Underwire: August ’22 ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’

For those who have met me, two things might stand out: my unruly curly hair and my untamed tongue. I love to talk. Get me started, especially about bras, brafitting, and the ethno-cultural-political-feminist underpinnings of, uh, underpinnings and I’m off! One of the reasons I’m dedicated to spreading this knowledge is because I received very little of it myself as a young girl.

‘Health Class’ as it was called back in the day, consisted of first being segregated by sex during P.E. (easy because pre-Title 9 we already were) and then us girls were shown a film on menstruation and impregnation. There was an offhanded mention of breasts as one of the ‘secondary sex characteristics,’ so that covered that topic. We were then given a plastic bag filled with free stuff from Kotex, a pink disposable razor and ushered out to recess. That should do it, right?

Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to speak to various groups of young girls about breasts, bras, and their bodies at locations including a GALA, the only All-Girls public school in Los Angeles, a Co-Ed Jewish Modern Orthodox school, Shalhevet, and at Covenant House in Atlanta for young girls facing homelessness. Our back-and-forth is fun, fast, and informative, with subjects ranging from the anatomy of boobs, why chicken breasts should be called ‘chicken chests’, the incomprehensible world of bra sizing, how bras really work, the genetics lottery and playing the hand you’re dealt, why large American chains have been putting you in the wrong size bra (or as one young lady summarized, “Victoria’s Secret done stole my money!”) So apparently also a capitalist critique.

Another thing happens each time I do one of these talks. As I’m packing up to leave, the teacher will invariably come up to me privately and say, “Wow. I think I got just as much out of your lesson as my students did! I wish I’d known this stuff earlier.” And this is where you come in. We adore seeing mothers (and aunties and grandmothers) introducing their developing daughters to the shop but I also encourage you to bring your girls even before puberty. Let them see the train while it’s still a ways down the track!

Normalizing and embracing our varied and ever-changing bodies is best started early and done in a bright, fun environment amongst women of all ages, shapes and sizes. The other day one of our Eastside fitters was working with a client who brought her daughter. Miss A was reminded of special moments shopping with her mother. As the fitting proceeded, the three of them chatted about bra sizes and how cool it is that bodies also come in all different sizes. Mom went into the booth to try on a bright fuschia bra that she “wasn’t sure about”. When she stepped out, the eight year old squealed, giving her absolute approval. I’m confident that when her day comes, whether it’s at my shop or another one, this girl will approach her first fitting with significantly less dread than I did.

Looking forward to seeing all of you, young ladies — very soon!

jenette goldstein