The time had come. The baby had been weaned and it was finally time to trade in my sorry, stretched out, worn out, tired and beaten nursing bras for something with an underwire. It had been two years since I'd worn anything more supportive than an ace bandage. I was starting to hurt. It was finally time to buy the bra my girls deserved after years of dutiful service to me and my babies.
As much as I anticipated the forgotten lift that a good bra can give, it was largely overshadowed by the looming dread of the Rite of the Nordstrom Lingerie Dept Bra-fitting. It's true. Even though the mighty swimsuit receives top billing as Most Dreaded Clothes to Buy, followed perhaps by blue jeans, I have to think that buying bras must be the elephant in the room that no one talks about. The process must be so traumatic for so many women that, like survivors of an airplane crash, it is an experience that is simply never talked about.
Shopping at a do-it-yourself store, like Sears or Target is bad enough. You're left to your own devices, roaming the aisles aimlessly, riffling through the racks, bringing piles and stacks of bras on itty-bitty hangers back and forth to your dressing room hoping to stumble upon something that seems like a good fit. Of course, after you've brought half a dozen bras home which you certainly thought were going to work, you find that, no, they do not work at all, but you are unfortunately stuck with a hundred dollars in underwear that will poke you in the arms until they wear out. Or the sun implodes upon itself. Whichever comes first, you eagerly await either event which will put you out of your pokey misery.
There is the other option. This is the one I choose and has proven to be one of the most humbling experiences in my life thus far. It's right up there with obstetrics appointments or a visit to the dentist. It is the Way of the Fitting and while difficult and embarrassing it ultimately yields better results. The buying experience is brief (relatively) and painful, but when it's over you're left wearing a bra you like and carrying a bag of bras that will do their job with pride and enthusiasm.
I've had many fittings in the past since babies, lactation, and age all seem to have an affect on your size and shape, but like most hobbies, this never seems to get boring or routine. I was lead back into the fitting area by the well-dressed sales lady where she instructed me to remove my shirt. Quickly, she whipped her measuring tape from around her neck and measured me here and there. Talking about various options, she left the room leaving me standing in front of a three-way mirror to contemplate my double layer of stretch marks (who knew they could CRISS-CROSS like that?) and the fact that someone other than my husband or sister-in-law had seen my dilapidated bra. If my bra were a house, it would be a condemned trailer home. It's not like something you'd invite a stranger home to see. My embarrassment was compounded by the awareness that this was Nordstrom's, hardly a place where people with dilapidated bras come to shop. I was clearly out of my element, even though I'd been here numerous times before and my sales person was being clearly professional. After all, she had neither gasped nor laughed at the sight of my bra. I was starting to wonder if I should have stopped at Sears to buy a cleaner, better bra to wear while shopping at Nordstrom's. Well, what's done is done.
The trying on session of my fitting went as expected with my honorable sales person hooking me into this bra, advising me on how to best hoist my endowment into that bra. Eventually I found a nice, reasonably priced item that fit well. And then she brought in the Unicorn. She introduced this bra as being really wonderful "when it works" and that this is the bra that Oprah always talks about and that she thinks I should just try it out to see how it does. She hooked me into the thing and I was skeptical to say the least. It had a massive, moulded shape like the breastplates worn by the warrior queens of ancient Ireland or the mythical warrior goddess Athena. But once I was strapped in, I was a convert. I put my top back on in order to get a better idea of the shape this thing was giving me and once I looked down I was overcome by the nearness of my chest. All I could do was say, "Oh!" and "Hello!" in a surprised sort of manner and "I haven't seen this much of you since I was thirteen!" The saleswoman smiled and said, "Yes, they do give you a nice bit of lift." Lift? Lift! My chest had such a presence that I felt rude not including them in conversation. I felt like I should consult them on where we were having lunch that afternoon. Lift, indeed.
My faith was again restored in the power of polyester, spandex, and flexible underwire support.
I still felt a little like Athena as I walked out of the dressing room and I was a little self-conscious with my dramatically repositioned bust. But it felt wonderful to walk into the world for the first time in two years with all my body parts right where they're supposed to be.