Thank you, Gillian Anderson, for releasing us from the scourge of bras

·4-min read

Gillian Anderson has, as the saying goes, broken the internet but remarkably she has done it with her breasts.

Yesterday she hosted an Instagram Live and one of the questions she answered from her fans was about her go-to outfit during lockdown. Her reply, which has triggered a massively positive response across social media platforms, was much less about what she was wearing and much more about what she wasn’t.

“I can’t wear a bra anymore, I can’t, no, I can’t. I’m sorry. I don’t care if my breasts reach my belly button, I’m not wearing a bra anymore. It’s just too f**king uncomfortable.”

As a lockdown mammary gland liberator myself, I applaud her.

The fascinating thing has been the reaction. Across the platforms, plaudits for Anderson’s statement have come as thick and fast as the hook and eye fastening of a sports bra back strap. Our nation’s nipples it seems, could be free at last.

A friend of mine was notorious for having a rule, if we wanted to meet up for a beer we had to let her know before she got home from work because as soon as she shut the door and put down her bag, she was taking off her bra and not putting it on again. Not for anything.

Her rule is one I can recognise, irrespective of cup size. The unparalleled relief of removing an item of clothing so important but so restrictive that Anderson’s comments have been a clarion call to bra wearers of the world over.

Rather like a pee taken after a long and bumpy journey with no breaks, there is an audible sigh as you unhook and fling.

What this will all mean to the bra industry remains to be seen. But in 1934 Clark Gable appeared in It happened one night. In a scene with Claudette Colbert, the male star took off his shirt, which by today’s standards seems tame but at the time was considered hugely erotic. Gable wasn’t wearing the staple garment for all men mindful of not “getting a chill on their kidneys” – a vest.

The shirtless star according to legend (rather than measurable fact) prompted an undergarment meltdown with men everywhere deciding that if it was good enough for Gable to go vestless then it was good enough for them. Sales of the garment supposedly plummeted by 74 per cent.

It’s unlikely that Anderson expressing a personal preference will have an impact on an industry built ironically, both for comfort and speed. But it does highlight our love-hate relationship with an item of clothing that is supposedly good for us, without necessarily being good to us.

No doubt bra experts will tell us we’re wearing the wrong fit or style, or cup size and they’d be right. But given that Anderson like me is in her fifties, that messaging isn’t getting through. I’m a happy bra rejector too.

It’s interesting that gravity has entered the debate too. We really can’t avoid this natural force unless, of course, you have chemical scaffolding by way of implants that ensure that your breasts remain ‘pert and alert’, regardless of bra, bikini top, lying down or a gale-force wind.

Sagging breasts are of course just another way for society to instruct women to hate themselves for our stubborn refusal not to be 25 forever.

This is a part of a spectrum of failure that includes wrinkles, grey hair, and TV representation. This week we learnt that 64 year old Sue Barker wilfully decided that ‘not being Paddy McGuiness’ was a wise career decision for an experienced, capable and well-loved woman, wanting to continue presenting “A Question of Sport”.

Fortunately, the BBC have rectified this decision and announced that the best host of a quiz show about sport isn’t the former tennis star and sports broadcaster who made her debut as a presenter in 1990; but rather 47-year-old perennial, prankster, McGuiness, who made his TV debut in 1995 as a contestant in the show God’s Gift. The title was a riff on the phrase “God’s gift to women”.

The show, which IMDB informs me, was a cross between Blind Date and 24 cans of lager, McGuiness competed in various tasks against other contestants to demonstrate his sex appeal to women. We all have to start somewhere in the entertainment industry – it’s the divergence between where male and female presenters end up as they age, that concerns me.

But back to bras – in my experience, the vast majority of bra wearers are experts by experience.

If we actually were where we should be in the design of underwear, then there wouldn’t be so many women joyfully agreeing with and endorsing Anderson’s jokey statement choosing instead to embrace comfort.

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