearing a bra, underwires and all. I was larger than my friends. I have a clear memory of climbing the four flights of stairs to science in junior high school praying that the boys would not pull my bra strap.
Ellen Lewis, Age 16
My mother’s solution to this debacle was to tell me not to wear sweaters. I went through high school pretty wary of the intentions of the opposite sex. It informed many of my socializing decisions in college and after.
Throughout my teens, my mother urged me to consider a breast reduction. I pushed back not understanding why it was on the table. But in my early 20’s, I was forced to wear bras under a leotard to the beach, or when walking to work through an iffy neighborhood invited cat calls and oogly eyes from construction workers. Even purchasing a bra became a major trip to Saks for a specialized fitting. So I relented.
Maidenform Bra Ad, 1963
At 25, I took a few weeks off from work and had the surgery. Returning to my office, most co-workers believed I had been deathly ill and had lost 25 pounds. People complimented me on my figure. Because I had kept it a secret, they had no idea what I had done. In fact, I had lost only three pounds, discarded a boatload of misguided modesty and began to buy clothes that I could never wear before. Now I was a 34C cup, could shop for bras anywhere, wear the same swimsuits as my friends, and finally fit into the status quo. And I no longer stuck out.
I don’t remember being particularly aware of my breasts infringing again on my life until I had my first child and breastfeeding became a challenge. Was this a result of my operation? Perhaps. Or it could have been my once again well-meaning mother, whose concern about her granddaughter’s nourishment coupled with her uptight upbringing pressured me into bottle feeding. Breast issues picked up their pace after three pregnancies. By the end of my last child's pregnancy, I was going braless just to avoid the pressure of a bra.
The real uptick in my breast disdain revival occurred after menopause. Here I am, body thicker, boobs back to where they were before, even bigger. My days are controlled by what bra I must wear, want to wear, can wear and how fast I can get home to take it off. Once again, my breasts are controlling my life. But this time it’s not about shame. It’s about pain.
My vacillation about breast reduction surgery stems from my first-hand knowledge of what that decision medically entails. And frankly, I don’t want a six-week hiatus from any physical activity. The time is too precious to me. If I were younger, I'm sure I would do it in a heartbeat.
Ellen Lewis, today
But age and the extensive assortment of bras, both basic and fashion, that are now available for F cups and higher gives me a reason to pause. I have functional and beautiful styles from Lise Charmel, LOU, Empreinte, Prima Donna, Panache, Chantelle, Curvy Couture, Anita, Simone Perele and Wacoal.Prima Donna Divine Seamless Lace Bra Available in 5 Colors Fitting Bands 34-44, Cups C-H via HerRoom Zip Fit Underwire Sports Bra Available in Bands 34-44, Cups C-H via Curvy Couture
Honestly, this is just a drop in the market bucket. Obviously, I have insight into these brands from market research. These bras work on different levels: everyday comfort, sports, casual lounge, work attire, special occasion. And I don’t have that problem anymore.
Embracing my body has taken me more than 40 years. I'm not sure I need to change it.
What do you think of Ellen's story? Would you ever think about having breast reduction surgery? Why or why not?