Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overnight, or: My First Bra Was a C Cup

My friend Stephanie Green wrote a fantastically unsentimental post today about how she chose to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis, and about looking forward to getting new breasts. We used to work together as editors and often discussed our shared preference for Wacoal bras. Seems we also both wished we were more the braless type.

This photo is from Marilyn Monroe's infamous last photo shoot. Hair and makeup by George Masters. She'd have no one else after he helped her find signature shade of platinum blond, which she named "pillowcase white." But I'm not writing about blondness today, I'm writing about breasts. Marilyn, despite showing off tons of cleavage when dressed, was not actually so busty.

Earlier this year, Lindsay Lohan posed with Bert Stern to recreate the iconic pictures for New York Magazine. Occasionally I waste sympathy on starlets. Getting famous young seems like a nightmare and I related to Lindsay a few years ago when she suddenly developed giant breasts. Tabloids accused her of getting implants because they came on so quick. Mine came on overnight. I was the flattest-chested of all my friends until I was seventeen, and quite happy to stay that way, but I needed only to have glanced at any female relative to have seen my future. The first bra I ever bought was a C cup.

This was in the late eighties so I hid my chest under voluminous, epically unflattering tops most of the time. I guess my disguise was pretty successful. Years later, I moved back to New York, and in with a roommate from high school. One night I went to see an old friend's band and saw some other people from my hometown, and very soon after, my roommate ran into the same crowd. She told one of the guys that she was living with me.

"Bonnie... the girl with the fake breasts, right?" He said.

"No," my roommate replied, "I can tell you, she's all real."

He looked at her disparagingly and sighed. "Ev-er-y-one knows she has implants."


My body was just as it had been back in high school. The difference was in how I dressed; I'd long since left behind the big sweaters in favor of form-fitting tops. At some point, I'd learned about proportion, plus I was no longer a self-conscious teenager. I guess my "new" breasts made their debut when I went to see that band.

Not sure where you rank on the breast-size continuum? Consult the helpful chart on the left from Stan Place's Guide to Makeup (1981). And know that the urge to change what you've been dealt is nothing new:

"By strengthening the supporting muscles, exercise can cause the breasts to be held more erectly and carried more proudly, thus greatly enhancing the entire personality."

--Ern and Bud Westmore, Beauty, Glamour and Personality (1947)


"Now for a surprise! You can reduce your breasts. I have an absolute, sure way. But wait until warm weather. You'll feel much better if you do it then. You must rely entirely on a special diet.... For three days in succession do this. When you get up in the morning drink a glass of hot or cold water. Two hours after your water, drink six ounces of buttermilk. Two hours later, drink another six ounces. Do this every two hours until bed-time. Remember this must be done three days in succession... This buttermilk diet never fails."
--Sylvia of Hollywood, No more Alibis (1934)