Thursday, October 12, 2006

On Shopping for Bras

When was the last time you went shopping for a bra? For one reason or another, it has been several years since I ventured out on that quest, and may I say that those intervening years have not been kind to my body.

I came of age in the mid-70s when women were burning their bras right and left, and much to the shock of our mothers, wearing a bra had suddenly become optional. Never having been over-generously endowed, I have always fallen into that 'Bra Optional' category. I'll put one on to go to work or anytime I have to leave the house and be seen in public, but other than that, the second thing I do when I get home - just after taking off my shoes - is to remove my bra. I have even been known to remove it on the way home in the car, pulling a strap out of first one sleeve and then the other until I can reach down the front of my shirt and whip the darned thing out like a rabbit out of a hat. So from lack of dilligent use the average bra tends to last me a good while before it starts looking dingy and pathetic.

Who invented these instruments of torture? What sick mind decided that we needed to have our parts restrained? If men had to wear tight jock straps everywhere they went in order to avoid looking like a cheap slattern, would they not have done away with the things long since? Would a slatternly look for men not have come into fashion before now? Um, yes, well I suppose it has, hasn't it?

And don't tell me it is to avoid the inevitable sag, because sagging is, um, inevitable. Gravity rules. Having worked in a nursing home in my youth I can assure you that men's parts sag with time, too. Dreadfully. Think two golf balls at the end of a knee-high. Everything heads south, even for those women who were faithful wearers of support garments.

But lately when I dress for some occasion or other I have noticed that my bras are getting a tad shabby. They have seen better days. When I was in my 20s and 30s I lashed out and bought expensive, fancy bras. I had the bras that were all lace and frills and looked as though they were made of clouds. I had velvet bras, satin bras. Money was no object. I had them in every color and fabric and style and mood and they were as much a part of my wardrobe as any of my other garments. There were days when I chose what to wear based upon what bra I wanted to wear that day. Yes, they were damned uncomfortable, but they sure looked nice.

Yet somewhere around the time when I hit my mid-40s I decided to hell with all that, and bought some plain, soft bras and I have been living in them happily enough ever since. Yet as I said, lately they are starting to look a bit tired and it is time to replace them.

But I ask you again, When is the last time you went shopping for a bra? Have you seen those things they sell now? OMG! Walk into the bra department of any store and they face you, hanging on racks, so contrived that they are already breast-shaped. They don't need humans! It looks like rows and rows of multi-colored breasts hanging there before you. These horrid beasts are better engineered than the space shuttle, and probably better able to withstand the stresses of re-entry without breaking up. They are fraught with wires and padding and reinforced side panels. I don't want to be in pain! I don't WANT to look like the front end of a Hummer! I certainly don't want them walking into the room before I do! All I can see in my mind's eye is the image of Sophia Loren crossing the stage at the Oscars. Dear God! Those things were cantilevered out like the deck on a 50s modern in the hills above Los Angeles! They would have supported whole crowds of very fashionable and sophisticated people drinking martinis and eating sushi from the buffet.

Have you ever worn one of those pre-fabricated things? God help you if you are not of the same shape as they are. And no one ever is. God help you if you are a normal woman and have one breast larger (or conversely, smaller) than the other. Then you get this dent on one side that makes it look as though one breast has been in a slight fender-bender (not bad enough to call the cops, you just exchange phone numbers and are glad everyone is okay) and you need to go to a body shop and have that ding popped out.

No, I simply want something comfortable that will keep these more modest endowments from dragging on the floor. That's all. Not too much to ask, one would think. I'm never going to look as though I were in my first blush of youth again. I see no point in the pretense that while everything else has aged, I still have the boobs of a 20 year old. I think of all those women I knew back in my days of working in salons who had face-lift after face-lift and still had the neck and hands of a withered hag. If I'm going to look like a middle-aged woman, then hell, ALL of me is going to look like a middle-aged woman.

But I have gone from department store to department store, specialty shop to specialty shop. I've seen the shop ladies' eyes widen in shock when I ask for a what I want, just before I'm given the bum's rush out the door. I've searched on the internet. There is no longer any such thing as a comfortable bra. I don't want wires to keep them hoicked up around my ears while at the same time digging painfully into my ribs. I don't want reinforced panels that are going to push my back fat around front to look like extra breastage. I don't want extra artificially enhanced breastage by means of pads and stuffing and filling. This is the body that God and genetics saw fit to give me. I have learned to live with it. I have learned that my value is not based on my breast size. And I have learned that being comfortable in your own skin - hell, being comfortable in your own underwear - is more important than anything else, and is a bigger gift to yourself than anything else could ever be.

In the meantime, if you come across a bra that isn't wired, isn't pre-stuffed with padding and comes in colors other than white, one that cannot stand up in a corner by itself, would you let me know?


Anonymous Carol in WI said...


I have been reading through your various blogs and you have no idea how this one hits home with me. First let me tell you that I've had cancer four times, uterine, breast, gall bladder and breast. Consequently, I have two unnatural saline implanted, no nipple breasts. Pretty funny looking they are.

I just turned 67 and have the mind of a 30 year old, but no longer the body I had back then. Have you ever tried to find a 42B bra that your flatish boobs will fill out without wrinkles? Let me tell you, it ain't fun. The only thing almost bad as looking for a bra is looking for comfortable shoes. Thank God for Birkenstocks even at Church!

But gee whiz, it sure would be nice to have a bra next to my skin that would be comfortable without stuffing or wired up. I too, have more than once taken my bra off before getting into my jammies cause it is so miserable on my rib cage. And every so often, for some unknow reason, my skin will break out in a burning, itching rash under the breast from the bra. Then it comes off in a big hurry. But living in Wisconsin, I am always COLD and having even that little strip of fabric around my chest helps to keep me warm.

Guess I'll have to resort to some sort of a sports bra to keep me warm. Won't that look pretty under a sheer blouse? Good thing I don't wear them - too cold here.

Did want to wish you the best of luck on your biopsies and I will add you to my prayers. They, your other doctors, sure did "jerk" you around. It infuriates me when I hear a story like that. Fortunately, I've had wonderful, caring doctors and with my history, am watched closely.

If you have time, keep me posted on your results.


11:02 PM  
Blogger AlisonH said...

Rofl!!! Oh goodness. Together we could start a trend, if we could just get the manufacturers' attention.

I walked into the lingerie department of a large chain once, and said to the woman behind the counter, "What have you got for someone with nothing to put in them?" She looked startled, and then guffawed. She tried to help. But the answer was, of course--nothing!

5:57 PM  
Blogger Angela Cox said...

Too daughter and I hate the darned things !

6:29 AM  

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