“I got my first bra, a Maidenform, back in 1965, when I was in seventh grade. I was 5´5˝; a hundred pounds; a tall, skinny track star. For me, it was the transition period from being a tomboy into being a girl — the braids were cut. I had my first short haircut. I remember that it was so embarrassing to go into the store. I couldn’t fill an A cup. I think I was a double-A, maybe a toss-up between that and a triple-A. I had the flattest chest on the spectrum. I was devastated; it was my first realization of just how flat I was.”
The letters indicating bra size confronted her in ways that more personal comparisons did not. “My best friend, Mary Ann, was endowed. They bounced, but we never talked about it. I just knew that my friend bounced and mine didn’t flinch. I wanted boobs. I had a training bra that wasn’t training anything. So I stuffed. I thought I had come up with something totally unique, because you didn’t talk about it or read about it.”
Not to say that it couldn’t be read about; just not in the sort of books Micky frequented. A limerick from Uplift resonates with Micky’s dilemma:
There was a young lady of Skye
With a shape like a capital I;
She said, “It’s too bad!
But then, I can pad.”
Which shows you that figures can lie.
Some training bras, says Micky, “were stretchy. You couldn’t stuff those; it would look unnatural. So I went up a step to a 32A. It had a formed cup, and I stuffed it with tissue — not too much, just enough to fill it out. Sometimes I would save the tissues and put them in my underwear drawer. But then, there was always the fear of my mother going into the drawer and finding them — she wouldn’t buy me a padded bra.”
Micky’s tissues did the trick for her, but for others whose mothers were perhaps not so opposed to enhancement, the options were plentiful. From Uplift: “Various methods of faking an ample bosom had been employed from time immemorial, but the 1950s offered more innovative ploys.” Foam rubber, built into the cup or in the form of insertable pads was the most popular option. But eiderdown was also used, and one bra, the Très Secrète, was actually inflatable. A plastic straw was used to blow the cup up to the desired size. (“In the late ’60s,” notes the book, “a new material for padding, polyester fiberfill, was introduced.” It lacked foam rubber’s tendency to “become dry, hard and powdery from repeated washings.”)
Had Micky been allowed to purchase one of these bras, she might have been spared the most embarrassing moment of her girlhood. “I was running track. There were three white girls, and all the rest were beautifully developed black girls. Back in those days, you dressed down for track, and all the girls were very modest. We didn’t run around the locker room bare naked; we stood locker to locker. I was stuffing my bra every day with toilet paper, and I was very careful every day to get very carefully into that little locker” so as not to be spotted. “Everyone was very careful about their privacy under their towels. One day, someone swatted me with a towel from behind, and my towel fell off. I looked down and there were two perfectly formed cone titty tissues at my feet. The roar of the waves of laughter through the whole locker room was all I could hear. Before I was finished getting dressed and turning red, it was like the wave had gone through the whole school. Everyone knew Micky stuffed. I knew I was dead. I mean, there couldn’t be anything worse than stuffing your bra.”
The embarrassment, of course, faded with time. “I just learned to work through it. I kept wearing my bras and thinking, ‘I’m going to develop any day now.’ ” But her athletic endeavors apparently staved off that development until her mid-20s. Then, when she had children, development came with a vengeance. “I had my first pregnancy at 28. I was probably a 34B before I got pregnant. I actually went up to a 44DD when I was breast-feeding, I had so much milk. They were huge. I never knew we had more than one hole — what a realization, the first time your milk lets down and you’ve got multiple spigots. Did anyone ever tell you that you had more than one hole? I wore nursing bras and pads in the beginning. But after three months, I knew when my milk was coming, and I didn’t need the pads. I knew how to regulate myself.”
After bearing and nursing two children, Micky ended up a size 36D — “floppy, floppy.” When the children had grown up, she got a “breast lift. You bet I’m still stuffing, just using chemistry and science.”
Now she buys bras “twice a year. I don’t have little children anymore, so I can afford them. For my work — because I do lifting of patients — I need support bras without wires. That’s hard to find; I had to go to Playtex or Maidenform types of bras. And you really have to hunt for bras that don’t have wires. But the Playtex bra is a good, sturdy bra with a thick strap and everything up front. The bra takes them and kind of puts them upward and pointy — kind of the sweater-girl look.
“During the spring, I will do a spring bra. I will go for pink, pastel yellow, and green. Then I definitely have my falls, where I go for nice brown or black or beige. I have a leopard one. And last night I bought a set that was a black bikini thong and a bra with rhinestones. I paid $80 for it; for me, that was a lot to spend. I probably have 25 bras at an average of $20 apiece. There’s big money in bras, and I get the matching undies. But I still look for sales. I went to Victoria’s Secret last night and bought two sets on sale.”