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In Praise of the House Bra

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Taking off my bra when I get home is great, but it’s just so I can change into my house bra.

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Bras in a drawer Photo: Shutterstock

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When I got older and started hearing the common refrain “I can’t wait to go home and take my bra off,” I have to admit to being puzzled. What did one do braless? Wasn’t it uncomfortable? And then I realized that all the women excited to take their bras off had something in common: They had much smaller breasts than mine.

I used to pray for my boobs to come in. When I was in middle school and my training bra would ride up to my collarbone because there was nothing to train, I would lay in bed at night and pray for a good chest. Not too small, because I didn’t want to be part of the “itty bitty titty committee,” as the boys at school so cruelly labeled some of my classmates. But I never thought what would happen if my breasts came in... large.

Spoiler alert: They did. When I was in high school, my gym teacher pulled me aside and asked me why I was running with my arms pinned solidly to my chest. I just stared at him. No sports bra available to me pre-internet-commerce could tame those suckers. Even now, I have a bra size that most stores have never heard of, much less carry.

And thus was born the house bra.

Let me explain. There are bras meant to take boobs like mine out into the world, that keep everything locked and loaded and under control in a way that makes me feel the most confident and prepared. They are usually nude or black, because it’s tough to find a very large cup size in anything other than nude/black/white and I don’t wear white bras. (Though I am Casper-the-Friendly-Ghost colored, white bras show too brightly beneath clothes and are a titch too holy mother virginal saint for my taste). The bra in question is never the most comfortable, even when properly fitted and measured, because, well, it’s a bra.

Then there’s the house bra. This is my faithful companion. This is the bra that I change into when I take off my outside world bra. This is the bra I wear to do chores, or work from home, or watch Netflix. It’s not meant to impress anyone. It’s just there to do its humble job and then wait all day for me to get home again.

For years, these bras were a rotating collection of XXL sports bras from Target. They were soft and stretchy and didn’t offer much bounce control, but they were comfortable and just supportive enough without being painful or restrictive.

But hark! A new trend appeared on the horizon. The bralette. Usually sassy with some kind of detail clearly meant to be seen, the bralette was first sported on exclusively small-chested women. There weren’t really options for larger chests or plus-sizes. That changed over the course of a couple of years as the trend trickled down into the plus-size market. (It usually takes at least a year for a straight-sized fashion trend to make it to the plus world.) Torrid, Old Navy, and other plus retailers started offering cute, lacy bralettes. I rejoiced. Here was a house bra that would be pretty and fun, but still a house bra! The best of both worlds.

I ordered many, tried on all, and none did the trick like those stretchy old sports bras. Even in plus-sizes, they weren’t meant to contain a rack like mine. There was spillage, slippage, and poppage. It was the opposite of ideal. Resigned, I returned to my old friends, but I wasn’t satisfied anymore.

And then I stumbled upon the holy grail of house bras. It’s $11. It comes in myriad colors. It’s manufactured by good ol’ fashioned Hanes. It’s available in a size 1x through 6x. It’s made of a stretchy, seamless-esque microfiber material. And best of all, it’s got a scoop back and looks completely normal under a real shirt. It is comfort, democratized.

Let me be clear: The house bra is not meant to lift and separate. It’s not glamorous. It’s not supposed to strap you in or push you up. It’s like a gentle mentor, there to guide you but let you make your own way. And most of all, it’s comfortable. When I have to go into the real world and it requires a real bra, I long for the moment when I can come home, take off my bra, and slip into my house bra.

It allows me to live my best life at home, unencumbered by both unruly, floppy boobs and restrictive layers of industrial boob jail. It’s the garment version of the moment a woman in a yogurt commercial takes a bite and closes her eyes in pure bliss. It is not meant to be the star of the show, to please anyone but me, or to do anything but be a comfortable, lovable workhorse.