Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Laughter, pleasure, malice, and the pursuit of adult fun

Battle of the Bras

Ten years ago I bought the perfect brassiere for $15.95. They stopped making it.

Like Scarlett O’Hara swearing away into the sunset, you make a solemn pledge to yourself:  you WILL get a bra that fits exactly the way it is supposed to fit.

This will never happen.

Not even if you are a woman.

Let’s start by telling the truth: there is no perfect brassiere. How do I know? If there were a perfect brassiere, women around the globe would be texting, telephoning, yelling over backyard fences, e-mailing, sending smoke signals—anything—to alert other women that the quest has proved fruitful at last. The ideal ur-bra having been discovered is not information a self-respecting member of the sisterhood would keep to herself.

Some of us were part of the generation that decided bras were simply worn evidence of the partriarchy’s worn-out, lopsided, stance on the need to repress and contain women’s bodies. Many of us decided that, unlike our mothers and grandmothers, we would not shove and stuff our flesh inside girdles and corsets as if we were made of Play Doh and could be molded at will. We felt fine wearing T-shirts, thank you, with nothing between us and our front pockets (pockets which were strategically placed). After the famous poster of Farah Fawcett from the mid-seventies, in fact, pockets were no longer de rigeur; even cheerleader-types could kill their Living Bras.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Ten years ago I bought the perfect brassiere for $15.95 but once the manufacturers heard I liked it, they stopped making that model.

There are still battles to be fought in terms of gaining full equity for women, and the battle of the bra remains a small (don’t even try to make a joke here) but significant one.

Turns out that the culture is, yes, still trying to get women to control our bodies in order to meet men’s specifications in terms of beauty. That is bad. What is worse—it becomes clear after wearing brassieres for thirty years—is that women’s underwear was clearly designed by men. By the same bunch who gave us stiletto heels. By the same group who designed automatically-self-destructing pantyhose. By the same geniuses who encouraged us to to start thinking that we were insufficiently feminine if we did not get bikini waxes. As if “bring forth children in pain” were not enough, we must inflict anguish upon ourselves whenever possible in order to be a real girl.

So what, in the bra arena, can a girl do?

Should you resign yourself to buying big old white brassieres from a catalog, the kind that hoist your breasts up and practically swing them over your shoulders? Should you buy a cute bra for $76.50 that will look cute as long as it does not actually touch your person?

My extensive research shows that bras fit for the first fifteen minutes whereupon they partake of the “shrink-wrap” effect. Body temperature causes the elastic in the shoulder straps to wither and tighten, causing uncontrollably itching in the middle of your back. Front-closure bras, while a good idea, have the unfortunate tendency to pop, causing your breasts to fling themselves onto the dinner plate.

Sometimes not even your own dinner plate.

Sports bras are great but look funny under formal wear.

What can professional expertise offer? The following passage is lifted directly from a manufacturer’s website: “Add 5 to the measurement (i.e. if ‘A is 29,’ the back size is 34). After 33 inches, only add 3 inches to the back measurement (i.e. if "A is 35", the back size is 38). This measurement should equal your back size calculation. For example if you measured 29 inches around your ribcage, the calculation is 29 + 5 = 34.”

If I could do that kind of math, I wouldn’t be sitting hear trying to figure out my cup size. I would be solving the mysteries of the universe. Or at the very least topping up my already sizable portfolio, the profits of which I would have been able to bank on because I was good at figures. If I were very good at figures, I wouldn’t have to worry so much about mine.

I would buy whatever Scarlett O’Hara was wearing. Even when she raised her fist into the air, it seemed to fit.

 

—adapted from It's Not That I'm Bitter (St. Martin's Press)

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., is Professor of English at UConn, and author of It's Not That I'm Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World.

more...

Subscribe to Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?