[adjusts Ann Taylor suit, steps up onto soapbox]
I am not ashamed in the slightest to tell you that yesterday I spent $471 at a bra shop. For my hard-earned cash, I got four bras, seven pairs of undies, two tops, and a nightgown. Many of the items I bought were on big-time sale: a flowery beige-and-gold bra which originally sold for $125 was mine for only $52, for example. However, I also purchased a few things for full price, including the following bra for $98.
[Note: Bra in above photo is not modeled by the blogger.]
Why would a sane, mature woman spend so much on something only one other person will ever see on her? Well, first of all, this $98 bra is beyond comfortable. It provided fantastic support, a wonderful shape, and I hardly know it's even on. Also, this bra also converts to a very comfortable and very useable strapless bra. Most strapless bras for someone my size are long-waisted corsets with lots of boning and structure. Sometimes, I'm surprised they don't have W12x50 steel cross-bracing with moment connections in the cups. This bra is a real find for someone who wears, at the very least, a size 32D bra. Did I just list my bra size? Why would I share such a personal detail with the blogosphere? Because, as Gloria Steinem said, the political is personal, and it is also economical. It leads me to my most important point of all.
When I used to set foot into chain lingerie stores, such as Victoria's Secret, I have historically been looked up and down a bit haughtily, as if to say, "Oh, you have bigger than a 34C? We only have three or so bras that fit you, might not even have any of them in stock. Shouldn't you be shopping down the street at a strip-mall exotic-dancer store, or at Fredrick's of Hollywood? After all, if you're packing a pair a big hooters, you're probably using them to make money and steal my boyfriend." I then try without vain to find a pretty but wearable bra there with little or no success. The salesgirl--and I do mean girl--says, "We have more styles in your size in our catalog." Oh really? So I can order something, have it shipped to me, try it on, not like it, ship it back, and then try something else or get store credit to buy something else that almost fits? The only thing your summer-employment management-major college-girl staff knows to say to me is, "Well, a 32D is like a 34C, so try one of those!"
No, I will not try one of those. The number is your rib cage measurement and the letter is your actual boob size, and I'm not going to pretend that a 34C will fit me. And don't get me started about when I was in college and even only a few years ago when I was heavier and required nothing smaller than a 34DD. You practically choked back your laughter when I mumbled my size, keeping it down because I was afraid of being beaten to death by the smaller-breasted clientele around me, whose cups may not have runneth over, but at least they could find something in your fucking store.
And for what? Apologies to Sinead O'Connor, but I think we all want what we haven't got. My flatter-chested sisters tell me how envious they are of my ability to look foxy in a strapless dress, a bikini, even to have admirable cleavage in a ho-hum button-down shirt. Conversely, I tell them it's not all it's cracked up to be: I can't wear a strapless dress or bikini every day, and frankly I'd love just to go for a run without having to strap my chest down with spandex, cotton, and Kevlar. I'd love to be able to lean between two people at a meeting table and not feel like I have to pull my chest in with my arm so I don't poke someone in the ear with a boob. I'd love to be able to move unself-consciously through a society that still leans a little towards the notion that big boobs = loose/good in the sack/possessing my chest solely for the viewer's pleasure. I'd love to be able to find clothes that fit. Every single shirt I've bought in the past ten years has at least some spandex in it so that there might be some hope in it stretching somewhat-modestly around my bodacious boobitude.
I'd also love to escape the mixed messages our society gives us pertaining to our chests. On the one hand, plastic surgery is a booming industry and high school seniors are getting boob implants as a graduation gift. ("Good job getting those good grades honey! Let's buy you some tits so that your brains no longer matter!") Time and again, there's this emphasis on having a sizeable chest, and we keep buying into it. But then, flip through any fashion magazine, and there's at least one article proclaiming to help you find the right bathing suit/cocktail dress/wedding dress/business suit, accompanied inevitably by a photo with the words "To minimize/de-emphasize a large bust, try...." What?! You mean I'm supposed to pay upwards of $5,000 for a boob job and then tuck them into a loud-patterned tankini? Well guess what? No, I will not minimize my big tits because you have so little self-control that you're unable to stop staring at them and placing an artificial value on them. To paraphrase the vacation bible school song, these massive boobs of mine/ I'm gonna let 'em shine. And furthermore, no, I will not pay my hard-earned money that, by the way, I earn at 77 cents for every man's dollar, to get bigger boobs. There's not a damn thing wrong with the ones I have. The problem is yours, not mine.
I have grown weary of leaving chain stores heavy-hearted and droopy-chested. So when I discovered a small, non-chain lingerie store in my area, I leapt at the chance to shop there and have never been disappointed. Regardless of my size, I don't mind paying no less than $50 for a bra I know actually fits me, will fit me for more than a year, is made better than the Victoria's Secret bra I pay less for. Know what Victoria's real secret is? She pays substandard wages to people in Third World countries to make substandard foundation garments that don't fit that well anyway. My expensive bras are supportive, comfortable, long-lasting, beautiful. I feel like a real Woman in them, knowing that at the end of a long workday my shoulders and back won't hurt and that I'll look normal and nice in whatever shirt I wear.
So hell yeah I paid $98 for a bra. It felt good. It looks good. Guy said so last night, more than once. (Okay, now that might have been too much information.) I'm proud of my purchase, because I love myself. When I hug myself, I end up hugging a couple of friends I've had for 20 years. And you've ever had a friend for 20 years, you know you gotta treat her right. So I do.
[steps down off of soapbox, grabs up large shopping bag and leaves stage]