You’re not the only one having an anti-bra moment. As many dress customs disappeared during the pandemic lockdowns, the braless movement, which has resurfaced regularly since the 1960s, began to regain momentum (partly spearheaded by Florence Pugh).
However, when it comes to the “to wear a bra or not to wear a bra” question, especially now that we’re back in the office and summer is winding down, there are really three types of questions: the literal, the physical, and the socio-cultural.
First things first: There are literally no rules, i.e., laws, that regulate women’s underwear. Instead, the laws focus on body parts and what can and cannot be shown. Indiana, for example, prohibits public indecency and later defines it in part as “displaying the female breast with no part of the nipple completely covered opaquely.”
However, several states, including New York, Utah, and Oklahoma, as well as many other cities (including Madison), allow women to go topless in public. Which also means no bra.
Dress code for work
According to Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute, things get a little trickier when it comes to workplace dress codes.
He said New York City was the first jurisdiction to insist on “complete gender neutrality,” meaning an employer “can require a person who identifies as a woman to wear a bra or hide their nipples, but only if the same rule applies “to a male employee”.
But the situation is better today than it was in 2010, when investment bank UBS issued a 44-page dress code that required its employees to wear bare underwear, among other things.
When it comes to federal law, Scafidi said, “it only requires that the dress code provide for gender parity in terms of burdens like costs.” Whether guns pose an additional financial burden has yet to be determined.
After all, going bra-free isn’t just about making more changes to underwear. It’s about gender norms, the reality (and historical fear) of the female body, power struggles and sexual stereotypes.
Dealing with liberated breasts, whether the nipples are visible or not, means dealing with deep-seated prejudices about all of this, and that annoys and distracts a lot of people.
Especially at this particular time, when control over women’s bodies and their reproductive purpose has once again become a hot political issue.