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Why the future of fashion is bra-free

It's the answer to so many of the world's problems (and maybe a bunch of yours, too).

I’ve never considered myself a fashionista. But I was raised to understand that the world is a stage and your clothes are your costume. They are an important part of your performance, and they project an identity, a role, and the level of dignity, respect, or disdain you wish to convey (or attract).

If, like me, you began employment in full-time professional office jobs in the early 90’s or before, you have spent a lot of mental energy (and let’s face it, a lot of your earnings) navigating the narrow path of the acceptable corporate uniform: skirt suits, pant suits, or skirts/pant separates with blazers, and always, heels. It was important to present a certain look to be taken seriously. For a long time.

Now, because of the pandemic, the gradual shift towards more casual office attire that had begun with startup culture in the early 2000’s has leapfrogged its own evolution. Business casual has reached a whole. nother. level.

The range of acceptable professional attire has expanded exponentially thanks to remote worklife. There’s been a sea change in how we think about and dress for work. And it’s not only because people see just your top half on Zoom calls, rendering your choice of bottoms almost irrelevant (excepting Will Reeve’s prime-time no-pants look).

It’s also because office attire as a separate wardrobe category is losing closet equity. To any woman coming of age and starting her first job in today's #WFH culture, the thought of wearing a separate and dedicated array of skirts and heels every day because that’s how you dress for the office would just never occur to her. It's as foreign a concept as pay phones and mix tapes.

Those of us who used to dress up for work every day may now find ourselves begrudging the precious hanger space devoted to suits, pencil skirts, and under-blazer tops. We find we don’t actually need those clothes since we’re not in an office fishbowl all day. And they are grossly impractical for life-multitasking from morning ‘til bedtime every day, going from computer to kitchen to cleaning to yoga mat/floor and back to the computer again. We need clothes that work harder for us and are easier to care for.

The Value of Our Time

I once thought about adding up all the time I spent thinking about office attire: coordinating, planning, scheduling what to wear. Then I decided to add up the time I spent coordinating just the bras for my work outfits.

Whatever top I planned to wear dictated the type of bra I needed (seamed cup, smooth cup). Whether and how the top fit over my full bust was a factor (were there buttons? was a minimizer needed?). And finally, would the shape and silhouette of the bra work under the jacket or blazer? If it was a ‘high and tight’ kind of bra that worked well under a cashmere sweater, it was probably a no-go for the standard-cut suit blazer (wouldn't button, boobs too big). Maybe try a silky shell? No, too many lumps from a seamed bra. Perhaps a camisole under the shell? Too tight, boobs won't fit, start over. White blouse? If its big enough for the boobs then there’s an empty barrel of stiff white fabric around the middle which will have to be stuffed into a waistband, eliminating any hope of a defined waist.

I would try on and experiment with at least 3 or 4 bras and the same number of tops to get a combo that worked.

So this. Every day. Week after week. For months. For years. By my calculation, I had already lost a full year of my life before I even turned 40 to the process of figuring out a bra for work each day. And that’s not counting cleaning* them!

* About which, a word: for any full-busted woman who knows that you’re supposed to wash those full-support underwire or molded-cup bras by hand, in the sink, in super special gentle detergent (Woolite, right? No NOT Woolite! Ah!) with a series of timed soaks and gentle swishes and a soft towel-press to dry. On behalf of all of us, may I just say: Unnnngghh.

It’s supposed to take ten minutes. In reality it takes a full day. Because life is not like an Instagram reel. First of all, you need a clean and dedicated sink that is not currently in use. (That’s challenge number one.) The sink should be large enough to hold giant bras without bending or folding. (Challenge number two.) Then you need to actually have the right detergent. And if you have a small sink and large bras, you can only do a couple at a time.

You need a fluffy absorbent towel large enough to lay the giant bras flat in. (I own maybe two that qualify. Guess what the odds are that either will be clean, dry, and ready when I do the bra wash?). Then, where do you lay out the towel for the sopping dripping bras? The bathroom sink counter isn’t big enough, so the floor, maybe? (That should probably be clean too.) Then, when all is in readiness, you may begin. Each wash will be a series of 3-5 minute soaks, a highly inconvenient amount of time when multi-tasking. Then you have to drain, wait for the suds, rinse the suds, rinse again, fill the sink, soak again. And so on. It’s an all-day affair.

And so I always put it off – we all do, social media is full of memes about this — while the helpful people of Instagram continue to educate and encourage us to properly care for our bras.

And ultimately, why is all that careful bra care so important? It's so that the bras don’t wear out even faster. Because if we properly care for them, we get one year of good bra life out of them, after which we are advised to replace them. One year, tops, best case scenario. (It’s moot of course, because none of us do that.)

Is this really the best we can do for women? We’re all so busy and under so many demands and pressures, how is this acceptable? Personally, I want that year of my life back. And I want clothes I can wash in the machine.

I remember watching a British show once where they put a modern family into a house from the 1800’s and had them live like people lived in 19th century Britain. This included long dresses and petticoats for the women, and doing laundry by hand with boiling water.

The producers interviewed each family member to record their joys and struggles. During one of these interviews, the mother of the household declared in a broad accent with a devil-may-care attitude, “I’m not wearin’ any drawers!”

Why? With the petticoats and long skirts, she figured, who would know? It just didn’t seem worth doing the extra laundry.

Wants and Needs

The pandemic made us stop and think about what kind of clothes we really need. After a certain point, how many clothes do we really want? For a few creatively expressive women, too much is never enough. For the rest of us, we’re just trying to get by without looking too frumpy, and would love to simplify our lives. We want to look good, and show a little bit of personal style, sure. But beyond that, we’re busy, and it’d be nice if the whole process was easier.

It being the year 2021, there's no doubt the fashion industry could do better by us. So in the spirit of being the change I want to see in the world, I am on a mission to create clothes that work harder for us.

We’ve come a long way since the undergarments of the 1800’s, but when it comes to bras, we really haven’t. And while I'm not proposing doing away with our drawers, I *am* proposing that we should be able to eliminate bras. Unless you’re a nursing mom or have a medical condition, there’s not a hygienic reason you need them. And with new technical clothing designs that support and shape, like Embrago’s, the functional part is taken care of. Your forma natura creates your signature silhouette, and your accessories create the mood and costume for any occasion. Eliminating the bra eliminates so much cost, not the least of which is your mental energy and precious time.

What could you do with an extra year of your life, if you didn't have to spend it fiddling with bras?

As feminine society is realizing that we don't have the time or the need to deal with high maintenance clothing any more, we are also wising up to the tricks of fast fashion and its toxic effects on the environment and on our mental health. Our growing awareness of and sensitivity to issues of sustainability, ethical sourcing and manufacturing, and body positivity commands more attention as we try to be more conscious consumers. We are learning that buying cheaply-made clothes perpetuates a panoply of social, economic, and societal evils that range from toxic water runoff to child labor and the exploitation of women. It's time we had better options.

Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion

What it all boils down to is this:

  1. Wherever and however we are working and living, women want to hold on to the comfort and practicality of pandemic casual – clothes that transition easily from remote work to housework, exercise, errands, socializing, lounging and resting. From activity to activity, and from day to night.

  2. Our collective conscience wants to opt out of the fast-fashion hamster wheel and feel better about our purchases. We know we can impact the world and we want that option.

So where are those better choices? They're coming. The future is here, and Embrago is leading the way by eliminating the bra, offering easy, machine washable, versatile styles that work across all ages, lifestyles, and occasions. We're using ethically-sourced organic cotton, and our clothes are made by women in the United States who are paid fairly and work in safe conditions, who take pride in their work and make quality clothes that last for years (a lot longer than a one-year bra).

Embrago's bra-free designs are eminently practical, stylistically versatile, machine-washable and forgiving enough to expand/contract with those 10-20 extra pounds that come and go, keeping you comfy and looking great. Wearing Embrago also makes your life easier and makes getting dressed easier. You’re helping stop some of the fashion industry's most toxic problems, contributing to the solution: rebuilding industry, supporting U.S. microfactories, bringing back skills and careers to the US that were lost to offshoring. Your purchase is a statement for fair work, ethically-sourced materials, less waste, lasting quality, conscious consumption. Bonus: if you consider the bra itself or the bra industry a form of oppression of women, you are also forging the path to freedom from constrictive bras and mores.

Future Fashion

Futurists love to point out how many technologies and gadgets we now enjoy that were first imagined in sci-fi movies and tv (things like space travel, cell phones, levitating vehicles).

Take a moment and think about women's clothing from that perspective. Have you ever noticed that women in sci-fi movies always wear one-piece figure-hugging supportive outfits? From Star Trek to Marvel Universe, they all wear them. It's de rigeur for the futuristic female. Captain Marvel doesn’t have to plan out what bra to wear under her work suit. The thought would never occur. She doesn't need one because the support is built in to her super-sophisticated, versatile bra-free clothing. She has important work to do and her clothes don’t hold her back.

Isn't it time that the fashion industry steps up their game and starts offering women some of the efficiency and convenience that modern materials and technical design can now offer?

Well I think it is. And I bet Captain Marvel would agree.


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