It was a swell of pipe-organ sounds, Byzantine walls, and pew after pew of emotional aunts waving sheer-sleeved arms. As I walked down the aisle, clutching my father to one side and hoisting a giant peony bouquet on the other, I could think of only one thing: my cleavage.
My double-D breasts were the reason I was unfit to wear spaghetti straps to prom (but did anyway, and failed miserably); they were the reason I never made nationals as a competitive swimmer, the least aerodynamically shaped person on the team. They were the reason that on my wedding day — the occasion when you’re supposed to feel your most beautiful — I felt slightly absurd.
I could blame society for my female insecurity. Or, of course, I could blame my mother. She had permanent shoulder dents from her 36DD minimizers; she likened her figure to a new category of fruit shape: “apple on a stick.” She never talked to me about sex, but she taught me the virtues of industrial-strength, triclasp bras and the dangers of button-down blouses. My mother passed away six years before my wedding, and though I would have given anything for her to see that day, I’m glad, for her sake, that she didn’t see my boobs.
They weren’t supposed to look like they did. To ensure my sweetheart-neckline gown was primed with the best, most supportive bra on the market, I booked an appointment at the lingerie shop Intimacy on the Upper East Side. My stylist, a Navy SEAL of torso measuring, fit me within an inch of my life and prescribed a flesh-tone bustier with smooth microfiber material, hidden boning, and coverage of all but a hint of cleavage. It dipped low in the back, so that there was no risk of the nude fabric peeking out from white chiffon, and it clung to me like a second rib cage. Where had this miraculous design been for all those years I was confined to wearing stretchy wrap dresses at cocktail parties? From here on, I believed, I would lead a carefree, straps-optional existence. I even test-drove the corset at a few semiformal occasions before my big day, and it felt great.
But I made a strange, rash choice on my wedding morning. It went down like a time-lapse film: me in my robe, my bridesmaids milling about, my undergarments and other accessories arranged in a picture-perfect tableau. As I stepped into the bottom half of my dress, I suddenly decided not to put on the corset. Or any bra at all.
Maybe it was the lingering advice of the bridal-shop team, who’d insisted my gown’s built-in boning could fully support me; maybe it was my pre-wedding weight loss, which made me overconfident in my (barely) shrunken breast size. But the most plausible explanation for my bad judgment is that in the heat of the moment — like a tennis player who impulsively switches to a one-handed backhand at match point, or an aspiring pop star who ad-libs a verse during the national anthem — I temporarily lost my mind. And just like that, off I went: braless in public for the first time since puberty.
It was not the right call. Though I still managed to have a ball at my wedding, I spent the better part of it tugging at my neckline before each photo, slouching my shoulders in an attempt to obscure my Himalayan cleavage, and second-guessing my every dance move (one sudden thrust and a nipple could go flying). My mother would’ve never let this happen. She would’ve taken one look at my untamed bust and sent me straight back into the changing room. But I had to get used to the fact that I was now free in a way I never wanted to be.
*This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of New York Weddings.