Monday, September 12, 2011

A Push-Up Bra As the Only Option?

I've had a goal in mind these past few days and if you're one of my male readers you may want to look away and read another post (Paul read this and suggests clicking over to ESPN) because you'll probably have as much fun reading this post as Paul had assisting in on my shopping goal this morning, which also happens to be the subject of this post.  I'd been telling him for the past two days that this shopping trip was necessary, because it involves one of his least favorite places to shop due to sheer size (Walmart), and I wanted to ease him into the idea.  You see, taking Maggie to the store that she calls "ho ba" ("so big" for the 99.999% of people who don't speak "Mae Bae") is never a treat.  And the task for the day, well, that was going to be even less fun... because it was bra shopping.

In the past years my bra shopping trips have pretty much revolved around pregnancies.  I got three when I was pregnant with Sadie and one when I was pregnant with Mae.  They had held up pretty well, considering their age, but it was time. Actually, it was probably well past time.  

I have a hard time spending money on bras because they're usually so ridiculously expensive and that's where Walmart comes in because while cutting through the bra section the other day I noticed that there were quite a few in the $5-$10 and that seemed somehow less painful than the price tags I'd come to expect.  

Paul took Sadie to find power steering fluid (because our Super-Not-Great-Van apparently has a leak) and Mae and I headed over to the "intimates" section.  When we reached it and the shopping cart came to a stop Mae did what she always does when the shopping cart pauses and started to scream.  I picked her up and held her while trying to find an appropriate size, and she continued to scream.  After an hour of holding Mae during Mass, while wrangling Sadie, I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever be able to lift my arms above my shoulders again, but I was determined and pushed on in my search, in a desperate race against the clock (Mae Bae was only going to get louder).  

There wasn't a single bra in my size in the first section and I puzzled over this as I headed to the second section.  Do I wear the most common size in America?  Was my size totally sold out?  They had plenty of bras in the sizes directly above mine.  I continued to the second, third, fourth and fifth sections and found nothing.  How could there be so many bras and not a single one that would fit me?  I headed back to the front of the bra section to reevaluate the situation.

And there they were: All of the bras in my size, just waiting to be bought.  There were dozens of them, cordoned off my themselves in their own little aisles.  And why, you may ask, where they off by themselves away from the perfectly sensible, supportive bras?  Because they were all "push up" bras.  

All of the bras in my size in Walmart, were pushup bras.  

Now in high school I may have rushed up to a wall of push up bras cheering, but those days are long gone.  And frankly at my current size, which is apparently right at the line between needing enormous amounts of support and needing enormous amount of enhancement, I'd rather not have that extra bit of help that they buyers at Walmart (and Target from my experience two years ago shopping) seem to think that women my size and smaller need.  

I've been thinking about the experience since I got home this afternoon.  Girls and women, my size or smaller, are pretty much being told by the stores that they need padded push-up bras.  It's apparently what's expected.  They've almost completely eliminated the other options (at least in my price range... because there's no way I'm paying $30-$50 for one bra...) for this rather necessary product.  And what are push up bras supposed to do?  They're supposed to make us look sexy.  Which is what our over sexualized culture tells us we're supposed to be, all the time.  

There's just something wrong with the fact that there are no other options.  It's kind of ridiculous in a sad way.  But I guess "sex sells."  And that seems to be what they're going for in this particular department.  I guess they don't see any room for anything in between.


  1. I know that $30 to $50 seems a lot to pay for a bra. However, if you consider it in terms of price per wearing, it's actually pretty cheap. Most of us don't have more than a few bras which we cycle through on a regular basis. We probably pay that much for most of our skirts, which we cycle through more slowly in general. Bras feel like they should fall into the same category as underpants, but there's a lot more work that has to go into them. I know there are debates out there as to the need for bras at all, and I totally agree that no one should be forced into push up bras. I suggest shopping online, if you actually know your size, because you're right stores have a funny way of stocking their shelves. My suspicion is that you are a pretty popular size that sells out quickly.

  2. This is going to sound crazy, but have you ever tried Frederick's of Hollywood?

    I KNOW they're borderline (at best) pornographic in terms of window displays and such. However, in terms of quality, I bought 4 bras there almost five years ago, and those four have been my mainstay bras ever since. In fact, the only other bras I own or wear are a sports bra for workouts and a strapless for formal dresses. The four I described are finally starting to wear out, but I must say that the $90 I spent on them five years ago (I believe I got them on a buy-three-get-the-fourth-free sale) has really been worth it.

  3. I have to admit, I buy semi-expensive bras. I take really good care of them and they last a long time - much longer than cheap ones. I find that cheap ones are always irritating - itchy and pokey and scratchy and falling apart within a couple of months. I'm not very busty (I'm a 32 D, which isn't as big as it sounds) and I really like the Full Coverage Body by Victoria from Victoria's Secret. They are comfortable. They are not push-up or padded. They are lightly lined so that they give a nice shape and a bit of...coverage... if you know what I mean - but they are not thick. I really think the investment is worth it, in this case. I also think it's well worth it to go into a store and get fitted. You don't have to necessarily go into a VS - a Nordstroms or Macy's will work (look for lightly lined T-shirt bras.) A couple of years ago I asked to be fitted - come to find out, I was not a 34 B but a 32 D. What a difference!

    It's this bra (warning, this is an ad for a bra - so there is a woman in a bra featured...)

  4. Yes! And they almost all come with built-in padding, too, I've noticed. Not only is it trying to make us look sexy, but from another viewpoint, it's saying "Clearly, if you're not buxom, you automatically dislike your body and want to appear different."

  5. ugh, I hate bra shopping, even with bras "in my size" I have to try on everything, because some won't fit anyways.

    Anyways you should be careful about the leak. We had a leak in our coolant last year in the car, and we just would add more coolant, well apparently the coolant was dripping on the power steering belt. I happened to be driving the car, when it started overheating, the belt slipped, and I eventually lost all power steering. It had to be towed and it caused extra damage that we had to pay for. Yuck.

  6. That's exactly why I wear camisoles rather than bras. I'm not flat, but I'm not big enough to need support. Camis accomplish. . .what I want them to accomplish. :) They are a bit pricey - I prefer the Jockey brand - so I get them when they are on sale at Macy's.

  7. I'm with you on that. I actually hate going bra shopping. I try to get the SLIGHTLY padded ones so things don't show through my t-shirts. Unfortunately, I also fit into that you have to have lots of padding and push those girls up sizes. I hate it. I personally think mine are big enough, if not a bit too large. Why the hell do I want them to appear larger? I also hate the prices of them. I have a suggestion based on my most recent shopping experience. I don't think it will work for you with Mae still breastfeeding but might help other readers. Try looking at sports bras. I find they have better support and won't make you have that va va voom that society tells you a woman should have. According to my husband who's an engineer they are structurally better than most of the bras we women wear. They have also come a long way since I was in high school. Now they have hooks, some even clip in the front which helps me alot.

  8. That seems to be a trend at the stores that cater primarily to lower income people- they carry more "hussy wear" (to borrow my SIL's term )than the pricier stores; and sometimes that's ALL they have. I wonder why...
    Last time I bought bras, I left the tot with hubby and went to JC Penny's and spent a good hour scrounging through their packed clearance rack. I got three really nice non-push up bras for $12 each (formerly $40s). I'm a fairly small size- 36B ( I do always buy very lightly lined bras so they look decent with a tee shirt :). Good luck!

  9. I think that this definitely isn't something to feel guilty about paying more for! In college I bought the Victoria Secret's bras and love them.. and I think I'll definitely have to watch sales at some of the mid-price places. In a couple years when we're hopefully at a slightly higher income level a few higher quality bras will definitely be the first thing on the list!

  10. Matt Stafford, QB for the Lions, completed 71% of his passes, threw for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns. 2 of those TDs were to Calvin Johnson. Now, I know it was the TB Bucs, which you all may root for now, but needlesss to say, if he can keep up this kind of efficiency and production the Lions might actually have a good year.

    Also, The Michigan Wolverines beat ND, through grit and determination of their QB as well. D. Robinson had some 400+ yds of offense. That is almost 1000yds in his last two games vs. the irish. If he also can keep up the kind of production throughout the year, the wolverines could be playing on January 1 this year.

    (What I learned at

  11. Just a thought on Victoria Secret...

    I know I've heard people say they sell some nice things, but just they way they advertise makes me not want to support them (that is...well, to be blunt, their advertising seems sort of pornographic). I don't like supporting a company who advertises in that way. Especially when they have stores all over that flaunt stuff in the windows so any man walking by could be tempted.

    Just my 0.02. I buy mine from Motherhood Maternity (but then again I'm nursing our 6mo old, so I know that doesn't work for everyone).

  12. I have terrific luck buying online from At my age, I certainly am not in the market for any hoochie-mama bras, and there is an excellent selection of reasonably priced, high quality alternatives. My favorite is well-lined, with built-in "petals" for really thorough coverage. Hanes, and possibly Bali, make some like this. The site has several brands.

  13. I also hate bra shopping. So much that I continued to wear nursing bras for a while after I stopped nursing, because I knew I had some shrinking going on. When shirts no longer fit right because of my too big bras, I went to VS. They did have some good bras on sale for $25. It still hurt to pay that. I know JC Penny's usually has a great selection for a good price.

    BTW, I also must have a size worn by most women. They never have me in stock. I have to go to the store, try on a bigger size, then order mine online

  14. I did think about that side of Victoria's Secret (and also Fredrick's because if you've seen a mall with a Fredrick's they're the same) but I'm also not in Nordstrom's price range for bra shopping. I'd definitely explore alternatives, but I also don't really know of any bra stores that have "modest" advertising... Although now that I think of it JCPenny's (or a store like that) actually does seem like the best alternative. And I would think that the quality would be good.

    Throwing morality into buyings things is tough though, when you really start digging. I'm still on my Kraft boycott, since they're flavor tester company uses aborted fetuses in their research, and have certainly learned that once you started digging for bad things about major companies, there's way too much to find. It's seems that it's really hard to buy anything from major retailers these days.

    And (LOL) Joseph I'll have to tell Paul someone took his advice. He read this post and laughed that I'd written it at all... and followed it with "but I'm not a woman."

  15. I need to go bra shopping too, but now I am afraid that I may encounter the same problem. That is really too bad. I wear sports bras simply because they're the most comfortable, but I need another kind for support reasons, but more than likely I will probably encounter this problem...

  16. A great place I have found, with many styles and all sizes, is They have something for everyone and their prices are fair. The Ambrielle brand, which is JCPs own, is great- knockoffs of many of the major brands out there for a fraction of the price. And, don't forget to go through Ebates! :)

  17. I have a hard time finding non-padded bras sometimes too...and I'm what they call "full-figured". The LAST thing I need is to pad or push anything out!

  18. I think all women loathe bra shopping. I've got a method that works for me though.

    I shop at Kohls - they have very good prices, great sales, and take coupons.

    But I don't shop in store. Once you get fitted and know your size, I just buy everything online that looks like it will work for me and that has good reviews.

    So I'll buy like 10 bras at a time, spend about $100-150, then try them on at home. That way you can really get a feel for them as you wear them around the house for a day or two.

    Then, I just return the ones I don't like. Kohls lets you return items whenever you want, as long as you have the receipt. You can get cash back, or store credit.

    Works for me :)

  19. 3rd the nursing bra thing. Some of them have padding to keep from "showing" if you catch my drift. But because of my changing body size I find the thin stretchy ones are more comfortable even if thing "show".

    I used to be a B size but now I'm more like a D. Pregnancy and continual nursing does that to you. A friend told me they go back to the smaller size, but I'm not so sure. I think it depends on your genes. Some women stretch out (like my mom) and don't shrink back.

    But anyway...I think shopping for a bra is a curse when you go through bras of every cup size and band size (pregnancy). I'm so glad they make bras that are meant for many cup sizes and you can use those nifty expanders. Otherwise, I'd be buying a new bra more often than I'd like.

    Oh, I get mine from Target maternity section. Motherhood is okay and so is Penney's, but Target has more of a variety of colors (not just tan, white, and black) and styles for maternity/nursing.

  20. I prefer bras that are lined, so that I don't have to worry about anything showing through tshirt or thin sweaters, but even in my size (which we'll just call generous), those are often push up bras. I don't particularly want push up, but I have found that many of them include removable inserts that when removed result in the bra not doing very much pushing up at all. But I agree with your point, and would suggest Kohl's, also, try a closeout website like or for good deals. Also, while I realize that in concrete terms, spending a lot of money on bras may just not be possible, keep in mind you are probably wearing it 12-18 hours a day on average, so by the best bra you can afford, then take good care of it, even if it's a $15 bra from Walmart.

  21. is the only place i have found bra's in mine and my daughter's sizes. Honestly it's better you didn't get wal mart bras, they are about as well made as paper towels. a complete waste of money. Kohl's is also a great place to find bra's AND good sales. They are constantly having buy one get one 1/2 off plus they send out coupons all the time. Make sure you really are the size you think you are. Most women aren't. That can sometimes aid greatly in the shopping. Good luck!


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