Sunday, September 22, 2013

Settling for Less: Why Busty Women Might Not Take the Options Provided to Them.

The sweater I'm wearing is gorgeous.  It's a bright, cheerful, royal blue.  It's extremely soft.  It is thick enough to be warm but thin enough not to add bulk when belted.  It's long enough.  It is perf... actually, no.  It isn't perfect.  My arms look like they begin on the sides of my breasts, because the sides are pulled so far forward.  When I twitch them back into position under my arms, the sweater doesn't even come close to closing.  Yet I wear it anyway.  I would say that my wardrobe is mainly composed of clothes with at least one glaring fit issue that I try to ignore.  If I didn't have other options, this would be fine.  But why do I and many women with larger busts still settle for items that are just OK when we have options like these?

The light blue lines indicate the (approximately) correct positions of the arm and side seam.
The red lines show where they are.

First, there's the act of shopping itself.  Going to a store and trying on clothes can be fun. Feeling the fabrics, actually seeing the colors, being able to take five different sizes into a dressing room... there are definite lures to brick-and-mortar stores.   And because most women don't live near a store that stocks an extensive size range of full-bust bras or clothing brands, they end up at local malls, boutiques, and department stores.  That isn't to say that you can't find great pieces at those places, but for many women the experience (and for some, the immediate gratification!) is the draw.  It's tempting to settle.

Then there's the fact that online shopping can be tedious for busty women.  A number of stores catering to that demographic are either in the UK or in Poland.  This is convenient for much of Europe but not so convenient for other locations (the words "Free Worldwide Shipping!" now have the power to make me teary-eyed).  So they have to order multiple sizes or take a gamble and hope for the best, go through the hassle of returning items or trying to sell whatever doesn't fit, and that process often costs them more money than anticipated.

I wish the excitement when one of these arrives at the door wasn't tempered 
by the fear of returns.

There's a second cost-related issue. I'm almost sure that many people, like me, prefer having a certain amount of money in their accounts at all times for emergencies/bills/etc. So I've always wondered if online retailers could have an option as follows: if you are ordering one bra in multiple sizes, you can pay for only one, but if the other sizes aren't returned in X amount of time, your PayPal/credit card/other account will then be charged.  I am not a store owner/CEO/have never made decisions regarding corporate logistics, so I don't know if that or a similar setup is feasible, but I would be less hesitant to make purchases online if something like it were implemented. There are many extremely helpful online retailers who might help you figure out ways to reduce costs, but wouldn't it be great if this were a standard option?

Money aside, I also have to wonder if there are deeper, more emotional reasons that women might be reluctant to purchase D+ lingerie and clothing.  I know there are for me.  When I don't like how a shirt, dress or sweater fits my bust and say so, I often get responses like:

"Most people don't have clothes that fit perfectly."
"You're just too picky."
"But it looks good everywhere else.  Can't you just ignore that?" or
"That's such a first world problem. Just be glad you have clothes."

Let me address the last of these first: I am glad that I have clothes. I am very lucky to have them. Just because I get frustrated by the fit of clothes and bras doesn't mean that these frustrations aren't, in the scheme of things, quite trivial.  But clothes and bras that fit make me happy.  I think it's OK to be happy about trivial matters sometimes and not to feel guilty about that happiness, as long as you ultimately keep your problems in perspective.

This video doesn't pertain to any major societal issue, 
but can you not smile?  Can you?

As for the other responses, it's as if people are saying, She obviously thinks she's some super special snowflake because of her body type; can't she just buy clothes from normal stores like the rest of us? All right, so I don't actually know that they're thinking this.  But to the people who dole out these comments on a regular basis, please remember that this is what it can sound like to the recipient. Yes, almost all women have body parts that are difficult to fit, and settling isn't necessarily always bad, but at least acknowledge the exasperation that occurs when the same fit issues are encountered over and over again.

Especially when someone has an area that she is particularly self-conscious about, shrugging off her concerns or making her feel self-absorbed for bringing it up can feel like a slap in the face.  Oh, you mean you've struggled with that part of yourself your whole life?  Well, too bad; no one else cares!  Because of this, I sometimes think other people unconsciously encourage busty women to settle for clothes that they would otherwise not buy.  So when shopping with someone who doesn't like how something fits around the bust... or on the hips or waist or thighs or wherever... don't lightly dismiss those feelings or try to talk her into buying something she might not enjoy wearing; instead, be sympathetic and help her find something that she feels great in.

Have you ever settled when it comes to clothing?  Did other people have any influence on your decision? I would love to hear if anyone thinks there are other reasons that women with larger chests might settle for less than what is available to them!

*Edit* I've decided to start adding reasons as readers suggest them, because I know there are others that I have forgotten or never thought of.  Please let me know if you do not want your comment name displayed (if I get what appear to be real names, I will abbreviate them anyway :-) ), and I will change it!

- AE brings up the great point that some types of clothing are just not available from large bust brands, particularly heavier winter sweaters and coats (companies: hint hint).  

- Chiharu writes that it is difficult to find items if you want something fashion-forward/less vintage inspired.

- A Sophisticated Pair weighed in on the "ordering a few sizes" issue: You'd essentially have to double or triple your inventory in order to support the potential for customers to be ordering way more than they plan on keeping. So you'd have to worry about stock on hand as well as what stock would need to be replenished. It's not an easy prospect, but I can see the appeal for the consumer.  (Thanks for the input!)

- Anonymous says that shipping is still a hassle in other parts of Europe, and bra band sizes are still rarely seen below a 32 (and especially 30) there.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Obloquy."

Hi everyone!  Today's word is "obloquy," a noun meaning strong, public verbal criticism or abuse, or public disgrace.

Local news reporters attacked her character, and she endured months of obloquy during the trial before solid evidence proved her innocence.

I would put a picture here to visually demonstrate "obloquy," but there are too many tabloids to choose from.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Taciturn."

Hey everyone!  Today's word is "taciturn," an adjective meaning reserved or saying little.

Because her novels were so lengthy and her writing style so flowery, people were often surprised to find that she was taciturn and concise in person.

Now contemplate all possible meanings of the phrase "taciturn as the grave."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Just, Loyal & True; Embracing a Hufflepuff Sorting.

We all* take them: the "What [Popular Movie/Book] Character are You?" quizzes.  And secretly, we all have a desired outcome.  When the quizzes give us a result that we don't like or expect, we shrug it off and say, "It's just a silly online quiz. I know I'm actually more like so-and-so."  Sometimes we're right.  Other times, we miss an opportunity.  Having someone else (or someone else's quiz) tell us that we resemble a certain character-- or in this case belong to a certain Hogwarts house-- can prompt interesting discussion and introspection.

When I first took an online sorting quiz, I wanted to be placed in Ravenclaw.  It's where nerds go, right?  It's the house of the bookish, brainy ones.  I suppose I would have been OK with Gryffindor as well.  Gryffindors are cool.  I actually like Slytherin a lot, but I knew that I had very few qualities to recommend me to that house.  What I got?  Hufflepuff.  My reaction wasn't frustration or sadness.  No, my reaction was complete and utter indifference.  Hufflepuff.  Eh.  Of course, curious as to whether another quiz would yield a different result, I took another one.  Hufflepuff again.  Every sorting quiz I've taken in the past ten years has given the same verdict.  And it wasn't until recently that I acknowledged that the quizzes weren't wrong; I was a) in denial, and b) unfairly deeming Hufflepuff House plebeian and irrelevant.

I would outline all the reasons that Hufflepuff doesn't deserve to be seen as "a lesser house," but I think this list of Hufflepuff's oft-overlooked awesome traits already does that.  I think it's true that in many ways, Hufflepuff just isn't as exciting as the other houses.  Captivating an audience is part and parcel of a novel, and writing about people who have lots of ambition, or a knack for getting into trouble, or are often singled out for their accomplishments creates a more enthralling story line. Nice People tend to get overlooked or shunted aside.  Think about A Song of Ice and Fire... in general, how well does anyone do who has the defining attributes "just" and "fair"?  It's strange, but I think many of us don't realize how much we admire Hufflepuff-like qualities until the people who possess them are gone.  Then we think, Wait... that's not right. I liked him/her!  Then we begin to wonder... is "exciting" really all it's cracked up to be?  And is it a necessary trait to strive for in real life?   This article in defense of Hufflepuff says "no."

"It's nice to be important, 
but it's more important to be nice."
- John Cassis

The first part of that article's title is a bit misleading, because one of the author's conclusions, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that all houses have their own strengths and pitfalls... just like individuals (imagine that!).  I also love that she mentions that bravery, ambition, intelligence, and loyalty aren't the sole domains, respectively, of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.  Dumbledore complimented Harry on his loyalty to his friends.  Fred and George Weasley were highly ambitious in their career aspirations.  Cedric Diggory was brave enough to be a Hogwarts Triwizard Champion. Hermione was the "brightest witch of her age."

I can be a nerdy Hufflepuff.  It's not an oxymoron.  I love reading, science, logical discourse, and well-researched data.  I do.  But I also remember facial expressions and the overall gist and tone of a conversation or lecture much better than I remember intellectual details, have an inclination to do what I feel is right rather than analyze a situation, and actually value honesty and fairness more than intelligence.  I cannot stand even feeling disloyal; if someone has ever been kind to me or has ever shared good times with me, even if we haven't spoken in twenty years, I likely still consider him/her my friend.  I will work hard on assigned tasks and do my best in any competitive arena, but I don't thrive on competition.  I don't like or purposefully involve myself in heated arguments, but I will "go to bat" and stand my ground for anyone who I think is being maligned or mistreated.

I'm no longer ambivalent about my sorting.  I'm a Hufflepuff.  And there's no shame in it.

Image from:

*I realize this is hyperbolic.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Evanescent."

Today's word is "evanescent," an adjective meaning to fade away or vanish, or ephemeral and transitory.

Ironically, Evanescence has been the least evanescent band in my musical repository; "My Immortal" and "Hello" are still on my MP3 player, and I first heard them both at least eight years ago.

I need to find cases like these that aren't made for Apple products.
While not exactly my style, this one would still be a lot more appealing to me
if it had a period or semicolon after "princess"...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Feminism and Personal Choice.

"I thought one of the reasons for feminism was so that women don't have wear those anymore?" Mr. Nerd asked as I giddily bounced around the house wearing my new corset.  I paused, thought for a moment, then replied, "No.  We have feminism so that women can choose whether or not they wear corsets.  And right now, I'm choosing to wear one."  Even though Mr. Nerd said this in a teasing manner, it resembles a common misconception: that being a feminist means dressing a certain way... or not in certain ways.  Doing jobs and activities long reserved only for males.  Voting.  Getting a higher education.  Working outside the house.

It doesn't mean any of that.  Imagine for a moment that a man doesn't vote in an election because he decides he doesn't approve of any of the candidates.  No one would claim that he is somehow "setting back" his sex.  Yet if a woman does the same, she will often have people telling her that she ought to proudly proclaim her equal status with men by voting.  As if she needs to tangibly validate her equality somehow.  But does that actually demonstrate equality?  While I think it important that we work toward goals like decreasing wage gaps and erasing culturally-permitted misogyny, a large part of feminism is, or at least ought to be, about allowing and respecting women's individual choices.*

Necklace from:

As in the corset example, this extends to clothing choices as well.  When Mr. Nerd and I started dating eight years ago, I showed a lot of skin in my "going out" clothes.  I now find that I wear fewer mini skirts and a lot more modest pieces: maxi skirts, sweaters, higher necklines.  Looking back, I realize that this fashion transformation took place around the time I got married.  I noticed that Mr. Nerd liked more modest pieces, and I began wearing more of them. I now like wearing clothes that I know make him happy.  I like wearing his favorite colors.  I usually avoid orange because it's the color of his alma mater's football team's rival (although he's lucky I don't look absolutely amazing in orange ;-)).  But even though I let a man influence my clothing choices, I consider myself a feminist.  I make the decision to wear what pleases my husband.  It is one of the ways I show appreciation for him.  I wouldn't let some random man-- or woman, for that matter-- dictate any part of my wardrobe, but Mr. Nerd is not some random man.  And I feel comfortable doing it in part because he doesn't demand it.

Feminists avoid forcing women into a neat little box, and not all feminists are women.  It isn't a she-woman man hater's club.  I consider most men I know feminists.  They might initially balk at this label, because in popular culture the word has taken on some unfortunately negative connotations**, but if I asked them whether a woman ought to have the right to vote, or get an education, or ought to have the same career opportunities with the same pay as men, they would say yes.  If I asked them whether a woman "belonged" in the work force or at home, they would look at me strangely and say "whichever works for her."  In our house, I do most of the cleaning and cooking, and Mr. Nerd does most of the yard work and handles bills (though admittedly I do know how to do that).   It works for us, and we actively enjoy our respective roles.  But had Mr. Nerd ever said that women shouldn't do yard work or manage finances, I would have gone running in the other direction.  I could go out and mow the lawn today, and although he might be surprised because it is out of character (and because it's nighttime and raining... ), the fact that I'm a woman wouldn't even cross his mind.

I am not weak, unintelligent, or anti-feminist because I sometimes dress modestly, have a very "traditionally feminine" role in my marriage, and listen to the opinions and sometimes accede to the preferences of a man.  On the contrary, I am a feminist because I think women have just as much right to choose those things as they do to make any other lifestyle choices.

*Of course, I would love those choices to be informed ones, but I would say that about people's choices in general.

**I think this is so sad. Who came up with such stereotypes as "Feminists hate men" and started bashing feminism?  Some might.. just like some men who like having civil rights probably hate women.  I could dig deeper into the logical fallacies of this statement, but that would take another post. You might have seen the "I need feminism because..." pictures on various websites and school campuses.  I'd like to add to it:  I need feminism precisely because there are people who are offended by the "I need feminism because..." campaigns.