My breasts and I have, dare we say, a complicated relationship. For so many years of my pre-teen and teenage years, my boobs were nonexistent. I was 5’1, with crooked teeth, no hips, and no boobs until the middle of 10th grade. Out of nowhere, they spurted into C-cups overnight (literally — I went to bed with no boobs and woke up with big ones). My mom always joked that I just skipped right over the training bra stage. In fact, I broke then boning in my sweet 16 dress just two months after wearing it because my breasts had doubled in size.
Now this might sounds all well and good, but it was actually a massive point of contention for me. All of my other friends had dainty little nubs that looked cute in tanktops, and they would trade sports bras in the gym locker room. I, on the other hand, was having serious chest and back pain in the corner. There was one day around my junior year when I came out of the locker room in the same dress I had worn every summer since the seventh grade. A group of boys turned around and straight up ogled at me as I walked up the stairs to my next class. Dude, one of them said. Look at Julia’s tits.
They were a constant source of embarrassment from that point on. They would bulge out of dresses — nip slips were common — and made it impossible for me to wear anything but an oversized version of my high school’s uniform. I went through a ‘revealing stage’ (if we’ll call it that) towards the end of my senior year where I would exclusively wear polos that were a size too small so they revealed a sliver of my stomach. I wore black bras under white tee shirts because I was ~edgy.~ The year was 2013, and I didn’t yet know how to be proud of my body without getting sent to the dean’s office for a uniform violation.
Now, my boobs rest at a double-D. For years, I wore a size 32 band because some woman in Victoria’s Secret told me to. Turns out, I’m actually a size 30DD, which means I have to get my bras custom made or from a very specific range of shops. Until recently, I was spending upwards of $70 on regular t-shirt bras. Until sites like AdoreMe made it cool to be size inclusive when it came to smaller band sizes, my boobs sat in ill-fitting cups. “Sat” is a kind word. “Spilled out” is more appropriate.
With the rise of a ’90s-inspired aesthetic came a love of barely-there boobs. Boobs no longer intruded on your outfit. My friends — the same ones who swapped bras in high school — now went braless on hot summer evenings in an array of slip dresses, camisoles, and airy white tees. #FreeTheNipple was trending, but it didn’t seem to include me. In my face, freeing the nipple meant freeing the entire boob as well. Going out sans-bra was painful at best and humiliating at worst. There’s a video of me from a little over a year ago when I thought it would be so #cute and #careless of me to wear my mom’s old turtleneck tee shirt without a bra under it for a night out of dancing with my friends. The result was a mess of shaking cleavage and very, very unflattering candid shots. I never did it again.
But then something changed. Designers like Brock Collection began coming out with dresses that had corset-like details and sweetheart necklines. Romantic blouses with billowing sleeves and structured bodices rained supreme. And, finally, my boobs looked good in something. The pieces were trendy, sure, but they were also supportive. I didn’t feel like I had to hide in one of my boyfriend’s t-shirts anymore. I could wear pieces that were en vogue and still feel like I was holding myself together.
If you’re anything like me, I’ve rounded up the best tops for women with bigger breasts. They have thicker straps that a bra can easily hide under. They have cleavage-enhancing details that won’t make you look pornographic. And, most importantly, they’re really, really cute. Get shopping, and thank me later.