EPISODE 13: Tangled up in Bras (apologies to Bob Dylan)

Wiffwaff wisdom rules: expert breast transformation

After another wild night with the WiffWaff Sistas – not a girl punk band but a pingpong team – I made a special, if rather reluctant, resolution, on being reminded about the delicious bra-land  adventures of having an expert fit you when buying a new brassiere. The Sistas’ combined enthusiasm and their witty anecdotal evidence swept me into realising that 2014 was shaping up to be the Year of the Bra. Rather mysteriously, bras have popped into two of my earlier blogisodes, and as a film buff, I am very fond of continuing the  thematic trend of verbal/ visual motifs. Also I am usually open to any form of transformative experience.

It has been at least a decade since I fronted up for this a peculiarly  female ritual, performed by the mythical Bra Goddesses at David Jones. I decided to take a deep breath and experience the classic fitting trial of buying some new bras, rather than simply rushing in, grabbing some, doing a quick try-on, and hoping for the best.

I went into the city last Sunday, hoping I would be the only customer getting some bargains at the end of a lingerie sale. Feeling pretty stressed, despite the Sistas’ assurances that all would be absolutely fine, I built up to the experience rather tentatively, cruising around the store, hoping to find the same lovely Italian woollen beret I had bought there a year ago and recently lost in Melbourne. I didn’t, of course, find that item, as it seems it is now actually full-on summer.  I also found myself checking the usually hopeless (for me at least) clothes sections at David Jones. Such boring, unimaginative designs filled me with a further sense of futility and dread.

Finally I decided it was time to stop my pathetic store circling and loitering. Longing for a coffee break, I womanned up and headed into the underwear section,  feeling that it was now or never…


Bra hunting in the DJ labyrinth

Bra hunting in the bewildering DJ labyrinth

Old versus young: the labyrinthine world of Bra goddesses and monsters

Sussing out the section, I observed that the one solid older woman expert seemed to be busy. I am not ageist but I really didn’t want the young person to fit me up with a new lingerie item; nothing personal, but I tend to avoid any so-called expert who looks about 12 these days. It is all a matter of trust and I was putting my body on the line here.

Aside: Apparently  newly-minted medical students don’t have to study anatomy as a compulsory subject anymore, and often these budding medicos spend their time in lectures playing solitaire, checking email and Facebook on their computers. I therefore also avoid  any doctors under 40.

The rather gruff older person was not at all warm or welcoming – so much for the explosion of yet another myth.  On the reassurances of the Sistas, I had hoped to be warmly embraced and taken into her restorative care, to discover the wonders of the properly fitted bra for the next couple of years. Finally, I realised I was being a bit ridiculous waiting around for the busy old bat, and graciously agreed to let the pleasant younger person do the deed.

Alone in the bra cell: eavesdropping and being whipped into shape

The young person politely took command and performed several measuring rituals, giving me many instructions as well as reassurances. She waltzed out to find some nice bras in my size. Meanwhile there was another woman being fitted by grumpy lady in close cell proximity, and I could hear everything about her personal boob size issues. When my young person returned, armed with several to try on, I was carefully instructed how to push, pull and lift etc etc. To my surprise, she didn’t  physically grab each boob, up and over, firmly settling it into the cup, a very intimate, hands-on experience that one of the Sistas had graphically described.

Aside: I wonder how, isolated in a little underpants training cell, many men would feel if another male firmly grabbed, lifted and squashed their testicles, re-arranging them to fit expertly into special different styles and colours of jocks etc. The men I know would probably love it after the first shockwave. 

After several trials, the patient young sales assistant discovered I was somehow between sizes – for some unknown reason, this also seems to happen to me with shoes. Undaunted, she went off to find a compromise brand and style. Each time she left the cell, she joked ‘Back into the labyrinth’.  I rested between each foray, concerned about next door hearing everything about my personal anatomy, trying to cope with my soaring stress levels. Moreover, each time I tried on a new version, I found I had some kind of bra-fitting amnesia and couldn’t quite recall, let alone master, the exact lean forward, prod, lift and fit procedure. I was certainly teetering on the brink of failing Bra-Fitting 101.

Aside: This tends to happen to me in the gym also – a form of ‘gymnesia’ I call it, occurring when asked to repeat an elaborate exercise.  At that stage, I find I have completely wiped the ritual from my mind, which is usually roaming anywhere but in the gym, despite my delightful PT. Now I seem to have spawned its little sister, ‘bra-nesia’.

Meanwhile, a woman, and (unexpectedly for me, and also, apparently, for her attendant) her male partner were chatting animatedly in French and English in the next door cell with the thin walls. Finally after her own bilingual version of trial and error, her size was deemed to be 14A. On hearing this, I had a moment of regret – I once was smaller than the French woman (whom I never saw). Just for a bit of blog fun and the accompanying bra-nostalgia, I dug out some old pics of me when I was about as young as the expert sales assistant…

Out on the town In my early 20s.

Out on the town in my early 20s.

Finally the agony was over – there certainly wasn’t much ecstasy. But at least I got $20 off each new bra and was told brightly by the assistant : ‘Now you can go home and throw out all those old bras’. So after a restorative lunch at Pablo’s in New Farm with one of the Wiffwaff Sistas, I went home and threw out about 15 old bras lurking smugly in one of my drawers. At least I was obedient in that department. As yet,  I haven’t successfully donned the new bra with all the accompanying rituals – that will have to wait till I head out tonight to yet another Bob Dylan concert . Not that Bob would particularly care about a dedicated fan’s pretty bra. But I will feel a lot better secretly knowing about my precious new undergarment as I sing along to All Along the Watchtower and, of course, Tangled Up in Blue

Old bras destined for the bin

Old bras destined for the bin

Aside: Here is another nice nostalgic pic of three youthful people…at my wedding where I won the Courier Mail Easter Bride of the Year (second prize!) or some such nonsense. I have to remind my ageing self that I too was once young like the sweet sales assistant in the David Jones lingerie department.

'Most modern' bride with my bridesmaids 'Joan' and 'Dorothea' who have appeared in various blogs

‘Most modern’ bride with my bridesmaids ‘Joan’ and ‘Dorothea’ who have appeared in various blogs


6 thoughts on “EPISODE 13: Tangled up in Bras (apologies to Bob Dylan)

  1. Thanks for that entertaining episode Helen and the photos. I hope you enjoy your new bras and don’t want to dampen your fun, but I had a fitting in Toowoomba and the bra always feels tight. I grab and dash, Hope you are enjoying Bob’s concert.

  2. I giggled helplessly through this Helen. Visualising the men enjoying being squeezed and prodded during their jock-strap fitting was too much! I now understand why I usually instinctively go through the grab-first-bra-and-run routine. Loved the gorgeous photos of gorgeous youth! We must exchange bride pics sometime and ponder over how in the world we could ever have been so slender. I kept one of those size 12B bras as an unbelievable souvenir of a never-again time.

  3. That was funny reading about your bra buying trip, as it happened at the same time as I found some great underpants that I loved so much that I now own 10 of them! I have decided to throw out all my old ones -well at least put them all in a suitcase under my bed – just in case I run out of the fab 10! Love Catherine xx

    Sent from my iPad


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