Tag Archives: fashion

The importance of a well fitting bra

Today I had a really nice experience.  Last night the underwire snapped on my last decent bra, so I went down to The Little Big Bra Shop in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, an independent and relatively new business, and had a proper fitting.

When I was skinny, I rarely wore a bra and I had my very first fitting at the age of 32 when Boy the Elder was still being cooked.  For the last few years though, having put on weight and had two children, foundation garments have come into regular usage.

I’m not very good in shops.  I don’t like trying on clothes, and the harsh lighting makes me irritable and badly behaved.  And I don’t like being measured and messed about with as it just reminds me that I’m wobbly and my chosen underwear won’t look like it does on the models..

I walked into The Little Big Bra Shop and asked for a fitting.  A charming and diffident woman showed me to the changing room and asked me what sort of thing I wanted as I took my top layers off.  She took a quick measurement across my back, stared at me for a second, then came back with a bra which fitted perfectly.  She then brought a couple of others to try for style and colour.

The best bra I've ever had

What was really nice was that she treated the bra like any other item of apparel, checking that the colour suited me and that the style was flattering as well as being supportive and comfortable.  I chose a beautiful pinkish-red bra that is, without question, the most comfortable I have ever worn and a pair of matching pants.  It cost me £24, which is more than I normally spend, but by crikey it’s worth every penny.

“Do you want to keep it on?” she asked, smiling.  “Absolutely!” I answered, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be arrested in the street and be required to explain why I was carrying a grey and shapeless undergarment in my handbag.  On the other hand,  I was quite keen to be run over so that my gorgeous new underwear would be seen to pass muster.

It is absolutely essential to have a well fitting and comfortable bra.  Breasts become more and more subject to gravity as we get older and our skin gets less elastic – a saggy bust does no-one any favours.  A decent bra will also improve your posture because it naturally holds your back and shoulders in the right position and, consequently, will make you look slimmer.

Size is another important factor.  Today I discovered that I have been wearing a bra with a cup two sizes too small and one size too big around the ribs.  Women with large breasts really must have adequate support in order to cope with the extra weight at the front of their bodies.  Wide straps are essential as well as good structure from the sides and underneath.  Heavy breasted women can start to develop a dip in their shoulders and invariably suffer from back problems in later life if they don’t wear a properly fitted and appropriate bra for their size and shape.

Cup shape plays a crucial role in how you look in your clothes.  If the cup is too tight at the top, it can form an unsightly crease and bulge known as ‘double busting’ which doesn’t look nice and can be most uncomfortable.  Small breasted women can achieve a lovely, natural looking shape with a carefully fitted bra.

It is also important to put your bra on correctly.  You should lean slightly forward so that your breasts drop into the cup.  Once on, you should slip your hand under your arm and pull your breast forward into the cup.  Apparently a lot of women wander around with their boobs under their armpits.  Who knew?

Oh – I nearly forgot laundering.  Unless the bra states otherwise, you really should hand wash it if you want it to last.  Machine washing soon causes the material to stretch and weaken and the colour will fade, no matter how expensive your washing powder.

The modern day bra is a relatively recent invention.  Women have historically used corsetry to change and support their bodies and these corsets simply pushed the breasts upwards.  There were some garments which were suspended from the neck and attached to the corset with suspenders (garters) which must have been fiendishly uncomfortable.

Breast shape and size have also been subject to fashion over the centuries.  Breasts have been pushed up, flattened out and lumped together, and it is easy to see why feminist reformers saw the management of their breasts as political as well as practical.  The desire of women to be released from the social and physical strictures of their corsets played a big part in the development of the bra.

World War 1 can be said to be partly responsible for the bra.  Many women took on men’s work, as the men were all abroad being pointlessly slaughtered, and gender roles and ensuing social attitudes began to change.  Women were no longer pretty things mincing stiffly about in suffocating and unhealthy whalebone, they were drivers and factory workers and labourers who needed comfort and freedom.

1930s bra

Although the prototype of the modern bra had been created in 1907, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the ‘brassiere’ started to be commercially manufactured and generally known as a ‘bra’.  The manufacture of new materials such as Lycra and Elastene have had a major impact on the comfort of bras, as well as many other garments, and this has allowed the flourishing of styles and designs with which to enhance or modify breast shape.

I walked out of the The Little Big Bra Shop feeling like a different woman.  I was more comfortable for a start and I felt ever so slightly taller and thinner.  I was also thrilled to be told I had bigger bosoms than I thought I had, although there is the danger that if I lose some weight, I might lose those as well.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.

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Pubic Hair: from Egyptians to Vajazzles

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses the changing fashions of body hair, pubic shaving, ornamentation, vajazzles and general minge maintenance.  If you don’t wish to learn about front bottoms, look away now.

Leaves not pubes

I was having a conversation with my friend Dr Bones (who is very worldly) and, yet again, she brought up the subject of intimate shaving and merkins.   As a doctor she comes into contact with a great many intriguing things and we recently had a conversation about the increasing requests from young women wanting cosmetic surgery on their genitals.

She is convinced that this new fixation is a combination of them being exposed to sexually explicit material (though the fashion is now coming into the mainstream with series such as ITV2’s astonishing The Only Way Is Essex) and the fact that many young women remove all or most of their pubic hair and are suddenly startled by the appearance of their nether regions.

This time, however, she introduced us all to the new fashion of Vajazzling.  But you’re going to have to read to the end of the article to find out what it is.  No gain without pain, my dears.

Pubic hair is a funny old business and its presence is as subject to fashion as anything else.  Although fine vellus hair is present in childhood, the term pubic hair is generally restricted to the heavier, longer and coarser hair that develops with puberty as an effect of rising levels of androgens. Pubic hair is therefore part of the androgenic hair, ergo, a symbol of sexual maturity.

The practice of pubic hair removal can be dated back to at least 4,000 BC in India and Egypt.  Shaving unwanted hair on the body – under arms, legs, face, genital & anal areas – was viewed as a personal hygiene necessity for both men and women which was adopted by other countries over the centuries.   Muslims have historically been firm protagonists of body grooming and hair removal.  Hair removed from the pubis area and from under the arm is part of a routine of cleanliness called the fitrah.  This consists of five things: circumcision, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails, plucking the armpit hairs and shaving the pubic hairs.

Roman razor

Hair was removed by many different methods, razor, cream, tweezers, heat, honey etc.  Around 3000 BC, the copper razor appeared in both Egypt & India, but the most elaborate model of a razor was created around 1500-1200 BC in Scandinavia.  In ancient Egypt it was a sign of class and beauty to have a smooth  and hairless body. They developed a depilatory cream that was made of honey & oil and was very similar to our modern day “sugaring”.  Around 400 BC women effectively burnt the hair off their legs using heat. The Romans used depilatory cream made from resin, pitch, white vine, ivy extract, donkey fat, she-goats’ gall, bats’ blood and powdered viper.  Nice.

By 1270 The Crusaders had brought the practice back with them from the Middle East.  By the Renaissance, every scrap of body hair was being removed, including eyebrows which were then replaced with mouse skin.  However, this trend appears to have reversed in the Elizabethan and Georgian period, as there is written evidence that women plaited their pubic hair with ribbons and little ornaments and, thankfully, applied a lot of perfume as well.

The pubic wig (merkin) has been around since the 1400s when it was originally worn by women who had shaved off their pubic hair to prevent lice. In the Victorian times it was frequently worn by prostitutes who wanted to conceal the fact that they had diseases like syphilis.

Pleasantly plump woman with no pubic hair

Among the upper class in 19th century Victorian Britain, pubic hair from one’s lover was frequently collected as a souvenir. The curls were, for instance, worn like cockades in men’s hats as potency talismans, or exchanged among lovers as tokens of affection.  The museum of St. Andrews University in Scotland has in its collection a snuff box full of pubic hair from one of King George IV’s mistresses.  The notoriously licentious monarch donated it to the Fife sex club, The Beggar’s Benison.

At last, a welcome mat

There is an apocryphal story that the art critic, social philosopher, poet and artist, John Ruskin, recoiled from his wife on their wedding night when he found, to his horror, that she had pubic hair.  Pubic hair itself was unpleasant enough but the concept it implied was even worse: women, in general, had pubic hair.  Pubic hair was notably absent from all images of women he had ever seen, and the absence of it somehow epitomized to Ruskin the un-sexed nature of the “fairer sex.”  What could possibly be more mortifying to a man who so deeply perceived women as nonsexual, child-like in their simplicity, purity, and power of reasoning, than to discover—on his wedding night—that women, his simple play-things, were in fact whole and sexual beings?

This difficulty of the sexual perception of women persists to this day.  I bet if you were to ask a large group of men whether they preferred their girlfriends with a ‘welcome mat’ or a ‘landing strip’ you would get a lot of different answers.  I harbour the uncomfortable feeling that the removal of pubic hair makes women look more like children and is yet another example of the frighteningly confusing sexual messages at large in modern society.

The advent of the thong – underwear that covers the pubis but leaves your bottom bare – encouraged the removal of most of one’s pubic hair.  The alternative is to look as though you have a Yorkshire Terrier in your knickers.   And now, in a wonderful revival of the Elizabethan habit of ornamentation we have (drumroll)……..

The Vajazzle

Butterfly Vajazzle

This is the application of little coloured crystals, Vajazzles, to the pubic or genital area.  They can be applied anywhere on the skin but they have been designed for the Lady’s Area or you can get special patterns for breasts. There is even a heart-shaped Union Jack variety, which is lovely. The vajazzling pattern should last a few days but the wearing of tight fitting clothes will rub the stones off.  Loose fitting pants are recommended.

So now you know. There are also pubic hair dyes available in natural and day-glo colours.  If you wish, you could have a shocking pink fanny decorated all round with little green crystals.  Oh – and then there’s piercing…

Elizabethans eat your heart out.  There is nothing new under the sun.

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Filed under Hair, make up and stuff like that, History