Chloe's Struggle: Bra Shopping as a Trans Girl

By: Orion Li

Not all first time bra buyers are thirteen. Some, like Chloe K., are 20. Right now, you may be thinking to yourself ‘Is Chloe just a late bloomer?’ In a sense, yes! You see, Chloe is transgender. Recently, she was kind enough to take some time from her studies at King’s College to speak with us at Apricotton about her experience buying her first bra and her thoughts on bra shopping as a transgender girl.

Why did you decide it was time to buy a bra? Was the idea of bra shopping daunting?

“I wanted to get a bra because my main goal was basically just to pass and blend in. Figuring out your style after you transition is pretty confusing in general, so I wanted to start with the basics. I’ll be honest, I think I picked the worst time to start my transition because it was in the middle of my final exams! Thankfully, my best friend went with me to the store the first time I bought haircare and skincare stuff. She went with me around the store and showed me the ropes a bit, and I definitely felt more confident shopping for my new wardrobe after that. My first shopping trip to build my new winter wardrobe was to Tilly’s, which is pretty LGBT friendly!”

What features were you looking for in your first bra?

“My main thing was that I wanted to get a sports bra because it’ll stretch as I transition, because the hormones I’m taking will cause my body to change. There’s no point in getting a form-fitting bra with an underwire if I’m just going to outgrow it in three months. I definitely had to factor in my hormone replacement therapy when I went bra shopping. It was actually my mental health counsellor that first recommended I go with a sports bra! She also suggested that I figure out my style starting with the basics, which I agreed with because I didn’t want to go overboard and present [myself as] overly feminine. Going with more basic, versatile pieces also gives you more room to experiment with your new personal style.”

What is hormone replacement therapy? How did it affect your bra shopping experience?

“Hormone replacement therapy for me is basically a three-stage process to transition from masculine to feminine. I first take antiandrogen, then estrogen, then progesterone which is optional. Progesterone basically changes the physical appearance of your breasts, such as the shape, but it has a few side effects which is why it’s optional and some people consider it controversial. For me, I might take it depending on my experience with my current medications from the doctor. Although the hormones you take can influence how your breasts change during your transition, it also depends on your genetics and is also sort of random. Like I said before, I knew that hormone replacement therapy would make things change so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on my first bras. My best friend and I decided that I’ll get a different sized bra around the three-month mark after taking hormones because that’s when the size change will be more significant.”

What was your bra shopping experience like?

“On the bus to Walmart, I was sort of paranoid because there were so many different options and it was sort of overwhelming. Also, I wasn’t able to try it on because of COVID-19. Luckily I found the last bra set in my size at Walmart for a super reasonable price. My experience in the store itself was strangely chill - no one gave me a second glance and I just looked through the bras on my own. I was really glad that I got it right the first time because I didn’t want to have to return the bra and experiment with different sizes. I would rather get it right the first time, similar to the legal stuff like changing my name and personal records.”

Do you feel that a bra helped you overcome any body dysphoria you experienced?

“After I bought my bra, I definitely noticed that I felt different when I wasn’t wearing a bra, like on laundry days. I just felt like I didn’t want to go out and do anything, or that there was some support missing. At first I couldn’t really figure out what the feeling was, just that it was a new feeling. This was how I figured out that I was experiencing more sensation-based body dysphoria where I was feeling uncomfortable because I couldn’t feel the support and compression of the bra. I know some trans people experience more visual-based body dysphoria, which is when the discomfort comes from how you see your body instead of how you feel in your body.”

Did you have people to support you during this time of your life? How did this affect your transition, as well as finding clothes and undergarments that spoke more to you?

“My best friend was the one who took me to the mall to figure out my style and how to dress to pass. I also had support from my mental health counsellor who helped me figure out my whole gender identity crisis. I’m also on several online LGBT groups on Discord, Facebook and Reddit. There’s a lot of advice on those groups, and a lot of it is first-hand advice which is even more helpful. One of the groups is the Trans London Facebook group - if you go there you can actually get specific recommendations on things like LGBT-friendly clothing stores around London, Ontario.”

Are there any challenges related to bra shopping that you would say transgender girls in particular experience?

“I would say trying to find a store that is LGBT inclusive. I’ve heard stories in the US about people being forced out of stores because of transphobic store owners, so safety when shopping is definitely a big factor. As well, finding your personal style as you transition can be hard. I got some advice from my counsellor about this and I shared a lot of that with my transgender friends.”

What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ representation in the bra industry?

“THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE! For masculine to feminine, there aren’t really any bras that accommodate wider rib cages that masc to fem people are going to have. So there needs to be more bra options with small cup sizes and wide bands.”

What advice would you give to anyone looking to buy their first bra?

“Go with a more forgiving style like a sports bra or a bralette. I haven’t tried a bralette yet but I’ve heard that they’re super comfortable. For trans girls, this makes it a lot easier when your bra size changes later in your transition because it saves you time and money when you don’t have to buy a new bra frequently. Another piece of advice is to measure yourself properly with a soft measuring tape so you can size yourself better and not have to deal with complicated returns. I had to borrow a measuring tape from my neighbour! Getting bra shopping advice from people’s personal experience really helps, like when I talked to my best friend and the online groups. Finally, for trans girls: find somewhere to go bra shopping where you feel safe and welcomed.”

Chloe’s socials:

If you’ve also found yourself struggling to find a comfortable bra that you won’t outgrow rapidly, Apricotton’s Perfect Bra, Perfect Sports Bra, and Perfect Bralette is the solution. Our bras are super adjustable and are designed to stretch as your body changes. They have removable padding, an elastic waistband, hideable straps, and moisture wicking soft fabric so the bras grow as you grow. We want to make all girls feel confident in their bodies by providing a comfortable and exciting first bra shopping experience. You can find us at apricotton.ca or on Instagram.