Friday, December 14, 2012

The Post Where I Try to Give Advice to Women ... Boobs

I know that this is going to sound shocking but ...

Jonathan Adler cushion


We were watching Diana Vreeland - The Eye Has To Travel and there was a sharp intake of breath where she describes her mother telling her she was ugly. Her mother was a bitch. Not as bad as Joan Crawford or mine, but ... For years I thought I was ugly because it was my mother's constant refrain to me. But many young women don't need terrible mothers to feel this way - they just need to look at fashion magazine, advertisements, and countless images that surround them.

Beauty used to be rare, and before mass media most people didn't expect to see it very often. There might be one "beauty" in a town, who might parlay her looks to make a "good" marriage. Most men didn't expect to have a beauty in their life as their "right" - which seems to be the message of men pressuring women to "improve" their looks (for example A.A. Gill's rather strange rant that Prof Mary Beard should wear more make-up - and doesn't even know her!). Most of us won't be on the cover of Vogue, but that doesn't matter.

The truth is that you should "Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. ... in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine."

"Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly." That was the advice given by Mary Schmich in her 1997 Chicago Tribune column "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" and it still holds true today. It was turned into a song by Baz Luhrmann



If I could wave a magic wand I'd try to get women to believe in themselves, but that seems to come with age, so instead I'll try to suggest some advice.

Take care of your body, because it's the only one you'll have. Have regular Pap Smears, walk more and watch what you put in your body - this is not a suggestion to "diet" to loose weight, but many women who wouldn't be seen dead wearing synthetic fibres will put the equivalent (junk food) into their bodies daily. The healthier you are the better your skin and hair will be - you can't cure acne with lotions and potions if you're eating crap, and why pay for extensions?

But if you do want to drop ten pounds instantly, then skip the fruit diet and get fitted for the correct size of bra. In my day "young ladies" trotted off to Rigby and Peller to be fitted - and one is "fitted" there, sized up by eye and not measured. Most women still wear the wrong size bra, and it's the greatest style faux pas - all those rolls of back fat showing through clothes are the result. Spanx are all very well, but the correct bra will lift your boobs, creating a waist and give you a much better foundation for clothes.

I was shocked how many women are still reading my old post about Christina Hendricks and curves (those are stats for this year), so my plan is to take full advantage of this opportunity to "preach" a little ...


You wouldn't build a house on weak foundations, and putting clothes over a flimsy ill-fitting bra is the sartorial equivalent. If you're flat-chested bra size is less of an issue, but if you have curves you need to care for them. You should also get fitted whenever your weight goes up or down.

This is a great video showing Bethenny Frankel being fitted (another video from her show illustrates the before and after results on "real" women of bra makeovers)



She's a 30G which is a size that makes people say "WTF?!?!" but it's no uncommon - most women are smaller around the band and larger in the cup than they think. It's the size Beckie who runs the blog Busts 4 Justice wears.

I loathe Victoria's Secret and every time I see a girl carrying one of their little pink bags I want to tell her to go get measured properly by someone who knows what they're doing. A friend was running late, so for a laugh I went into their Bond Street store and asked to be "measured" - I'm using quotation marks because their methods are pseudo-scientific. When the woman told me my supposed size I asked her to check again. They wanted to put me into a 36DD. I pointed out that the band was so big my boobs were popping out at the bottom but ...

Bravissimo used to be good at fitting bras, but I was less impressed by a recent visit. You don't pick bras you like, they size you up and bring them to you. They said a 32F, I pointed out that the band was gaping and gave little support, the salesgirl insisted and wouldn't bring any other sizes. She also kept pushing Panache, a brand that doesn't suit my shape (it works better for saggy boobs not pert ones).

A lot of women don't get fitted for a bra as they feel awkward being topless in front of a stranger. So it's worse when ignorant saleswomen tell you the wrong size and you have to believe in yourself even when they do. Peter Jones said 34, and when I pressed went down to a 32F. Marks and Spencer said 36D. I used to go to be fitted at Selfridges, but they've replaced the old staff with people who don't know what they're doing (my "new" size is a 34D according to them).

I am, depending on the brand and style of bra a 30G, 30GG or very occasionally a 30H. My band size, 30, remains the same. I know this because I use the very experienced fitters at Rigby and Peller. If you're a curvy size, Agent Provocateur won't fit you, but Rigby & Peller's well designed bras will (many brands simply size up small cups, whilst R&G provide miracles of engineering). Fauve also make beautiful but supportive bras.

And once you're in the correct bra, what to do with the old ones? Don't throw them out, but wash them and donate them - lots of shelters are desperate for underwear. If you're in the UK there's the www.GiveAndMakeUp.com project - pop unwanted bras and make-up in a shoe box, and they'll distribute it to women in shelters.

Ironically I disagree about always wearing sunscreen - yes in Athens, no on a winter London day (you need the vitamin D and psoriasis benefits from some sun) - but please do take the time to read the brilliant "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young." You'll probably ignore most of it but ...


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