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Monday, August 16, 2010

From Tightey-Whitey to Grown Up Goddess: A Burlesque Dancers Lingerie Love Story

Leave it to Beaver 2. Not exactly what you would expect to hear as a woman's earliest association with lingerie shopping. Particularly when the woman is a Burlesque dancer like me. Yet it was while watching this (mostly unmemorable) early 90's sitcom, sitting with a fold-up TV table at my lap and eating dinner, that I became aware that someday, somehow my ten-year-old girl body was going to transform into the body of a woman. And that it would require accessories.

In this particular episode of the show, Beav's tomboy daughter suddenly finds herself ready for her very first bra. Mom and Grandma take her to the department store for a virginal white trainer. Mayhem ensues as the girl's best friend tries to sneak two more-ahem-"adult" bras (red lace and black satin) into the dressing room.

When the show ended, I remember mustering the nerve to ask my mom when that day would come for me, while awkwardly trying to conceal my anticipation and excitement. Her response (a roll of the eyes and an "oh Lord") let me know this was a topic she'd been trying to avoid for as long as humanly possible. But a year or so later Mom and I made our own trip to the department store. I was dismayed to find that my expectation of a boutique filled with plush furnishings and padded velvet hangers was traded in for a square display of thin cardboard boxes filled with white cotton wonders. Still, I took what I could get.

When I got home from our shopping expedition that day, I quickly sequestered myself in my bedroom, and a whirlwind of feelings ensued as my white trainer and I shook hands for the first time. The elation of trying on not just a new piece of clothing, but a whole new body. The disappointment that there was no fanfare like beads or lace, just simple white cotton. And-in spite of the plain-ness-the shame of loving it just a little too much.

Four years later, I had added a few variations of the same into my collection. By now, my little white trainer and I were inseparable. It had become a second skin; a blanky of sorts. Until the day my best friend Tess and I were trying on back-to-school clothes at the mall, and she not-so-gently suggested I get measured for a new bra. I recall her exact words being something like, "You are popping out of that thing!!! What is that, a training bra or something?" Reluctantly, I followed her into the posh, pink, unimaginably sensuous Victoria's Secret. After a fateful encounter with sales girl and her measuring tape, my 34-A blanky bra, with its well-loved pilled fabric and ring around the under wire, was promptly cast out for a flashy, decadent new 36C.

As I think back on that day, it is incredibly significant to me that I could be walking around in a bra two cup sizes too small. That I could be so ignorant of my own body's development. And yet, it makes so much sense. I knew that as long as I held on to that bra, it meant I could hold off on becoming a woman. On going through the inevitable awkwardness of adolescent sexual discovery I knew was coming. If I didn't have a fancy bra on, I could never allow a wandering hand to sneak under my shirt. If I could pretend I didn't have breasts, I would never have to face the vulnerability that came with having them. Or face my anger and shame at being born a woman, in a body that was sinful, dirty and wrong.

Performing "Diamonds Are Forever"
Burlesque for me serves one purpose: Reclamation. Reclamation of the parts of me that are most powerful, and most sacred. There is beauty everywhere, in every woman. Burlesque, like lingerie, is a secret garden for celebrating that beauty. Burlesque finds beauty in the perfect and the imperfect. The flat bellies and the round ones. The 32AA's and the 42 G's. Beauty in the eyes of a performer as she spills over with determined confidence, or in the way an all-sequin dress can make a big, juicy round bottom sparkle. "Flaws" in Burlesque are never hidden. On the contrary, they become one's greatest asset. Sexuality is not only celebrated, it is flaunted. The more a woman loves herself onstage, the higher everyone goes. Even my training-bra-buyin' mom loves to come to my shows. (Me and my mom's evolution is quite a story, one I'll save for another time.)

Now I understand that lingerie is a way of approving, celebrating, and flaunting that innate beauty every single day. A way to make love to my delicious curves; not because I am perfect. Not because I earned the right to wear something sexy by fitting into a Barbie doll body (which is what I used to think had to happen for someone to deserve to wear La Perla). I indulge my body in lingerie simply because I am a woman. And it is my birthright to feel flirtatious, sexy and sensual. Lingerie reminds me not to take life so seriously. The right bra and panties can turn grey skies blue for any girl. Whether her last name is Cleaver, or Cavalier.

What about you readers? What was your first bra shopping experience like?

This article was originally written for my dear friend Margaret's fabulous company: The Lingerie Diet.  Check her out at http://www.thelingeriediet.com/ (Only click if you are interested in feeling like a Goddess, adoring your body, and becoming a more sensuous woman.)

2 comments:

  1. I LOVE that you're writing about this today! Chris and I were just talking about bra shopping and why it can be so emotionally charged, even for a woman who adores her body. So many of us still have that adolescent self inside, needing some love and reclamation. You are a genius!

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  2. Thank you so much for pointing out the importance of lingerie in a girl's or woman's life. I didn't even have a luxury of going shopping for my first bra. I must have been 15 or 16 when my mom just dropped the ugliest imaginable bra on my bed. It is all blurred in my mind now but I remember that it didn't fit me at all and felt very uncomfortable. It was in the Soviet Union, which was disintegrating at that very moments, so there were no sugar, salt, let alone Victoria secret's. I must have carried that shame of not appreciating my breasts from the start for years and actually this spring I had my breasts measured for the first time in the French lingerie boutique in NYC. The seductress finally woke up and came through to me at the tender age of 35.....

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