Bras off: Lockdown triggers rise in French women going braless

A growing number of French women are ditching their bras in the name of comfort and liberty, according to a recent survey, a trend that seems to have been triggered by the three-month Covid-19 lockdown in which many women got used to going without the undergarment.

A recent survey has found that a growing number of French women are choosing not to wear bras.
A recent survey has found that a growing number of French women are choosing not to wear bras. © AFP, FRANCE 24

Like a growing number of French women, 22-year-old student Léa Ramsamy is giving up her bras.

“This is the last bra I have left,” she says as she fishes the bra out of a drawer. “I haven't worn it for at least three months, I think. Two or three months anyway, and I didn't wear it all summer.”

She is part of what has been dubbed the “No Bra” movement: a booming trend in women ditching their bras across France.

And like many others it was the Covid-19 lockdown that prompted her decision to banish her brassiere. Barely leaving the house, she became used to not bothering with putting one on.

"I went to a friend's house for lockdown and when I packed my suitcase, in fact it's simple, I must have had three bras, that's all, that I was alternating, I only took one and I hardly ever put it on. I only went out and bought groceries and stuff like that, so I just didn't wear it.”

According to a recent Ifop survey, while just three percent of women said they never or rarely wore a bra before the Covid-19 crisis, this rose to eight percent during the lockdown and stayed at seven percent afterwards.

The trend is even more pronounced among women under 25, 18 percent of whom say they now regularly don’t wear a bra in public.

"So what we measured at the end of the lockdown is that this very particular period of isolation at home had indeed been the occasion of a real boom in the practice of No Bra, among all French women,” Jean-Philippe Dubrulle, Ifop director of studies, told AFP.

“The number of women who gave up the bra during the lockdown multiplied by three and even more among young women, those under 25, which multiplied by four or five."

Comfort was the number one reason given for giving up the bra, according to the poll, but many also saw it as an expression of liberty and feminism.

And among under 25s, 32 percent said their decision to go braless was motivated in part by “the desire to fight against the sexualisation of the female breast”.

However, fear of men’s reactions also appears to be keeping more women from joining the No Bra movement.

Among the main reasons given for continuing to wear a bra were the fear of verbal or physical harassment in the street and the fear of being stared at by men.

"There is really a generational divide in this practice," said Dubrulle. "Among women who don't practise it, the main obstacle is the fear of being the object of remarks. The fear of being called to order, quite simply. And it's not surprising that it's young women who practice No Bra the most because they're the ones who are most at odds with this manifestation of patriarchy, the culture of rape and all these injunctions that weigh on women's bodies."

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