This post is inspired by an article I read over at Already Pretty. The author, Nadine Thornhill of Adorkable Undies, moved me to tears. Then I was moved to write and write and write. It's taken me this long to organize those ramblings into something reasonably coherent. Actually, I'm pretty sure some of these thoughts still aren't quiet coherent. I'm having a difficult time finding the words to express what I feel, but I'm going to post this anyway. If nothing else it has a picture of Neil Gaiman.)
I was shopping for black, work-appropriate trousers when the butterfly cardigan caught my eye. Though I really didn't need it, I decided to try it on anyway. My immediate impulse was to grab a large, but the saleswoman talked me into a medium. I figured it was a long shot. When buying items that button in the front the larger the better. My beyond-double-D breasts tend to be more than most buttons can handle.
I was shocked. I loved how I looked in the medium cardigan. It hugged all the right places. Even the saleswoman had a "wow" when I opened the dressing room door. I was HOT.
Then I bought the cardigan in large. This, in spite of the fact that I don't love how I look in the large. Don't get me wrong. I love the sweater and all the memories it evokes. I just don't love myself in the large sweater like I did in the medium.
So, why the heck didn't I buy the smaller one?
Well, several years ago, when speaking to my boss, a client referred to me as "Chesty LaRue". Instead of reprimanding the client, my boss spoke to me about my clothing choices. She felt that my shirt might be too revealing for the some of clients that frequent our workplace.
There's much about this that still upsets me.
Around the time of the incident at work I wore the same top to a book signing. I've included a photo below. (That's Hubby on the left and Neil Gaiman in the centre. Double swoon!) Yes, you can see some cleavage, but I am bending forward in the photograph. Even so, the lads in the picture don't seem too distracted by "that little line peeping through", and my breasts were far perkier and distracting back in those days.
My boobs sit lower now. And yes, I do wear uber-supportive bras to give them a little lift. That's not just for appearance's sake. Leaving my breasts to their own devices is not good for my posture. And without containment they do tend to stray uncomfortably with the least bit of activity. Besides, finding clothing to fit breasts that have surpassed the double-D department is challenging. Finding clothing to fit large breasts that are rapidly approaching your waist is impossible.
Don't get me wrong. I like my breasts. They are nicely shaped and healthy and they've been with me for years. Hell, they're real and they're SPECTACULAR! It's the reaction to my breasts that leaves me scrambling for cover.
And scramble I do. Finding tops that fit in the shoulders, sleeves and bust can be frustrating. I often sacrifice fit elsewhere to ensure my breasts are decently covered. Long sleeves are usually a waste of time, as finding something that fits in the chest means the sleeves are miles long. Button-front anything tends to gape, or strain, or just burst open at the most inconvenient times. (I had a lovely silk blouse I wore to job interviews after university. As I walked into one interview, a strategic button burst free. There was no time to fix it. Worst. Interview. Ever.) Length can also be a problem. Shirts that cover another woman's belly don't always cover mine, as fabric that should be covering my gut tends to ride up to cover my chest.
All those fit issues and I haven't even tackled cleavage-coverage.
And I do try to keep my cleavage covered. I make an effort to de-emphasize the size of my breasts. The incident at work isn't the only time I've been the recipient of unwanted attention because of my breast size. There was bullying in middle school. There was a job interview where, even though I was buttoned up to my chin, the interviewer spent the entire time staring at my chest. There have been innumerable bra-snappings and taunts and snide comments. After years of tolerating this kind of behaviour from others the impulse to cover my cleavage has become automatic. Putting the medium "wow" sweater back on the rack and taking the less-appealing large didn't even require thought.
Yet sometimes cleavage peaks through in spite of my careful choices. Sometimes the extra clothing required to cover my chest is too restrictive. I do like to be able to move my arms from time to time. Sometimes it's just too hot to employ cleavage-camouflaging layers. (I tend to feel the heat more than my smaller-breasted colleagues. Must be all that extra insulation up front.) Camisoles and high-necklines and related concealment leave me red-faced, soggy-palmed, and pit-stained. Is that more professional than that controversial bit of cleavage?
Apparently, according to my long-ago boss, it is. I was dressed unsuitably. I was responsible for that man's reaction to my breasts. His comments were my fault. Nadine's suggestion that it may be otherwise blew me away. That shift in thinking moved me to tears. It still does.
Does this mean I'll be intentionally flaunting my cleavage any time soon? Probably not. Even now I'd still buy the larger sweater. What it does mean is that when confronted with unwanted attention, as I was a couple of weeks ago when some random pick-up truck driver felt the need to share his comments on my appearance, I'll be more forgiving...
... of myself.