Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Body Dismorphic Disorder - here I come!

Body Dysmorphic Disorder - here I come!
There's something very dangerous happening in the world of women's under-garments at the moment.  This may or may not interest you boys, but for you girls, I think we need to discuss this.

It all started about 2 weeks ago when I decided I was in serious need of a few new brassieres.  I also had a sweet £40 Topshop voucher burning a hole in my wallet.  Put these two facts together and we got a shopping spree on our hands.  However, my plan for lingerie heaven was immediately scuppered after spending only 10 minutes in Topshop's (tiny) underwear section.  And the reason is this - take a look at the the following bras, all available from your local Topshop branch, and see if you can find the common thread between them all :

Anything you notice??  I took them from all different lines, "basic" "Fashion" "Something Special" - and yet there's one thing they all have in common. 


In fact, every bra on the website has padding save for bandeau tops and about three bras that also have no under-wiring.  Other than that - it's pad, pad, pad.  Disappointed by this unneeded cushioning assault, I ventured off to another shopping mecca - Primark.  They have 6 walls of bras.  6 top-to-bottom walls. That's a lotta lingerie.  I figured surely they would be able to satisfy my want.   After looking around for a good 5 minutes to no avail, I asked an employee if they had any non-padded bras available.  She directed me to the maternity section.  That's it.  I was in a mild state of disbelief and deep frustration at this point.  I even joked with her, "My god, aren't ANY girls happy with what they have?!";  she looked at me blankly, and flatly said "No".  Wow.

And here's where I started to worry.  I ended up going to H&M, Miss Selfridge, and even New Look  (which took some bravery) and was presented again and again with the same dilemma.  My goal on that day was simply to find a pretty, non-padded, under-wired bra that was fairly cheap.  You know, a NORMAL bra.  A fairly elementary goal if you ask me and one which in the past had not presented a major predicament.  The only thing vaguely abnormal about my request was that I wanted it to be pretty.  Not plain white, or black, or nude.  Pretty.  It would seem this request of mine is impossible to satisfy.  There were a fair few fun and beautifully designed bras in all the shops, but they were ALL padded.  And I hope I'm not alone in finding this a terribly depressing and insulting discovery.
Basically these shops are telling young girls right from the start that their tits aren't big enough, regardless of the size.   Even the DD bras still had padding.  And those days of removable pads a lá Wonderbras are long gone.   This is sewn in, can't-remove-it, stuck-with-it-forever padding.  And this was the case in every high street shop I visited, nowhere gave any other choice, save for one or two deviations which normally offered no support (i.e. had no under-wire etc).  If you wanted a bra that did what it intended to and offered support, you had to get a padded one.  And that was the end of it.

Now, I get it if an insecure 13 year-old with bee stings for breasts wants a little extra help to match up to her friends.  Fine.  But beyond the age of 15, why any woman would desire to wear a padded bra is beyond me.  And in most of these stores, the clientele ranged in age from 16-40.   I mean these are women.  Grown, adult, mature, self-assured women.  And they're being bullied into buying a product which by it's very nature implies inadequacy.  So take a young girl in the bra-buying market, perhaps getting her first real bra at age 12/13 or so.  Picture her 10, 15 years later.  15 years of buying padded bras, 15 years of wearing a garment which forces a sense of physical deficiency on to her self-image, 15 years of being inoccuously told that she is never enough.  And we wonder why there are women in their 30's too scared to get naked in front of their husbands who have to draft in people like this:

The media is constantly being berated for portraying stick thin girls as the ideal form and giving women everywhere eating disorders, and meanwhile the bra industry is practically advertising for silicone and no-one's saying a goddam thing about it. 
To add insult to injury, I went into Marks & Spencer, surely the last bastion of sartorial sensibility, thinking of course I'll be able to find some respite in the Queen of Lingerie.   Yet again, the vast majority were padded.  But upon further investigation, I began to notice that on several styles and designs, only cup sizes AA-C were padded and on sizes D and up were normal, pad-free and abundantly more attractive.
Marks & Sparks is virtually saying to the customer, "If you have a cup size D or above, your breasts may be good enough on their own.  If you have a cup size C or smaller, then sorry honey, but you need to bump up up your lady lumps, girlfriend" .  As my, perfectly well-sized, breasts fall between a B and a C, I of course was one of the unfortunate freaks of nature who needed some help.  God forbid I actually prance about in public with my breasts as they are.  Heavens no.  And let's not bother taking into account that the average bra size in the UK is 36C, which means that apparently the majority of women's breasts aren't big enough.

And that's another thing - this is also a class issue.  The only way to avoid this padded monopoly is to invest a great deal in one's lingerie.  Rigby and Peller don't offer too much in the padded region, and in several shops you CAN get unpadded options; if you're willing to shell out upwards of £40.  Topshop offers some lovely unpadded bras as well - at £60 a pop that is...
This, then, basically implies that if you're rich, you're happy with what you have, but if you're poor you're not.  Because of course all working class girls want to get fake tits anyways, right?  So of course they all want padded bras, right?  There's no way Tracey from the council estate in Colchester can be happy with her B cups.  But Natasha from Chelsea, she can afford to have the self-confidence needed to survive wearing non-padded bras, purely because she can afford it. 
Of course, if you know me at all, you're fully aware that the debasement of the working class is not something I particularly fight against.  Usually I agree with it, in fact.  However, in this case it's not just poverty-stricken taking the heat, it's anyone who isn't wealthy.  It's every girl I know.  It's me, goddammit.

The entire horrible situation has left me rather aghast.  I managed to (after SEVERAL hours) get 3 bras, all from Marks and Spencer, which were fairly pretty, non-padded, fit me and were reasonably priced (mainly because 2 were on sale).  But it was not a pleasurable experience and was certainly not easy. And the really pretty bras were, yet again, about £40-50 each.  What I don't understand is how this has happened??  When did these shops decide we all have small tits?? 
And why is this only for women?  If we're being told by every brand that our chests do not measure up,  why aren't the guys getting this shit?  I don't see padded men's underwear filling up the shelves in Topman.  In this age of skinny jeans where one's manhood is rather more on display, surely this is a wasted marketing gem?  Don't boys deserve a little added insecurity as well??
And, on a lesser note - speaking of boys if you ask most of them they will tell how much they dislike padded bras.  And I totally agree.  They are terribly unattractive garments.  They don't look good, they're not nice to feel when hugging a girl, they look embarrassingly obvious when a girl lies down, her knockers fall back and the bra doesn't, and they're not actually fooling anyone.  So ladies - stop buying these things.  Write complaints.  Boycott these stores.  Start petitions...Viva brá