Things that are absolutely, definitely normal about women’s bodies

Trigger warning: much of the language used in this post refers largely to cisgender women’s bodies. While I completely support and am an ally to the transgender and non-binary members of my community, I can only speak from my experiences as a cisgender woman. 

We all know how the media and societal beauty standards impact on how we see ourselves, and the way we choose to present ourselves to others. It impacts what we buy, what we wear, and can really get right into our brains until we start to truly believe we aren’t good enough as we are without buying into all the diet crap, cosmetics, clothes, fitness regimes etc etc. I had the idea to write this post after a conversation I had with a friend about this sort of thing. We were talking about things we thought weren’t normal about bodies, and how much it can control you. She said she always thought until very recently that nipple hair wasn’t supposed to be a thing on women’s bodies, and she always felt very self conscious about it. So, first on the list of things that are absolutely, definitely normal about women’s bodies is nipple hair!

In fact, hair in general is normal. We are mammals, after all. Yeah, some people have more than others, and women especially are taught to believe that we should get rid of all our body hair so we can appear visually appealing to men (and not at all like a baby alien). Whatever you choose to do with it is completely up to you, as long as you’re happy. But just remember, it’s there for a reason and if you decide to let it grow wild and free, that’s totally okay. Body hair that is normal includes:
1) Armpit hair
2) Leg hair
3) Butt hair – on the outside and in the crack
4) Stomach hair – women can have happy trails too
5) Chest hair – not just limited to nipples!
6)Arm hair – this is something I used to be embarrassed about because I have such dark hair, which is more noticeable on my arms and hands
7) Hand hair – we all have it, lil hairy hands and knuckles
8) Pubic hair – gotta stop censoring this and acting like it’s disgusting and wrong
9) Foot hair – which extends to yer toes too!
10) Back hair
11) Facial hair – something which is very embarrassing for a lot of women, cuz god forbid you don’t look “feminine” enough. I have this one chin hair that always seems to appear over night. It’s jet black and grows to like an inch long. I don’t know who it thinks it is or where it comes from, but it’s normal too.


We are not symmetrical. Our faces and bodies are naturally asymmetrical, because that’s just how it is. I have a slight underbite and crooked teeth despite having had braces. I also have wonky eyes if you really pay attention, but it doesn’t affect my life in any way.

 

Fat, and all the different ways it sits on our bodies, is also totally normal. Belly rolls, back rolls, cellulite. They are ALL FINE. Try to remember that lots of tiny, insignificant things that are seen as flaws, are photoshopped out of ads and other photos. Even the models in all the ads we’re bombarded with daily don’t look like models. I’ve seen them on the catwalk, and they do actually have cellulite and jiggly bits. And they’re made to feel just as bad about it as we are.

 

Stretch marks are meant to happen, whether or not we’ve been pregnant. They are a sign that our body went through something, and adapted to accommodate the changes. The opposite of stretch marks is not smooth skin, it’s ripped skin. Your body is protecting you all the time. Stretch marks are frickin fascinating and beautiful, and EVERYONE has them.

stretchymarks

 

Boobs come in so many shapes and sizes, just like people, and yet we’re still led to believe that one very specific boob type is the “perfect” type. It’s extremely rare that they’re actually round and perky, no matter the age or weight or circumstances of the person they belong to. Believe me, as a bra fitter I’ve seen all the types of boobs you could imagine. They are as unique as finger prints, and all are good and normal. On the subject of boobs, may I remind you that nipples are also completely normal. There’s nothing sexual about any part of a boob, whether or not we’re forced to hide or censor the nipple in photos and in life. Nipples again are just as varied in size, colour, shape and placement. Yours are fine the way they are.

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My boobs are long and low and my nips are at the bottom – which is totally fine!
The last thing I want to mention real quick is the dReAdeD vulva. Learn your anatomy, cuz the vagina is on the inside and you can’t see it from looking at a woman in her underpants unless something has gone very, very wrong. Some women have what has been termed a FUPA, or fat upper pubic area. Ya know the way Cosmo magazine has solutions to all your gross, fat body problems. They even have ways to reduce the size of your FUPA. JESUS CHRIST. Please don’t think this is okay. Please don’t feel like the size of your vulva somehow dictates your worth as a person. PLEASE DON’T READ THESE MAGAZINES. The size of you FUPA and the length of your labia are both perfectly normal, and if you’re worried about what someone you’re dating might think when they see it, chances are all they’re thinking is how excited they are to see it. There is nothing wrong with it. Please leave it alone.


There are so many other things about your body that are normal. Freckles, moles, scars, birthmarks. Try to see the beauty in your individuality and reject the narrow beauty standards we’re expected to live up to.

 

 

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Bra Fitting Part Two: The Truth is Out There (now…thanks to me)

I wanted to do a quick follow up to my first bra fitting post, as there are a few things I should have mentioned. And splitting it in to two blog posts makes me feel like I’m being super productive! Do you like the title? I wanted the whimsy you’d expect of a 90s sci-fi/fantasy TV show nerd, with a side of loveable bigheadedness. I recently saw an Instagram bio which stated “humble with a hint of Yoncé”, and I think that’s how I’m going to live my life from now on.

MOVING ON. One of the main important points I missed in my previous posts is that boobs are uneven. ALL BOOBS ARE UNEVEN. They are asymmetrical, just like most things about our bodies. It is TOTALLY normal. As a bra fitter, it is one of the many things you repeat twenty million times on the daily. Some women seem to think it’s a huge deal, and that their lives are ruined and they’ll never find a bra that works for them (I’m not making fun of these women, society (and poorly trained ‘fitters’) has induced this state of panic in them). All ya gots ta do is figure out which boob is bigger and fit to that side. Yeah, if it’s quite a sizeable difference, you may notice it, but it’s just another one of those bra compromises you have to make. Of course, if you’d rather have a lil double boob on one side so the smaller boob isn’t swimming in a cup slightly too big, you do your thang, boo. Some bras will disguise the difference quite well, and some will emphasise it. I’ve found that heavily moulded/padded bras make it more noticeable as the stiffness of the cups won’t mould to your shape. The stretch lace styles from Panache however, seem to work well as the stretchiness moves with you instead of catching like a normal non-stretchy bra cup.

While we’re on the subject of uneven boobs, I want to share a horrible story about a young woman I fitted WAY BACK in the early days of my fitting career. I’d got over the nerves of my first couple of weeks fitting when I wanted to be really technically perfect every single time, and was still getting my head around the fact that not every fit will be perfect or life-changing. I was realising my passion and wanted to give 100000% to every single woman I fitted (WHICH IS HOW IT SHOULD BE). But I was still sort of in this mindset that as a fitter, I should also be a “fixer”, and felt like it was up to me personally to be a body coach, life coach, motivator, therapist, best friend etc to all my customers, and it was exhausting, but also meant I usually spent way longer than I needed to which meant other customers had to wait. I wish I could just be a freelance lingerie consultant (this is honestly something I’m thinking about seriously and in the very SMALL BABY SEEDLING stages of STARTING to THINK about PLANNING) so I could give each customer as long as they want of my time (within reason). BUT ANYWAY OKAY. This gal came in and she was in tears because she’d just been “fitted” in Ann Summer’s. Normally, I would not name and shame places cuz nothing bad has really happened to me personally (except all those times I was fitted incorrectly in my formative, tender, teenage years and had to suffer the judge-y eyes doing a quick up-down over my body, BUT WHATEVS) (SO MANY TANGENTS), but this just really took me to the fair (hey, Fiona xo). This young woman, who was also the exact same age as me so I think that’s partly why I got so involved, was devastated because the assistant at  Ann Summer’s told her they “couldn’t fit her” because of her uneven boobs and that the only way to “fix it” would be to GET PLASTIC SURGERY. It’s been over two years since this happened and it still makes me shake with anger to this day. I took her into the fitting room and she immediately whipped off her top AND bra and pointed at her chest crying and saying “look at them, they’re awful”. And I was like, sweet baby girl there is nothing wrong with you. To be honest, I was expecting her to have a noticeable difference, because some women do have a difference of a couple of cup sizes so it can make fitting a little but more difficult, but this girl was practically perfectly symmetrical. I couldn’t understand how the person who fitted her at Ann Summer’s could have said something so disgustingly, dangerously unprofessional. Even if she did have a big difference between her boobs, HOW VERY DARE YOU??? It is so not the place of someone like that to comment, it’s not anybody’s business to point something like that out and then to suggest something as drastic as plastic surgery. Especially when somebody has gone to you because they trust that you’re going to be able to give them the right advice. They’ve chosen to take their top off and be very vulnerable in front of you, a stranger, and all you can say is “can’t help, soz, get plastic surgery”?? I never have and never will shop at Ann Summer’s because of this (and other reasons like they don’t do my size and it’s just not my jam), and also because when I got home from work still in a rage, I phoned their customer services to complain and the person I spoke to said “oh no, I’ll put it on file” but basically said they couldn’t do anything because I wasn’t the customer, but that she’d certainly make a note of it. NAH, RETRAIN YOUR STAFF TO FIT PROPERLY AND HAVE A LITTLE EMPATHY. Long story short, I fitted the woman perfectly with the first bra I put on her (I still remember exactly what it was, size, colour, everything), but she had such bad body image and probably dysmorphia that she just couldn’t see that there was nothing wrong with her and had decided that she was already going to get plastic surgery. Which is fine, I don’t judge anyone who wants to do that. But there are so many factors which contributed to this beautiful young woman reaching this point, mainly society and it’s massively fucked up beauty standards. I still think about her a lot and hope she’s okay and that she’s found some sort of peace with herself. Man, just DON’T TALK ABOUT PEOPLE’S BODIES.

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Niamh says NO to bodyshaming (wearing Andorra from Panahce, an example of one of the stretch lace styles mentioned below!) So smooth, so balanced.
SECONDLY. And sort of related and I can’t believe I skipped this one out too -BOOB SHAPE. Finding the correct size is sometimes the easiest part for the fitter. Just because you figure out the correct size though doesn’t always mean you’ve immediately found the perfect bra. The shape of your boobs plays a big part in what style of bras will work for you. For example, I’m shallow on top due to my “drastic” weight loss (I say drastic because it was quite a lot, I guess, and it happened relatively quickly). This means that I no longer have a fullness on top which is generally expected of boobs (again, those dratted beauty standards). This is why I love Cleo bras so much. The shape of their wires does something magical to me and lifts everything in just the right way so it looks like I have full, round boobers again. I therefore tend to find it hard to stray from these styles, as I never like the shape just as much. I do own some Freya and Bravissimo styles, because they’re pretty and I’m a fool with money, but I never wear them as often as I don’t love the shape. The wires are wider so they give a more east-west look which just doesn’t do it for me, and because the lift isn’t as good, I just sort of “sit” in the cups and don’t have the same round shape on top. It’s just personal preference, yo. There’s no reason for me not to wear other styles if they’re comfortable. I just prefer certain shapes over others. Figuring out your boob shape can be more awkward, but I’ve found through trying on loads of different brands and styles, it becomes more obvious after really analysing the shape they give me and how my breast tissue sits in the cups and is lifted and such.

 

Thirdly, I think it’s important to briefly point out that the way you put on your bra can help significantly with making sure all dat boob is in the right place, but also with prolonging the life of your bras. I am fully aware that for some people, there is no way to change the way you put on your bras. Issues such as arthritis, frozen shoulders, and mobility problems associated with different disabilities mean that it makes it more difficult to put your bra on a certain way. But, if you are able, do try and put it on front ways. Put your arms through the straps and lift them up to your shoulders, lean forwards as far as you can holding the bottom of the cups so your boobs fall into them, stand up and hook up the clasps, then make any other adjustments you need to. Yeah, it looks weird and it may be awkward if you’re not used to reaching back to do up the clasps, but this is the best way to protect the elastic and wires in your bras. Clasping a bra at the front and swivelling it around can actually twist and distort the wires. I may make a really awkward video of me doing it if you really, really need to see it. How else am I going to get famous?

 

Finally, and very quickly, please please please pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease handwash your bras and airdry them away from direct heat aka NO RADIATORS OR TUMBLE DRYERS. Hot hot heat is a bra’s worst enemy, as it can wear out the elastic and distort the wires. Do you ever have a brand new bra which gets destroyed after the first wash and dry? Yeah, it’s cuz you shoved it in the washing machine EVEN THOUGH THE LABEL EXPLICITLY SAYS HAND WASH ONLY. Those labels aren’t there just for the craic. It’s very easy to handwash bras too. Just use whichever detergent you would normally use, swish it around in some water, give a lil extra love and scrubbing to the bits that might get more gross aka armpit area, and either hang it up on the washing line or dry it flat on a towel. Mmmmmmkay?

 

You know you love me,

XOXO Bra Girl

 

 

A Love Letter

Dear Minnie,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love your polka dots and bright colours. I love the feel of your fabric. I love the way you never change, even when your colour does.

I love the shape you give me, and the compliments you bring. I love how you brought back my confidence and brightened up my boob future.

I will love you til the end of time.

Yours forever,

Niamh

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Just remembering life before Minnie 😦

Minnie (by Cleo) was the first bra I ever put on that made me think HEY HOLY WOW MY BOOBS ARE GREAT. It was during my first proper fitting since my big weight loss, and I was truly about to lose all hope. Here I was, excited about my new figure and all the new clothes I could wear, but I had never thought about how much losing weight could really mess with your body. Obviously I knew boobs come in all sorts of sizes, but I’d never really thought about the different shapes. I suppose back in the dark days of ill fitting bras, I wasn’t actually that aware of my boobs and what shape they were and what would work for them, because nobody ever told me. When I was heavier I had very “full on top” boobs, but losing the weight took allllllll the shape away from the top, leaving me with “shallow” or “fuller on bottom” boobs. I did not know this was a thing. And I did not know it could make finding the perfect bra even more difficult.

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Thinkin’ about life since Minnie

And then Minnie came long. I don’t know what it is or how she does it (I suspect it’s the wire placement common of Panache/Cleo styles) but she lifted me way back up and gave me that rounded shape I never knew I would miss. I’m pretty sure I nearly cried. Actually I’m pretty sure I cry almost every time I look at a Minnie but that’s probably a normal reaction…

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Anyway, I have four now. Five if you include the second navy/yellow version I bought because I love it so much I wanted a back up for when the current one gives out. And six if you include the spare sky blue one I had in a cup size bigger when I put on weight briefly whilst finishing uni last year. She’s been there for me through it all!

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