I almost went into the union office today, but as I approached the front steps I decided to keep on walking. It has been a profoundly stressful couple of weeks, and for the sake of what little sanity I still possess it was high time that I played a little hooky.
So, I went shopping. What else was there to do?
Before I embark upon the story, I should explain a few things. First of all, although I like clothes, I detest clothes shopping. Yes, I know, I am a miserable excuse for a woman, in this and many other respects. Secondly, I’m broke, and at least a week away from my next paycheque, the lion’s share of which is already earmarked for bills. Luckily, I had my credit card with me, which I only ever use in emergencies. Thirdly, it was 37 degrees with the humidity today, so the excursion was largely an excuse to spend several hours in a climate-controlled environment, which both the union office and my apartment most assuredly are not.
Armed with my rationalizations, I set off for St. Catherine Street.
My first stop was Simon’s, whose offerings confirmed the rumour that peasant skirts have been declared mandatory apparel by this year’s fashion police. I still have the one my grandmother gave to me when I was seven, and, since she was actually a peasant, I feel absolutely no need to pay for a cheap imitation of the real thing.
My second stop was the Eaton Centre, where I quickly spotted the only item of clothing in the entire mall that was not a bright shade of turquoise, peach, or tangerine. Fortunately for me, this item—a simple cotton blouse with a moderately daring neckline—was also on sale, so I felt practically obliged to buy it.
Finally, I went into the Bay. The only two consumer items I have ever purchased at Canada’s historic retailer are ties and bras, and, it being nowhere near xmas, my mission today was to procure the latter. Easier said than done, apparently.
Since I last went bra shopping, three significant developments have occurred. One: I lost weight, which meant that I no longer knew my bra size. Two: the lingerie industry was revolutionized by new synthetic compounds, which have transformed the structural composition of bras. Three: breast implants have completely altered mammilarian aesthetics, which currently bear only a passing resemblance to the non-surgical kind, to say nothing of my own.
I started by looking for some bras I liked. My personal lingerie sensibility lies firmly in the traditional/minimalist camp: black, seamless, stylish but not cutesy. I like a little lace but not too much; matronly is definitely out; and keep floral prints the hell away from me.
Out of easily one hundred different bra styles, I found exactly two that suit my taste. I selected my former size, 38B, and took up residence in fitting room number three. I had barely fastened the hooks of the first bra when it became glaringly obvious that I am a shadow of my former self. Better make that a 36A. However, as I soon discovered, the bras I like don’t come in 36A, and neither do two-thirds of the others that are available for purchase. In fact, there are only two broad categories of 36A bra: push-up, and padded.
At this point in the story, I feel the need to pronounce that, despite their somewhat reduced size, I actually like my breasts. I mean, they’re no great shakes, and they’re certainly not as impressive as some of my friends’ or anyone’s on TV, but they work for me, and I thoroughly resent the implication that I should think otherwise. I’m neurotic enough as it is, thank you very much.
In any case, I was faced with a choice: either go braless, or find something I could live with. I spent the next hour conducting a quadrant-by-quadrant search of the Bay’s lingerie department, an experience that was made only slightly more tolerable by the steady gush of A/C. I appraised dozens of strange specimens—one even had gel in it—before finding a suitable compromise: the “molded” bra, which contains but a thin layer of foam in each cup. I collected several varieties of said style and apprehensively reentered the fitting chamber.
The first three, Calvin Kleins all, were evidently designed on the premise that Dolly Parton wears an A-cup. The next two were either mislabeled or else manufactured with stick insects in mind, as I could hardly breathe while wearing them. Bra number six was okay but outrageously expensive, and bra number seven was, it turned out, a convertible, with removable straps that would handily accommodate the prom dress I will never wear.
The winner was bra number eight, a “t-shirt” bra that fit perfectly and actually looked good on my body, a rare occurrence in any clothing store. Bra number nine was even better, and inspired the revelation that my breasts were made for demi-cups. Bra number ten was a creatively-sized version of my old Warner’s stand-by, a 34B that closely approximated a 36A.
So now I had three bras I could live with, with a combined price tag of over a hundred dollars—i.e., way out of my budget. I realized that I would have to sacrifice two bras to save the life of the third. By this time, I had been in the lingerie department for almost three hours, and was in the increasingly manic throes of nicotine withdrawal. I sat down to think beside a mannequin wearing a red lace teddy and matching thong: which one would it be?
That’s when I noticed the signs that were plastered all over the store: 50% Off Sale. I sprinted to the nearest cash counter and asked the saleswoman to verify that the bras I had so carefully selected were, in fact, sale items. She assured me that they were, and asked if I wanted any panties to go with them. I shook my head no and produced my credit card, which stoically accepted the sixty-two dollar charge. It was an emergency, after all.