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Erica Cheung

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Confession: I've Been Wearing A Bra Since I Was 3

Posted: 08/09/2012 4:39 pm

Last week, ABC's "Good Morning America" ran a segment on teenage shapewear and "spankies," the mini versions of those suffocating, belly-flattening, imperfection-masking undergarments that adult women use under body-con dresses and the like.

According to the news, teens across America are using shapewear for the same reasons their moms do: to hide those so-called imperfections. Apart from the fact that this new trend is physically damaging to kids and can cause all kinds of problems from bladder infections to nerve damage, what is just as frightening is summed up in this comment from a teen: "You get the training bra and then you get the Spanx."

The idea that shapewear is increasingly seen as a necessity for girls is extremely disturbing. This suggests that young girls are internalizing the idea of a "perfect body" to such an extent that it's become a natural goal, i.e., when I grow up not only will I have breasts, but I will also have imperfections that need to be kept hidden.

I started wearing a training bra when I was three years old, not because I needed one or because I was self-conscious, but because I thought that bras were beautiful. I remember going to the department store with my mother and helping her pick out her bras, black ones, lacy ones, silky ones; they fascinated me.

I remember telling her that I wanted a bra and picking a sweet baby blue one that was lacy and too big for me. After all, I was only three years old. It was my camisole when I slept and I only really used it when I was five. I even wore it as a crop top (it was the 90s after all!).

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It's natural for little girls to want to copy their mothers, like that perennially cute image of the little girl in her mother's giant heels. My mom never forced me to wear a bra; I only wore it when I wanted to wear it. And like other little girls, I started wearing a real training bra when I was 11 or so.

The point is that I learned to see bras as articles of clothing that celebrate womanhood, but not as things that bound me to a particular image of what a woman should be. I don't think that being a woman means you have to wear a bra, but I do believe that bras are made for women (all kinds of women) and that's something to celebrate.

Most bras are made to support and add a certain level of comfort and security. Spanx are made to smooth out women's bodies and most women (at least the ones I know) utter a long sigh of relief once they go home and peel themselves out of them.

It's sad to see young girls thinking that they have to adhere to some kind of image of womanhood that is equivalent to perfection. I'm not saying that shapewear is bad. I'm saying that when girls think it is natural to wear shapewear (or bras for the matter) at such a young age, then childhood wonder turns into an internalization of what it means to be a woman, and that can be dangerous.

See some of our team's childhood beauty secrets below, and add yours!

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  • Katherine Fung, Associate Media Editor

    "This is me in a tracksuit."

  • Christopher Mathias, Associate Editor New York

    "ATHLETE."

  • Meredith Melnick, Nutrition and Fitness Editor

    "Don't be afraid of a statement headpiece, whether you're practicing Thai dance or reading Frances the Badger books."

  • Danielle Cadet, Associate Editor Black Voices

    "1. Be a trendsetter... I was rocking all blue everything before Jay-Z wore all black everything. 2. Always match your barrettes with your background. 3. Never take a class picture without a manicure."

  • Christiana Lilly, Assistant Editor Miami

    "You have little control over your parents mixing patterns when you are a child. Smile through it."

  • Leah Squires

    "Drive across the country for a month with just the dad and brother who couldn't give two sh**s about brushing hair or an outfit that works."

  • Kerstin Shamberg, Social Media Editor

    "I always wore pink!"

  • Joanna Zelman, Green Editor

    "Only strike a coy pose in pigtails and floral prints."

  • Jake Bailer, Innovations Editor

    "Star Trek t-shirt and bright turquoise pajama pants."

  • Stephanie Marcus, News Editor, Traffic & Trends

    "There's never a wrong time to wear a bucket hat."

  • Janet Varney, HuffPost Live LA

    "Learn the important Hollywood style standards nice and early..."

  • Curtis M. Wong, Associate Editor

    "You can dance...for inspiration!"

  • Adam Goldberg, Front Page Editor

    "A young Adam Goldberg, in awe of the world, wearing stylish overalls."

  • Annemarie Dooling

    "Wearing furry boots in Brooklyn back when Williamsburg was a scary neighborhood."

  • Ricky Camilleri, HuffPost Live Producer

    Be memorable. "This is my dads favorite pic of me and it has hung above his work desk since it was taken."

  • Jordan Turgeon

    "My must-have accessories? Scarf. Sunglasses. Done. Sadly, I had to sell the car when I moved to the city for rent money."

  • Kimberly Brooks, Founding Arts Editor

    "Macramé sweater vests were a must."

  • Sasha Bronner, Los Angeles Editor

    "Southern California one piece black bathing suit style."

  • Laura Shocker, Senior Editor, Healthy Living

    "Always buy a dress you can dance in ... and when in doubt go with the red (jelly) shoes."

  • Carly Schwartz, San Francisco Editor

    "Always pair your bright red bandana with your bright purple fleece."

  • Zoe Triska, Associate Books Editor

    "Neon will NEVER go out of style."

  • Priscilla Frank

    "Always wear tiara. Never look at camera."

  • Ani Vrabel, Associate Blog Editor

    "Start your hat collection early, or you'll never have any hope of getting an invite to a royal wedding."

  • Taylor Trudon, Associate Blog Editor

    "#newenglandcasual"

  • Lilka Kalick, Associate Blog Editor

    "Nothing says patriotism like American flag Keds ... and nothing is more stylish than matching your shirt to your ottoman."

  • Carla Lohr

    "A ruffle collar and Dorothy Hamill haircut was always a pageant favorite, especially in 1984."

  • Kiki Von Glinow, Associate Celebrity Editor

    "Same bangs. Same dress. Always."

  • Amanda Sterling, Associate Blog Editor

    "It was alllllll about the straight-across bangs."

  • Katherine Patke, News Editor

    It isn't a holiday dress without at least one petticoat, and there is no such thing as too poofy when it comes to sleeves. (Also, consider taking the wrapper off the chocolate before you try to eat it.)

  • David Lohr

    Maintain family traditions. "This is a photo of myself around age two in a cowboy outfit (left) and my son, also around two years old, in the same outfit years later. He is 15 now."

  • Katla McGlynn, Comedy Editor

    "Acid-wash overalls, cat-print sweatshirt and neon accessories make a great combination. Ray gun and fierce expression optional."

  • Clay Chiles, Blog Editor, Special Projects

    "If I could rock a double-breasted suit and bow tie this well at one year old, then there's no reason for me to fear them at 25."

  • Craig Kanalley, Senior Editor, Big News & Live Events

    "Can't go wrong dressing up like the TMNT!"

  • Carolyn Gregoire, Associate Editor, HuffPost Teen

    "Peter Pan collars are always a good choice (as are cat pins, obviously)."

  • Johanna Barr, News Editor

    "Don't buy a dress unless it has a matching purse attached to it."

  • Jessica Samakow, Associate Editors, HuffPost Parents

    "It's OK to embrace your beer (or apple juice) belly."

  • Sarah Klein, Associate Editor, Healthy Living

    "Add a belt to a shapeless dress to define your waist."

  • Rebecca Orchant, Assistant Editor, HuffPost Food/KitchenDaily

    "White overalls are probably always a good decision. Also, this is definitely still how I feel about cotton candy."

  • Jason St. Angelo, Associate Editor, HuffPost Sports

    "Nothing's changed from my Hall of Fame days."

  • Claire Fallon, Blog Editor, Special Projects

    "Stay consistant. This was back in my style phase of only wearing hugely oversized, sloganed T-shirts. That phase lasted for around 14 years. And that's my little brother, in classic understated black, napping on my shoulder."

  • Ashley Knierim, Editor, AOL.com

    "Always coordinate your hat to your outfit."

  • Rachel Tepper, Assistant Food Editor

    "What's a little drizzle? Not even rain could dampen my style."

  • William McGuinness, Senior Editor, HuffPost College

    "Cheese means 'Look up and smile. This could be shared with the Internet one day.'"

  • Nina Bahadur, Intern, HuffPost Women

    "It's always acceptable to spice up a floral romper with an oversized bow ... right?"

  • Lee Hernandez, Entertainment Editor, Latino Voices

    "Yee-haw!"

  • Emma Gray, Associate Editor, HuffPost Women

    "Don't be afraid to mix bold patterns ... or carry wands around. Also, Converse high-tops are always a classic choice."

  • Megan Barreto, Senior Programming Manager

    "Sportin' the winter vest and enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon with my twin brother and friend (who also enjoys winter vests)."

  • Alicia Ciccone, Associate Editor, HuffPost Money

    "Dressing up is always fun."

  • Kate Bratskeir, Associate Editor, Healthy Living

    "When your outfit is bad, hide behind dad."

  • Emily Cohn, Money Editor

    "The best way to sport a one-piece is by wearing a diaper underneath."

  • JTude

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/wredgranny814"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://i.huffpost.com/profiles/1070064-tiny.png?20120726064908" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/wredgranny814">wredgranny814</a>:<br />Total feminine attitude!

 

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