What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
My boobs shouldn't make me feel bad. As far as boobs go, they are wonderful. They have breastfed three children for a total of three years, they are healthy, free of any conspicuous lumps, and my husband is mildly obsessed with them, as are my 6-year-old twins who still like to lay on them at night.
So why do I feel badly about them? I’ll tell you why. They are hard to dress.
I know they are because I try to dress them everyday and because they are a 38E they size me out of many of the clothes I want to wear.
Most of the time, I like my body. I have what is considered by some an "enviable" figure. Big boobs, small-ish waist and a decent-sized bum. “Hourglass,” ”curvy,” “womanly,” “pin-up” body. But the reality is that finding clothes that fit my shape is a full-time job. My boob size puts me into the category of plus size, whereas the rest of me is in the “normal size" range.
What that means is when I buy a bikini I need a size 14 for the boobs and a size 10 for the bottoms. I have to admit this means I have swapped out tops and bottoms in the store to allow for my size needs more than once. No matter how OK you are with your body, it’s just uncomfortable to be faced with sales people telling you that it might be a good idea to look at the maternity department.
To avoid this, I mostly shop online for my clothes. I can try the sizes on in the privacy of my own home without any "sizing" shame or needing to call for help when I get stuck inside a dress, which is a frequent occurrence.
An added difficulty is that occasionally I have to get photographed. It’s part of my job and what I need to do when my show "The Conversation" does anything special, like launch a new series, or get aired on television in another country. This is when it really becomes clear that my boobs are causing problems.
In fact, I recently had an experience on a photo shoot that made me feel really bad about my boobs.
Now, I have been living with my boobs since they suddenly appeared around my 13th birthday, so when I say I know they are not easy to dress, it comes from years of firsthand experience. To avoid confusion or embarrassment, I have learned to share my exact measurements with stylists who are faced with finding outfits for me. I warn everyone that I, like most other people, am not sample size, nowhere close, actually, and they will need to be creative with clothing for me.
When I show up to the shoot and start to go through the clothes I see that the majority of outfits are at least two sizes too small. What does fit are some oversize furry cardigans -- and that’s it.
I ask the stylist if she received my email with my measurements. Turns out she did, and starts suggesting I "just try on a few things," to which I assure her there is nothing to be gained from me trying on sizes that are too small, except that I will feel badly. I’m not sure she understands, and suggests I wear a big white fluffy cardigan with no pants -- and then it happens.
I start to feel bad about my body, the more she says, “It might fit, we can shoot you from the front only.”
The negative voices in my head start getting louder, drowning out her illogical suggestions. "You are causing a problem with your big boobs, Amanda, they are messing up this shoot, everyone is frustrated with you because nothing fits you, you should really lose some weight, make your body smaller, shrink those boobs, get a breast reduction, go on a diet, take some diet pills so you aren’t hungry, get a lap band, hide yourself away so that your body doesn't cause any problems.
The negative voices in my head are off to the races and this is where my more evolved self needs to take over.
I am not my boobs. I am not my body. I am more than a dress size. I do not have to wear the only thing that fits me to keep this woman happy. This is not my problem. I exhale loudly and speak up.
"I’m sorry you didn’t take me seriously when I said I was a size 10 and have 38E boobs. It's all true, and that means I don’t fit the things you chose for me except that lovely white cardi, which makes me look like a snowball, or that great mu mu which would have been wonderful when I was pregnant with my twins."
She looks at me somewhat confused and I feel bad for her. I know it's not easy, but it is possible to find beautiful outfits for ladies with boobs, it just takes some time and some imagination.The specifics of this particular story may not be familiar to you, but I know the experience is extremely common and occurring in homes around the world, if not every hour, then every day.
So what is there to be done?
I really had to fight hard within myself to not go down the rabbit hole of shame. Shame over something that is not my fault and should not be a reason to feel I am less than. But it does, because women with shapes like mine are not considered part of "normal" sizing. Apparently we need specialty stores like Marina Rinaldi or Lane Bryant. I’m a size 46 and I’m often sized out of a basic high street or designer shopping experience.
If it were not for shopping online at places like Net-A-Porter I would not be able to buy the designers I love. It is the only place I have found that stocks from a size 0 to a size 16 in the same place, and a gigantic "thank you" to its founder, Natalie Massenet, for that. She founded her company on the desire to make women’s lives easier to shop and she has certainly done that for me. I also am an Etsy.com fan as I can find beautiful vintage dresses at affordable prices that actually fit my body. Most of the time I wear vintage on "The Conversation" and in my day to day life, I’m convinced I am born in the wrong era. I’ll bet Marilyn Monroe never had this problem.
Next time I do a shoot, my new idea is to bring my own clothing with me, that way no one feels bad, and most importantly I don’t have to feel bad about my wonderful, glorious and healthy boobs.
Check out "The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet" here.