The pitfalls of travel with ample assets
Find a good fitting, thin, moisture wicking tank top in a neutral color with ample coverage to wear as a base layer under other shirts and dresses.
I always wear large scarves when I travel and while I love the colors and they do help cover me up, scarves also add extra layers and bulges where you need them least. I never shop when I travel. Malls and shops are rife with disappointment even when I know the store and design. I can’t see how walking through that minefield in a new city will bring me any happiness.
Having a large bust makes you look ridiculous when you wear a backpack with a chest strap or a cross-body sling purse. It makes it impossible for find a life jacket or wet-suit that fits. I can never find a hostel towel big enough to wrap around my body properly when running through communal bathrooms. Food always falls on my shirt and gets stuck there. (I mean, I know I’m a messy eater, but come on!) I feel fat and awkward doing typical travel activities like going to the beach, hiking, and rafting. I hate how I look in pictures – especially when posing next to tiny fairy backpackers, with their cute spaghetti strap dresses and dainty bikini tops. And I’m always the wrong temperature. I boil and sweat when I layer extra tank tops for coverage on an already hot day. Or shiver and freeze because I feel so top-heavy and bulky when I wear a sweatshirt or sweater.
I’m trying to get more serious about getting in better shape but I know that I am going be a reverse triangle no matter what workouts I follow. In the meantime, I am on a constant mission to find the right brands and styles that suit me. I've been trying harder to follow my own rules about getting bras and shirts that fit:
- Spend the money and get good bras. That means being fitted and refitted and spending a lot of money on bras that almost, but don’t quite, work. Finding the brand and size that works for you can be a huge (pardon the pun) challenge, but it is necessary to undertake. Don’t give up. When you find “the one” – you will know.
- Don’t travel with a bra that is too new or too old, even if it is your usual size and brand. Bras will be slightly tighter when you first buy them, slightly looser after extended wear.
- Choose a universal T-shirt style smooth bra that will provide good, wrinkle and bump free coverage under thinner fabrics in hot climates. Avoid flashy colors (it’s hard enough not to flash as is!) and pure white, which will just look dingy in a few days of travel.
- Big busted girls will need to look hard to find quality sports bras and you will need different sports bras for different activities. Running, tennis, and volleyball require firm, structured support. Day hikes, canoeing, and hot yoga will require moderate support. And if you are looking for something comfortable for long days in the airport or relaxed nature walks, a lighter sports bra will suffice, yet offer more support and comfort than a traditional bra. I always make the mistake of bringing my running bra with me when I travel. I never run away from home, and I never use it. It’s just too tight and constricting for a light walk or for wearing for more than an hour. No more wasted luggage space, I say! Runners World magazine has a good website that reviews a wide range of sports bras, looking at everything from shoulder padding to odour-resistant fabric.
- Don’t buy a bra because of color, price, special “travel” fabric, quick washing time, or reviews. Buy it because it fits and because you feel comfortable in it. The rest will follow.
- Find a good fitting, thin, moisture wicking tank top in a neutral color with ample coverage to wear as a base layer under other shirts and dresses. You will double the amount of looks you can create vs just regular shirts, and you will be more covered and concealed without adding bulk. Even if you feel comfortable with a moderate cleavage display, there are many times when cultural respect and safety call for a more restrained look.
- If a shirt doesn't feel right, if it gaps or rides up, don’t buy it and don’t travel with it. You will feel awkward and self-conscious every time you wear it and be either miserable or just end up carrying more things you won’t wear. So, goodbye adorable purple and pink Nike T-shirt. You’re just half a size too small! On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of wearing the same old, sad, tired shirt just because it doesn't cling and you feel comfortable with it.
- Find your own balance between slimming, inconspicuous black and wearing what makes you happy. Black shirts can be a gift – dressing up an outfit, making you look more sleek and slim, easy to mix and match. They also make you roast in the tropics and are rather boring. Wearing your favourite colors and bright, cheerful patterns will make what little clothing you bring travelling more fun and upbeat. But if you hate how you look in your travel pictures, chances are most stripes won’t do you any favors.
This post isn't meant to imply that women should ever be ashamed of their bodies or try to conform into an empty shell in order to blend in. Rather, I’m just sharing what my own experience has been for me – shame, embarrassment, belittling, lonely, awkward- as well as offering practical tips for finding good support and coverage for those moments when you really need it – be it visiting a religious site in Europe or hiking around Haleakala.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Have you ever felt self conscious about your appearance while traveling?
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