** Boys, feel free to skip this one. I'm going to talk about bras, shopping and body-image. You've been warned**
I set aside a few hours this weekend to do some serious shopping: I needed both bras and a bathing suit for an upcoming trip. This deserves a little back story though, as shopping for bras has always been a nightmare for me. In case you're unaware -- and there's no cute or polite way to get around this -- I have large breasts. Every woman thinks she wants bigger boobs (or at least every man designing bras assumes every woman buying them wants bigger breasts). I know this because it is increasingly difficult to find bras without inner padding, push-ups, gel inserts, cushions, and now there are even "double push-ups", which are basically foam filled falsies on a band. I don't want bigger boobs, or the appearance of bigger boobs. I just want something to hold 'em in, strap 'em down, and keep 'em in place.
Not only do I have larger-than-average lady parts, but I have them on a petite frame. I have narrow shoulders and a small ribcage, so I need a bra with large cups on a small band and straps that are close together. I like the idea of crisscrossed straps or a racer-back to keep the straps in place, but now I'm being picky. Shopping for a decently appropriate bra is like searching for the holy grail, and at times I wonder if such an item is the stuff of fantasy. I frequently leave stores empty handed, frustrated and sometimes a bit emotional. On one memorable occasion I even managed to bring a sales associate to tears with me.
Up to a few years ago I was wearing a 32DD, but I'm not quite as slender now and am in a 34DD. Thank goodness, because the 34 is a bit easier to find. I know I could easily find a well-fitted bra at a specialty store, but I just can't justify the specialty price. Why should I have to pay $150 - $300 for something the rest of the world pays $30 - $50 for? If it's needed for a special occasion and there's no getting around it, sure, I'll shell out the dough, but I'd really rather not.
Most mall-variety bra stores (and I'm talking stores that sell only or primarily ladies undergarments) do not carry my size, or carry it in one or two styles only. When I ask for my size I often get a stunned look, questions about whether I've been fitted properly, or offers to try a different size that "might do the trick". I've been told it's an unusual size, it's a popular size that sells out too quickly, and once that it's a "European size." Well thank you very much. How silly of me to think my European sized body would work over here in North America. My mistake, I guess.
Well this weekend I lucked out at Sears, of all places. I tried on more than a dozen bras, of which about half were actually 34DD. Not only did I find some that fit nicely, I walked out of there with not one, but FOUR bras. Two were on clearance (one of which was a minimizer -- the opposite of a push-up!), and they were also having a buy-one-get-one sale on boxed bras. I was only able to find one boxed style of bra in my size that didn't look like something my grandmother might own, so I grabbed two of them.
Challenge one complete: on to bathing suits...
I'll keep this short, but after some searching I found an amazing, flattering bathing suit for a reasonable price. It was nothing fancy on the hanger, but once I got it on I knew it was The One. It's green, teal and black in a 60's style silhouette. It looks like something Joan Holloway would wear. I picked it up at Bikini Village for under $100. I was amazed! I did also try on what may have been only the second flattering bikini I've ever tried on in my life, but at $200 for both pieces I thought I'd better stick with the one piece.
Looking for clothes that flatter my body can be the most frustrating, awkward, embarrassing experience imaginable. And I don't even really have a problem with my "European" body type -- I'm just really tired of not fitting the mold that retailers are catering to. I'm tired of hemming, buying a size up so I can have something taken in, and trying to make something that doesn't fit "do the trick". That said, finding (and wearing!) properly fitted, flattering, comfortable, stylish garments is such a confidence booster! What's sexier than wearing something you know you look great in?
And that's why I love/hate shopping.