I live in a great town, with a main drag and side streets full of stores and restaurants, shops and bars. It’s toted as “the Hippest Town in NJ”, but that moniker makes it seem a little square.
In any case, it’s a destination. Are you ready for this??? People actually move out of NYC to live in my town! Shocking, but true. And those that don’t actually move here… apparently they drive in for the day or night to take advantage of all that the town has to offer (if the license plates and the line at Starbucks can be believed.)
I am in our downtown five days out of seven, as I drop off and pick my child up from school mere steps from the action. Part of that time I spend running errands in my town. I’m into shopping local. I like parking and walking, and I enjoy local shopkeepers and good old-fashioned customer service. I will pay more for a CD from the local record store; I will run through the rain for something I can download at home for less money. I’m dedicated. Still, I’d never been inside the local lingerie shop. I walked past this store time and time again, preferring my mad dash through Target for my undergarment needs. Why?
Simple. It didn’t look like me.
To me, this local, attractively merchandised store screamed two things– “money!” and (forgive me, Angie) “mistress.” Oh, you know what I mean. The kind of store that sells high-priced lingerie to women who are skinny, rich, having an affair, or possibly splurging for a marriage rekindling 25th wedding anniversary trip. I assumed they would not have anything that I could afford or that would fit me. So I walked by. Time and time again.
When Moira took her mom for a fitting, I asked if I got to go for one, too. I’d already picked out the store I wanted to try, a well-known lingerie boutique in Soho. Clearly everything in the city is better! They would know how to fit me. Moira replied that, yes, it was my turn, but we were going to a store in our hometown. We were going to the very store I’d told her, in an impassioned conversation over coffee, wasn’t for me.
I knew my local store, Sweetest Sin, had won a Best of Intima award for Best Store, but that didn’t mean anything to me. What do I know of industry awards? Target, sometimes Kohl’s, maybe Victoria’s Secret if I’m feeling indulgent… To say I’m not aware of the industry is possibly overstating things. So instead of relying on an award, I made my friend Moira promise me. She swore she wouldn’t let me buy anything that wasn’t perfect for me. She promised that if this store was indeed what I’d thought of it, I could leave. If at any moment it turned snooty, awful, or embarrassing, I could skeedadle.
We gathered some other ladies for a “bra fitting party” and set a date. There was wine, there were snickerdoodles (don’t knock that combo until you’ve tried it) and there were bras. And bras. And more bras.
First off, the store was not what I’d expected. Yes, it was nicely laid out and had pretty things and I’ll be darned if I could have found something on my own. But it wasn’t the intimidating monster I’d thought it would be. Maybe it’s because I had a friend at my side, and more friends inside. Maybe it was the owner, Angie, who, yes, was young and skinny and wearing impossibly high heels, but who was just so open and friendly and normal. She didn’t make me feel like a schlubby mom who should head back to the discount rack. Instead, she made me feel like I should have nice bras and it was just a matter of finding the very nicest one for me.
Moira told me ahead of time that most women are wearing the band size too big and the cup size too small. I believed her, but only in the general way. As in, yes, you have lots of experience, I am sure you are right…but not about me. I didn’t think it applied to me. I’m different, and special…hmm I wonder where my seven year old gets that from! Well, right away Angie said my band size was too big. The space I’d thought I needed wasn’t right at all. More give in the band means less support for the girls, and why wear a bra if you’re not going to hold them up? Also, I was wearing my straps way too loose, a common problem. And, naturally, my cup size was too small. Hmm, I guess I’m not so special! Back to average woman for me!
Angie brought out a huge selection of bras for me to try on. I never would have thought there could be this many – in my size, or in the store! It made me realize how much we settle for the “fits most” approach we get with so many things, from bras to shoes to jeans. What works for me might not work for you, and at every stage in our lives, something else might work. I tried on many bras, but unlike most shopping trips, it didn’t feel depressing or exhausting. It felt kind of fun.
I soon discovered that the idea we have in our heads of cup size is completely irrelevant. Completely. Actually, most of what we think we know about sizing and clothing and certainly intimate apparel is way off base, but for now, let me assure you that your idea of a D and an actual D are not the same thing. You have to let all that stuff you think you know fly out of your head, and you have to be in the moment. You have to be in your body, seeing what’s in the mirror and not your interior image of yourself and your breast size.
I also learned where your breasts were supposed to be. I’ve always worn bras because that’s what you do. It never occurred to me to think about where bras placed my breasts…in truth, I think very little about my breasts, or my lingerie, or my intimate apparel. I think a lot about what to make for dinner, and if we can get a babysitter for Saturday night, and how much homework my child does or doesn’t have. But not a lot about something which I guess I should know.
A good bra, it turns out, should place your breasts front and center – not off to the sides, or too scrunched up in the middle. They should look rounded and soft, not pointy and hard (unless you’re going for the 40’s pin-up look, in which case I think you’ve got that covered without my help.) A good bra fits snugly, because as time goes on it will stretch out. You should be able to hook it on the very last hook, and as you wear it you will stretch it until it needs on be on the first set of hooks. A good bra has straps that lay flat on your body and those straps should be a bit tighter than I bet you are wearing them. Mine for instance, were way down and then I’d be annoyed they slipped. There should not be gaping or riding or any movement at all. Think corset. No, really, a good bra makes you feel like it’s holding you up. You stand a little straighter, a little taller.
Also, there is this essential trick that I managed to go 37 years without learning; you have to place your breasts in the cup. Yes, its true. Lift them up and put them in the cup, and see the difference! Wow. Totally changed how I tried on bras.
So my advice is this: get yourself to a local lingerie store, stat. Give yourself a few hours, and a realistic budget. Don’t rush this. Make an appointment, and bring a good friend. Choose this friend wisely: not too critical, truth telling, but complimentary. Go in with an open mind and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. And let me know how you do!
Jodi and I in our new bras – fully supported and ready to go out!
Sweetest Sin Boutique – Red Bank, New Jersey