I hate talking to the sales assistants, for starters – I can’t stand my body being scrutinised by a stranger, let alone a stranger who’s trying to sell me shit.
But the reason I hate bra shopping so much is because women at lingerie stores get my body wrong.
I’m a very petite person – tiny body, skinny limbs, short legs, small waist. It’s probably the Filipino in me. But I also have big boobs. Until recently I refused to buy new bras 1. Because I wasn’t sure if I was buying the correct size and didn’t want to waste money on ill-fitting bras, and 2. Because I was loath to seek help from fitting room ladies who acted like I didn’t know my own breasts.
A few years ago when the much-hyped U Plunge bras bandwagon rolled by, I jumped right on it and I eagerly went into Bras N’ Things to buy one. I have a few low-cut dresses where it’s not ideal to wear a bra underneath, but going braless isn’t really an option for me either. Those things get heavy, y’all.
So I picked the 10C and 12C out, and went into the fitting room where the salesgirl was alternating between myself and another woman next to me. She glanced at the bras I had selected – I explained the need for that particular style – then glanced at my size six body as I turned to face the mirror.
“Um,” she began loudly, eyes taking in my small frame with a smirk, “I’ll get you the B. I don’t think you’re that big.”
I cringed as she disappeared, wondering if the woman in the other stall was laughing at me. I outgrew a B-cup when I was thirteen, but I figured the salesgirl knew what she was doing. Maybe this bra style was designed with bigger cup sizes? How would I know?
I tried on the 10C and it didn’t feel comfortable. The salesgirl popped her head back in with the 10B, saying, “Yeah, it’s not supposed to sit like that. Try this one.”
I squeezed myself into the 10B and stifled a giggle. Now half my damn breast was hanging out each side, like someone had just slapped black duct tape over my nipples. The salesgirl looked in, and was just about to nod her head with approval when I turned and gestured at the unholy amount of side-boob. “I think it’s too small,” I announced drily.
I grudgingly changed into the 12C, but the bra itself (and the style is quite large anyway) was way too big and didn’t fit my body properly. The salesgirl came inside again and concluded with a frown, “You know, I just don’t think this kind of bra is made for you!”
She didn’t elaborate any further – like, why was this bra made for anybody with breasts except me? Were we perhaps getting the sizes wrong? Maybe she should actually step inside and measure me instead of snorting at me from beside the open door? But no, the gal was completely devoid of any helpful recommendations besides sighing and shrugging her shoulders at my amazing uncontrollable breasts. I thanked her and walked out, taking this message with me: There’s nothing wrong with the bra sizes or our products or my assistance, there’s something wrong with YOUR BODY.
And that’s about when I stopped buying new bras, instead wearing the same three favourites over and over again. But that kind of protest can’t last forever, and when those loyal old bras fell apart recently I was forced to face a fitting room again.
At a different store I was served by an older woman, to whom I explained I didn’t know precisely what size I was and that I wasn’t comfortable in most of my bras. She smiled kindly and said, “Ok, pick out some bras to try on and I’ll see what I can do. Just looking at you now you’re a 10 – what – B?”
I rolled my eyes to myself, mentally preparing for a repeat of the oh, I don’t think this bra is MADE for you... and she added, “Unless you’re deceptive underneath that big coat!”
As she joined me in the change room and properly adjusted the bra I was wearing she remarked with a laugh, “Ah, deceptive you are – you're a 10D. I'll get you one.”
And so I bought the first bra that has actually supported my girls properly in a long time. This older saleslady advised me I should always try a bra on and get fitting room assistance before buying it. It's bad for your breasts and your back to be wearing the wrong size, she said. It's our job to make sure you're wearing the right fit, she said. Don't be shy, always try, she said with a grin.
Pass. I figure I’ll just stubbornly cling to my new bras until I outgrow them years from now and have to do this all over again.