Lingerie: Gorgeous range at Debenhams*
Those of you who have read my blog for a while might know how the biggest obstacle to finding peace with my body has been my breasts. It’s one thing to be fat, but unfortunately I didn’t get the typical fat girl pay-off in the form of big, full breasts. For years, I felt revulsion at the fact that I was a 44AA in a world of 42Gs, strapping up my boobs in whatever 3-cup-boosters I could find and despairing over the fact that I had more cleavage at my back than I did at my front (but that subject is a whole other post). I felt like a failure, and completely undesirable. How could I not? Desirable was a D+ cup and I felt like my own body just didn’t deliver.
When I first got measured by the team at Freya I was jubilant at discovering that a 36D was a closer fit, with their bras giving me as much of a boost and levelling out my silhouette as much as my Sainsbury’s bras held together with multiple bra extenders and willpower. It opened up a whole new world and imbued me with so much more confidence. I was a 36D. I could hold my head up high! I was an average woman!
Of course, nothing is ever that simple. Just as no two size 20s are the same, so too did my bra size fluctuate as I shopped around the high street for a new lingerie wardrobe. After huffing and puffing in Marks and Spencers when bra after bra didn’t fit, I actually cried (I was probably due on, to be fair). Maybe they got it wrong, I thought to myself. Maybe, after everything, I really was just a 44AA. The idea was too depressing to consider.
And then, a few months ago, I read a comment by an owner of a vintage shop who said that she made a point of asking women who entered her store what size they wore, not what size they are. And it blew my mind a little bit. How many times have we said “I am a…” with regards to our clothes or bra size? On the face of it it’s an innocuous piece of phrasing, just part of the english language that doesn’t need to be thought about. But there’s a deeper meaning: we are, literally, defining ourselves by what size we wear. Isn’t that silly?
And then, I thought about how women use their dress and bra sizes as a source of pride or – more often – deep shame. How back in the day men judged women on their “vital statistics”, meaning they would literally get hot and bothered by… three sets of numbers. Sexy. More recently we had the hip to waist ratio, of which Kate Moss is apparently the only living embodiment of perfection. The more I thought about it, the more illogical it became. Why is this a thing?
Armed with this new insight and a kinder attitude towards my body I got measured again, this time by the team at Debenhams as part of their lingerie promotion. A few of us got to see the lovely Freya team give a talk on bras for larger cup sizes before having a nose at all the pretty bras. This time, changes in my body meant that for Debenhams’ own lingerie, I felt and looked best in a 38C. This time, it really IS like a whole new world – I came away with four sets of underwear that are ridiculously comfortable and I that I like how I look in with my clothes on – and with my clothes off.
I don’t feel any shame or apologetic in any way the way that I used to. A bra is something I wear and in some places it’s one size, and in another place it’s another size. There is no magic number that defines me. Maybe we should stop saying “I am” and start saying “I wear“.
Change starts with the small things: I am Lauren. I wear sizes anywhere from 16 to 26, depending on the shop. In Freya I might wear a 36D; in Debenhams, a 38C. And that’s fine. I am not my bra size.
And neither are you.