I remember when puberty hit, we girls would discuss at great length our new boobs. They appeared suddenly, something for us to try and work out how to dress, how to best show them off. Tight vest tops would be hoiked down as far as they could go without being too porny. We'd buy tops that were two sizes too small and squeeze our chests in, which were supplemented with padded bras, "chicken fillets" and occasionally a ball or two of rolled up toilet paper for extra bounce.
We knew that boys liked boobs. In a school of 1,000, to stand out you needed to push that chest out and get it noticed. Your breasts had to be higher and rounder than anyone else's. They had to point skyward, be squeezed together and under NO circumstances be hidden under any type of material. They weren't yours, they were everyone's.
We'd spend weekends shopping for our new found friends, spending pocket money on the bras that inflated not just our cup sizes but our fragile teenage egos. There were "cool" bras -- the Wonderbras with the little toggles that you could squeeze together to squish your breasts together, the La Senza brightly colored ones that would cost two weeks pocket money but you'd proudly flash the straps, recognizable to all your peers, and get that warm feeling of belonging whenever you caught a glimpse in a mirror, or the reflection in your can of Diet Coke. Always Diet.
Something else we learned was that bigger was always better. Conversations on getting sized would seem to happen every lunchtime, the Holy Grail being the D cup. We all wanted a D cup. D meant you'd definitely be getting a boyfriend.
I remember the pride -- genuine pride, as if I'd just got an A in my GCSE's -- as I told my group that I'd been measured at the weekend.
"36 C!" I breathlessly recalled to them. "That's the average size for British women! They called it 'the Great British Handful' in the paper the other day!"
I was so excited. I wasn't quite a D, but a C was good enough. A C meant I'd be able to bump it up to a D with enough padding. AWESOME.
As we all grew up, we luckily grew out of our obsession with breast size. Weight fluctuations came and went and so did my boobs. I wasn't too sad to see them go, but I couldn't seem to shake the mentality that the bra size I wore was important in some way. I've been wearing the wrong size bra for years (years!), because I felt somehow ashamed or upset to actually buy the right size. Because the right size was SMALLER.
I've been wearing bras that are loose around my chest, riding up, meaning I have to yank the cups down and under my boobs to keep them in place. The cups were very obviously too large, with my boobs collected in little puddles of flesh at the bottom. The ridiculous thing is that wearing a too large bra actually made my boobs look smaller. My 15-year-old self would NOT have been happy with that.
I finally cracked and bought two bras in the right size the other week. As I picked them off the shelf, I was half convinced I'd be too big for them. Surely I'd fill those? Surely? Hopefully? Maybe?
Wearing the right size bra has been a revelation. My boobs are in the right place, are higher, feel fuller and generally look pretty bloody good. By tricking myself that I was still a larger size, I'd done them a disservice.
I'm not alone, though. Research by ASDA has shown that almost half of women admit to hiding their true dress size -- with 77% of women saying that they are a dress size smaller -- and 60% of women lying about their bra size, by adding at least a cup size on to their real measurements.
The poll asked women what size they wished they really were, and 34 D was the most longed-for size. 34 D, that Holy Grail! Sales of the "2 Sizes Bigger Bra" by George at ASDA have shot up by 162% this summer as we all trick ourselves into thinking that we are bustier than we really are.
I've never really lied about my dress size -- I've been an 8 to an 18 (US size 6 to 16) -- and have just fronted whatever size I've been. There was no point trying to convince my friends at college that I was a 10 like them when in fact my jeans were a 16. It was quite obvious. I was never really that embarrassed about my clothing sizes.
Shoe size was another matter, though. For some reason, I got it into my head that having large feet meant I was ungainly and manly, which is absolutely ridiculous. Supermodels have large feet! My size 7's (US 9.5) are Lilliputian in comparison to Elle Macpherson's at three sizes larger! I was the height I am now -- 5'9 -- when I started secondary school at 12 years old and had the feet to match. My classmates all seemed so darling and dainty in comparison, and I would try and hide my (what I thought to be) huge feet wherever possible.
I have a memory that JUST WON'T DIE of walking through the under-covered walkway at school when a boy in the year above walked past and shouted "GOD! What massive feet you've got!"
I was mortified, I shuffled off with my head down and told my Mum the story when I got home. Her response was that next time, I was to reply, "Yeah! All the better to kick you with!" Luckily, I was never put in that position again.
I'm not alone, though. Of the women surveyed, a massive 78% over a size 7 like me admitted to shrinking their shoe size, with size 5 (US 7.5) being seen as "perfect." WHY? Why do we do this to ourselves?
As I sit here now, with my size 7 shoes on and my 34 B bra, I don't care that I'm not a 34 D with a size 5 shoe. My clothes fit, and I'm comfortable. I've finally realized that if I wear the wrong size, I won't magically become that size. I just can't believe it took over a decade to work it out.
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