Possibly one of the most embarrassing, brave, and daunting questions a preteen girl can ask her mother is to go bra shopping. The other day, my 12-year-old daughter asked me to take her bra shopping. “I need to get fitted,” she said, all-knowingly. I was taken aback. Not because she needed bigger bras, but because she knew the word “fitted,” and what it meant to be “fitted.” I don’t think I got properly fitted until I was in my twenties! Oh, how times have changed!
The word “fitted” was definitely NOT in my vocabulary when I was her age. There was no dialogue about breasts or cup sizes or fittings with my mother. Yet, my daughter will ask me if her boobs look bigger, lift her shirt, tell me how the girls at camp push up or down their boobs in their bras, and will ask if I can see her bra under whatever she’s wearing.
One of the most mortifying experiences of my pre-teen-hood, and maybe in my entire life, was having to ask my mother to take me bra shopping for the first time.
My grandmother (now passed) came over for a visit and she poked my chest with her finger and, in a sing-song voice, announced, “I think it’s time for someone to start wearing a bra!”
I remember racing to my bedroom, my face the colour of red nail polish, and layering, oh, about eight t-shirts on top of one another, to try and hide my blossoming bust from my family.
That night, as my parents lay in their bed watching the nightly news, I found the nerve to tell my mom (in front of my dad! The horror!) that, “I think I need to start wearing a bra.” So, she took me bra shopping. To The Bay. Or Sears. Or some department store that was definitely NOT Nordstrom’s or Holt Renfrew.
A cranky old lady (then again, everyone seemed old to me back then) handed me an ugly nude coloured “training bra.” I had no idea if it fit correctly, my mother barely said anything, and we were in and out in 10 minutes. The experience is what I look back on as “The Ugliest Bra In the World,” as well as, “The Most Embarrassing Moment Of My Life.” I don’t even think girls these days KNOW what a “training bra” is. They just have bras.
When I was my daughter’s age, there was nothing BUT a nude coloured “training bra.” (These were the days of Judy Blume’s, “I must! I must! I must increase my bust!”)
Luckily, my daughter and I are very close and she tells me openly what she needs or how she worries about her changing body.
For the last few years, she’s been wearing sports bras, even when she was as flat as the table I’m typing on. That is the trend of her generation, so they are already aware of bras at a very young age. The other difference in her generation is that there are popular tween girl bra shops everywhere now. We headed to Pink, a division of Victoria’s Secret, dedicated to bras especially for teens and tweens. Where the heck was Pink when I was my daughter’s age?
One thing that HASN’T changed, however, is the embarrassment of getting your very first (real) bra. “Can we duck if I see anyone I know?” my daughter whispered, as we entered the store. To which I responded, “It’s a bra shop. Everyone here is buying bras. Nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Sure, it could be, and is, a milestone for many moms and daughters and these days bra shopping is a fun excursion and experience, for both mother and daughter.
The salespeople at Pink look like they are 14 years-old and all are gorgeous and friendly. I waved one of them down, and because I was so worried that I would embarrass my daughter, I said, “My daughter needs a fitting. Can you help her,” and I watched as they took off together to the change room, where the sales lady showed her bras.
OF COURSE, I so, so, so wanted to follow them, but my daughter seemed smitten with the sales-teen, so I wondered around the store.
Once she was fitted, with her first real bra, with underwire, my daughter opened the change room door and let me in. She was nothing short of ecstatic, definitely the complete opposite of how I felt purchasing my first bra with my mother! Not only did she lift her shirt for me, so I could see how the black bra looked, but she was just so proud.
She got to pick out three other bras, in various colours, with cute patterns, which took about an hour. I wasn’t bored at all, showing her these “fun” bras. I have never seen so many bra options for teens and tweens, including racerback straps, paint-splattered print bras, and even strapless bras. (I allowed a black bra and also a rainbow coloured one. There’s a difference between FUN and SEXY!)
“Thank you, Mommy,” my daughter gushed when we left the store.
She was beaming as if it were her birthday. I was definitely NOT when my mother took me bra shopping. Here are a few tips, from me, for buying your daughters their first real bra.
- If your daughter asks you to take her bra shopping, be thrilled (But don’t do a happy dance!) She’s comfortable enough to ask you. But don’t make a big deal about it. Act nonchalant because it may have been hard for her to work up the nerve to ask.
- Ask your daughter where her friends shop for bras. She’ll be more eager to go if she knows her friends have shopped there.
- Some Tweens are not comfortable trying on bras in front of their mothers, no matter how close you are. Give them space and get a salesperson to help them. They’ll be more likely to listen and less embarrassed. They’ll show you when and if they are comfortable.
- With a no-big-deal attitude, ask your daughter if she has any questions about bras, as in, how often to wash, what does underwire do, how to fix the strap. Even better, ask the salesperson in front of you if they have any tips, as probably, like me, you are not a bra fitting expert. Salespeople at bra stores specializing in Tweens and teens seem to have had some sort of ‘bra education.’
- Again, don’t make a big deal out of it (“MY BABY IS ALL GROWN UP!”) but make it a fun experience. Let them choose what colours they want. If you don’t agree, don’t make a scene. Just say, “Maybe in six months, but for now, these are good enough.” Perhaps make it a day, go out for dinner after. It’s a day they will always remember and so will you.
- If your daughter needs a bra and hasn’t asked for one, start perhaps by suggesting a sports bra. They are comfortable and you can say, “You’ll feel better playing sports!’ Don’t shy away from the discussion, because it will only get harder.
- Be SUPPORTIVE! If your daughter is asking for one, she’s probably mentally prepared, even if you’re not.
- Buying bras will be part of your daughter’s life…forever. So use this first experience to show your daughter that bra shopping, and properly getting fitted regularly, is important and a part of life. This will set the tone for her bra shopping attitude, which she’ll eventually do, most likely, with friends.
What was your first experience, buying a bra like? Was it a memorable or mortifying experience? And if you have any tips yourself, please share! We need to support (pun most definitely intended) each other!