Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: Marketing makes boobs of us all

Anti-bra claims stand no chance against the power of the lingerie-makers

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Jean-Denis Rouillon, for this week letting the world's women know that the thousands of dollars we have spent keeping our breasts encased, suspended, and unmoving for most of our adult lives is a complete waste of money.

The ingenuous French researcher, who is no doubt about to be offed by a multinational lingerie manufacturer, set the world of boobs alight with his comment that bras do nothing for the female form, contrary to popular belief. A bra, he reckons, can prevent the tissue supporting breasts from growing, leading to, rather than preventing, their inevitable southward descent.

I guess he had to say something startling after spending 15 years closely studying the breasts of more than 300 women (imagine that research proposal) but still: this travesty?

I calculate that like anyone my age, I have spent thousands of dollars in almost 30 years of buying bras and am further than ever from being asked to guest feature on page three of Truth.

I would probably be tolerated in Readers Wives, and possibly be warmly welcomed by National Geographic.

I conclude, therefore, he must be right. But his remarks run counter to an orthodoxy that is as old as Marilyn Monroe in her heyday, who declared she wore a bra to bed to keep her baps at full perk.

Since the 1950s and 60s, when women needed only two or three bras that made their breasts look like missile launchers, an enormous lingerie industry has sprouted forth.

From your "trainer" bra, to the push-up bra you wear all through your 20s (until you get sick of the "chicken fillets" disappearing in the wash and the underwire digging a trench in your chest), to the maternity bra, which could double as a hammock for small household pets, to the lacy numbers you buy when you're trying to reignite your love life after multiple children, to the sports bras and beyond, all your chest needs are - literally and metaphorically - covered.

Rouillon says we could eliminate back pain and create a perkier bust by ditching bras.

We'd certainly save a lot of money. But having covered and trussed-up that area of the female form since puberty, would the average woman be comfortable going sans brassiere? And how would the average man cope with so much barely concealed bappage on offer?

We're not likely to find out, because the mere idea of freeing our breasts from their oppression would cause panic among the world's bra and knicker makers.

They've done many underhand things over the years to keep women hooked on more, and more fancy, bras. The soulless Victoria's Secret lingerie shows are one example. Another more mundane ploy is to fool the average woman into thinking she is incredibly well endowed, leading her to buy more expensive bras. I have had roughly the same breast size all my life, for example, but where I once bought a stock-standard "C", I now have to buy a size that I once thought was reserved for the likes of Samantha Fox and Katie Price. It's pretty cynical; everyday capitalism at its best, in other words.

So Rouillon can tantalise us all with his vision of boobs at liberty, but put him up against multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns featuring the world's top models and their amazing mammaries in defensive mode and I don't think he'll make much headway.

Maybe his next research project could be on the futility of Brazilian waxes.

- NZ Herald

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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