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Dressing your breasts for comfort, economy, and looks.
My breasts have been good to me. Trouble-free, productive, a source of simple joy. Conditional though my body acceptance may be I have a soft spot in my heart for my breasts. And my waist, I suppose, and shoulders, complementing my breasts as they do. It’s nice to enjoy something of your physical appearance. I don’t take it for granted. Breasts are it for me.
My breasts have done yeoman’s work nursing four tiny humans from chicken to turkey size, engorging themselves selflessly from grapefruit to melon proportions and back again several times daily for months on end, their responsiveness to a sucking infant, their customer service, startlingly efficient. Lacrobats. Lactating acrobats. It’s almost as remarkable as the ability to produce tiny humans to begin with, all those eyes, ears, and noses ending up in the right place time after time. But breastfeeding is a close second in the neat trick department. They deserve a hand, a round of applause, and a good bra. Breasts are good to us and they deserve a good bra in return, a celebration of all they do, thanks for a job well done, and an investment in our personal infrastructure. If you need a bra make it a good one and make it beautiful. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to house your breasts, you don’t need to break the bra bank, but you do need to be resourceful. And open minded.
My first good bra was brand new and expensive, $120 twenty years ago. I can’t remember why I thought I wanted or needed or deserved one but I’m glad I did. It marked the beginning of a lifelong relationship with good bras and my breasts have been the better for it. Happy. I wore that first bra every day, wore it until it wore out. I have a picture of myself giving birth in it. Black. Sturdy. Sexy. It probably ended up costing pennies a wear by the time I retired it. That’s another thing about a good bra: longevity.
It had underwires, all my favourites do. Underwires aren’t for everyone, for some they’re instruments of torture, but my breasts like them. I’d go so far as to say they’re grateful for them. The person who invented underwires gave breasts a lot of thought and my breasts know it. An underwire is a thin, semi-circular strip of rigid material that gently lifts and supports like a balcony. There’s cantilevering involved, I think. I don’t understand the physics. I should ask my daughter. She made a suspension bridge out of popsicle sticks last week in one of her engineering classes. Maybe she could build me a popsicle stick bra — apply her knowledge of mechanics and calculus — and explain how underwires work.
Everything about my first good bra was superior to its mass produced cousins Wonder and Playtex. Design, materials, construction, look, the whole bra ball of wax; a small ball admittedly. When I put it on I felt invincible, upright, unassailable. It had my back. And my front. All my bases covered. I didn’t need to worry about that part of me; my partner the bra was on the job. Everything stayed put. Discreetly. Without fanfare. Invisibly. That’s why a good bra is an infrastructure project. It’s a basic physical facility acting in the service of an enterprise. Breasts. That said, I’ve forced many friends to look at my bras with me in them. Otherwise, the bras are all under wraps. Or shirts. Or dresses.
I’ve never been more aware of my breasts than since the pandemic, never seen so much of them, Zoom being the digital mirror it is. I’m not a mirror person. Zoom gives me zoobs, breasts that appear prow-like beginning just below my neck and seeming to reach all the way to the laptop monitor like boob lava. I’m suddenly bosom-y. Matron-y. It’s about camera angle or monitor height or framing. It’s not the bra, it’s not my breasts, and it’s not flattering. My breasts are not that monopolizing in person. To eliminate this effect I fill the screen with my face instead which introduces its own set of challenges. Better yet, however, I’ve discovered the off switch for the self-view and that seems to have cured my self-criticism.
When I was starting out, bra shops were the land privacy forgot. Getting fitted meant getting manhandled. A good bra fitter took matters, your breasts, into their own hands. It was all business. Tuck tuck here, tuck tuck there. Push, push. Pull, pull. Straps on, straps off. Tighten. Release. Repeat. How’s this one, How’s that one, they’d ask, thrusting another specimen and their head through the dressing room curtain, whittling away at the contenders until a winner emerged.
You need to know how to support an expensive bra habit so that it can support you. Once you know your size, been fitted, you need to go to a used clothing store and find the lingerie section. Some people get squeamish when it comes to used underwear. Don’t. It’s a bra not a toothbrush, your breasts won’t get cooties. I’ve graduated from buying a very few brand new $150 bras to buying as many $5.99 bras as I can get.
All you need to know is how to identify a good bra. It’s all about the make. My own favourites are French: Chantelle, Aubade, Empriente, Lise Charmel, Lou, PrimaDonna, Simone Pérèle. That’s all there is to it. That’s the trick. Know the names, know the winners. Look for those labels and the rest will take care of itself.
High end bras are a finite quantity out there in lingerie land. A niche. Anyone can be a second-hand bra expert. There’s invariably some spendthrift, thank goodness, who’s gotten rid of a very expensive push up, padded, plunge, or balconette bra in some absolutely lovely shade of blue or nude or white in precisely your size. I’ve been lucky enough to follow in the footsteps of many such women. Since used clothing stores have used the pandemic as an excuse to get rid of change rooms you’ll have to take a chance with your find. If it appears to be the right size, buy it. They won’t all be winners but for a few dollars it’s worth the risk. Buy a bunch. Wear a different one every day. Wash them by hand, inexpensive doesn’t mean cheap. Treat them well and they’ll treat your breasts like the royalty they are.