May 29, 2011 by Rhi
I went shopping today, for the first time in a while. I’m getting married in, ooh, 74 days (not that I’m counting!) and I’ve realised that I’ll be needing me some underwear to go with my hideously expensive but utterly gorgeous wedding dress. So a trip to a nearby shopping centre, deposit Mr Bint in HMV, and I headed into a few retailers to try and buy a. underwear, and b. have a look for work clothes, and honeymoon bits.
The underwear was the first problem. To be fair, this is not the first time in my life I have found my “assets” difficult to shop for. Once upon a time, about 5/6 years ago, I lost a lot of weight. I ended up wearing size 10 clothes. And my bra size? 34DD. For a brief period, I was able to buy bras like normal people by them – i.e. by walking into a shop, looking at the styles, picking one or two, finding my size in them, trying them on, and then buying what I wanted. Sheer bliss. No frilly bra too small! Matching bra and knickers set? A doddle! Basques and corsets? I had several!
Then I got big. First of all, I got big all over, which brought it’s own problems. But now I find myself at a perfectly healthy width compared to my height (I’m nearly 6ft, and size 16 – that’s NORMAL). But the problem was, my tits stayed the same size they were when I was a size 18. On my last measuring, a couple of months ago, I was straining into an H cup. The woman in Debenhams shook her head and said “We’re going to have problems here!” In the entire store, there were two bras which would fit me, both the same style, one in black and one in red. It’s been the same ever since. My hunt for a basque has been pointless – because not only is it virtually impossible to find one in my cup size, even the companies that manufacture them assume that if you have H cup boobs, you must be the size of a house. So they either fit my boobs, or my waist. NEVER BOTH!
But why am I on here whining about this? Well, I’ve also recently been working with a resource in Guides which is about boosting the confidence of girls and young women. I’ve used it before, in a previous unit, and it encourages the girls to be open about their bodies, to talk about what worries them, and to try and put those concerns into context with what society considers normal, and what is ACTUALLY normal. One of the favourite activities from the pack is the Boobs and Bras, which I adapted into a bra relay. Three teams, three large bras belonging to yours truly, and a whole lot of hilarity as they helped each other in and out of them over their clothes, and then ran the length of hall in one of my over-the-shoulder-boulder holders. But it gave us the chance to talk about bodies, and the one thing that came up was the dichotomy about what is acceptable for a woman to look like, and why you’re damned one way or the other.
Some of the girls had been mocked at school for being over developed. But these boys who mock girls for their large breasts, are the same ones who are exposed to images of models with surgically enhanced cleavage. It seems sometimes that people think that anyone who is above a C cup has chosen to be that way. And then there’s the obsession with celebrity magazines, where women are derided for appearing “plump” (usually by way of an “is she pregnant?!” article), or have their mental health questioned when they have lost weight.
My body is one of extremes. Big boobs, unfeasibly long legs, size 9 feet, and my height qualifies me to shop in Long Tall Sally. And yet, one thing I find is that when I go rummaging through sale racks in High Street stores, I rarely find clothes available in my size. The racks are teeming with 8s and 10s, but 14 and 16 is suspiciously lacking. Granted, in places like Topshop, it’s usually because they rarely stock their items in those sizes, or have one or two at the most. But sometimes I think it’s because, actually, most of us ARE those sizes.
Amidst the hype of the obesity crisis which everyone seems to want to “do something about”, I worry we’re looking in the wrong places for an answer. Encouraging children to watch their weight when they aren’t even able to operate a cooker, concerns me. Healthy eating is only ever one step away from dieting, and when I hear of parents switching their child to skimmed milk, in an attempt to cut the fat from their diet, I want to shake them hard. So many women feel so shit about how they look, why can’t we concentrate on being happy, rather than fitting what The Man (be that magazines, doctors or the government) tells us we should look like.
I still haven’t got a bra for my wedding day. I may buy a chest binder instead.