“I have secret boobs. I do—32Cs. It’s just I have such clavicle issues, I don’t like them on show.”
This was something Alexa Chung said in a 2011 interview with British Vogue that not only stuck with me throughout my twenties, but confirmed in some small way that how I was dressing at the time (hiding my own 34C boobs) was, in fact, considered chic.
For years, I have tried to compress my chest (usually with no-wire triangle bras that flatten rather than add lift), or hide my breasts in oversized oxford shirts, loose-fitting cashmere sweaters, and baggy white T-shirts tucked into mini skirts or jeans. They look great hanging off the flat-chested models that wear them; it just took me since puberty to realize they don’t look as great on me.
It wasn’t until meeting Karley Sciortino, who dresses her 32DDD boobs flawlessly by showing off their shape while simultaneously keeping them—for the most part—covered, that I began to understand that big boobs can be chic…even cool. “You need things which accentuate you, rather than just hang off your boobs like a tent, which makes you look like you have a fat stomach by accident,” Sciortino advised over the phone. A few months earlier, she had come up to me at a party, where I was self-consciously wearing a very tight top, and celebrated my tits like newly found treasure hoisted up from deep and murky waters. “I never knew you had boobs!” she exclaimed. “You look amazing!”
Dressing bigger breasts (and I fully get that mine are on the smaller scale of big) is hard, but dressing them fashionably can be near impossible if you don’t know what you’re doing. So I asked seven stylish women how they feel about having big tits in an industry that oftentimes makes clothes for flat silhouettes, how it affects their personal style, and most importantly, how they wear their boobs to full capacity.
Sarah Stephens, model, wears a 34D bra
It can be quite awkward working with clients that didn’t realize my cup size before they booked me. I’ve been on shoots where I’ve felt so uncomfortable, where the stylist and client look concerned and talk under their breath. A lot of the time no one says anything to me directly, but it’s not difficult to read body language on set. It’s frustrating when it’s my chest that’s the problem as there’s really nothing I can do about it except, of course, a breast reduction (which had been suggested to me a few times). My chest will always limit the fashion work I get, but it also sets me apart and makes me somewhat unique in the fashion world. Luckily, I’ve found clients and photographers that love and embrace my frame.
I have been turned down for high fashion jobs, and even for certain lingerie jobs my boobs can be considered too big. A lot of clients shoot B cups and usually my boobs look a little too much when you put me in one of those extreme padded push-up bras. You can’t please everybody though. I’m usually the girl shooting the sheer bras where you can’t get away using chicken fillets [laughs]. Agent Provocateur, for example.
It’s easy to design clothes that look good on a flat-chested model, but I want to see more designers designing with the female form in mind—that really emphasize yet flatter the female figure. After all, the average bra size in America is a 34DD. I want to see styles that cater for a bust, nip in the waist, and give that desirable hourglass shape while looking effortless, not tarty or matronly.
I tend to dress in vintage clothes because back then, they were tailored more for women and their curves. I need something that nips in my waist, not something that hangs straight from my boobs, otherwise I look like a block. I wish I could get away with wearing more clothes without a bra, especially in the summer months there are so many sexy backless dresses and side boob singlets. I’ve found some styles that I can get away with sans bra, I just can’t jaywalk as well as usual because there is strictly no running in said outfits [laughs].
There’s nothing sexier than a woman that’s comfortable in her own body and embraces what she’s given. Boobs are great, big or small. The fashion industry may sometimes complain about mine, but I like them (and I’ve had no complaints from men).
Karley Sciortino, founder of Slutever, wears a 32DDD bra
I think when you’re curvy or if you have any curves at all, you have to put more thought into what you wear. When you’re thin, things hang and you can get away with a lot more. But when you’re curvy, you really have to understand your body and what looks good in it. You can look more amazing in certain things, but you can also make yourself look really bad.
I think what’s exciting about now [is] fashion doesn’t really function as it did in the past, where there was a dominant silhouette. In the ‘50s, there was a pretty specific way and silhouette that women wore, a really specific style. The same goes for the ‘60s and ‘70s. My mom who grew up in the ‘70s says it is the one generation when the clothes just didn’t look good on girls with big tits. It was all about the drapey, not form-fitting, dress. But we’re at a point where you can wear what makes you look good. I’ve learned that I look better in bodycon or form-fitting clothes, and silhouettes from the ‘50s and ‘80s probably look the best. Things that accentuate you, rather than just hang off your boobs like a tent, which makes you look like you have a bloated stomach by accident. Likewise, girls who wear oversize sweaters, collared blouses, or men’s shirts wouldn’t look good in my amazing boat-necked Marilyn Monroe-type dresses. You can’t have everything.
I keyed in from a young age that if I don’t show off my thin waist, then I look fat, because I have big boobs and big hips. It’s easy to be susceptible to high fashion mandates (that you need to be thin to be attractive), but I think on the flip side, I’ve always admired a ‘50s pinup style of beauty. Not all beauty is the same, so don’t try and be something you’re not. If you don’t look like Twiggy, don’t try and dress like Twiggy. That’s something Iris Apfel has always said: “Know who you are.” You’re never going to look like the women on the runway. You have to understand your body and dress for it. The people who have the best style understand what they look like. It’s about self awareness. For example, girls with boobs that wear a tube top can look slutty, but girls without boobs can wear the same outfit and look totally chic. Done well, you can look incredibly amazing and sexy with your boobs, you just have to understand your own body. You have to wear the right bra, which is it’s own crazy nightmare because you have to spend three hours in Bloomingdale’s trying them on and then your bra costs $74 because you have to get a specialty one to give you the right support.
For years, I’d buy stuff from H&M, but a friend once told me that super thin girls can get away with cheap clothes much better than curvy girls. I was like, “That’s not fair!” [laughs]. I think there’s been a turning point, especially with Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé, where stretch fabrics and designers like [Azzedine] Alaïa and Herve Leger are really making clothes for curvy women and thinking about a more full shape. And I’ll also get stuff tailored. I’ll buy things online that’s one size too big and get it taken in at the waist. Sure, it’s annoying, but in my opinion, I like having boobs—they make me feel feminine. I’d rather have boobs and get my clothes tailored than not have boobs.
I’ve definitely had huge body insecurities, though. But the right outfit can make me feel amazing—just like the wrong outfit can make me feel like a slob. I definitely look at girls with a high-fashion androgynous style and I think that would be really cool if I could rock a white T-shirt and boyfriend jeans. But that same person wouldn’t be able to wear a red cocktail dress and look great. It’s really easy to say the grass is greener, but you just need to think about looking the best for your body and constantly think about who you are. It’s great to have style icons and to try and replicate or be inspired by someone’s style, but think about whether or not that person has the same body shape as you. Don’t try and dress like Angelina Jolie if you have a giant ass [laughs]. We all make these mistakes an infinity amount of times when we’re growing up and it’s normal—that’s the point. Then you’re like, “Oh right,” and you start thinking about your shape. You can show off your form and your curves without spilling out. When done well, you can look incredibly sexy and amazing and inspiring in an envious way, the kind of sexy that girls without boobs can’t achieve.
Claire Sulmers, fashion writer and style blogger, wears a 34G bra
I have no choice but to wholeheartedly embrace my God-given shape! I had a stylist friend tell me once upon a time to get a breast reduction, but I flat-out refused. And let’s be honest: guys love ‘em.
Because I’m a fashion blogger, I do switch it up, and wear turtlenecks in the winter time. But generally speaking, I try to stick to V or scoop-neck styles to minimize my chest size and highlight my décolletage. I always have to wear a bra, so backless dresses are generally out of the question. And though strapless bras do exist for women with my bra size, it’s generally not a good idea for me to wear anything strapless. Sometimes I wish I could go without a bra, or explore cuter swimsuit styles, but my boobs are not having it! I also wish I could wear a crisp button-down and have it give off the same effect of someone with smaller breasts. But I’ve had large breasts since I started puberty, so I’m at peace with it.
I think the fashion industry should produce larger sizes in general. But I’ve learned to adapt. I put snaps in button-down shirts so they don’t pucker, or add fabric. One time, I purchased a leather dress in a size 10 (my waist is a 10, my bust is a size 12), and the dress wouldn’t zip at all. So I purchased leather from Mood, and took it to my tailor to add fabric to the top so that it would fit. I will go the distance for my clothes so they can accommodate my girls.
I definitely feel sexy with big boobs —I don’t seek validation from the fashion industry; I’m already an outlier! I’ll never forget, one time I was walking to a fashion show I walked past a group of street style photographers and they all put their cameras down, almost in unison. And then I passed by a construction site, and all the guys were hollering! The truth is, in the real world, shapely women are highly desirable, even though the fashion industry promotes the stick-thin.
Tamara Abraham, Fashion Editor at The Telegraph, wears a 30F bra
It’s so frustrating to not be able to wear slinky camisoles, slim-fit button-downs, or any garment that has a seam below the bust. I’d love to wear backless dresses, long pendants, or bib necklaces that dress up the décolletage, but they rarely sit well on my chest, and even seemingly conservative U- and V-necks expose way more cleavage than is office-appropriate.
Swimwear is a real problem, too. I actually just returned the gorgeous Norma Kamali Bill Mio swimsuit—otherwise a curvy girl’s dream—because the low bustline squished my chest into the most bizarre shape, and the halterneck can’t be used to hoist them up because it doesn’t have a tie. Traditionally, stylists will tell curvy women to wear a V-neck because it draws the eye down and helps lengthen the overall silhouette, but I love a high-neck sweater with a statement necklace, while an oversized silk button-down with skinny jeans or leather leggings is a staple office look because I love the androgynous style and the contrasting proportions remind people I have a figure.
But even if a garment is a good fit, large boobs can make a woman look frumpy in certain fabrics, prints, or colors. I tend to buy everything in a size large, even though I am by no means a large person, so that I don’t get that awful stretch across the chest. Instead, I tuck in my tops or belt dresses to indicate that I actually do have a waist under all that fabric. You’re fighting a losing battle if you don’t wear a decent bra, though. They can be better than Spanx at making you look slimmer, and can even improve your posture. I’ve spent a fortune at Rigby & Peller on designs by Empreinte, Fantasie, and Panache. No, they aren’t the coolest lingerie brands out there, but they really work wonders.
Though there are many amazing people working to fight against it, the fashion industry is largely still dismissive of boobs—and curves in general. There are real women, and there are fashion women. Even editors are expected to boast model proportions when they get snapped by bloggers on the streets of New York at Fashion Week—and those model proportions don’t include boobs. I think some credit should go to Kim Kardashian and her stylist [ex-]husband Kanye West for proving that one can be a fashion trailblazer with bombshell curves. I’d love to see Kim-alikes on a major catwalk. Do designers really think women with boobs don’t want designer fashion and don’t have major buying power? Whoever successfully taps into this market is onto something.
Felicia Walker Benson, publisher and editor of This That Beauty, wears a 30E bra
When I was younger, [having big boobs] really bothered me. Wanting to fit in (literally and figuratively) is such a big part of growing up. But learning to accept your body is a process, and it involves developing a strong sense of personal style. In evolving from a young girl to a woman, I’ve learned to accommodate my, ahem, ample bosom in ways that flatter…not just “fit in.”
I tend to err slightly conservative when it comes to dressing: I rarely put the girls on full display. Sometimes, they just sort of end up on display, and when that happens, I just go with the flow. I’m way more confident than I used to be, so a little accidental cleavage spill doesn’t bother me at all. I’d love to wear one of those delicate little bralettes without having a uni-boob. But, honestly, accepting your body means honoring and accepting everything it can and can’t do. If I go to my grave having never sported a bralette, I think I’ll be okay. These bad boys nursed my daughter for six straight months, so I’ll just hang onto that little fact and focus on all the things my boobs can do versus what they can’t do.
Sydney Reising, owner of Sydney Reising Creative, wears a 34EE or 32F bra
I refer to my boobs as my secret boobs, because I pretty much hide them all the time. I never used to hide my boobs until I moved to New York and got into the fashion industry. I always used to wear a proper bra, with proper support. Now I wear bras to compress or hide them—if I wear a bra at all. When I was younger, I was confident about my boobs, so I dressed very classic and preppy—I didn’t really care what my boobs did. Now I’m very much aware of what I’m wearing. I’m always trying to minimize my chest.
As of late, though, I’ve been trying to figure out how to embrace them and dress for them, but it’s hard. It’s really difficult to dress in fashionable clothing because your boobs physically don’t fit into the stuff. I want to wear Reformation dresses, but I can only wear one out of 10 styles because they’re not made for big boobs. They do have a big boob collection, where they have one or two dresses per season that take big boobs into consideration, but I can’t wear the ones I want to. I would love to be able to wear a white T-shirt and jeans. But if I do, I have a huge boob situation. If I want to do an oversized T-shirt look, I have to find a size XXL; otherwise, it’s going to be really fitted where my boobs are and loose everywhere else.
Sure, boys like my boobs. They are always extremely happy when they realize how big my boobs are after I take my shirt off [laughs]. I do feel sexy with my boobs. But it’s a weird contrast—I would never go to a fashion event with my boobs in any sort of visible ensemble. I’ve worn tight-fitting but covered-up things in the past, and it just garners too much attention. At one event, I wore a proper bra, a black turtleneck sweater, and a tight skirt. The entire time, everyone was all, “Whoa! Your boobs!” It becomes the only thing that anyone comments on. Also, they knock stuff over [laughs]. I remember I knocked over a glass of water that night. They’re just not very convenient. The thing is, nothing that is made for big boobs is remotely cute. Everything is heinous. I’d love to have a lingerie line and an oxford shirt line for girls with big boobs. Like a Brooks Brothers-type shirt collection made for girls with boobs, instead of having to get shirts tailored all the time. Also, I hope stylists start using more models with big tits. It’s refreshing and makes me feel more comfortable embracing mine. If everyone’s cool with big boobs, then I should be cool with mine.
Brittney Escovedo, special event producer for brands, wears a 32DD bra
My boobs make it difficult to find pieces that are flattering. I try to hide them most of the time because I don’t want them to be a distraction. However, when I do embrace them, I love a cropped top with a tight high-waisted skirt. Most important thing is a good bra!
I would love to wear a tank top or a backless dress without a bra. But unless the garment is supported with boning, I’m not able to forgo a bra. Breasts can make you look top-heavy very easily, even if you have a small frame. It’s important to highlight your waist so there isn’t an optical illusion that your stomach is as as big as your breasts are.
Though I feel very sexy with my breasts (I don’t desire smaller breasts at all), I’m always figuring out what is most flattering for my body type, which I think all women can relate to. It would be wonderful if there were more dresses that were tailored to women with big breasts, because any predetermined cup size is likely too small, and many of the seams are not placed at flattering points, meaning your breasts take up more space than a flatter-chested woman.
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