A Paris reprieve. Today’s topic? Bras.

Today I offer a certain “errant blog post” that I wrote last year, but which I never published. At the time it seemed too personal and too risqué. But after two weeks in Paris … well, what the heck. Enjoy.


I generally don’t mind shopping, with one singular exception: I hate shopping for bras. Hate it!

I’ve been spared this special torture since about 2001 because I had the foresight to hoard a small army of Maidenforms when I found a style that fit.

But one by one I’ve culled their ranks, until this morning I concluded that the last of the Maidenforms had to go. Its grayish hue reminded me of cheap bratwurst, and its once-resilient elastic straps now fell limply off my shoulders, like overcooked spaghetti.

So I went back to the original point of purchase.

“Can I help you find something?” asked the saleslady. “I’m looking for Maidenform model 2586,” I said, proud of myself for knowing. Her face went blank. I described my quarry but she shook her head. “I don’t think we carry that anymore,” she said, and soon confirmed it with an online search.

My bra had been discontinued.

She offered to help me find an alternative, but I demurred. I was still blushing from the last time I’d had a “personal fitting.”

I grabbed some styles that more or less resembled my dying Maidenform and headed into the fitting room.

Before I continue, let me say this: I’m a small woman, and everything is pretty much proportional. So I accept that (short of major surgical intervention) my breasts will never look like cantaloupes. And I’m OK with that. Really!

But I was dismayed to try on the first bra and see that instead my breasts looked like bananas. (Specifically, plantains.) Billed as a “natural cup,” this double-jock-strap-like contraption somehow actually managed to passively-aggressively create an elongated silhouette worthy of National Geographic. Um, no thank you.

The second bra promised a “smooth contour.” It had enough foam to re-cushion a small sofa, but I gave it a shot anyway.

Alas, the molded cups had an unnaturally conical shape. Worse yet, they pointed disconcertingly upward, like missiles awaiting their launch codes. Again: Thanks, but no.

The “T-shirt bra” dug angrily into my ribs, creating ugly lumps of dreaded Back Fat. And the athletic bra pushed my girls toward the middle, squishing them into a shapeless uniboob. (Finally, I had the cantaloupe of my dreams! Alas, there was only one …)

Only one bra remained, and I was dubious.

There are two kinds of underwear: There’s the functional kind, which pretty much does what underwear is supposed to. Then there’s the ceremonial kind. Ceremonial underwear isn’t intended to be worn, so much as it’s designed to be admired and then quickly—breathlessly—removed.

My last option fell into this latter category. It was lacy and frilly and covered with ridiculous little ribbons and tiny embroidered roses. But if it fit well, who cared? No one was going to see it anyway, I reasoned.

It fit well, alright. I practically swooned with delight as I pulled on my blouse to check out the overall effect.

It was then that I discovered the last of the fatal bra flaws: Through my blouse I could see the contours of absolutely every ribbon and tiny embroidered rose. Were I to wear this in public, there would be a very real possibility that someone would mistake those tiny protrusions for Braille and try to read my boobs.

I stood there for a second, weighing my options. I could follow the instructions and “ring bell for assistance.” Or I could put on my bratwurst-gray Maidenform and go home.

I rather like gray, I decided in the end …


  1. Hahahahaha, this is hysterical! We can all relate.
    Why is it that bra buying is such a traumatic experience? It really shouldn’t be.

    I had a place I liked, they were attentive, always had a good selection and knew their merchandise. Alas, they moved, maybe 20 blocks away but it feels like they went to Mars.

    Last time, I decided to try Victoria’s Secret. One had the “missile” effect and the other made me feel like I had on extra padding.

    I don’t look at anything with bows or fru-fru because the underside always itch.
    I’m ready for some new ones and I’m not looking forward to that experience.

  2. I have hoarded well-fitted bras, too. What baffles me is that the same size can be either too big or too small. Of course, that is true of all women’s clothing. It is maddening!
    By the way, ribbons flowers can work under a sturdy sweater.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only bra-hoarder out there. 🙂 Though, as you observe, sometimes the sizing varies. You’d think there’d be more consistency with our modern manufacturing processes. Sigh.

  3. Wow…and the only question a guy has to answer each day is “Boxers or Briefs.”

    My personal preference shall remain a well guarded secret, but I’m glad you stumbled on my blog and I stumbled on yours in return. *smile*

    Do keep in touch!

    • Glad you liked my post, Aaron! I wrote it half in protest against the tyranny of the bra, and half as a public service to all those men who sit outside Victoria’s Secret wondering, “What on earth could be taking so long?”

      And absolutely, I’ll keep in touch — I’m one of your subscribers! (Loved the post about Episode I, BTW …)

  4. Haha although I do not wear bras, I can feel your pain in a way as I have 2 sisters that do. They always tell me stuff like the underwire hurts, and I don’t think they really like sports bras either. But maby you’ll find my blog about bikinis interesting. It questions why are they so expensive, from a businessie point of view. I read the artical in DialyFinance.

  5. That was soooooooooooooooo funny….it reminds me of a long time back when my Mom despaired of finding the right bra for me 🙂 Everything was either too squishy, or too large, or something else. And the worst part – I actually had to parade in front of Mom so that she could assess whether the fit was right (since I had no clue)….and experience I would never want to repeat 🙂

    • OK: Having to parade around in front of your mom is *WAY* more horrible than anything I’ve endured. Congratulations … you’ve just put my torturous bra-buying experience into perspective. 🙂

    • Thanks a million, Sarah! (Or should I say 6 billion??!) I think you’re perhaps the third person *ever* who has complimented my writing style. Thank you …

  6. So true! I recently bought a bra in Victoria’s Secret, and I was more than a bit abashed by the end of it. You’d think they could make one that keeps everything in line without having to make me feel like a creme puff!

  7. I agreed with every word of this! I too once found the bra of my dreams in la senza and bought one in every colour, shrugging off the mockery of my boyfriend. After all, what could a man know about the horror of stabby-stabby underwiring, or the quadruple-boob effect (an unfortunate consequence of the quest for cantaloupes you weren’t born with)??

    Alas my washing machine ATE the back strap of my last one a week ago. I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to visit la senza to see if they’re still making my precious bra. I fear it may have met the same sad fate as your maidenhead 😦

    • My *maidenFORM,* literarykitty! LOL! 🙂

      Seriously, though … my condolences on the loss of your last beloved la senza. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that they’ll still carry your favorite style.

      Thanks so much for writing!

  8. I loved this! My fiance usually finds another store..or MALL to tour while I’m in the local unmentionables shop! My very first bra-trying-on experience was with my Mom, Aunt, and older cousin. She made me try it on OVER my shirt, in the middle of the store, between the racks. NEVER went bra shopping with my Mama again! Scarred for life! haha

    • Oh, Barb … Your story made me *cringe*! The indignity!!! Honestly: What was your mom thinking? Thanks for the laugh. 🙂

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