Monday, May 24, 2010


L.G.C. Smith

Throughout my adolescence I slept with an underwire bra on under my nightgown. Why? Earthquakes. Here in California, the earth wiggles and jiggles more than Pam Anderson did on Dancing With the Stars, and with a lot less warning. If an earthquake were to strike in the middle of the night and I survived, would I want to be running around the tent city with no support for the girls? Absolutely not. It would be both mortifying and uncomfortable.

What can happen in an earthquake if you don't have a bra.

Some of us are in greater need of proper underpinnings than others. Some of us have never been petite and perky. Some of us have needed underwires since sixth grade. Some of us still keep an apocalypse-worthy bra bedside, along with the slip-on shoes and flashlight. In case of nocturnal earthquakes. Don't mock, some of us. The Big One is coming. And when it does, some of us want all the support we can get.

You know that impeccable woman Sophie described in her post last Monday? From the age of four, I wanted to be that woman. Short neck and broad shoulders aside, by the time I was twelve, it was obvious I wasn't ever going to look elegant in a linen sheath dress, no matter what kind of underpinnings I might enlist. Ample curves are not fashion forward. This is not to say they're bad -- there are compensations -- but sartorial elegance is challenging in the realms beyond DD.

Able to wear a linen sheath dress to good effect.

The search for adequate and appropriate underpinnings is a lifelong quest for some of us. It's never been as simple as popping down to Target and getting whatever's on sale. No. Ha. The selection of underpinnings available in the average clothing emporium has little to offer in larger cup sizes. At least it's now possible to find more choices online, but that leaves a lot of conjecture as far as fit is concerned. Obviously every gal who wears a 34F isn't built the same, and who knows whether the fit model was remotely like any given buyer.

In need of better underpinning.

Once, twenty years ago, I drove fifty miles to the home of a former movie costumer who ran an individualized bra fitting service out of her garage. I insisted on underwire support. She rhapsodized over the healthy support of non-underwire nursing bras. Eew. I bought a couple of basic industrial-strength metal contraptions, beggaring myself. Both of them popped a wire and stabbed me in the armpit. So much for her custom fitting skills.

In need of better underpinning for two thousand years.

Fifteen years ago, I visited Carol Doda's lingerie shop in San Francisco. If anyone should understand the physics of bras, she should. Surely even Carol didn't want to go topless all the time. Once more, I parted with vast sums of money for some solid underpinnings when I really wanted something frilly and feminine. And strong. Next, I tried ordering from catalogs, but I never got anything that fit quite right. The pretty underwire bras had the strength of Christmas tree ornament hooks. Please. If it's possible to make iPods, iPads and space stations, why not strong yet delicate bras?

Possibly in need of better underpinning.

Generally speaking, bras are better built today than in the past, and there are more sizes available. However, as I learned researching the nicer stuff for a character with a predilection for pretty undies, La Perla, as one example, doesn't offer a lot of styles beyond a C-cup. There are a few, but only in a handful of sizes. I'm tempted to rail in demand of the right to spend lavish sums on underwear in my size, but I won't be able to afford it until I'm regularly hitting the bestseller lists, so... whatever.

In need of better underpinning for miscellaneous areas.

A huge amount of effort appears to have gone into making women with B-cups look like they're Ds. Could we not have comparable efforts made toward helping the well-endowed women of the world look their best? It's still surprisingly difficult to find stores that stock a wide selection of bras in larger sizes that include both intrepid construction and lovely details that can actually be tried on. Fewer still that might possibly, gasp, fit them.

I dream of some day patronizing Rigby&Peller in London where they make custom underpinnings. Until that day comes, my earthquake bras come from the outlet mall. When The Big One hits, if I manage to salvage two of them, I can make tents for orphans out of the spare.

Bespoke underpinnings


Rachael Herron said...

Oh, GOD, this is funny -- I love the art you chose, too. And when the Big One hits, and I've forgotten to leave my bra next to the bed like you, I'll be jealous.

Adrienne Bell said...

Lynn, you are my people! I understand. Oh yes, I do. I have found one particular brand and style that I swear by, but imagining a custom fitted pulling, or tugging, or adjusting around 3p...ahhh...sounds like heaven!

Another Joan said...

3 words: Specialty Bra Shop. 2 case histories: DD: lifetime 36B came in at 32DD/E with narrow set straps; SIL: lifetime 36B came in at 30D/DD with wide set straps. Yes expensive but WOWEE what a difference to the way they both (?they all??) feel and the way cloths fit. I'm saving up for my trip!!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Joan, tell me where. Please. :)

Unknown said... has some, has more, but tends toward the orthopedic styles, sad to say.

The bra fitting ladies say most women in our neighborhood need a a smaller band size and bigger cup for better fit (unless you've already had a fitting done). Some don't like the smaller band size as it can lead to visible bra line on the back. who cares! If the girls are settled for the day, there's all the more brain power I have to apply to more interesting problems.

Good luck from a fellow sufferer!!!!


Bethany said...

Amen! Those first-week girls didn't come close to hitting on this truth. Nice post!

Also, I know they held a place of "oh my gosh, that's where the hookers shop" in my teenage head, but I'm totally in love with Frederick's now. They fit you for free, they hold a massive array of sizes, they're purrrrty, they make the most comfortable, wide-strapped, under-wired bras I've ever worn... Only problem is that they ALWAYS want to make you bigger and cleavagy-er, even if you're already a DD.

Sophie Littlefield said...

wonderful, wonderful post and I'm so glad you told about the earthquake :) Plus, you picked the perfect illustrations!

L.G.C. Smith said...

Bethany, Thanks. I did love those first week posts, though.

Sophie, my brother took those pictures in museums all over Paris, and one in Avignon. I never know what I'm going to find when I go looking in my photo archive.

Martha Flynn said...

The earthquake preparedness is no joke! In college I had to run from my apartment in the middle of the night because of a fire and I was THREE DAYS without a bra because they wouldn't let us back into the apartment so I had no money...AGH!

Unknown said...

For those who wish to know...the Earthquake bra story was the inspiration for this topic :)

Thanks LGC!! :) :)