dispatches from the dressing room: good money spent (by Suburban Correspondent)

As discussed in this space previously, I am well-endowed. And all these years, I've made do with what I thought were pretty good brassieres that cost me approximately 25 dollars apiece. Because I'm frugal and I know how to find a good deal, don't you know. And I don't have time to find a REALLY GOOD bra. And I'm going to lose another 10, 15, 20 pounds first and THEN I'll spend more money on some decent support...

Look - I'm not going to repeat what I have already admitted to, years ago - my bitterness toward the small-breasted among you, who can wear the cute little bras found at Target, who sport stylish tank tops all summer without worrying about the sides of your industrial-strength brassiere showing above the armholes. I like to think I'm past that, that I've made my peace with a body that sometimes feels as though it belongs in a freak show.


And then Mrs G had to go re-open the entire topic. Mrs G announced that she had taken herself to Nordstrom's and had herself fitted by a salesperson there. Mrs G RAVED about the results. Mrs G urged all us readers to hurry to our nearest Nordstrom's and do the same.

So...I procrastinated. But yesterday, I found myself at the mall, walking past (but not into) Nordstrom's (I mean, that place is EXPENSIVE). "Go in," I told myself. "Mrs. G said so. Your bra fits like crap."

I hesitated. Let a perfect stranger fit me for bras? Could I do it? I really need my personal space. And, believe me, it's obvious. Jen on the Edge, upon meeting me last summer, immediately said, "You're not a hugger. I can tell."

So I compromised. I'd walk in and LOOK at the bras, I decided. But I didn't have to get fitted, I promised myself. Just sort of stick my toe in the water and see if I liked it...

Thus resolved, I entered the store, trying not to look at any of the price tags, for fear I'd either faint or scream with shock. I made my way to the lingerie department and fingered a bit of the merchandise. Within a few minutes, a salesperson approached me and suggested a fitting.

You know, there are moments that are turning points in one's life. Would I admit I needed help? That I couldn't go on trying to find a decent-fitting bra on my own? Or would I continue with the (almost) life-long denial that allows me to march around all day, every day, in a 36 DD that smushes my (over-large) breasts all over my chest and under my arms in a pathetic attempt to "minimize"?

Reader, I agreed to a fitting. Feeling like an impostor, I allowed the woman (Rachel was her name) to lead me to the dressing room and order me to remove my shirt. I was convinced that, the minute the salesperson saw the poor and cheap excuse for support that I was wearing, I would be politely asked to leave the premises. Perhaps security guards would be involved.

"This doesn't bother me," I said airily, fooling no one. "I've given birth six times."

I've given birth six times. Yeah, I said that. I wince now, just thinking of it. Rachel, to her credit, let it pass. She even offered that she was pregnant with her second child, herself.

Would this be the right time to mention that she was clothed in a red headscarf and the black robes of a full burqa?

And doesn't it sound like I made that part up? That maybe I was hallucinating?

Let's review: I'm standing in the dressing room of an upscale department store with my shirt off and my middle-aged stomach rolling in all directions over the waist of my cheap Kohl's jeans, in the presence of a woman who is covered from head to toe (aside from her face).

I believe it was at that point that I realized things couldn't get any worse. And they didn't. Rachel measured me and brought in an assortment of brassieres that were a size 32H. Something about the fact that the store even HAD my size in stock made me feel much less freakish than I have felt for the past, oh, 30 years or so. I cannot overemphasize what a difference this made in how I look at my body.

The brassieres all fit beautifully. I sneaked a look at the price tag of one of them and managed not to faint. Barely. I even grew bold enough to ask if there were a jogging bra to fit me, imagining that - having seen my physique - the heretofore tactful saleswoman would not be able to prevent a smirk from escaping her lips. God bless her, she kept a straight face and found what I was looking for.

So here's the upshot:

I am wearing a brassiere that costs 65 dollars. It lifts and separates and I am not hunching my shoulders in an ineffectual attempt to minimize any rogue breast movement. I feel like a million bucks. My back doesn't hurt. And when I undressed last night, I realized that my breasts didn't start aching, as had been their wont, when I unsnapped my bra. Lord knows what sort of damage I was doing to my breast tissue by trying to squeeze the girls into too small a cup size.

Let me repeat - for about $180 (I bought 3 brassieres, including the jogging one), I feel like a million bucks. That, my friends, sounds like a bargain to me. And there is little, if any, residual humiliation from the experience as a whole.

So get thee to a fittery! And report back - we want to hear all about it. 


To read more of Suburban Correspondent, check out her blog, The More, The Messier

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Reader Comments (31)

I have been trying to push/coerce/ drag my daughter (adult and married, not a teen) to Nordstroms for a bra fitting for ages. She refuses to go for many of the reason's you mention. I'm going to tell her to read this post. Thanks!


October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDarla

congratulations! And now enjoy!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermeredith@whynot

I'm glad you finally did this for yourself. Sometimes we are too willing to forego the things we need while making sure everyone else in our lives has everything they want. Right now I'm thinking of the tennis shoes my daughter "needs" for three different sports plus casual wear while I am hesitant to spend $40 every three to five years on a decent pair for my self or how easy it is for my husband to spend big bucks on a suit, jacket, or suitcase for work travel while I have trouble justifying a trip to Goodwill to add to my wardrobe. This is not my family's fault but mine.

It's interesting that you mention how you have often envied women with small breasts, though. I recently allowed myself to try on an A cup because the B just wasn't fitting right any more. It hasn't for probably 15 years, but, for some reason, that's a hard thing to admit. I swallowed my pride and bought two little girl bras for my "little girls". You know what? I am so much more comfortable, and it looks better, too.

For all of my high school years and the first half of my married life, I thought I would gladly get a boob job--if I had the money and could bring myself to spend that much on myself. Then I decided I am opposed to such things. Authenticity is one of the character traits I strive for above most others. I knew that if I had my bust enhanced I would feel like a fraud. (This is just the way I feel about it for myself, folks. You work out your own issues the way you want.) Yet, in spite of this decision and increasingly strong conviction, I had trouble admitting that my breasts had shrunk an entire cup size somewhere in the process of having four children. It's not supposed to work that way! No one likes to talk about it, but, let me tell you, I have found it works that way for quite a few women.

I have finally reached the point where I am comfortable with my small boobs. (I'm still working on being comfortable with the fact that my protruding ribs and slightly poochy stomach sit about level with my breasts.) I've also come to realize that most women struggle with body image. Their boobs are too small or too big. Their stomachs are never flat enough. Their butts are too small (it happens) or too big. They are too short or too tall. Their hair is too straight or too curly or not the right color. I'm convinced many of us are trying to be something we're not, and, in the process, we lose the something really great and special that we could be. I can work on toning up my stomach muscles, but there is nothing I can do about my breasts beyond surgery and absolutely nothing I can do about my protruding ribs. I'll never be any taller. My friend that was complaining about her shape the other day will always be curvier than me. It's just how we came from the factory. It's not a factory defect, it's a difference in design. Each has its own benefits and its own limitations. I wish we could all learn to appreciate how we are made and make the most of that instead of wishing we were something else. Each of us is beautiful in our own way. As long as we are trying to be someone else, it will be hard for our own unique brand of beauty to shine through.

Surprise! You've just been bombed by a stealth post! :o)

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenni in KS

I've been contemplating a fitting since Mrs. G's most recent post on the subject. The other day my mother was grumbling about her girls and I offered to take her to Nordstrom's. Maybe when that happens I'll have one too, you know, since I'll already be there and all...

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter~annie

Girl, I am SO GLAD you got yourself fitted. Don't you feel a million times better now?

$65 doesn't even faze me when I'm bra shopping.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen on the Edge

As long as the bras are local, right, Jen on the Edge?

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

Reminds me of the last time I went shopping for briefs, A guy offered me a fitting. Turned out he didn't work there.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDennis Allen

Good job SC! I wish we had a Nordstroms down here. Our choices are Macy's, Penney's, Dillards and Belk. I think that's it. So I either wait till I'm up your way, or pick another. Hmmm.....

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternavhelowife

SC, alright you've convinced me damnit! And there is no shame in telling complete strangers you've given birth six times. I feel like that kind of thing deserves a medal and a permanent sash.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessie

Dillard's also has bra fitters and a selection of bras pretty similar to Nordstroms. I haven't had a bra fitting there, but the ladies are always very helpful. I go to Dilliard's mainly because it is closer to my house than Nordstroms. It is a good alternative.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartha In GA


October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermamaraby

Double Yay!
Nothing better than the result of the time and effort of finding a bra that fits. You and Mrs. G. have done everyone a service. I had to find mine by myself, I eventually found it!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVal

For those who don't live near a Nordstroms, you can fit yourself. Here's a little cartoon tutorial from the "Wizard of Bras" - I like the sensible explanation of why bras fit poorly and how to put a bra on properly:

Follow the little cartoons.

I think I mentioned the other week that I bought a bra of the brand that Mrs. G. discovered, Elomi. It was on sale for $32. I was a little taken aback when it arrived by its seemingly industrial strength, but yesterday I spent the whole day in it - and it was sooooooooo comfortable!!!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Snow

Lemme tell you, if you don't care about one kind of sensation and the lack of another but more about external looks, get the boob job. I had it done on my leg. Yes. Fortunately, it was temporary, but necessary if I wanted to keep my knee, and be able to wear a prosthesis. Though skin grafts the year before had allowed me to keep more of my leg, there were problems. I'd healed enough that I could get tissue expanders put in, aka boob job, aka saline bags under the skin. Every week I'd go in and get more saline injected as my skin allowed it. I did not enjoy any part of that, not one bit. If you don't like the sensation of someone touching your skin, then no problem. If you like feeling like a produce bag from the grocery store is in you, filled with fluid, go for it (along with the little metal plate for injections they hide under the bag if it is a boob job). I was under when they took it out but was I happy to feel it gone, to feel the pain from the newest surgery. I had normal sensation again!

Just my experience. that naomi (you know, the one who showed up after the first naomi here)

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternaomi

Yay for you! Go girls, go get fitted out! A veritable wave of proper fittings.
I think I may need to go as well...

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Coincidentally, I went bra shopping last night. I'm in the process of losing weight and my boobs decided to be the first to go. I've gone from a DD to a D but I kept on wearing my old bras. I've never felt more horrible about myself, despite being skinnier, than I have in the past few weeks walking around with my saggy, deflated-looking boobs. So I went to Kohl's last night to do something about it.

I guess maybe if I'd gone to Dillard's or Victoria's Secret or somewhere pricier that there would have been a better selection in my size, but like several before me have commented, I really hate spending so much money on bras. I just can't do it. I'm a little bit cheap, I guess, haha. Is it so wrong to think that we could get sexy bras in lots of great colors and in sizes above a C cup for under $30?? I mean, maybe I'm dreaming here, but I really don't understand why all the cute bras are only offered in small sizes. I've got cleavage for days and I want to show it off in something hot, not always in just a full coverage bra or in a bra out of a box made by Playtex!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCara

@Cara - they have cute bras with colors and lace even in an H cup at Nordstrom's. Treat yourself to one, honey. Just one.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

A good fitting bra is a necessity for each and every woman. Why, I wonder are they so expensive? Shouldn't we be able to buy a good fitting, well made bra at any discount store? It makes me a little crazy that we have to shell out close to $100 to get such an essential piece of underwear.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterALBUG

I just dragged my niece (38 and three kids) to Nordstrom and she had the same general reaction as you did. 36DDD - she couldn't believe they had fun bras in her size, and even a sports bra. What a difference in her appearance it made!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I am applauding like crazy over here in flat-chested-land because anything that makes you feel THAT much better is worth every penny! Plus, this is the most hysterical and vivid thing you've ever written--your voice is like my neighbor lady and I totally want to meet you IRL more than I originally did.
Was she really wearing a full-body robe? Because that's pretty bizarre in the lingerie department.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Girl in Wisconsin

Ladies, another tip - once you have been fitted for your size, especially if you are a C cup or smaller, you can find lots of wonderful bras shopping online, and if you know your size, you can order worry-free (D cup and higher are supposed to be a little less reliably sized). I always use Bare and, and have had great success finding pretty things that fit well.

I have a weakness for the French brands, and if you shop the sales, you can get things at good prices.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Snow

@GreenGirl - Bizarre describes it exactly. Here I was getting bra advice from a woman whose ta-ta support system I could not even begin to evaluate. But that's sort of my pattern. I found my current hairdresser on the recommendation of my Turkish neighbor. It wasn't until I was actually sitting in the salon chair that I realized that I had NEVER SEEN my neighbor's hairstyle.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

I think I'm ready. Today I had lunch with a friend at a restaurant in Kenwood. One of my favorites - the Santa Fe Salad is excellent. When you pull out of the parking lot and stop at the light to turn onto Montgomery Road, the new Nordsrtrom's is right in front of you, across the street.

I gazed at it and remembered what I had read here. Then I turned right and went to Freshmarket, which is where I go when I need the shopping equivalent of Comfort Food. Plus you can get comfort food there. (Have you seen their chocolate section??)

However. I am All Done with putting bits of kleenex under the end of the underwire under my arm, because these bras (I thought they were The Answer and I bought them in every color) bite into my tender underarm flesh and they HURT.

So I'm going to Nordstrom next week. Enough already. And thank you.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBriget

Okay, I'm sold. Next time I'm at the mall I'm hitting Nordstrom's. Though I will need a designated driver as I think I will need a drink first.

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter*m*

Ok, I'm convinced too. As soon as I can find someone to watch my kids so I can go alone, (bra fitting + crazy toddlers = full body sweat) I'm hitting up the first decent bra store I can find. We don't have a Nordstrom's around here, but I'll find somewhere!

October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhistorygirl

SC, I am so glad you had a good experience and a great outcome!
While I have the opposite troubles (Jenni in KS, I am in your small girls club, but with a lot of padding on the ribs) the professionals at Nordstrom's made me feel "normal" and it was a much less inhibiting experience than I expected it to be. It is so worth it to get a proper fitting!

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren (formerly kcinnova)

ACK!! I already did report on it. The similarities to your report are amazing. And it was at Nordstrom's, too, where I thought I'd just have a look and under no circumstances allow myself to be fitted. So much for that. I'm not as happy as you are though. I look better, but it's still an exploded tourniquet.

October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMurr Brewster

I must be buying the right bras from Kohls--and I do replace them fairly often--because I have been to Nordstrom's for a fitting and though they put me in a 36E instead of a 38D, it didn't really feel or look any different. I was only doing the fitting because I dragged a friend there because I KNEW her bras were not doing her any favors and the difference on her was night and day. I think she dropped $300 that day. Money well-spent!

October 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenn @ Juggling Life

Hey, ladies (and Gary), if you haven't checked out Murr Brewster's link up there, you're missing something.

October 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

There is a specialty swimwear store for "larger" ladies that we drive by when we go to the doctor. Last week they had a new sign up, "Bigger stock now". Of course, I shouted it out for all of my children to hear...and, of course, we were past the sign already, so they just thought I was screwy. I haven't had the courage to go in yet....but I think I may....I can't imagine having a good bra anymore. I have vague memories of one in my mid-20's.....

October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayla

Don't ruin my bra euphoria by mentioning swimwear. I can't bear it.

October 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent

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