budding affairs

training bra

Ladies of a certain memory bank, do you remember – training bras?

What exactly were they “training”?

Upwards, ever upwards?

I remember when I was “trained” in this way. My mother was sewing a funky new outfit for little Miss 12 year old Flamingo Dancer. It was the era of large psychedelic floral geometric fabrics and wide legged flared paints. I had a competitor’s birthday party to attend (yes, dear reader there were those who dared to compete in days of yoe, before wiser heads prevailed), an all girl teenybopper afternoon affair, but nevertheless one in which I needed to shine. Always a trend setter, dahling.

My chosen ensemble was red and white, with about a three inch vertical opening down the spine, held shut by a very wide band of fabric. Nothing was exposed, but it did mean I would not be wearing the “singlet” that my mother always insisted I wear even in heat waves.

This presented a real problem for my mother. I found her deep in conversation with my sister who is eight years older than I, and therefore more  woman of the world at that time. A major decision was made.

I swear angels sang on high when my mother turned to me and announced “You’ll have to wear a bra!” The ultimate status symbol – a bra!

Of course, I couldn’t allow my mother to know that my heart had jumped within my chest, and black and white stars flashed before my eyes. I stilled my breath and replied “All right,” sounding just a little put upon.

Now, let me just impart an important piece of information. There was absolutely no need for an over the shoulder boulder holder. Flat as. Also, the chosen fabric was a heavy, thick weave; not even Superman’s x-ray eyes could see through it. However, IT WAS DECIDED and I was powerless to object… as if.

Off to one of the two clothing stores in our small country town, where there were two changing booths with fabric curtains that the haughty female assistants loved to pull back to expose you to all as they asked “You right?”

Mother and Mature SalesLady had a heads together conference, with much tongue clicking and viewing of stick figure me and I held my breath when MSL muttered “…not sure we have that one that small…” Eventually a long white box was produced and there gleamed my precious. Virginal white, size 10AA. It was a little big (I think I was actually a size 8 but with broad shoulders) , and sagged over one or two relevant areas but it was a BRA!

My mother did not drive so as we walked home I held my paper wrapped precious as if it was a devotional offering. Mother was under the impression that I would wear it only on “special occasions” with the back exposing ensemble, silly woman. It was apparent from day one that Precious and I were now inseparable, to the point that a second was purchased just so the first could be pried from my stick form for laundering.

It was about four years before I needed to up a size for in those days my figure rivalled Twiggy’s without the held of a cocaine diet. In fact, if memory serves me right, I may have made it to a 12A, more due to wide shoulders than growing mammary glands, just in time to discard my bra to make my feminist statement a few years later. Such is life.

What was being “trained”; my chest or me? Was the whole concept of a training bra merely to enculturate me into my assigned place in society? And why did shop assistants get their big jollies from exposing women in their undies to diminishing gaze?

Sisters, have we progressed at all? Are we caring for each other? Me thinks not so much.


Women’s dress size conversions:




































11 thoughts on “budding affairs

  1. “woof!”
    (I couldn’t resist)

    I’m not exactly the one to be commenting on this, but I suspect it’s a similar issue I had as a wee lad playing sports … and presented with a “cup.” The only “cup” I had use for at the time was one from which to sip milk! I suspect the athletic “cup” was meant to ‘train’ me to wear one so that – in later years – I’d be damned glad I had one on.

    Perhaps the same was true for “Precious?”


  2. I remember those. The middle was stretchy so they could grow with you (as if you would really grow). It was a right of passage. I was always grateful that girdles were out of vogue when I came of age.


  3. Gosh I’d forgotten all about those, and how the boys in school snapped the back straps which was the whole reason some of the girls wore them. Now I absolutely could not be without.


  4. Definitely training the wearer – to feel shame for having boobs and to learn to harness them properly. I still hate them (other that as visual stimulants for men I desire)… ghastly chest bondage if you ask me.


  5. I got my bra not because I wanted one, but beause peer pressure forced me to ask my mother to buy me one. I was flat as an ironing board up front until my senior year in high school, and even then there wasn’t much to boast about. While changing into gym uniforms in the locker room in middle school however, a group of mean girls teased me for wearing an undershirt instead of a bra “like everyone else.” That evening, I told my mother shamefacedly about what happened: she was not the easiest person to talk to about “those things,” since her views of female sexuality veered between Puritanism and childlike ignorance. (Her own mother never discussed such subjects with her, so how was she to know how to do so with her own daughter?) She did take me to the department store the next day, where I sweated in nervousness while a stern-looking lingerie sales clerk measured my chest. I also got the “I don’t know if they make them that small,” but she brought out several boxes to choose from. Apparently lingerie clerks in the US are also schooled in the practice of flinging aside the curtain on the fitting room and screeching at one, “How did that fit?” Which made me want to die of shame right there: I was struggling to fasten those accursed little hooks and eyes, and my mother for whatever reason didn’t offer to help until I moaned, “I can’t hook them!”

    To this day, I still fasten my bra by turning the hook side front, where I can see them, and then turning them around to the back. I’m also ambivalent about wearing bras: on the one hand, I’d never go out in public without one, but I consider them at times just another instrument of torture and fling them aside at first opportunity when I come home.


  6. I was the 2nd girl in my class to wear one. The 1st girl – who was not happy about it, believe me – received this honor because she was on the heavy side and the ladies needed support whether or no. I needed one because I was my adult height and weight by the time I was 10 years old.

    We were both desperately embarrassed about the entire arrangement.


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