can I go braless as a medical accommodation?

A reader writes:

You’ve written about how, rightly or wrongly, most employers still expect employees with obvious breasts to wear bras (or at least not to make it obvious that they’re not wearing one). My question is, could going braless — or getting an exemption to the dress code more generally — ever be a reasonable accommodation for a disability? And if so, how could someone approach it? Should you preemptively bring it up, only address it I someone complains, etc.?

I have a chronic pain condition that causes me to be sensitive to anything that’s even slightly fitted in the neck/chest area. I can push through the pain for a job interview, but wearing a bra daily to the office will be torture. It’s not a matter of just finding the right bra (as many people will tell me). Believe me, I’ve tried *many* options (including sports bras, bralettes), I know what my body can handle, and it’s just not feasible. I can wear nipple covers to make it less obvious, and I generally wear lose clothing. But wearing multiple layers or sweaters or scarves is difficult, as I’m also sensitive to the weight of my clothing. So you can generally tell I’m not wearing a bra.

You definitely do not need to wear a bra if it’s painful or otherwise not feasible for your body!

That makes it sound like you therefore do need to wear a bra the rest of the time, and that’s not true either anymore. In many offices, if you’re not wearing a bra, no one is going to order you to; the issue is that that if it’s very obvious, it can become a thing you’re defined by, and so you have to decide if you want to take that on or not. There also are offices where you would get talked to if it’s obvious, particularly in more conservative industries, but that’s not all of them. So some of this is knowing your field and your office, and also knowing how much you care.

But when you have a condition that makes it horribly painful to wear a bra, that’s a whole different thing. Dress code exemptions are reasonable accommodations for a variety of disabilities. To fight that, your employer would have to show that allowing you to go braless caused them “undue hardship,” and it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to meet that bar (or would care enough to try in most cases).

Because this isn’t something that would require an official accommodation in so many offices, I wouldn’t raise it unless someone brings it up. If you do get told to wear a bra, at that point you can go the accommodation route. But it might never even come up.

The tricky thing, though, is that a lot the judging about bralessness being unprofessional is the kind of thing people might think without ever saying anything about. If that bothers you, you might choose to go the accommodation route more proactively. Which is BS, to be clear … just still the reality in some cases.

I look forward to the day when this is a complete non-issue.

{ 194 comments… read them below }

  1. Tinkerbell*

    If you’re doing what you can to keep your nipples from being visible all the time, that should be perfectly adequate for any but the stuffiest of offices. I bet anyone who comments on women’s visible nipples is also commenting on the rest of their bodies in unflattering ways… and everyone else in the office is rolling their eyes:-\

    1. Anonym*

      Yeah, agreed. Some nip coverage and/or loose or layered clothing should keep things pretty non-obvious even if there’s still spread or jiggle. By which I mean someone would have to both be *and take the professional risk of revealing themselves as* a super creepy jerk to even raise the issue.

      This is BS. We shouldn’t have to wear bras or otherwise modify and disguise our bodies to be considered acceptable. My body is none of your business. Get over it.

      1. lilsheba*

        totally agreed that it’s BS. It’s literally no one’s business what underwear one is wearing or not wearing, and I personally refused to succumb to the expected norms of wearing a bra. I haven’t worn one in years and don’t plan to ever again.

      2. Hamster Manager*

        Totally, if you do need to make sure it’s non-obvious, loose clothes are great, but also consider embracing the ruffle, the big floppy bow or the flowy scarf (those sheer gauzy ones are basically weightless). Puffy vests for cold times can be pretty light.

        Busy patterns can also be your friend here! Confuse the eye like a zebra herd confuses a lion.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Silk scarves are also wonderful if your office tends to be chilly. They’re practically weightless, but add far more warmth than you’d think!

    2. Space Cadet*

      I see men’s nipples through their shirts all the time. People ought to get over it, regardless of gender.

      1. JSPA*


        And if it threatens to distracts me–which it a social situation, it might–I keep my dang mouth shut, my eyes up, and my mind focused elsewhere.

        Same for any other dang body part.

        I like forearms and wrists, too. Napes of necks. Earlobes. Lots (and lots) of etc. NONE of which I expect anyone (male, female, or otherwise) to cover, just so that I can leave my horniness set to “scan” while at work.

      2. Don't Ask Me Why*

        I dunno- I worked in children’s mental health for a time and we had a male therapist who was called out for having his nipples visible through clothing (think sweaters, not tank tops- he was just a heavyset guy and you could still faintly see them even with an undershirt).

        Of course, working with kids, as a man, seems to make everyone suspicious anyway (eye roll)… and in mental health especially there is a need to make sure everything is Not Remotely Sexual. So this may be a unique situation.

        But nobody ever had to tell the women this since we’ve all been socialized to hide the nipples from birth. I do feel bad for the guy though

  2. Purple Cat*

    Thank you Alison for balancing your answer between what *should* be the case, and the unfortunate reality of what *is* the case in many offices.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      Agreed! I think a lot of people get so wrapped up in how the world should be that they forget that there can be real life consequences if we don’t behave in the expected ways. Something I think all of the time is “we do not exist in a vacuum.”

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Yeah, I always say that I do not live in the world as it should be; I live in the world as it is.

        That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make the world, society, or the rules better. But we won’t get anywhere by ignoring the framework of the reality we live in and understanding the potential costs of our actions (and understanding what methods will and will not actually be effective in promoting change).

    2. Justme, The OG*

      Agree. I’m a very happy bra wearer (they actually hurt when I’m not wearing one) and I admit I would be one of those to think negative things. I need to break that. Body autonomy and all that.

    3. Keymaster*

      Agreed. I really admire her writing.

      (I’d love to do without my bras, it would ease off my back injury. But…it really wouldn’t go down well where I work)

    4. SaeniaKite*

      The only reason I wear something that could be considered a bra at work is that the nylon/polyester/whatever synthetic material our tops are made out of (I work in health care so they’re not scrubs but similar) can be rather irritating to the nipple and I haven’t found a nipple shield that is comfortable and as easy to whack on as a bralet/vest top. But if that wasn’t an issue I don’t think I’d wear one ever again

  3. Madame X*

    I hate that the letter writer feels she may need to explain why she can’t wear a bra. Obviously, she should not have to do anything that exacerbates her chronic pain. If nipple covers are bearable, then that might be the best compromise.

  4. Keymaster*

    I *wish* I could do this at work, and elsewhere outside the house. Having an upper spinal injury and large system attributes makes any bra really painful. But there’s no way I think my company would be cool with the, ahem, ‘wobbleage’. (This is a HIGHLY male dominated department in a highly male dominated industry – I have to pick my battles carefully).

    If your firm is less stuffy than mine then just go for it! I’d take that over the painkillers any day.

    (Or invent corsets that a) hold everything together without it resting on the shoulders and b) don’t dig into the gut if you’re overweight)

    1. CorsetAway*

      They do have corsets like that! The thing is that you usually have to get them custom-made, so they are… well, they range from non-cheap to expensive. Totally worth it, however!

      (Of course, I only mention this for anyone who, like me, gets back pain from any kind of pressure on the back, and WANTS to wear something to support the breasts. I have a fitted bra, it does help, but it still ends up hurting by the end of the day. Corsets are comfy and helped me a lot, because they supported both the breasts and the back. If you WANT something to support/cover the breasts do look into those, otherwise, by all means, live free!)

        1. World Weary*

          Look for Renaissance Faire costumers to start. I have used them for this purpose in the past. These corsets have flexible stays, not whale bone or steel. You can wear them all day with zero pressure on your shoulders. I feel it in my hips, actually

          1. Willow*

            FYI, “whalebone” is actually balene cartilage, and costumers today use flexible plastic—think large zip ties— to approximate it. Even steel used in corsets was fairly flexible. They weren’t the torture devices we imagine.

          2. Historical Re-enactor*

            Yeah, some search terms that may be helpful in targeting the more comfortable, supportive, washable and hard-wearing underwear types of corsets, versus the lower-durability, high-fashion outerwear or fetish wear, include:
            historical (Tudor / Elizabethan/ Colonial/ Regency) corset
            “Elizabethan pair of bodies” (the etymological and and sartorial ancestor of the “bodice”)
            flexible boning stays/corset
            working-class historical corset
            corded stays (the stiffening material in these is dense cord, like very narrow rope, sewn into lengthwise channels to produce a stiff yet flexible not rigid fabric with no hard edges such as occur with metal, plastic, wood, or keratin boning)

            MHO, a corded corset works best for people who are looking for more flexible support than rigidity; steel-boned are better suited to people who want more rigid structure or who have a great deal of flesh and want an undergarment that will stand up to it; plastic boned are sort of in the middle and suitable for people with less flesh (plastic deforms in response to the body in it much more readily than steel or cording) who want more rigidity than cording affords, at usually a much lower price than steel. Corsets made with luxury fabrics (satin, velvet, brocade), leather, or vinyl , are typically meant for play or display, not for functional daily underwear.

            Men also wore corsets historically, and historical corset patterns are available to fit men, nonbinary people, and people of whatever gender with a straighter/less curvy build, or who want a less obviously defined-waist look.

      1. Robin*

        Hear hear! Corsets also take time to break in, like a good pair of boots. And, like a good pair of boots, they can last forever if you care for them well. So if you do go that route, remind yourself that they will be stiff at first, but more you wear them, the more fitted to you they become and the more comfortable they become.

        ——- CW for discussion of weight ——-

        Another thing to consider is weight fluctuation – I have gone up quite a bit (60 pounds) so the ones I bought no longer fit me. From what I have heard from others, the corset can usually accommodate +/- 20 pounds from their default fit (which usually involves about 2 inches of spacing between panels where the lacing is). Every body is different, each individual carries their weight differently, but it is something to consider if yours is one that fluctuates significantly.

      2. Keymaster*

        I do own a lot of steel boned corsets which are fantastic for support and pain relief but…there’s no way to beat around this – I’m fat. Obese even. There’s no way to get a supportive rigid corset that’s not going to smack into one of the fat rolls!

        Ahh one day. One day I’ll be able to put down the bras that resemble a Brunel engineering project.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Seriously look into Tudor and Renaissance corsets instead of those from an era that used steel. It’s an era where wasp waist was not the beauty ideal– the corsets had structure that did move weight onto hips.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes! Then the key word is “stays” rather than “corset”. Enchanted Rose Costumes (on YouTube) recently did a thing about 18th century (American Colonial) maternity stays (so very expansive in multiple directions.
            Then the only seriously irritating thing is that those styles are front-lacing, so you have to lace them up every time (not wildly time consuming but slower than a hook-front or a zipper).
            Most of the makers of stays/corsets I’ve encountered are historical (Red Threaded, Prior Attire), but I have to think that there are makers who also use modern materials (zippers, elastic, etc) for modern daily wear.

    2. GlitterIsEverything*

      I’m going to echo Corset Away here. Quality corsets are designed to fit the body and enhance your natural curves. There are as many corset designs as there are body shapes!

      If you have the means, find a local corsetier, and have one made. Expect to spend at least $200. You’ll likely be pleasantly surprised with how very comfortable they can be.

    3. ceiswyn*

      I have a friend who now habitually wears corsets due to hypermobility (bras put enough pressure on individual ribs to dislocate them). She makes her own, and they are designed for support and daily wear rather than shaping. I could ask her about the design, if you like?

    4. Bluebird*

      Something I’ve always wondered about going braless is, visible nipples aside, how are breast wobbly bits really any less distinguishable from stomach/armpit/upper arm wobbly bits? I suppose if one is lucky enough to be very taut everywhere but the breasts this wouldn’t be a problem, but if someone ever dared to say something to me on my braless days, I’d probably just say something like “Oh I’m sorry, which part of my fat isn’t contained properly?” and see how they respond.

    5. Reluctant Mezzo*

      My corset doesn’t rest on the shoulder at all, and if it’s not laced too tight, it doesn’t dig into the rest of me either. It does take a helper to get me into it, though. (and because of shrinkage of me over the years, the bottom rests lower on my body than it used to, which is a smidge awkward alas).

  5. NYC Taxi*

    You should be able to dress in a way that is comfortable for you without having to explain it – I wouldn’t say anything about wanting accommodation unless you’re hearing feedback about not wearing a bra. I frankly wouldn’t notice whether any of my direct reports was/wasn’t wearing a bra, but unfortunately the conservative clients I work with most likely would notice. I would have no problem addressing the issue with the client, but I would always be on alert whether it was affecting how they see the competency of my direct report.

    1. Fikly*

      You’re missing the actual issue, which is that the majority of people who would penalize someone for not wearing a bra would not comment, but would just stay silent and hold it against them.

      You can’t be alert against that. That’s why micro aggressions and silent discrimination is so harmful.

      1. Smithy*

        So this is totally true, and in its own way I think fits into the ways that women who don’t pay other assorted “beauty” taxes at work can pay.

        I’ve never worn make-up at work, and while I work in the nonprofit sector – I’m in fundraising….so in many ways, I wouldn’t say it’s never hurt me professionally. It’s just never openly hurt me, or hurt me in ways I could immediately identify.

        I have worked at one place where I received feedback about my clothing – but in ways I’d say were 100% valid and helped me professionally going forward. At another place, I received feedback about my face/attitude (i.e. not looking happy) – which while true, I’d quibble was more in that larger space of negative feedback women get disproportionately. If I wore make-up would that have happened? I don’t know. But I knew it was one red flag of many and a sign to leave as opposed to fix problems.

        All to say….I think that perhaps the OP can see the accommodation as a way of protecting their employment medium term. But that in many industries and with some thoughtful dressing, this shouldn’t be an issue and if anything – just a way to figure out supervisors and workplaces that aren’t going to be good longterm.

        1. Fikly*

          Agreed, entirely. It’s a real problem, and it’s not going away.

          My issue is with people who seem to think it can be identified when it happens, and that something can be done in response, or that women should just do whatever needs to be done to make the issue go away, or those that claim the problem doesn’t exist. NYC Taxi falls into that category, and when people speak up to support that view, they are causing problems by claiming they are solving them, because it makes it that much harder for people saying they experience this to be believed.

  6. Not In Five Years*

    I haven’t worn a bra at work (or anywhere) in over 5 years and it’s definitely not noticeable – not because I am small (I am a C-D cup ish – so not as large as some for sure!) but because I wear patterned tops specifically chosen because they provide nipple camouflage. And if my fairly large nipples that bonus, are pierced, can be camouflaged with the right pattern, I promise pretty much everyone’s can. I personally like to also have a blazer (the lines are such that it very effectively moves attention away from any possible nipple-noticing) but it’s not necessary.

    I usually bring my teens with me when shopping and they review the nipple-disappearing properties of all new work shirts before I purchase them – the outside set of eyes is helpful and keeps me from wasting money on tops that don’t meet my requirements.

    1. Cj*

      I’ve rarely worn on a bra since the pandemic started, and I appreciate the advice about patterned shirts. I usually throw on a cardigan or Blazer that hits the right spot to cover my nipples

      1. Not In Five Years*

        It’s shockingly effective. My kids every time are like “wow, wtf seriously that is amazing” which to be fair is also my reaction when I see those photos of like an animal in a tree that you just cannot see the first five times you look at the picture or something. I have a couple of tops with a textured fabric (crinkled? but on purpose?) *and* a pattern and those are superb for this purpose as well.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          LOL – and thank you for both the idea of patterned tops, and the visual of you up tree.

    2. JSPA*

      Yup! 95% bra free for 2+ decades, seconding this. Patterns, pockets, wavy or overlapping circular motifs that don’t coincide with anotomical high points, all useful.

      And it’s not like light bras completely prevent nipple outlines, either. Basically, if people who are making an effort to be professional are not seeing anything dramatically more challenging than average, that…should be enough, you’d hope, for just about any workplace.

    3. Majnoona*

      Are you me? I haven’t worn a bra in decades. I look for loose patterned tops that I like (it’s hard since they’re mostly floral). Occasionally I find a plain-colored shirt with enough texture to hide the nips (this will probably only work for you if there’s a good lining). Also a big neclace deflects attention (again, this may be a weight that won’t work for you). I also took my then teenage daughter shopping. She would let me know if I was showing.

      1. Not In Five Years*

        LOL! Stealth non-bra wearers unite. (Also for any looking for tips, almost all my tops are actually pretty fitted, so if you don’t like how loose cuts look on you, patterns will still work very well!)

  7. Pool Lounger*

    Just personal experience, but I have a large chest and haven’t worn a bra in years. I wear undershirts and cardigans/thicker tops to work. Occasionally my nipples may be visible, but no one’s ever said anything. I’m sure I’m boucier then people who wear bras, but again, no one is looking, or if they are they certainly won’t admit it! I’ve worked in several offices that are mostly women, and I wasn’t the only one to not wear a bra either. Maybe it’s getting more usual?

    1. Asenath*

      I don’t know if my lack of a bra is noticeable or not – I tell myself it isn’t, much, but I suspect it is. I always liked wearing loose clothing, but I have large breasts, and think they are noticeable. I started going without a bra in public when I was having radiation for breast cancer, and the radiation oncologist suggested it (along with creams etc). I was still working then (in an office), and no one said a word. I now wear bras when exercising (for comfort and support) and sometimes if I’m going somewhere slightly more formal or wearing something out in public that’s particularly light during hot weather. But I never wear one at home, and almost never when I’m going out and wearing loose and camouflaging clothing.

      1. Sally*

        Since the pandemic started, I try to not wear a bra if I can manage it. But when I go outside braless to walk the dog, I feel like I’m doing something that isn’t allowed, and I’d better hope no one notices I’m not wearing a bra. I hate that I have that internalized expectation.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, I think nipple covers and a tank top/camisole/undershirt go a long way to keeping things under wraps (pun totally intended).

      OP, I know you talked about your clothing weight and any kind of compression being a no go, but I have found for myself that there are a lot of very lightweight tanks and camis out now that stay close to the body without any compression. They help a lot with the wobble without adding significant weight. Hopefully you already have found something like this that works for you. Long story short, you should be OK. If you find your high beams are making you self conscious, go with the covers and/or a very thin undershirt. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this, it sounds tough.

  8. Koalafied*

    I’m not sure I would go the proactive route of seeking an accommodation to ward off silent judgment, because it’s unlikely they’re going to send out an office-wide memo explaining that LW has been given an official accommodation to go braless. The accommodation really only protects her from a manager trying to enforce the dress code or discipline her for violating it, but anyone who’s going to be judgy about it will probably, sadly, still be judgy even if there’s an accommodation in place, because they won’t know about the accommodation.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I had an accommodation that people thought was just me being sneaky. When we went back to the office as a full office, I stayed home because I developed health conditions during the pandemic that meant I was unable to commute. I absolutely got comments and questions about why I wasn’t in the office and responding to people that I had an approved EEOC accommodation shut them up.

      Doing the preemptive accommodation route gives you that power. It allows you to tell someone, this isn’t just some thing I’m making up because doing the “normal” or “expected” thing is inconvenient or undesirable to me. It’s something verified by a doctor and human resources to be a thing I deserve to have in order to do my job like everyone else. It gives you clear recourse if someone tries to cause problems for you and it allows you to remove the anxiety that comes with just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was a lot less stressed about my work situation when I had the piece of paper giving me explicit rights to work from home than I was when I was relying on the WFH policy that could be rescinded at any minute (and eventually was).

      Just my 2 cents. Whenever there is an accommodation available through proper channels, I strongly recommend considering it.

      1. Bexy Bexerson*

        As someone else who developed a health condition during the pandemic that prevented me from being able to commute, and had to pursue an ADA accommodation (with an incompetent and adversarial HR department)…I get it! Nobody has ever given me a hard time about not returning to the office (my boss is fantastically supportive and she had a huge role in getting HR to stop fucking around), but when people find out I’m never in the office and I tell them I have an approved medical accommodation, I sometimes worry that because of the “convenient” timing of the development of my condition, they think I’m full of shit and that I lied/cheated.

        I wouldn’t want to be in the office even if I was healthy (I love working from home), but I would much rather have my health and be stuck going to the office three days a week than be chronically ill and WFH every day.

        I’m not sure I think that LW should go straight to the accommodation route, but there could definitely be benefits to doing so.

      2. Koalafied*

        Agreed on all those points! I was responding specifically to this part of the advice: “The tricky thing, though, is that a lot the judging about bralessness being unprofessional is the kind of thing people might think without ever saying anything about. If that bothers you, you might choose to go the accommodation route more proactively.”

        I don’t think a proactive accommodation actually solves the problem of people thinking you’re unprofessional without saying anything about it, because if they’re not saying anything about it, the accommodation isn’t going to come up.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      If the OP has a good manager that supports her, this also gives the manager just that much more authority to cut off any complaints made about the OP to the manager…because that’s probably how the judgies are going to react. So then her manager can also say, “OP has an accommodation and we will not be asking her to change her clothes.”

      1. Koalafied*

        Right, the manager can say that to people who raise the issue. I was referring to the “silent judgment” that’s much more likely to be common. Those people aren’t going to find out she has an accommodation because they’re not going to say anything to her manager about it at all.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          And this is exactly how we get letters like the interns who petitioned to change the dress code. They saw one person not following the code and got mad about it, because they didn’t know that person had an ADA accommodation that allowed them to wear something different.

      2. RagingADHD*

        It’s my understanding that an employer is not supposed to disclose to coworkers that someone has a disability accommodation, though they can (and should) shut down questions.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Yes they can. They might not be allowed to say what the disability is by org policy since laws don’t cover this — HIPPA is not in play. They can communicate that there is an accommodation that allows a person to do something that other employees are not able to do — such as violate a dress code, arrive/leave early, sit on a chair while others are required to stand, wear headphones, take a nap at their desk, etc.

          1. RagingADHD*

            It’s not about HIPPA, it’s about the ADA. The EEOC states: “An employer may not disclose that an employee is receiving a reasonable accommodation because this usually amounts to a disclosure that the individual has a disability. “

  9. Butterfly Counter*

    Overall, I think that unless your job requires a LOT of movement where people’s eyes are on you (an aerobics instructor, for example), you should be able to get away with just the nipple covers. People shouldn’t be looking that closely.

    I know you’re not looking for advice, but I’ve heard a lot from people who hate bras but are still in conservative professions that camisoles are a potential middle ground? They’re light, not binding, and have the added “benefit” that they can look like the outline of a bra under a thin shirt. (Of course, disregard this if you have tried them and they didn’t work out for you.)

    1. Little My*

      I agree with your first point as a fat non-bra wearer with large breasts. I work in an office and I’m just not moving vigorously that often!

  10. LaFramboise*

    It seems to me that many women aged 30 or younger* are not wearing bras as a general rule, and won’t be, ever. My own kid (22) hates them and doesn’t wear one. I think this will be less and less of a non-issue going forward. LW, I’d go with the flow and not worry, if you possibly can, and take Allison’s advice.

    *That’s just anecdata; I know plenty of people over 30 who hate bras and won’t wear them.

    1. JustaTech*

      Honestly some days I feel like such a weirdo because I like to wear a bra and I like to wear shoes and it seems like either everyone else hates these things, or the people who hate bras/shoes/jeans are the ones who get heard.

      That said, I 100% support anyone and everyone who doesn’t want to wear a bra for any reason. It’s a support garment. If it’s not supporting you (for any meaning of “support”), then it’s not working and you shouldn’t wear it.

      1. allathian*

        My mom worked in a STEM field, and she’s never worn a bra for as long as I can remember. If she wore formal clothes for a conference, she’d wear a bralette, but I’ve never seen her with a bra, or with makeup. Maybe lipstick once or twice, but that’s it. When I was 11 and my breasts started showing, I was so embarrassed that I had to ask my aunt to take me bra(lette) shopping, because I hated the way they flopped around, not to mention that it hurt when they did. I didn’t think to ask my mom, because she never wore a bra. I guess my way of rebelling against my parents was to wear warpaint in high school. For a while I wouldn’t even take out the trash without spending 30 minutes in the bathroom putting my not-at-home face on! Then, when I went to college, my style was very butch (including a buzz haircut). I never came to terms with skirts or dresses after spending a year in a UK school where skirts were mandatory for girls, so now I won’t wear anything shorter than ankle length. I sometimes wish I’d had the guts to wear a tux to prom, but that wasn’t a thing in 1990, at least not in my area. I’m glad to say that things have changed for the better, my cousin who’s AFAB enby wore a tux to their prom 7 years ago. But at least I could wear a long ball gown. I also wear sneakers whenever I can get away with it, and flats when I can’t, and comfortable boots in the winter. But underwire bras are essential for my comfort, and I also like (stretchy) jeans.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, I mean, I’m team bra all the way as soon as I have to move even a little bit because without one, I’d just be in pain. Don’t think I’d ever even consider wearing one if I didn’t actually need it for support because in my mind, that’s, like, their sole purpose?

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I stopped wearing a bra after my reduction surgery in 2021. (O cup to A, 1.7kg removed per side!) My back and shoulders are MUCH healthier, I’m no longer developing a hunchback, and I can literally breathe easier!

      I was born in the early 80s.

  11. danmei kid*

    This is such an interesting issue because it’s so US focused sometimes. I have spent months on job rotation working in our EU office vs our US office and in the EU offices many people are obviously not wearing bras and no one cares. Body hair removal is another area of divergence. Many female presenting people in the EU office don’t shave their legs, for example. And this is a large Fortune 500 global company. I would like it if the US was more accepting of a broader range of office dress norms.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      It would also help everyone who is gender non-conforming. That means everyone from straight cis women like me who really don’t like shaving legs or my post-menopause moustache, to my transgender daughter who sometimes forgets to shave her face.

      1. Laika*

        Definitely! As a non-binary person with a fairly female-looking body, wearing clothes that make me comfortable AND jive with how I want my body to be seen is tricky. Since I don’t wear a bra or regularly shave or wear makeup, it can tip into being read as schlubby really quickly, and I need to be* pretty thoughtful about fabric, material weight, colour, etc to try to offset that.

        *depending on how much energy I have to spend thinking about clothes on any given day

        1. Cris*

          I love this thread :) I’m non binary, but usually male presenting. That said I love a well fit bra and would prefer to wear one more often, and in the summer skirts. But I also don’t have the time and energy to overthrow the patriarchy every day.

    2. WiscoKate*

      It would be so nice if we weren’t expected to modify our bodies for society! I have stopped shaving my legs unless I feel like it and have decided I just don’t care if anyone notices, but I am lucky enough to work in an environment where it doesn’t really matter.

    3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

      I gave up shaving my legs when I was pregnant 5 years ago. I’ve never once regretted it. It helps that I have fine, blonde leg hair that, while it is really long, doesn’t necessarily show unless one looks too closely.

      My partner is allergic/has a skin reaction from shaving so she quit shaving alltogether about 10 years ago. While we make jokes about her “armpit kittens,” once you are used to it it just isn’t a thing. And she wears tank tops and sports bras all summer – she’s not embarrassed, it’s natural.

  12. Poppy*

    It’s pretty ridiculous we have to worry about covering our nipples. My boss at a previous job wore light colored polos and you could clearly see his nipples through them, but no one was offended or asked him to wear stickers over them. The over-sexualization of women in the workplace needs to stop.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yup. If the OP is wearing tops on the thinner side, I would think a cotton camisole should be just fine. Similar to how men’s traditional business wear is a dress shirt and an undershirt.

    2. Corgis rock*

      Right? That’s the thing that really bothers me. We all have nipples but their acceptability is based on gender.

    3. Moo*

      I often think I could wear metal armor and my nips would make an appearance… we all have them and they’re fine!

    4. MHA*

      Yep. My nipples are so prominent that they can sometimes still be seen through a t-shirt bra– pasties ain’t going to cover them up, and weirdly, the shape of my nipples being visible through my bra and shirt has not impaired my ability to do my job in the slightest. We all have nipples! Let’s move on!

  13. 2cents*

    I’ve found reusable adhesive stick on bras (for lack of a better word) are helpful and prefer one to a bra. The type worn for strapless, backless dresses. They cover part of the breast and clasp in the middle so you don’t get the obvious separation and bounce is reduced.

    1. Dino*

      I’m not the LW but I also have a chronic pain condition and those sticky bras are torture for me. They pull the skin in a very unpleasant, painful way.

      The LW said that she’s tried many different options and bras still hurt. We should trust her word and that she knows herself best.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I personally don’t think the adhesive ones would work for me, because my skin and adhesives do not play well together. I can wear a band-aid for about a day, but then have to reposition or remove it, because otherwise my skin starts to get red, irritated, and itchy. So the thought of something adhesive over skin that delicate/sensitive is deeply unpleasant. If you don’t have that issue, though, I can see it working really well for a backless dress!

        1. Lime green Pacer*

          I know many people who react to adhesives, even when medically necessary. I think that might be one reason why Canadian Blood Services is now using wraps instead of adhesive bandages.

        2. bookworm*

          Solidarity about cranky skin! Mine also hates adhesive, which was really unfortunate when I had a mole biopsy and a follow up removal that meant months of wearing bandages. The itch from the irritated skin was far, far worse than any pain from the healing incision. This topic is also reminding me about the time I’ve tried to black out when I got eczema on my areolas that took months to resolve because my doctor didn’t believe you could get eczema there…

      2. Less Bread More Taxes*

        To your last paragraph, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with offering an uncommon suggestion, if not for the OP, then for others here with similar struggles.

        1. Dahlia*

          It is really, really annoying as a disabled person to say “This does not work for me, I have tried everything, it does not work” and then to have people come in and go, “I thought about this for five minutes and I have the solution!”

          1. Less Bread More Taxes*

            I know where you’re coming from, and I appreciate that, but not everyone feels that way. I do not suffer from this specific issue, but I do have a different chronic issue. Trust me, I’m also irritated when people suggest the same things over and over again. However, I don’t want them to stop because every once in a great while, someone suggests something I’ve never heard of that I end up finding useful.

      3. 2cents*

        I apologize, that wasn’t how I meant it. Until recently I didn’t know that there are adhesive bras that are reusable and wanted to pass on the info in case they didn’t know. LW mentioned that nipple covers are ok. I have no idea what they’ve tried or what would work for them, and would never think to tell them what to do.

  14. Be Gneiss*

    Is it really necessary to advise the LW on other types of bras or bra-alternatives that they should try? Can we just take LW at her word that when she says she’s tried them all and she knows what her body can handle that…..she’s tried them all and knows what her body can handle?

    1. Ann Ominous*

      Thanks for saying this. It can be so hard to hold your tongue when:

      1. you feel strongly about something

      2. Someone is in need

      2. there is an opportunity to give them advice


      1. Be Gneiss*

        But LW isn’t in need of advice on new bras to try. LW asked for advice on asking for a medical accommodation. They’re really different questions.
        It would be like asking if I should preemptively disclose my ADHD, and coming to the comments to find a bunch of suggestions that I try making lists or using a planner…wow. Never thought of that.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          It drives me nuts when I’ve done my best and everyone assumes I haven’t even googled the issue.

      2. NeedRain47*

        It’s kind of amazing how people still give advice even when they’ve been told specifically that the person is not looking for advice…. why can’t we stop ourselves.

          1. Susana*

            And I actually have found it really useful to hear the thoughts of people who comment here – even if they are somewhat tangential to the actual question.

    2. thelettermegan*

      a lot of those adhesive bras are a bit closer to nipple covers than bras though, and a lot of people with similar issues read the comments for more insights.

    3. Atalanta0jess*

      Seriously. I just knew she’d get all kinds of unsolicited advice. It’s such an insulting thing. “You could try a camisole!” Like, do we seriously think this person hasn’t ever heard of a cami?? Come on now.

    4. Purple Cat*

      Agreed, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume that people are advising the LW specifically, but are rather sharing their own experiences with what has worked for them and may be helpful to other readers.

    5. JSPA*

      If it were not that stick-on nip covers are OK, I don’t think people would be suggesting other stuff, though. The line between “almost entirely under the bustline stick on bra” and “nip cover” is hard to guess at.

      “chest” is used by some to mean, “above the bust,” by some to mean “bust” and by some to mean “entire ribcage area.” With that ambiguity, if one size of breast stick-on is OK, then…another one might also be?

      And it’s marketing whether you then call it a large nip cover or a small stick on bra.

  15. AnonEMoose*

    I think OP (and anyone else) should be able to do as they wish and/or find comfortable when it comes to lingerie choices, including the choice not to wear it. What puzzles me slightly is that I have a sizable chest, and I find it uncomfortable to not wear at least something like a bra. It doesn’t always have to be a full bra – during the pandemic, I discovered bralettes from Torrid. They kept me from bouncing uncomfortably, but didn’t feel binding or restricting. So that puzzles me a bit, but I fully recognize that I get to make the choice that works for me, and others get to make the choice that works for them. I doubt I’d notice if anyone else was braless, unless it was super obvious, and it’s not really my business even if I did notice.

    1. Generic Name*

      When someone tells me that wearing a bra for them causes pain (or is just plain uncomfy), it makes intuitive sense for me. I went to bralettes/sports bras during the pandemic, and I was dismayed to realize that my cyclic breast pain was markedly worse. I apparently need to wear full coverage underwire bras in order to NOT be in pain. :( I agree that the OP should do what feels best for her body. If it’s at all reassuring, even if OP feels like it’s obvious she is not wearing a bra, I don’t think it really is all that obvious. I mean, it may be possible to tell she isn’t wearing on when she is looking at herself in the mirror and focusing on her chest, but in a business setting, most people really aren’t focusing on other people’s chests. And if they are, they shouldn’t be! So if anyone notices and has the gall to say anything, they are admitting that they are scrutinizing the OP’s breasts, which is not okay.

      1. Lina*

        Thank you; I also went to sport bras or no bra during the pandemic, and my cyclic breast pain was worse. I hadn’t made the connection until your comment. I’m gonna try a real bra for a couple of months and see if that reduces it… UGH because I hate wearing a bra!

    2. CPegasus*

      it’s really different for everyone. I’m not small and my mom insisted that without full on underwire I’d be completely unsupported and it’d be awful, so I suffered through uncomfortable bras until I went to college and learned I can just wear thin sport bras for coverage/gentle containment. I also like having a layer of fabric in places to keep skin from touching but if I can get away without anything else I’m a happy camper. My mom is smaller than me and HAS to have the wire to be comfortable.

    3. JSPA*

      Little muscles that get toned, different ways of walking that reduce bounce…bras are recent enough, relative to human breasts, that there have always been ways. There’s always the cross-arm jog. ; )

    4. cncx*

      Same, I even sleep in a bra. If i go without i have horrible back pain so it is interesting to me when people have the opposite experience. All the memes about coming home and taking the bra off first thing just whoosh by me. Like you said, to each their own, and I wouldn’t care.

  16. KoiFeeder*

    Dang, my high school said it would be an undue hardship when I broke my ribs and wasn’t supposed to be wearing bras. Something about lowering the quality of education for the other students, I think.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      Are you freaking kidding me. I want to shake that person who said this to you, and I hope they step on a Lego.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Barefoot. At 4 am on their way to the bathroom. Or on their way to the room of a small child saying “I don’t feel good…” so that it delays them just long enough to have to clean up after the Exorcist-level vomiting episode that follows.

        I…may be just a bit vindictive about this sort of thing.

        1. Avery*

          Have the Lego be IN the results of the Exorcist-level vomiting episode, so covered by the vomit that it wasn’t visible until stepping on it?

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Perfect! The other thing it’s really not nice to step on, especially barefoot, is a 4-sided die. They’re basically triangular, and can be pointy. Sometimes, very pointy. So I like the option of a 4-sider, too.

            1. Nina*

              I have a set of filigreed stainless-steel dice that have deliberate spikes on all the corners. The d4 looks exactly like a caltrop. They’re beautiful and evil.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        You’d have to ninja legos under the feet of several members of my school administration and the person who handled IEP, then.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      Ugh! That makes me so angry for you…you were seeking a medical accommodation that is totally reasonable, and your school basically said “But a boy might notice and be distracted!” So blatantly misogynist to tell you that your physical comfort and ability to learn is less important than a boy’s inability to keep his eyes on his own work!

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. It’s just a couple of steps away from insisting women have to wear burkhas to stop tempting men. Arrrgh!

  17. Yvette*

    Until a bunch of interns submit a petition saying “if so and so can wear sneakers why can’t we”!

    1. Emz*

      Well, if the dress code is unnecessarily conservative and restrictive, *someone* should be noticing and pointing it out. That’s not a bad thing. If it takes “a bunch of interns” to name it, that says more about the workplace culture than the interns.

      1. ThatGirl*

        In the case of the previous letter being referenced, the interns were wildly out of step with the norms of their workplace and went about it all the wrong ways.

      2. Susana*

        There’s a difference between what LW is worried about – a sexist idea of whose bodies needs to be controlled and covered – and having a conservative dress code. Who decides what’s “unnecessarily” conservative or restrictive? Styles change; customs change. I work in DC and 3o years ago, I would never have gone to the Hill *not* in a suit, and would not have gone to the White House without stockings. Now, female members of Congress are more likely in dresses than suits (and wear pantsuits as well, once banned on the floor).
        But that doesn’t mean everyone should come to work in pajamas, or that the standard should be set by the most junior (ie, interns) members of the team.
        I got into a conversation about this once at a workplace, where a person was saying, why can’t we wears sweatpants/whatever to work? It doesn’t affect how we work. And I asked what she wore when she went out to a club with friends, or on a date. Turns out she gets all dressed up,. So the question is – what is just an antiquated custom, and what is a statement about how seriously you take the venue?
        And on the Hill, where some women complained that you could not wear sleeveless dresses in the Speakers Lobby (may not be the case anymore, men are, and always have been, required to wear coats and ties. No matter how hot it is outside.

        1. Yvette*

          It was a joke, they made a point of citing an individual as being in constant violation of the dress code (wearing sneakers instead of shoes) without bothering to find out that there was a reason.

        2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Many conservative dress codes confuse me. Like why can’t I wear sneakers to the office when most of my in person work is with kids anyway.

  18. MigraineMonth*

    Does anyone else really want to see a company try to explain to a judge that an employee’s nipples are causing undue hardship? I’ll bring to popcorn.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      Sounds like the perfect job for Hockey Canada’s Andrea Skinner. In front of a parliamentary committee, she recently claimed Hockey Canada did not need to make any changes, despite a years long policy of paying off victims of group sexual assaults by junior hockey players (aged 16 to 26).

  19. Nobby Nobbs*

    The only case I can think of where dress code would override a medical accommodation is if “dress code” actually means PPE, ie you couldn’t say, “I can’t wear long pants, it exacerbates my skin condition,” if your essential job duty is using a weedeater. I’m trying to think of a job where strapping the ol’ boobies down firmly is a necessary safety measure (acrobat, maybe?), but if you were in that theoretical job you’d already know it!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Maybe if you were working with power tools, like in construction or something? But in that case, I’d think a safety vest or coverall, which you’d probably be wearing anyway, would be sufficient.

      1. Not In Five Years*

        Incorrect. My wearing a bra is not what does, or does not, lead to appropriate clothing to be around minors. If I am covered and don’t have boobs popping out everywhere, that is more than sufficient given that men are not required to wear bras.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          Boobs are a secondary sex characteristic, and certain presentations of them can be viewed as harassment. Think of a well-endowed penis-owner who chooses to wear garments that show off every swing and bulge. It wouldn’t be appropriate to work with children with your penis out and about, and so I don’t think it’s appropriate to have any sex characteristic out and about on display around kids.

            1. snarkfox*

              Don’t forget that pesky Adam’s apple, which is also a secondary sex characteristic that develops at the same time women’s breasts do… but oh wait! Somehow that’s “not sexual” while breasts are!

          1. Ana Gram*

            Huh. I can’t even imagine a way to dress that would conceal whether I have breasts. What an odd take.

          2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

            If someone’s wearing a shirt over their breasts their breasts are not “out and about”.

          3. LGP*

            Nope. The equivalent of your penis example would be a woman wearing clothes that show off her vulva, not her breasts. “Female” breasts are not a sex organ any more than “male” breasts are.

          4. JSPA*

            Uh, there are a lot of secondary sex characteristics we don’t expect people to disguise, to work with kids. Adam’s apples. Thicker arm hair. Wide hips. Muscle mass. Low pitched voice. Knees that touch when your legs are straight. Changes in facial shape.

            Just because something is attractive to many (so’s nice hair?) and somewhat gender dimorphic, does not make it “sexual.” The equivalent of showing defined male bulge would be, I guess, camel toe (?).

            1. Keymaster*

              One would be interested to know how exactly babies are supposed to breastfeed if the sight of a boob is so verboten for kids! (Or not, I don’t have kids but I’ve seen enough of my female relatives bashed for public breastfeeding to know the viewpoints of ‘concerned citizens’ thanks)

            2. snarkfox*

              This thread has made me realize that the male equivalent to boobs is a lot closer to the Adam’s apple. It’s also a secondary sex characteristic that develops during puberty… so why is that “not sexual” when breasts somehow are?

          5. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I’ve been working with kids for twenty-five years, and this is very silly.

            When I’m looking for clothes to wear to work, I check to make sure there’s no gapping that allows people to see what’s inside my shirt and that’s about the extent of it. I wear a bra because I’m more comfortable with one, but if I was training a new employee who chose not to wear a bra I would not in any way consider that to be inappropriate or a dealbreaker, again, as long as the clothes they were wearing kept the necessary parts covered.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              The only way I can see a bra being necessary, or at least advisable, to work with children is if you are working with really little kids who may be breastfed and/or recently weaned, who may grab. Unexpected, surprisingly powerful nipple twists are very Not Fun. A bra can make it more difficult for them to get a grip.

          6. SJ (they/them)*

            the funny thing about this, besides how wrong it is, is that bras are designed to make the upper body shape MORE sexually appealing. So going braless would actually be the less sexualized option!!! (not that this argument holds any weight either way, it’s just…. lol forever.)

      2. Keymaster*

        This is…frankly a bit of a straw man argument. Going without a bra does not equate to going completely topless and breasts are not the same as what you’ve got in your underpants.

        If a child sees someone with a visible curve of boob age under their clothes then that’s not harmful at all!

    2. A.N. O’Nyme*

      My previous job basically had Brad be safety equipment – not that my employer cared, but getting your arm pinched between two cases of beer already hurts plenty – I’d rather that didn’t happen to a stray boob.

      1. JSPA*

        I have done the long-handled-chain cutter boob mash, and the inter-crate squeeze, and do not recommend either one. (That’s why I’m only 95% bra-free.)

      2. Anonymous percussionist*

        Let me tell you about playing cymbals at a pep-band event where I didn’t really have enough space to do a full crash… and I tried anyway. Ow. Wished for the marching band uniform instead of the pep band tee shirt that day!

    3. Nina*

      I feel like any job where male employees were required to wear a jock would be in this category but I can’t think of any others.

    4. JustaTech*

      Archery instructor? (You do NOT want to get snapped in the boob by a bowstring!)

      I know that strapping way down is expected in some styles of competitive horseback riding (dressage?) to the point that there is a market for “show corsets” which use plastic boning and zippers to keep one’s assets locked down tight. (Depending on the person riding a horse at a trot without good support can be very uncomfortable.)

      It wouldn’t be a safety requirement for any of the lab sciences I know.

  20. DJ Abbott*

    The only thing is there will be people who think you’re not wearing a bra as a way to flirt. I’m sure nipple covers will help with that, but you might need to fend off people who are trying to flirt back.
    Maybe be prepared for that? My only idea at the moment is to tell them it’s a medical thing, but maybe others have better ideas.

    1. Emz*

      Honestly, I think if someone commented on my nipples and suggested I was flirting with them, I’d report them for workplace harassment.

    2. Pool Lounger*

      Not wearing a bra is trying to flirt? With who? Every single person who sees you without a bra? I can guarantee, no one sees me braless, in my loose t-shirt and librarian cardigan, and thinks I’m flirting.

    3. DJ Abbott*

      Oh, it’s more subtle than that. All my life, I’ve heard people make comments about women who don’t wear bras and what that means.
      The types of people who do this aren’t going to say they’re making assumptions because you’re not wearing a bra. They’ll just start trying to flirt, or get a date, or make a pass, or whatever it is they do.
      Yes it is inappropriate, but that doesn’t stop them.
      I’ve been trying to shop at stores like Old Navy and H&M and the thing right now is that we wear tents. The so-called extra small sweaters and blouses are twice as wide as I am. Maybe these would be good for OP to wear not just while they’re trendy, bed all the time.

      1. Emma2*

        I imagine these are the same people who think a woman is trying to flirt or that it is a good idea to ask her out because she is wearing lipstick, she is wearing a dress, she is working out at the gym, they think she is attractive (ergo…), she smiled, she introduced herself in a meeting, she stood up, she sat down, she frequents the same coffee shop as them, she works in the coffee shop they frequent, she is female, etc, etc.
        I have a few thoughts about those people, but mostly I think that we should not suggest that women need to police their behaviour in order to accommodate such people.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          That’s not what I’m saying at all! I’m just saying that OP might want to be prepared to fend these people off, because they are out there.
          IME there is at least one jerk in every workplace, and they might be of this type.
          Or I could’ve refrained from mentioning this and possibly OP not being prepared for it, and then when going to HR gets her punished, as it often does, or makes an enemy of someone who is influential and creepy, or who knows what. We’ve discussed all these things on this site. Please don’t pretend they don’t happen or that OP should not be prepared for it. She can keep it in mind and that will inform her responses if anything like this happens.
          I’m really surprised that I have to explain and justify what I’m saying here. We have all seen people like this! We all know they’re out there. Every year it gets less easy to have a good discussion and more easy to get a pile-on on this site. :(

          1. JSPA*

            “Jerks who make assumptions about any dang thing exist” and “many people find breasts sexual” are things we already know, though.

            Post “me too” (meaning, “now that we can mostly expect decent HR to crack down on unwanted sexual overtures at work,”) this isn’t helpful, anymore than it would be to mention, if someone asked about sandals, that some egotists with bad boundaries have toe fetishes.

            Someone braless should not “expect” flirting in the workplace, any more than someone with detectable toe cleavage or red lipstick or (whatever it is that someone can CHOOSE to misinterpret as a signal) should.

      2. JSPA*

        30 years ago, I heard those remarks, endlessly.

        Especially from people about whom my mother would tartly remark, “they’re too old to do anything but talk about it, so they do nothing but talk about it.”

        I’m assuming a lot of them have died off by now?

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m honestly aghast at this. “fend off people who are trying to flirt back”? I guess I must have worked in pretty staid workplaces (white collar offices), but folks typically aren’t flirting back and forth at each other in the places I’ve worked. If a man is wearing boxers, as opposed to briefs, does that mean he’s open to flirt??

    5. Keymaster*

      In my experience merely having boobs and not being covered up to the neck at all times is seen by some people as ‘flirting’.

      (Very large chested woman – if I had a quid for every time someone said me wearing any kind of top = showing off the boobs I’d be on holiday right now, not repairing a downed server)

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I’m very close to flat, and I’ve had the same experience. Even when I am covered up to the neck, if they’re visible, it’s “flirting”.

  21. LovelyLibrarian*

    I feel you! With my autistic sensory needs, I struggle with bras. any pressure on my shoulders or neck is unbearable! You may have already tried this, but I have a trick my mom taught me. Boy short undies with the crotch cut. It makes a tube top like bra and gives just enough support and coverage that it’s not super obvious I’m not wearing a real bra, but it’s not tight, thick, or on my shoulders. I usually get mine from TJ Maxx or Marshals for cheap and it’s an alternative I can live with.
    Best of luck to you!!

  22. Ann Ominous*

    I also have a medical condition that makes bras painful. I stopped wearing them several years before the pandemic and it was a game changer to not have an unbearable headache at the end of each day.

    I am small enough that the jiggle isn’t a big factor. If I have to wear something white, I wear a thin layer underneath (I’m in the military and visible nipples just wouldn’t fly, but nipple covers just kind of deform me in a way that makes nipples more obvious rather than less).

    I think the jiggle is less of an issue that risks external commentary/judgment than nipple shape/color, so if you have that part covered (sorry bad pun), I would just not wear a bra and leave the burden on someone else to be the one to make an awkward creepy comment about too much jiggle.

    1. Generic Name*

      This all the way. I think it’s pretty simple to wear thicker tops/layers, as OP says she does, and if anyone comments on any “jiggling” then they are staring at your breasts and that moves the “complaint” into sexual harassment territory.

  23. Ace*

    I never wore a bra at home, only if I left the house (office, shops etc.) Then the pandemic hit and I just…never wore one. And I enjoyed it so much that I still don’t wear one unless I’m wearing a particular style of clothing – tank tops, etc.
    OP shouldn’t feel any awkwardness or guilt about going braless – I’m with you!!

    1. Laika*

      Here for the braless solidarity! I stopped wearing one during the pandemic too and can count on one hand the times I’ve worn a bra in the last year. I’ve firmly fallen in the “if they don’t like it they don’t have to look at it” camp, though I’m fortunate enough to work in an industry where workplace attire ranges wildly; I can get away with a lot with a strategically layered tank top.

  24. Quokka*

    Obviously not for the LW, but if anyone out here is struggling with wearing bras (and either wants or needs to wear them), I highly recommend the Boob or Bust website and using their calculator for bra size.
    This is where I learnt that each cup size = 1” difference between underbust and over bust (so a 4” difference would be a D cup) and that shoulder straps were meant to be loose! Seriously life changing.

  25. Really?*

    I too had a back problem (herniated disc) that was right where my bra crossed my upper back. I’m fairly busty – but I bought tight fitting men’s cotton undershirts and I wear looser tops – and that helps.

    I agree that this should not be a concern but people may silently hold it against you…. Good luck!

  26. Avery*

    I know the OP wasn’t seeking advice and this probably wouldn’t work for her condition anyway, but for some of y’all talking about pain caused by extra-large assets, it may be worth considering a breast reduction. Not so that you look more professional at work, because screw that noise, but just so that you don’t have to deal with that pain on a regular basis. It’s a major surgery, of course, and not to be taken lightly, but it is an option for those genuinely suffering because of their chests.

    1. ISP*

      A college friend had a breast reduction as a medical solution to horrible back pain. While in college so she must have been 19-20? Life changing. Even now – 32 years later – she is happy with her decision.

  27. Cherry*

    I recently discovered reusable stick-on silicone nipple covers, and OMG I have barely worn a bra at all in the past 3 months since that finding. (I am quite a small bust to be fair.) Yeah, there’s jiggle. Literally anyone who cares can get over it.

    1. mreasy*

      I have a pair of these and they are fantastic. I am sensitive to adhesives (get a rash whenever I put on a bandaid) and these don’t bother me at all!

  28. ISP*

    I am envious of all who can go braless, whether at home or at work. I have a very large chest – I cup in the US (equivalent of 9″ difference between underbust and over bust). It is so uncomfortable and painful not to wear a bra that I’d skip wearing underwear before the bra.
    If anyone is looking for comfortable bras for large breasts I recommend British bras. More comfortable than American brands, higher quality and long-lasting. JMHO.

  29. A.N. O’Nyme*

    LW, on average people complaining about bras are complaining about things that shouldn’t happen if you wear a properly fitted decent bra, which is where that advice to try a different kind comes from.

    This is not even close to a situation like that. This is more like someone who is sensitive to tight clothing, except with physical pain added to mental pain. Go braless without care – unless you’re doing jumping jacks in the office no one should be paying close enough attention to notice.

    As for nipple covers…I had a professor whose nipples always clearly showed through his shirt and once I noticed I couldn’t quite unsee it, but I dealt with it because…well honestly it has no effect on me aside from occasionally wondering if that chafes.

  30. Aphra*

    As someone with very large breasts following a menopause growth spurt (UK cup size KK) it’s not been feasible for me to do without a bra in public. As the daughter of a corsetiere, I’ve always been able to calculate my size and be correctly fitted, but the bras that give the support and shape needed are generally very ‘engineered’, with underwires and side boning. My first act on getting home was bra removal followed by deep groans of relief, something many people will recognise.

    Retirement and lockdowns meant bras became an occasional-wear item and I was envious of smaller-breasted friends who could take advantage of the new Sleep Bras which became a staple part of lockdown/WFH loungewear. A friend recommend I try one and after much prompting, I got one, fully expecting to return it as unsuitable for my needs. How wrong was I? It turned out to be the best money I’ve ever spent because it’s so comfortable. Other soft-cup bras don’t offer enough (or any) support, being basically a larger version of the smaller sizes without accounting for the additional weight large breasts bring. My new bra, from Bravissimo, is designed taking all that into account and although it doesn’t provide the same level of support as an underwired bra, it gives enough support for me to wear with casual clothes, giving a sports-bra-like rounded shape without the dreaded uniboob! It may not be pretty, but it does the job very well and, even better, can be thrown in the washing machine (without fabric softener) and dries very quickly. I’m lobbying Bravissimo for other colours to make it wearable under lighter clothing as it’s currently only available in black. While this may not be a solution for the OP, I’d recommend it to others to try if they struggle with structured bras.

    1. AnonForThis*

      They only have a couple of options in KK but also worth checking out royce lingerie, they specialise in wire free bras so could be good for a medium support option that ‘looks’ mostly like a traditional bra. (Source, I had a breast reduction and now wear exclusively wire free bras cos scars. But am now only DD so can’t definitely promise how well their larger cup sizes work!)

    2. Keymaster*

      I’ve often compared my bras to wearing the Clifton Suspension Bridge on my torso because that’s what they largely feel like ( UK 40H). I’ve got scars from them, no lie. And with the back injury I got 20 years ago it’s really unpleasant.

      I think my coworkers would be ok with no bra if I didn’t have the, ahem, ‘movement’ that would occur if I went without. I know, I could choose to not work in a really old-school environment that holds onto sexism tighter than my bra straps do to my shoulders..

      Ahh well. One day.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I am still breastfeeding so that’s an additional reason, but I will probably never go back to underwired bras now that I’ve spent two years in maternity/nursing bras. They’re supportive without wiring, and give me some shape without being uncomfortable. My maternity sleep bra is even more comfortable but it does render me rather shelf-like.

  31. toolittletoolate*

    My poor grandma used to have deep grooves cut into her shoulders from the bras she wore on her rather ample bosom. They were so tender she would cry taking her bra off. No way should a woman have to endure that just so a man won’t be uncomfortable. Do what works for you. I would not ask for an accommodation, however, unless it became necessary to keep from being targeted for not wearing one.

  32. Lisa*

    I think most of us are not really wanting to see our co-workers nipples, regardless of gender. Some jiggle is expected, but full on nipples would probably freak someone out. So as long as you are not wearing something sheer or extra thin, to where everyone can see the nips on full display, you should be fine… especially if you are going the extra miles with nipple guards. You could also experiment with camis or light tank tops for when you are wearing something that might be on the sheer side, but I know you said you don’t want to layer up and cause more discomfort, but maybe experiment with some different, lighter materials so you have something for those days when you are not confident that you don’t offend someone with out choice of top. As far as requesting a medical accommodation. Hopefully you would not need to go down that route. Most offices would not have any interest in whether or not an employee was wearing undergarments and would not say anything unless something was really obvious. Nipples are just not something we are used to seeing in the workplace. So even if you got an accommodation to go braless, you’d still need to ensure the nips are not fully showing since “having my nips out in the workplace” is probably not considered a reasonable accommodation. Hopefully one day the workplace won’t be so hung up on this sort of thing since not everyone feels comfortable wearing a bra (and we should be able to wear/or not wear whatever undergarments we want), but for now, I guess we just have to go braless in a more discreet manner.

  33. Esmeralda Fitzmonster*

    I am very large chested, and I do wear bralettes, but they are unlined and only provide very light support. If anyone ever had the gall to ask why I wasn’t wearing a bra, I would have to ask how they noticed? Are people looking at my chest AT WORK?? Certainly the solution is for my colleagues to stop looking at my chest AT WORK, and not for me to change my entirely appropriate clothing. Hopefully that would put an end to it.

    1. Workerbee*

      This. It sounds like it will take unimagined effort for some to NOT look, or at least not judge or get “freaked out”.

  34. Workerbee*

    Chiming in as a non-bra wearer for several years now before the pandemic. If you’re concerned about coverage, patterns can indeed be your friends – you just have to give at least a quick eye to where the pattern falls on _you_ versus on a marketing display, as it were – and those popover tops that are a camisole with a floaty layer on top can also be extremely helpful.

    I do have a question for the “this is reality, this will never change” folks. How DO you expect things to change if we don’t act? Would women be allowed to work outside the home, work while married, wear trousers, and all the etceteras enjoyed today*? We wouldn’t even be having this work-related conversation at all!

    *Not all women can choose this even today, I realize.

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