My mother was sixteen, cross-armed and in baggy sweaters when she had to take herself to get her first bra. She walked into the store and a gaggle of fierce, matronly women descended upon her to help. They took one look at Mum and hollered, “Madame needs support!” What “support” meant at the time was a bra fastened with sixteen clips that provided more body coverage than a medieval knight’s chest plate. These were the days of bosoms, not boobs.
As a girl, I loved laughing at this story. Getting my first bra was a snap—it came out of a Kmart box and it’s questionable whether I even needed one at the time. But like many girls, my breasts seemed to grow overnight. In the spring I was ridiculed by classmates for being flat-chested and by the end of the summer I was a healthy C-cup. My friends could buy those little triangle-shaped Calvin Klein bras but I required something more substantial. To make matters worse, I was a girl who liked pretty things and was terrified that I’d end up, like my mother, doomed to a two-inch-thick bra strap.
Consequently, I have never enjoyed shopping for bras. A few years ago I found something I liked at the Gap and have gone back many times since in order to buy the same model in beige and black. These have been adequate, but a Gap bra doesn’t last forever. They lose their structure and stop doing you any favours. I was complaining about this at work recently and a lingerie-savvy colleague of mine shook her head in disbelief. “You must invest in your bras!” she said. A Toronto native, she had spent a lot of time and money at Secrets from Your Sister, the famed TO bra shop where one is properly fitted by a professional and presented with imported luxury models from Europe. They know my friend by name—but then again, they know a lot about all of their clients; the owners keep a file on each customer (size, preferred styles, favourite designers, etc.). This is very handy for any lovers who might want to surprise a lady with something sexy without throwing her into a fit of depression. But be warned: you won’t find any LaSenza bra blitz sales at a boutique like this. You’d be lucky to find a bra for under $100, and the best undergarments can go for upwards of three or four hundred smackers. Why would anyone pay such steep prices? I decided to find out for myself.
Since Secrets from Your Sister has yet to open a shop in Montreal (they will soon), I headed to Lyla Collection at the corner of Laurier Avenue and Hutchison. When I first entered the store, I was a little intimidated. My shopping partner—who is gorgeous and lithe—began confidently leafing through the mesh Dolce & Gabbana garments. It felt like the boutique was filled with lacey, tiny triangles—nowhere did I see that dream “go-to” bra that I was searching for.
But then what was I searching for? Support, I guess—support with a bit of sexiness. Something that looked good with clothes off, but great with them on. Bobbles and gems are fine, but not so much when they are showing through your shirt. A saleslady named Stephanie came over whom I found to be instantly re-assuring. She was a 36E and knew what I was looking for better than I did. She took me to the “laboratoire” where she asked me questions and started pulling bras out from their boxes. There were shelves of them in every size and colour—it was like being at an apothecary—and the memory of me desperately pawing through the Bay’s sales bin receded into a sad and tiny speck. Stephanie displayed about twenty bras on a backlit glass counter; I decided which to try on, asked questions, and she came behind the curtain to fit me.