When bra shopping recently with a friend and her super-smart 10 year old daughter, two questions occurred to me. One, that if a ten year old can learn the basic principles of good fit in ten minutes, why is it taking Simply Yours this long to pull down their dreadful fitting guide? And two, why there are no decent beginner bras for young girls? A request in one of Holland’s largest department stores was met with blank faces, then vague gestures towards padded numbers from Calvin Klein and Aubade. I’m not sure in what reality those brands are style, size or price appropriate for a petite ten year old – but needless to say we left empty handed.
Whether the Daily Mail like it or not, better nutrition means that girls are reaching puberty at a younger age on average than ever before – eleven is normal today – and they need underwear to cover and support them as their bodies begin to develop. I believe very strongly – not least from my own experience – that handling that transition sensitively and appropriately is absolutely essential for building the foundations of healthy body image. Make a teenager feel self-conscious and ‘difficult’ in the changing room, and you’re setting her up for an adolescence of worry. Magnify those effects for a girl even younger, and it’s even more concerning. The lack of options available in this area lets them all down.
And it’s not for want of trying, but for want of trying well. Past attempts by Primark, Matalan, Tesco and Asda – to name but a few – have failed because companies have approached the issue with the sensitivity of a heart surgeon with hams for hands. Push up bras and padding have – perhaps not unfairly – caused accusations of sexualising young girls from groups like Mumsnet and inspired a ‘Let Girls Be Girls‘ campaign to tackle the issue. All products have been hastily retracted, and developing ten year olds go self-consciously without or are judged for going with.
That a brand has responded to their PR fail by enlisting Mumsnet‘s help and advice is really a long overdue no-brainer, but full marks are still deserved by Tesco for making it happen with this Fleur range by F&F. Their collection of simple ‘first bras’ are precisely what has been missing from the market – age appropriate but not huge and repulsive, with no padding or wires to obstruct or irritate the sensitive and developing breast tissue – and all for only £5.
I just look forward to watching the other brands scramble to catch up…