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Breast binding is the material used in, or the act of flattening breasts by the use of constrictive materials. Common binding materials include cloth strips, elastic or non-elastic bandage, use of purpose-built undergarments (often using Spandex or other synthetic fibre) or simple layering of shirts, from tight to loose.
Different time periods of history have had differing viewpoints on the female form, including widespread use of corsets throughout western European history up to the Victorian era. The Japanese kimono can be considered a very elaborate form of binding, although the obi (belt) goes around the lower torso, the chest is bound by the sarashi. In addition, many Catholic nuns up until the 1930s were required to wear a linen breast binding under their garments in addition to their everyday vestments. This measure was designed to eliminate any potential distraction that the nuns' breasts might cause. In many ecclesiastical specialty shops, it is still possible to purchase antique linen breast bindings that have been hand-embroidered with crosses. Wearing a minimizer bra is common to help with large breasts.
There are many reasons people would bind their breasts:
- For accelerated recovery by reducing movement after an injury or surgery
- For concealment of breasts or breast development
- For beauty and aesthetics
- For portrayal of breast-less characters
- For less-feminine appearance
- Lactation suppression
- Attempts to decrease sexual feelings, both in the binder themselves and in people who see them
- Being transgender or non-binary and uncomfortable with having breasts
Some adolescent girls bind their breasts as they enter puberty. This is done usually for reasons of modesty (they do not want others to see them), embarrassment (they do not want others to know they have started developing), or desire to be as they previously were (they do not want to have breasts yet). This has potential risks, as the developing tissue may conform to the restricted shape, resulting in permanent deformity. Breast binding in adolescent girls may be a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder.
Men may also find cause to bind if afflicted with gynecomastia as a means to control appearance in place of surgery or during the wait before surgery. In a related vein, transgender individuals and intersex people who want to present as male would commonly bind. Transgender women as well as non-binary people who were designated male at birth who have developed breasts from hormone replacement therapy or breast augmentation surgery may bind to have continued acceptance as male during transition, for example, at work where co-workers may be unaware of the transition. Transgender men as well as non-binary people who were designated female at birth may bind either as an alternative to, or before, having "top surgery" (mastectomy) to help appear male.
There are many different methods of binding, but two cheap methods are wearing a sports bra or swimming suit top that is a few sizes too small underneath normal clothes. Two normal sports bras can be worn, with the second one worn backwards. Sports or compression bras can also be used by firmly pushing them against the chest.
Another way to bind is to use layers of clothing, start out with the tightest layer first and then put on looser layers on top of it, masking the presence of breasts.
A less common way of binding is using a specially fitted binding bra, however these can be more expensive and are not widely stocked. There are places to buy binders, and they are a much better alternative to other, more dangerous methods.
Some people try to bind using an ace bandage, however this method is dangerous and may cause cracked ribs, trouble breathing, and even suffocation if worn to sleep.
However, excessive use of all binding methods can lead to back pain and breathing trouble. A binding device/method should always be as loose as is practical and should not be worn for longer than 12 hours.
- Swift, Kathy; Janke, Jill (May 2003). "Breast Binding . . . Is It All That It's Wrapped Up To Be?". J. Obstet. Gynecol. Neonatal Nurs. 32 (3): 332–339. doi:10.1177/0884217503253531. ISSN 0884-2175.
- Zhang, Aihua (2011). "Women's Breasts and Beyond A Gendered Analysis of the Appeals for Breast-Unbinding: 1910s-1920s". Postscript: A Journal of Graduate Criticism and Theory 8 (1).
- Horowitz K, Gorfinkle K, Lewis O, Phillips KA (December 2002). "Body dysmorphic disorder in an adolescent girl". J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 41 (12): 1503–9. doi:10.1097/00004583-200212000-00023. PMC 1613829. PMID 12447038.
- Feldman, JL; Goldberg, J (2006). "Transgender primary medical care: Suggested guidelines for clinicians in British Columbia". Vancouver Coastal Health. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
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