With two utilitarian padded straps emphasizing my large breasts, backpacks and big boobs have always seemed like a bad combination to me. However, lugging my heavy laptop tote on my right shoulder leads to a week of lower back pain on the left, so I finally faced my prejudice and ordered a laptop backpack. Once this ultra-practical backpack from eBags arrived last month, I decided to experiment: does evenly distributed weight across my shoulders necessarily mean a bad look for a big bust?

First, here’s a side-by-side showing what I look like in my shirt alone and then with the backpack. It’s actually not as bad as I expected! I don’t necessarily look larger so much as LOWER because my bust line isn’t grouped with my neckline once I add the straps to the look.

Because I didn’t feel like the big straps automatically made me look ginormous, I wondered if what was at play was the optical illusion in which something large and bulky next to a large chest can actually make it look smaller by comparison. So I dug out this little backpack that my stylist friend Christina convinced me to buy on one of our thrift store adventures.

So much for that theory, right? I prefer the way I look with the smaller, lighter straps below. It’s funny how one decision affects everything else. For instance, I absolutely HAD to have a 15″ screen when we went shopping for laptops last summer, but if I could have been happy with a little tablet, I could get away with the lighter look (but of course I would never have felt the need to purchase a backpack, so this post would never have been written).

Basically, the steps that I took to minimize the effect of the large straps on my large bust are the same I would take without a backpack. You may wonder why I didn’t simply opt for a more lifted bra, but I am wearing my Ewa Michalak in these photos, which is the most centering and lifting bra that I own (other than my new Tutti Rouge that I wrote about last week)–although perhaps I’m due for an adjustment, especially since my smaller breast looks like the larger one in these photos!


In this case, I simply rolled up my sleeves, which reduces the mass effect of so much fabric and helps regroup my bustline with my neckline. A deeper neckline would also help.


Even better, combine steps 1 and 2!


Besides narrowing your visible bustline and torso, if it’s in the same color as your straps, it camouflages them.

Even if the straps are a different color and you’re not drawing the eye away with a necklace, the effect is good.


With the emphasis on minimizing or distracting from my bust in this post, I must reiterate that BIG BUSTS AREN’T A BAD THING.  Recently I encountered two women who vehemently hated their large breasts. The first was a scientist at a conference where I was selling my shirts. With a 29″ waist and a 37″ bust, she fit my size 6M shirt perfectly. “Every morning I wake up hoping they’ll be gone,” she said, “and I look down and they’re still there.” I couldn’t think of anything to say in response! It felt like a giant win that she actually liked the way she looked in my shirt.

I met the second woman on the lingerie floor of a department store where I sometimes help with fittings. Middle age had brought her larger breasts (a 32F at most), and she couldn’t stand the way they protruded through her sweaters. “I just want to cut them off!” she said. Again, I couldn’t think of anything to say, and I couldn’t find a bra to make her happy.

As I prepared for today’s post, I realized that my own attitude toward my large breasts when wearing a backpack could easily veer into the same body-negative territory that these two women inhabit. It’s actually a relief that, as I studied the first before-and-after photos in this post, I realized that I’m perfectly happy with either look. However, I do prefer the photos with more skin, accessories and a cardigan; but my preference isn’t the standard.

Speaking of how-to-dress rules, I think you’ll enjoy Gina Marinelli’s post about embracing a look you love–in this case turtlenecks–regardless of your large bust.