To sag or not to sag? That is(n’t) the question…

First things first: I think everyone should read Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre. A healthy skepticism about ‘scientific’ studies is good for you, and would make the world a much more rational place. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in three years of boob blogging, it’s that when it comes to the media your study doesn’t have to be watertight to be Big News.

So Big News indeed it seems to be: French Researcher Prof. Jean-Denis Rouillon (with the caveat that “the women involved were not a representative sample of the population” – so please, have that pinch of salt at the ready) suggests that not wearing a bra improves firmness, perkiness and other very scientific words, up to a difference of 7mm lift for each year a bra wasn’t worn – validating his hypothesis that bras are a ‘false need’, and cause more sagging than they prevent.

Interesting choice of phrase there. Personally, I actually do believe that wearing bras is a choice rather than a need. Let’s be real,  it’s not a totally free choice – but it’s definitely not one made purely on the grounds of fighting sag. Certainly in Western society there is a degree of expectation, and not wearing a bra can be an obstacle to general eye contact and respect in the workplace. Liberated nipples can chafe (ow). And for those of us with more than a handful, a (properly fitted) bra is nothing short of life-changing: it’s the difference between a sedentary life filled with self-consciousness and discomfort and an active one filled with trampolines (and other activities.) As G-Cup, sagging is way low down my ‘reasons to wear a bra’ list. Apart from the fact that – shocker – I love lingerie and the way it looks, in truth I’m just thankful I can make it out of my house without knocking myself out.

That said, on the bra vs no bra sag vs no sag debate, I’m a believer in the (well fitted) bra. I’ve had boobs for half of my life now, and they’ve been this size for well over a decade. Over time my laughter lines have deepened and my metabolism has slowed to a much more unforgiving-of-Cheetos level, but my boobs are about as perky as they’ve ever been. I’m not sure I’d be in the same state if I’d continued with slack banded E-cups squishing my boobs down and back in to my body. Or if I’d spent the same two years I have in a city of bicycles and staircases without any support at all. But who knows?

In my extremely unscientific study of one, I can’t help thinking that my ‘perkiness’ is more likely to be a product of never having breastfed, or ever experienced any significant weight fluctuations. And perhaps even, wearing a properly fitted bra from a young age too (I’m not sure if fit was a factor in his study – but I suspect it wasn’t…). Every busty girl who has found her way to a perfect fit knows that the back and posture problems he references are only usually side effects of terribly fitted bras – and can be banished easily with some sizing adjustments.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t worry about the study or your sagging and just do what makes you feel happy and comfortable. Wearing a bra should be a choice, and it’s one I’ve been happy to make. That our bodies will change with age is inevitable, and even a more robust study proving a connection between sagging and lingerie would be an irrelevance to me: I know there is no point of vanity alone that would persuade me out of my G-cups. I couldn’t trade this freedom my lingerie gives me for anything.


What do you think: would you go braless? Could you?

Source: Jezebel & Counsel Heal

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21 Responses to To sag or not to sag? That is(n’t) the question…

  1. Jenny says:

    I would never even consider going braless. I pass the pencil-test (lol, the one where you place a pencil under the crease of your boobs to see if it falls down or if the weight of your breast causes the boob to sag beneath the crease and hold the pencil up) but it is down-right painful for me to go braless. Sure, at home where I can hold my boobs while walking down the stairs or place the cover under my boob while surfing the web, I can go braless. No discomfort 🙂 But when I’m up and about rushing to catch the train to school each day, when I’m walking up and down the stairs in school… Nope, I wouldn’t want to grope myself publicly just to feel supported and not being hurt 🙂 There’s also the issue of modesty for me, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having my nipples poking through my slim-fitting tops (which is what my closet mainly consists of).

    I haven’t found the perfectly fitting bra yet, but I’ve found much better fitting ones at least and I can tell you that my backaches have lessened and my shoulders aren’t weeping as hard and as often anymore. I’m sure going braless would make my boobs sag much earlier than if I continue to wear bras that (almost as of now, in the process of altering bands) fit.

  2. Chelle says:

    Well said! The only comment I would like to make is that breastfeeding does not contribute to sag. Lack of proper support & genetics contribute to sagging. My boobs are still pretty perky nearly two years into breastfeeding.

    Any contribution a woman’s child-bearing status may contribute to sagginess is most likely the fluctuation in size that comes with pregnancy. It bothers me that this stigma is still out there because people still use it as a reason to not breastfeed their babies.

    • MrsB says:

      Thank you for making this point, it saddens me to think that the idea that breastfeeding inevitably leads to sagging is so wide-spread and could be a reason for women not to consider breastfeeding. I firmly believe that everyone has a right to make a personal choice about whether to breastfeed or not, and that the best way to help people make that choice is to provide correct and unbiased information. Last time I read the pregnancy-nursing literature (and as I am a researcher – albeit in another area – I do check my sources) I think the consensus was that it wasn’t experienced by everybody, and that the main causes for post pregnancy/nursing sagging are 1) hormonal changes during pregnancy and 2) weight fluctuations, especially rapid weight loss after pregnancy. I would personally add that wearing well-fitting bras throughout the whole pregnancy/nursing period is even more important to well-being than otherwise,
      so getting re-fitted often is more important than ever.

      MrsB (38, two kids, no rapid post-baby weightlosses *sigh*, 32GG/H boobs, well-fitting bras since I got my boobs, no sagging yet)

      • MrsB says:

        …and also – sorry, got side-tracked by nursing-bra rant – thank you Busts4Justice for speaking up against nonsense-research like this. You are so right, there are more reasons to wear bras than to prevent sagging, in fact probably as many reasons as there are women wearing bras 🙂

    • Stacy says:

      My breasts don’t sag (well, any more than they already did; I have very dense and heavy breasts and always have) after nursing, and I nursed for 2 years. I lost weight quite rapidly after having my daughter, but I also didn’t really grow any in the bust department until my milk came in (although I was in badly fitting bras then.) I lost a cup size when she day-weaned, gained a cup back when I gained weight. I also haven’t had the empty look some people complain about, probably because I didn’t have any appreciable cup size changes. But I am also full all over.

      That said, I DO have stretch marks on my boobs from when I grew boobs to start with.

  3. *applauds* Fabulous response to the study! There are plenty of reasons to wear a bra beyond the hopes of preventing sagging, and any study with admitted sampling errors like this one should be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.

  4. I’ve gone mostly braless for years,and my boobs do sag.I don’t have great skin elasticity,even though I haven’t gone up or down in weight a whole lot,I still have a bit of loose skin on my breasts.Could have something to do with a lot of stretch marks,not sure.
    I’ve also heard a bra can help shape boobs and make them less saggy. O.o
    I recently learned a lot about bra fitting from FullerFigureFullerBust and ordered some new bras.We’ll see how they do.Honestly,even though I’m not that big (at least to me,my mom thinks my boobs are,going without support is starting to be uncomfortable.Not painful,just not comfortable.
    When I was younger and more of a C cup,it was fine for me to go braless,didn’t cause discomfort,but now…
    I probably won’t wear one all the time,but I’m starting to want to be supported at least 4-6 hours a day,and maybe I’ll wear it more as I get used to it.
    So I will be my own little personal study on this matter.I was planning on seeing how wearing a bra will affect the sagging and if it will help or not.

  5. I love your response; it definitely pays to be skeptical about “scientific” studies. Ultimately if someone is more comfortable with or without a bra (I would *hope* that a woman would try a well-fitted bra before deciding, though), just let her be! Also, I often wonder why some people are so appalled by sagging breasts in the first place? It seems purely aesthetic- unless sagging can actually create pain and discomfort?- and like another way that (at least Western) cultures have objectified women’s bodies, creating the belief that there is only one “right” type of body. As some comments have mentioned, it can be genetic, so studies like this that assume sagging breasts are “wrong” tick me off in that regard too.

  6. It’s absolutely unscientific, but I think that what happened to women who get rid from ill fitting bras is that their posture improved. If you are more than B cup going braless you are making yourself uncomfortable when slouch while walking (or running). I don’t think that this could work for soft breasts or over F cup or with particularly heavy breasts, though.

  7. shylee says:

    I read that article yesterday or the day before on yahoo. While reading I could help but laugh and thought the girls they did the test on couldn’t of been wearing the correct bra size. They should made sure they were wearing the correct size first , I’m so happy that you made a post about this.

  8. Connie says:

    I’d have to agree with you that there are many more reasons to wear bras besides to prevent sagging. For one, I personally love pretty lingerie–wearing a fabulous set gives me a lot of confidence. Having my shirt rub against me would be uncomfortable without a bra. I prefer to remain modest–nipples showing in public is not acceptable for me. I’m sure there are various reasons as to why breasts sag over time–loss of elasticity in the skin, gravity taking its toll on larger/heavier breasts, genetics, age, etc, even with regular use of bras. I think bras are a wonderful thing when they fit properly–your breasts, back and shoulders will feel much better with the right support, especially if they’re more than a handful. I’m going to continue wearing bras. I’m okay if other women choose not to wear a bra, they’re her breasts and her business.

  9. Ann says:

    Let’s make this a sample size of at least two! One of the things I object to most about these studies is the claim that women wear bras because they’ve gotten used to wearing bras. In my own sample, the back pain I had was reduced by wearing a well-fitting bra, and started when I didn’t wear a bra at all.

    My mother, who has much smaller breasts than I do, does not wear a bra. (I think that’s great – throw off the shackles of social expectations and wear what you want!) I never had a training bra as a teenager. For various reasons, I didn’t receive pressure from my peers because people didn’t know I wasn’t wearing a bra. It was back pain that eventually made me want a bra, and the bra that helped with back pain. Would I have eventually gotten used to not having a bra? Maybe, but the bra didn’t create the need for the bra – the back pain came first.

    As for sagging, it happens to us all (some less than others; like you, I haven’t breastfeed or had a lot of weight changes, and I think that helps) and avoiding it is not my primary reason for wearing a bra. At my size, it’s about mobility and freedom from back pain.

  10. Amber says:

    Brilliant post. Thanks so much for writing this! That article has been rubbing me the wrong way ever since I read the “study”. Not to mention the body-shaming of “sagging” breasts. Heres the thing world, my boobs have been “sagging” since I was a teenager! That is just the way my breast tissue/shape is! I used to hate it, and honestly, I still do sometimes, but I try to accept it and having a properly fitted bra HELPS me to do just that!

  11. There are too many variables to take into account for the study to be really accurate.Breast size, breast shape, have you breast fed , how many babies have you breast fed and for how long ,activity levels , has your weight fluctuated your breast size altered over the years . Not to mention wether you have worn an incorrectly fitting bra for years. For accurate scientific research you need a much larger group of women of every breast shape and size you need to control you variables. I’m taking this info with a bucket of salt. Personally I think my lack of wearing a bra except when I really need to benefited my breast tone but that could be the fact I’ve issues with multiple breast cysts which increase and decrease with my hormones. So boobs solid most of the time and the thought of putting my breasts n a bra my idea of agony, Random thought African tribes women who dont wear bras when ever you see them on documentory’s their boobs nearly down to their waists!!

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  13. vyvyan13 says:

    Only go braless if desperately need to or wearing a dress which means you don’t have to. Wouldn’t want to sag

  14. Sarah says:

    I am a great believer in science, particularly anything that Prof Brain Cox says…in fact he can say anything at all about anything. I will beleive him. But this article isn’t science. For a start, any scientist worth his or her salt (have you noticed it’s always men that do these studies?) will not put their name to anything where they have an “unrepresentative sample”. The scientific term for this is messing about to get in to the papers.

    As far as I am concerned, I am sorry, but I can’t really do without a bra. My boobs are towards the larger end of the scale and I’m just being practical. The only time I’m not wearing a bra is in the bed (where I’ve gone from birthday suit, to t-shirt to soft cup bra and back to birthday suit), trying to find the light switch in the morning and the bath or shower. Until I get dressed I always automatically hold my boobs with one arm (thank you Jenny…great minds). I have always done that – I don’t know why. But it’s just that I feel happier if I have some support. It would be a bit difficult to get through a normal working day doing this –but maybe I could give it a try. If I’m not wearing a bra for any reason (illness, hangovers…the two are usually related) I will start to get pain towards the top of my boobs before too long. That said wearing a bra has nothing to do with me being worried about my boobs sagging. Sagging isn’t on the radar. For me it’s all about being practical, looking smart and presentable and having the confidence that comes with that.

    On to breast feeding. I do get worried that women worry about breastfeeding “causing things”. I need to say I’m a firm believer that It’s up to the individual to decide if they want to breast feed or not. I’m not going there. But, deciding not to breastfeed “because my boobs will sag” should not be top of the list. I breastfed both my kids and can report no noticeable sagging even five years later. This is probably just luck, but I like to think that it’s because I did my best to look after myself too. But more likely it’s how I’m built – genetics – so probably luck. So far so good I suppose. It was actually during my pregnancies that I started the soft cup bras in bed phase (Royce Sadie – they are brilliant). It’s difficult enough sleeping when you’re pregnant, not helped in my case by my boobs going into mortal combat with my bump ( they got jealous something was actually bigger than them), and wearing a bra in bed helped a lot. Weirdly, after my pregnancies I stopped wearing one in bed because I didn’t feel comfortable. I know… it doesn’t make sense does it?

    But, having just read the comments on weight fluctuation causing sagging I’m worried. As I have got older I have added a few pounds (shock) and I am now on my 17th diet in the last five years (anyone spotted a link?). The one I’m on now is really really going to work, I can feel it. But you are saying that if your weight fluctuates this can cause saggy boobs. So, if I lose weight, my boobs sag? A girl just can’t win!

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  16. Bounteous says:

    As some of the ladies above have alluded to one important aspect of a bra is it gives you shape. It is a simple fact that as a young woman your breasts will almost always be higher and perkier than in later years. As older women we generally want to look younger and to have a bra give us a lift into a perkier profile.

  17. Pingback: Why I Believe Bra-Fitting is a Feminist Issue | Bras and Body Image

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