8 years of womensweb

A-BRA-CADA-BRA! A Magical Journey Down Memory Lane With My Personal Bra Stories

The ubiquitous feminine accessory, the BRA, has an interesting history in the memory of Indian women – as evidenced from this very personal account!

Many years ago, I remember doing what I just love doing at the end of a long tiring day – unhook, unclasp, undo and whoosh… off it comes! Oh! the liberation that comes with yanking it off, when you can finally let your hair down and release those poor organs from the clutches of that garment. It’s an out of ‘body’ experience only a girl can have.

Anyway, my daughter who was a toddler at the time watched as I expertly undid and slid off one strap under the sleeve of my top, then the other and voila, there it was in my hand ready to fling as far away as possible. All this with my modesty intact. For her it was like a magic trick. ‘My mummy is so clever!’ Who knew I had so many tricks up my sleeve?

So, this is one trick that I would say every girl should know. How to get rid of the ‘body’ slickly and effortlessly. Learned many many moons ago in the hostel when a Bombayite came to live in the hostel one night and taught us naive hostel girls this manoeuvre. The way she executed it before an excited live audience as we gossiped and chattered, it has to be one of those things that will remain in my memory forever and needless to say I remember her only for that brilliant performance.

Why are you calling a bra a ‘body’, you might ask.

Well, girls of a certain vintage will recall that a ‘body’ is that taboo feminine garment worn underneath, whose straps are as evil as are its other parts, which can never be on public display not even when left out to dry. We in India remember older ladies of the house calling a bra a ‘body’. Wonder why! Was it short for ‘bodice’ given that we corrupted a lot of English words? I have no idea. But ‘body’ it was……

The ‘body’ was a secret to be kept under wraps. Actually it was more like a white, ‘mulmul’ or thin cotton sleeveless vest, probably tailor made. I remember getting a sneaky peek at an occasional ‘body’ as it hung under a towel to dry.
When we went ‘body’ shopping, we had no idea what size to buy. 32 sounded like a good number so 32 it was. The body shop which also housed the body’s compatriot (which deserves another story), was a cramped little dingy hole with boxes upon boxes of bodies.

The bodies had names – Hema , Lata, Asha and some even had lace. We had no idea that bodies had cups. The idea was, you entered the body shop, didn’t smile (it was after all an undercover operation) and got the sales person, usually a miserable looking male to open the cardboard boxes. ‘ 32 ‘ we would croak in a hushed whisper as if that was a shameful secret being let out. And then as fast as we could, we just checked the hook and straps – the cups were usually a wrinkled mess – and that’s it. You paid and left, not to return to the body shop for another 2 years. In those years the cup size changed, (who knew anyway), the bra size changed (does it matter?) and the straps went through 50 shades of grey.

In school as teenagers, wearing a bra was a big thing. Despite being an ‘only girls’ school, it was kept concealed by the other garment we wore – the petticoat – a thin cotton sleeveless dress that extended to the knees, which these days is worn on its own as an outer fashion garment, but that’s another issue. The petticoat persisted until one acquired the boldness to wear the bra on it’s own.

We were bashful of the bra’s existence and even the bra strap on the back was viewed through the school blouse with fascination. As girls with changing teen bodies, we were curious to know who had started wearing this grown-up garment and although it was kept concealed in the snug confines of the petticoat, some clever girls figured that a little friendly slap on the back was all it took to diagnose a bra wearer! In the 9th and 10th std there was a lot of back slapping going on. The farewell parties in those years were when we wore our first sari blouses with the first you know what – complete with safety pins, straps sliding off, often the bra bigger than the blouse as it was borrowed from mother, aunty, older cousin or whoever. Or a random size 32!

Fast forward to the present. You don’t need me to tell you about body shops and bodies in this new world.

Just as I thought I knew everything about bodies and how to size them (thank you Marks and Spencer) and how to sacrifice comfort for sexy style (thank you wonder bra), I learned a new trick. A friend told me that she hooks her bra on the front first, then turns it around 180 degrees so the strap is now at the back and THEN the arms go through the straps!

Wow! You learn new things everyday.

Image source: pexels

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