When I was at school we were much amused by the notion of an “Over shoulder boulder-holder”, and amazed at the impact that mammary glands could have on the opposite sex. But as we grew up, we persuaded our mums to buy us our “first bra”. You may never have seen a girl’s (as opposed to a woman’s) bra. Bras for girls look like a pair of Y fronts – rather vile and slightly medical.
When we had finished giggling, and got used to them, we came to value our bras. We soon realised that one of the most important items in a ladies wardrobe was the brassiere. Worn everyday, working tirelessly, and usually unseen, a good bra provides
- comfort (I feel cold without one)
- a good shape under clothes
- modesty (have you noticed that nipples have been banished by today’s thicker bras?)
I spent some of the 1970s braless, and I was a vegetarian too. But eventually I found that running for the bus was both uncomfortable and unnecessarily attention-seeking, and I did what everyone did. I went to a department store to be professionally measured.
This is not a pleasant experience. To have a middle-aged lady – “June? Are you free for a fitting?” – come into the dressing room with you and whip out her tape measure, and measure you over your jumper, was somewhat strange. Then she would pronounce the verdict -“Hmmm, 34C, or maybe a D? I’ll get a 32D for you to try too.” And you shiver in your undies while she wanders around the shop looking for a bra, any bra, in roughly your size. She re-enters triumphant with a crusty black number with thick straps, or the baby blue Cross Your Heart number, or something with guipure lace and lots of padding, or an item with wire that digs in horribly. The ones you try on seem to have a cage built in, or they make your breasts pointy, or the filmy nylon itches you like crazy. And some of the offerings are so high cut that you believe they will show under a low cut top. But you are too embarrassed to ask for something more youthful, or frankly sexually appealing. So in the end you just more or less grab an inoffensive beige one and make a quick dash to the till.
If you are still buying bras in supermarkets, and popping approximately the right size into your trolley without even trying it on, please stop.
There is another way. You need to be quite grown up and confident to do this.
Go to a specialist shop, where they don’t sell anything else other than brassieres (and possibly swimwear). The women who work there are properly trained and spend all day, everyday, fitting and selling bras. They are experts. They know what size of bra you need without touching you, or measuring you, although they do take a look. Listen to their advice. Try on the proffered bra.
A good bra doesn’t dig in. It doesn’t divide your breasts into an in/out category. The flesh under your arms and on your back will not seep out. Your breasts will sit perfectly inside the cups like the bra was made for you. It will feel comfortable, but firm. Like someone nice is holding your breasts up for you. You should be able to run comfortably in a good bra, although if you do run get a sports bra too. Put a T-shirt or jumper on over the bra and check how it looks. The outline of your bra will definitely not be visible – everything will look streamlined.
This is the bra that was chosen for me. A good bra, like a good haircut, is expensive, but a decent bra has, in a small way, changed my life for the better.