‘Alice’s Adventures in Underwear’
You just gotta love the Seventies. Well, at least I did. One reason was because in the Seventies, even in the Midwest where I was living at the time, underwear — at least of the brassiere type — was optional.
See, I hate wearing a bra. Which is kind of funny because when I was 12 or 13 or thereabouts I could hardly wait to wear one. I remember feeling all embarrassed in PE (what you may have called “Phys Ed”) when we girls were changing into our bloomers (honest injun, we wore bloomers in PE) and I was the only one sporting an undershirt.
Do little girls still wear undershirts? Well, I’m sure as heck wearing one in the school photo at the top of this post. You can see its telltale outlines under that big “A”. (My Mom made that dress, and no, that letter “A” was not scarlet.)
I begged my Mom to get me a bra — they called them “training bras” back then; what we were “training” for, I’ll never know — though I honestly didn’t need one. I’d stuff Kleenex into its Triple A cups so it wouldn’t moosh flat under my blouse, but when I raised my hand in class the whole contraption would ride up practically to my shoulder.
Speaking of contraptions, we’d also wear “nylons” and “garter belts”. (Look ’em up, O Lucky Ladies Who Don’t Know What Those Are.) And slips. Remember slips? They used to rustle and/or ride up, those being the days of Static Cling Before Static Guard. Instead we sprayed our slips with hair spray, like Aqua Net, which you probably don’t know about either. And no purse was complete without a little bottle of clear nail polish, a dab of which was used to halt the runs in our stockings. (That’s “ladders” to you UK readers; a much more descriptive term, in my opinion.)
But back to Bra Trouble. I didn’t grow up near an ocean, but the public swimming pool was the center of summer social life. And owning a “cute” bathing suit was Very Important. Back then all bathing suits (which we called “swimming suits”) came with a bra built right in. This was a firm foam structure with a life of its own. If you were “frontally-challenged” like me, you learned to sort of squeeze your shoulders together to let some air in when exiting the water. Otherwise the cups would collapse and you’d look like you had little volcanoes strapped to your chest.
Anyway. I was super-glad when the Seventies rolled around and bra-wearing, at least among My Set, was optional. Except for formal occasions, like my (first) wedding. (Yes, I was Married Once Before. You can read about it in “My Polio-Shot Marriage”.)
Time goes by, as is its wont. The Starter Marriage stopped, I moved to New York, met The Dude, had The Child. Huge “Etc.” goes here. But suffice it to say my topside stayed pretty much its same small self. Once I was with a friend (Hi Sande!) in the old Loehmann’s, the one with the communal dressing room. We were trying stuff on when she said “My goodness, you really are flat-chested!” Another time, while getting a mammogram, I was apologizing to the technician for making her job harder (there not being much to grab onto for positioning and all) when she — holding her clipboard and cracking her strawberry gum — looked me up and down and said, “Eh. I seen smallah.”
And now, even though it’s no longer fashionable to go braless, I’m nevertheless able to get away with doing so pretty much most of the time. Though, you’ll no doubt be relieved to hear, I do draw the line, these days at least, at “topless”.
New York City. January 2019