It may be hidden beneath your drysuit, but your bra is
one of the most technical pieces of dive kit you own.
Getting it wrong can prove a painful experience...
additional text and editing:
photos: Debs Cook, Mark Brill
The decision whether or not to wear a bra under your drysuit is about as complex as choosing between twin independents or a manifold on your twinset.
Do you go braless to achieve the freedom and flexibility of twin independents, but risk a little too much movement in your kit? Do you manifold your mammaries together for stability and security with a Playtex Cross-Your-Heart? Or, do you manifold and double-boot your bottles with a Triumph underwire for the ultimate in Emma Peel appeal.
The only difference between choosing your twinset and your bra is that the advice from the boys in your local dive shop may be somewhat subjective, and they'll either be running for cover with embarassment or be falling over themselves to offer you a free fitting.
When you think about it, it's not really that surprising that bras have become one of the most technical pieces of diving equipment. After all, Howard Hughes employed teams of aircraft engineers to achieve the maximum lift and separation for actress Jayne Russell's breasts in the movie The Outlaw. Bras are serious business, and it's a brave Dive Girl who goes diving without one.
That said, the choice is bewildering. When diving we usually don our oldest and smelliest clothes and wouldn't necessarily want the most impressive décolletage. With the notable exceptions of the plunging necklines of the Lamb's Navy Rum adverts from the 1970's and Ursula Andress's gravity-defying breasts in Dr No, when was the last time you saw sexed-up diving gear. Nevertheless, us Dive Girls have our standards
Having established that Rigby and Peller or Janet Reger are not exactly de rigeur in Portland Harbour we need to concentrate first on the basic BSAC (Bra Safety And Comfort) rules:
1. Avoid Underwire
The last thing you need while grappling a lobster or squeezing through a bulkhead is a piercing pain in your armpit or ribs as your underwire comes loose. As you press on the chest-mounted valve of your suit inflation, that underwire can cause a nasty crunch. For the same reason, avoid bras with beads or decoration sewn on to the front.
2. Avoid Lace
Imagine; your buddy is swimming away from you in the dark at 50 metres and you can't keep up due to that sexy lace bra. You have worn it all day and it has rubbed your nipples red raw and it is now too painful to move. You end up doing a solo ascent in the dark!
3. Avoid Metal Adjusters
Firstly, metal wreaks havoc with your compass. Secondly, why is it that metal bra adjusters always ride up, especially when you are carrying a 15 litre cylinder on your shoulder? The metal really digs in and you end up with little love bites on your shoulder. This also prevents you carrying your Prada handbag to après-diving activities.
4. Avoid Going Braless
(particularly if you are larger than an B-cup)
If you insist on none at all be careful not to get caught out at the wrong time of the month 10 miles out at sea in a five metre RIB. Bouncy, bouncy...
Perfecting The ideal Diving Bra...
In an ideal world, we would all have fleece bras made from a combination of lycra and Polartec, with seamless cups, and the fur facing inwards. They would also be available in a series leopard prints and psychedelic colours.
But in the real world, one of the best bras on the market is the Berlei 'Shock Absorber' sports bra, which even comes in a G cup, making it ideal for bailing if the boat starts to take on water.
Well-endowed Dive Girls really need nice wide padded straps, no wire, and discreet plastic adjusters which do not end up your shoulders.
For B-cups and C-cups, a sporty crop-top works very well and adds insulation. Despite the advice in BSAC rule no. 4, diving without a bra can also be very comfortable for smaller breasts. Do not however, plump for a swimming costume under your drysuit. They may feel secure, but just think about the added complication if you have to relieve yourself while at sea [Dive Girl issue 2 'weeing off boats'].
Let's face it, cold water diving is not a glamorous sport, so ditch your push-up bras in favour of BSAC-approved (Bra Safety And Comfort) diving.
Women divers tell us what they REALLY wear
under their drysuits
Christina Campbell (deep wreck diver) - I always wear my CBear undersuit. Its totally the business and perfect for the UK. It'll even keep you warm if your drysuit leaks and it gets wet.
Jane Millichip -
(marine survey diver)
I wear an aerobics style sport bra and I found this great Polartec sweat top that keeps me cosy under my 03 lycra neoprene drysuit.
Michelle Gorman (PADI instructor) -
The best bras I have found for diving in are the not so flattering sport bras, no wires but a good firm grip on the bits that matter.
Another option is to get one of those nice trendy cut off tops or for the hold, if you need it, an aerobics top so between dives you can strip to the waist and keep cool in the summer
On top of that... I was forced in to Damart for my first set of thermals (a christmas present from my gran no less). The body is usually toasty but if someone could tell me how to keep my feet alive while I'm diving... Has any one invented heat emmitting fins yet?
Matye Johnsson goes for the thermal vest option : generally most effective when worn inside the drysuit!