A short rant about inappropriate training bras

I was having a browse in the Marks and Spencer lingerie section this afternoon. I don’t personally find that M&S bras fit me terribly well, but with Belle approaching those awkward teenage years I thought I would check out the training bra section, just to see what I was getting myself into.

What I was looking for was that next step up from the crop top – something that’s barely worth wearing but that makes the teenager wearing it feel like they’re not just wearing a vest. What I wasn’t expecting to find was padded, underwired bras in a size 28AA.

Padded and underwired??

28AA isn’t even a size, so why on earth does it need underwiring? What the hell would a child need padding for??

I kept looking, sure that I must be missing something, but absolutely every entry level bra they had was either padded or ‘moulded’. I’m not sure what the technical definition of moulded is but it basically seemed to be another word for padded. It certainly wasn’t the soft, flexible cotton I was hoping for.

I asked a member of staff, wondering if I was looking in the wrong section, and even they were confused.

“Hmmm,” she said, “it doesn’t look like we have anything without wire. You don’t really need underwiring at this age.”

No, you do not, so why make teeny tiny underwired bras at all??

“I was really looking for something a little less inappropriate,” I said, “something without padding.”

The sales assistant agreed.

“Absolutely,” she said, “you want something soft and without wires.”

We both looked at the racks of mini push-up bras sadly.

“We don’t have any of those,” she said.

Am I being unreasonable to be so outraged by this? At what point did a design team sit down and think “I know, let’s create a range of underwear for pre-teens, girls barely out of primary school, that completely sexualises them unnecessarily and is uncomfortable! Hoorah!”

Just awful.



  1. 27 April, 2015 / 6:46 pm

    My girl has just started wearing bras and she is not getting any with padding or wires for a few years yet. It is wrong and very unnecessary….

  2. Mand
    27 April, 2015 / 9:13 pm

    Totally agree with you, having a young teenager like you, I’ve noticed most shops go from crop tops straight to padded adult style bras. It’s appalling. I will be interested what M&s have to say about it.

  3. 27 April, 2015 / 9:18 pm

    Hi, when I first got my girls fitted for bras in M&S ( a fair few years back now!) I too was shocked by the moulded/padded ones. However, when I asked about it I was told that it was because they did a survey of school age girls & found that they had a fear of nipples on show if it was cold! Because of this, they now make most of their starter bras moulded & even now at 16 & 17, my girls won’t wear anything but moulded for that exact reason!

    But we used to buy non-wired versions :)

  4. 27 April, 2015 / 10:19 pm

    I’ve just been with a work colleague doing exactly the same visit for her daughter. Admittedly she’s 12, but she was after ”not a bra’. She wanted a crop top type, but even struggled with that in Marks. They suggested Debenhams as an alternative, although she did say she’d found some previously in BHS and H&M.

    It does seem madness now that children are developing younger – they really don’t need padding, and especially not underwiring. Nuts.

  5. 28 April, 2015 / 9:16 am

    I don’t have daughters but this is still outrageous. Have you written to M&S about this? You should – preferably mentioning your parent blogger occupation, number of followers, influential readers and network. I shouldn’t think it would take much – if they don’t respond – to get some kind of ball rolling on this one and pressure them to be just a tad more responsible in their approach…

  6. Angela O'Beirne
    28 April, 2015 / 9:51 am

    I agree with you. Not only are underwired bras inappropriate, I believe they could be dangerous for developing breast tissue. Professor Baum, a famous breast surgeon does not approve of underwired bras for mature ladies. And padding just says that being flat chested is not acceptable. On a lighter note, I remember desperately wanting a Ladybird training bra when I had nothing, i ended up a 34J and had a reduction on the NHS because of problems with my neck and back!!
    I will be writing to M&S and would urge mothers/grandmothers to do the same

  7. 28 April, 2015 / 1:42 pm

    spooky timing – I was looking online the other night for the same thing for my daughter, and went to M&S for their good old reliability – and was shocked to find this! They call the padding ‘modesty panels’ or something like that, which I guess relates to the nipple related survey, but underwiring is just plain bonkers! It also amazes me, for the record, that the crop tops are sold as ‘bras’ and start at age six!!! We all know our girls are developing quicker but at least give us some choice instead of forcing bras designed for adults on them. If you do write to M&S I will back you!!!

  8. Jo
    28 April, 2015 / 6:36 pm

    Just awful…indeed. On a similar note I was looking for sandals for my 5 year old in a shop the other day and they all had varying degrees of high heel!

  9. Louise
    30 April, 2015 / 2:42 pm

    I was going to echo the above comment about padding offering some protection from showing too much off – I cringe over photos of me as an awkward 11 year old with sticky-out boobie bits (not even the actual nips, but the whole tissue around them). There’s a great American brand called Yellowberry who make much nicer bras for young girls, I’m not sure if you can get them over here but thought it might be worth a mention.

  10. 30 June, 2015 / 8:59 pm

    Sadly, I can COMPLETELY imagine this strokey-beard meeting. It probably went something like this:
    “Bras for young girls”
    “Yes, bras.”
    “Girls wants bras. Young girls want bras.”
    “Young girls want to look like old girls”
    “They want to have BIGGER BREASTS, just read Judy Blume.”
    “Let’s give them what they want, their parents will pay, just like they did for the pink cuddly unicorns and the plastic Disney kitten heels.”

  11. Grasshopper
    24 October, 2015 / 12:10 am

    I spent nearly 20 years working in kids buying, for several big high street brands. Going back a fair few years we used to offer the type of bras that you describe. However, unfortunately the sales were poor, but what did sell were the more “grown up” padded, under wired types. So after several efforts, the more traditional “first bras ” were dropped. Doesn’t mean that this is what the retailers prefer, or condone, but please realise people that these are businesses, and it is the buying teams jobs to provide what the majority of their customers want. Personally, I could not understand parents buying their kids this type of underwear, but the sales numbers spoke for themselves. You can’t blame the retailers for that, you can blame the parents that have bought these garments for their children.

  12. 29 March, 2016 / 11:38 am

    I agree underwired bras are not needed but a bit of padding to stop nipples showing, the soft bras aren’t discreet enough. Bhs have soft Bras but your daughter might need a thicker one as she enters teen years!

  13. Mand
    29 March, 2016 / 3:32 pm

    M&S do a moulded not underwired bra that I got online from their Angel range. The moulded material isn’t very thick, its not as thick as adults padded bras. I know what you mean about bras but girls want to be the same as all their friends.
    I had the flattest chest in my group of friends at age 13 and I can tell you now, I wish they had moulded bras when I was a teen!! (Mind you I wouldn’t have been allowed one)
    I did look online in lots of retailers for my daughter, but they’re all much the same. The M&S Angel one was the most sensible one I could find that my daughter would agree to wearing. (I really sound like my mother now)

  14. Curtis
    23 September, 2016 / 9:31 pm

    I am a single father of a girl who is about to embark on the path of womanhood. There are many steps along the way and training bras are one of them.
    My daughter is quite petite and has had hand-me-down clothes from friends and family since she was born. In one generous donation was a training bra. It was padded and moulded. I was disgusted.
    I started a query and have discerned that the justification behind this is for nipples showing due to cold and friction. But little girls and boys at younger ages also have nipples that react to cold and friction. Why aren’t we offering them an ebarrassment free version of clothing?.
    Perhaps one should only look to toddler beauty pageants to get an in depth look at who projects these concerns and issues. There isn’t a father out there that would be behind an item that draws undue attention to his daughter in such a manner.
    Society is failing because we don’t stand up to things that are wrong. We accept them and actually make up ridiculous excuses as to why they are justifiable.
    Padding, forming, push-up bras are wrong at any age as they promote a system of disguising or altering the truth in order to promote a specific stereotype. There are supportive bras out there that aren’t filled or formed.
    Let your daughters know they are loved and appreciated for who they are and you won’t have to spend so much time justifying the the obstacles you put in front of them.

    • Jo Middleton
      26 September, 2016 / 11:09 am

      I totally agree Curtis – it seemed a bizarre explanation to me too!

      • Julia
        10 February, 2017 / 12:36 pm

        Girls nipples get extremely sensitive and painful during puberty (and later with pregnancy and pre period too). Moulded rather than padded bras help. I agree that most pre teen girls don’t need padding and underwires, but some soft moulding can help with the discomfort. My eldest is 13 and has got her first underwired bra this week, she’s been wearing moulded non- wired for a year or so. Can i suggest you check for mid cup seams too with soft bras, these are agony!

  15. Emily
    22 October, 2016 / 5:53 pm

    Hope this helps guys, Peacocks actually have white non wired, non padded firsts bras. I have also been absolutely disgusted by the bra’s aimed at my daughter and found these last week £4 for a two pack. Not as pretty as she would like but on this topic I will not cave!

    • Jo Middleton
      24 October, 2016 / 8:05 am

      Thanks for the tip Emily!

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