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  • Jan Flynn

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Bra Online

And why I do it anyway

If only it were this easy. Image by Klaus Hausmann from Pixabay

Humans with breasts, I ask you this:

But first, allow me to clarify. I refer to anyone with mammaries that, for obtuse cultural reasons, require containment.

Readers of the masculine persuasion, who have chests featuring nothing more protuberant than pecs with nipples that — again, according to mystifying societal rules — can be blithely exposed to public view? Feel free to skip.

Not that you will. Because breasts.

Anyway, here’s my question, breast-bearers: how do you feel about shopping for bras?

That’s what I thought.

For me, bra shopping runs a close second to getting a root canal

At least with the root canal, you get local anesthesia. Bra shopping? You feel every wave of confusion, every sinking sense of frustration, every unpleasant elastic tug, every poke from a fastener hook or a vicious underwire.

Not to mention the low-grade humiliation. There you stand, bewildered amidst what looks like a grove of low-hanging twin fruits, trying to find any that might fit your unique shape as you risk dislocating a shoulder while trying them on.

The bra whose band won’t throttle your ribs or whose straps won’t drive you slowly insane as one of them (always only one) slides off your shoulder at random, inopportune intervals. The one with cups that neither gap sadly nor give you quadri-boob. The one that won’t make you look like Ursula the Sea Witch from the back.

The one that you won’t want to rip off of your aching torso the moment you reach the safety of your own home. The one that fits like the last bra you found with which you could peacefully coexist, except that brand doesn’t make that model anymore.

Or maybe it does but your measurements have changed. Heed any advice about bra shopping and you will be admonished that your dimensions change frequently.

That’s what you get for having not only a female-shaped body but one that refuses to adhere to factory specs.

Therefore you require expert fitting

Which is the part about bra shopping I find truly triggering.

Maybe it’s not like this anymore — I didn’t have daughters, so I don’t know. But back before the Punic Wars when I was a tween, a rite of passage in every girl’s life was when your mother or other female relative took you to a department store to purchase your first brassiere.

Several of my friends were already smugly wearing their demure constructions of white cotton and elastic bedecked with a single, tiny satin bow underneath their sweaters. Pudgy and yet modestly endowed, I was late to the party when my mother finally decreed it was time for us to go in search of my “training bra.”

What was it that my nubs needed to be trained to do? I wasn’t about to reveal my ignorance by asking. Deeply concerned that I might be spotted by someone I knew from junior high, I trailed Mom through the lingerie section of the department store, looking with a mixture of fascination and horror at the lace-up girdles, boned waist-reducers, and various constriction devices on display.

What was my heretofore untrammeled girl flesh in for?

Meanwhile, Mom had sought the help of the saleslady, who not only looked like she’d presided over the lingerie department since its inception but whose ample flesh was severely contained by foundation garments. They rustled as they strained against her brocade sheath dress.

“Let’s get you into a dressing room,” cooed the woman, as though coaxing a bird into a cage. Once captured, I waited uncertainly while my mother looked on with a faint smile. The saleslady produced a measuring tape from within the recesses of her vast bosom.

Divested of my blouse, I stood in front of the mirror as she wrapped the tape around my rib cage and then around what amounted to my bust. She clucked and chuckled softly while she worked, presumably to be reassuring.

Then I was made to try on the first of the training bras. Interrupting my fumbles with the hook-and-eye closure, she deftly fastened me into the thing, advised me to bend over at the waist so I could “fall into” the wee cups, and then stood back to judge the result.

Mute with mortification, I watched as she regarded me from above the broad shelf of her chest. She shook her head sympathetically. “Oh, sweetheart,” she said. “If only I could give you some of mine.”

The memory still makes me cringe

Since then, I’ve had bra fittings from time to time. Some have been competent, even expert, and none have been as odious as that first experience.

But neither have any of them been fun.

Even after you’ve been measured, trying on bras is worse than bathing suits. Every brand and style is engineered slightly differently. If a bra doesn’t fit, it really doesn’t fit, but you only find that out after futilely adjusting all the various closures and straps.

All the lace, satin, and sherbert colors (which will show under your tops, which is why you end up with some dull hue of beige or taupe) can’t make up for working up a sweat while climbing in and out of the damn things and hoping an earthquake doesn’t hit while your arms are caught behind your back by the straps and your girls are hanging out.

Still, you can’t discount the considerable engineering that goes into a quality bra, which is why they can set you back $70 or more. And it’s not like you only need one of them.

Also, breasts and the bodies that carry them come in all kinds of shapes, not just sizes. Round, tear-drop, wide-set, pendulous, petite, perky, saggy, kinda cross-eyed.

No wonder most shopping advice tells you to seek expert help.

I’ll take my chances

Since I have once again arrived at the realization that it is time to replace my over-worn brassieres, I have considered my options.

I’m no longer a timid flat-chested teen, nor a new mother in need of a nursing bra with the dimensions of a set of water wings. I am a grown-ass, formidable woman who is not cowed (sorry) by salesladies, measuring tapes, or too many choices.

But going to a department store or a lingerie shop? I honestly think I’d rather have a mammogram. It’s over quicker, and my insurance covers it.

So I’m measuring myself, using several conflicting sets of instructions found on YouTube, and ordering a selection of well-reviewed boobie traps from reputable brands.

I can do all the contorting and fuming in the privacy of my own boudoir until I find the bra that ticks all the boxes and that keeps my front-of-house ladies in contented confinement like victims of Stockholm syndrome.

And when I find that holy grail of knocker lockers, I’ll buy a dozen of ’em. 

Because I’d be fine with never having to go bra shopping again.

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