Monday, 11 April 2011

Pointy tits and bullet bras

I had an accident at Zumba the other night. There I was doing my best reggaeton moves when something sharp and pointy nearly poked my eye out.
Ouch. Shit. The wire from my decrepit bra had worked its way out and was poking up through my vest. I tell ya, it’s tough trying to dance and stuff a wire back down your top.
‘What the hell are you doing?’ hissed Ellie.
‘Loose bra wire,’ I hissed back. What did she think I was doing? Feeling myself up? In the front row of class?

So I got home and darned my bra. Yup, it really is that sad. And then, today, on Twitter @englishmum was going on about the lovely new lingerie she’d been sent by Lingerie Please - which made me kinda wistful. I’ve never really gone in for gorgeous underwear but, hmm, maybe I’m missing a trick here. Maybe this is the next step in my total body makeover.

It must be in the air as, the next thing I know, I’m talking bras again – this time with writer Pat Black on Facebook. Well, actually he was talking about stormy nights and horror movies but I misread it as ‘stormy nighties’ and so he said, ‘Stormy nighties! The nighties in Hammer Horror movies are best, I think, as there are usually pointy boobs hiding in there.’

Pointy boobs? Shit, yes. And it got me thinking, why were boobs so damn pointy back in the day? It can’t have been that the boobs themselves were more triangular, so it had to be the bras. But how, and why? So I did what I usually do when I'm in doubt about something: I asked on Twitter. And was inundated within seconds.

@VincentAbnett: Circle stitched bras (said firmly and decisively)
@Zoe_Lynch: now if my grandma were alive she would tell u – she owned a Spirella dealership
@Spritzdeko: OMG ROFPMSL my mum, god bless her, was one of the pointy tit brigade.

Some of them obviously gave it practical consideration.
@Whyjay99: Fabric used? With less stretchy fabric the cups would have been made of segments sewn together.
@TABITarot: maybe they couldn’t sew round seams easily on the machines.

But not all.
@Fordkantaford1: Probably to cover up any sign of an erect nipple...  (yeah, right - incoming sexbot alert)

And even Ali had a rethink too.
@TABITarot: Pointy ensures maximum frontage.

I was then directed to this very informative page .....

Seems we’d been talking about ‘bullet bras’.  As the site explained: “The bullet bra is a vintage hallmark. It defined the silhouette of an era and represents a golden moment in American fashion when exaggerated femininity reigned supreme and breasts defied the laws of gravity.”

Okaaay. But it’s one thing wearing pointy bras if you’re a pert A cup; quite something else if you’re, let’s say, more amply endowed. If I wore a bullet bra I’d need an entire row to myself at Zumba or I’d be giving black eyes left, right and centre.

Then I remembered. About fifteen years ago my best mate gave me a Rigby and Peller voucher. I never quite worked up the nerve to go in and get fitted so it’s still sitting, quietly, in my desk drawer. Should I? Mind you, with inflation, it’s probably only one cup’s worth nowadays. Ah well, I’ll just have to enter English Mum’s competition to win a Lingerie Please voucher instead...you can too....just click here. 

13 comments:

Cait O'Connor said...

This was so funny Jane.
Funnily enough I went out with a friend recently, she was visiting a very posh lingerie shop (and there aren't many of those round here!) and being fitted for a very posy bra. A totally new experience for me and I am wondering should I be doing the same?:-)

jonstorey said...

Too embarrased to enter the competition, I will just have to get my knitting needles out!

Knit one, pert one!!!

Michele Brenton aka banana_the_poet said...

I remember pointy bras! My Mum had a few made out of cotton. As for bra wires - I always pull mine out as soon as I get the bras home because I have not yet found a bra that didn't PING at the most inopportune moment.

One of my most abiding memories is seeing my two younger brothers playing Vikings in the bathroom with a cotton pointy bra on each of their little heads. The pointy cups poked out either side and made very good fake Viking helmets.

Frances said...

Jane, I'm a totally different body type from you, but also enough older to remember various early bra purchasing exercises. These were pre-stretchy material, so all had to be done with stitches and basic cotton or perhaps lace.

It was fabulous to have elasticity enter the arena. More chance for many of us to find some sort of fit.

Did you make note of recent obits for the glamorous actress Jane Russell. Check them.

In closing, I'll say I noticed you've changed your header picture. I like the change, but truly loved that winter snowball picture.

xo

Kate said...

Ha! I've got a ample pair, shall we say, and I've often thought about Rigby and Peller. But they're not very convenient when you live in the North-East and don't have the kind of glamorous life which involves travelling to London regularly.

And yes - they were so pointy!

diney said...

Bras seem to be a problem in zumba classes - all that chest jiggling! I'm always having to hoist my friend's ample bits up for her during our class!!

English Mum said...

So wait, if you had really mahoosive ones back in the day, did the pointy bit flop over like an over-stuffed Mr Whippy? Oh the mental images.

Thanks for the linky. Love you. xx

zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

Warning! : http://t.co/qYZZBY1

This is my take on the importance of nice undies.....
BTW, I laughed a lot at the whole bra wire thingy...and I darn them too!

Sessha Batto said...

Thank you SO much Jane, just as I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself you, once again, gave me something to be happy about - the fact that I do not now, nor have I ever (even throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding), owned a bra ;) As much as I hated it in my 20s, my 50s are teaching me the utter joy of being flat chested ;)

Sarah Chidgey said...

Zumba in deepest Zomerset!

Anonymous said...

Gosh! This was out years ago, but I just found it! I guess I am an ultimate bullet bra fan. In modern sizing, I settled out to a 38D. But I just can't find a modern bra that is comfortable. I'm long and pointy, modern bras just squish me. Somewhere back in the late 90's I was looking for something new to try on ebay when I ran across a bullet bra. It was too small, but the shape of its cups struck a chord. It was months later when curiosity got the better of this cat and I searched out a few to try my luck with.

First thing you find out is that modern band and cup sizing are different. There are few of the original rigid-framed (mostly cotton broadcloth)still around that are in good shape that I can hook-on without an extender. So it turned out that in War Powers Act time (i.e limited by law for brassiere elastic bits)I was a size 40.

And then there are the cups. The vintage 'alphabet' rarely went beyond D, and often ended in C, so either 3 or maybe 4 cup sizes to cover all of femininity.

In true vintage bullet bras I am most often a snug 40D.

You will probably have to experiment a bit, like I did, to find your true vintage size. Vintage bullet bras are mostly made of non-stretch cotton and nylon, so you need to get your size as spot-on as you can.

By the close of the millennium, I had resolved 2 things (1) absolutely nothing comes close to the comfort of a proper rigid, hardcupped circle-stitched bullet bra, and (2) I was not going 'Back to the Future'.

I had found my bras!

Now, let there be no doubt. You WILL put eyes out with one of these. Especially in a vintage 40D, often the top of the offered range. But the comfort, oh the comfort!

The only way I can describe it is to say that holding one in your hands and looking it over, the first thought that comes to mind is "this bra is going to be very uncomfortable." But nothing could be further from the truth!

Once I had it figured out, by expensive trial and error (expensive being back in the late 90's original bullet bras were actually cheaper than mainstream modern bras), I simply could not believe how finely engineered the bullet bras were!!!!

Which is a large part of why they are so incredibly comfortable. The cups are long and pointy, like me, so I'm not being squashed anymore (I still think of all modern bras as minimizers....) The rigid support of the zero-flex cups and all the hard circular stitching, pretty much means you will be the shape of those cups. Completely unlike a modern bra, which just applies an omnibus "stretch sock" approach to support.

For me, this meant freedom. Freedom to "go long", for the very first time. The shape of the cups are so cunningly cut (remember, these bras were made entirely by hand in Caribbean sweatshops)that they feel like Chaise lounges.

(continued)

Anonymous said...

The wide rigid frame is also cunningly cut, narrower at the bottom band, so you have to have a figure to truly enjoy it's also conical nature! But find your band size and you just about cannot tell you are even wearing a bra, much less the most rigid bras ever made!

On straps. Back in the early 90's, when things bosom stabilized, I preferred decollete underwire bras. But I hated the rigid, non-stretch straps. I even replaced a few with stretch straps, which I definitely preferred. But the results were awful!

Did I ever change my mind fast on this one! There simply isn't anything like a well engineered rigid shoulder strap, made out of the right material, and at the right width to "shoulder the load."

It took no time at all to switch allegiance. Rigid straps rule.

Landed nicely, front and rear, and adjusted properly, I don't even notice them anymore.

In fact, whereas I would almost always doff my bra home after work, I have found myself in the shower, still wearing my hi-lift bullet bra. Which I just soaked down!

And did I ever learn a lesson from that!

First time, I just said "what the heck, I'll wash it on instead of in the sink" You do not, ever, run bullet bras in a washing machine!

After toweling off, adjusting everything and donning a T-shirt, I began to figure it out. Just like a wet T-shirt contest, wet your bra down, go ahead, shower in it, adjust, and wear until dry. You will not believe it!

I have no idea if this works with modern bras, but with bullet bras, the results are nothing short of spectacular. There is some stretch to even rigid cloth bullet bras, but when you subject it to "Wet T-shirt" contest stickiness of water, a bullet bra will literally anneal to you, like setting concrete.

But, the thing is, I can't go back to modern bras. And although I have tried several of the modern retro-versions from Secrets in Lace, et al, I just cannot fathom the stretch straps!

Perhaps more importantly, I don't want to go back.... I don't even want to take it off! But I wouldn't recommend sleeping in a true vintage bullet bra. You will probably break a strap at the back or cup lands. Having said that, I have woken up in "the bra I wore yesterday" realizing that only when I spot it in the bathroom mirror.

Now that's comfortable!!

I've managed to lay in a decent stock of the vintage brands and sizings that I love the most. So I don't ever have to go "Back to the Future".

Personally, I think it is a real shame today's women barely even know what a bullet bra really was. It's a truly astonishing part of our heritage! Bra design and manufacture back in that day meant that the bra, the bullet bra, was made of perhaps dozens of very finely cut and hand-sewn pieces. Each with a very specific and bust enhancing purpose.

(continued)

Anonymous said...

Those wide, rigid frames were best designed to funnel underarm forward into the non-wired cups. The underband, as in banded and bandeau, ran somewhere beneath the bust and all the way to the rear clasp. It was a sort of "Maginot Line", like underwires, but straight, not curved, from which nothing escaped. Sometimes, the underband was separated at the gore by a keyhole opening, leaving the circle-stitched cups a nice modicum of independence. In a sense, the underwire evolved from the underband, but I find the underband to be far superior to the underwire.

And I find the long, rigid, pointy, circle-stitched cups of yore to be infinitely superior in every way, but especially in the comfort department, to any bra that followed-on after their demise sometime in the 60's.

That's it! That's all I can tell you. I've been wearing bullet bras, exclusively bullet bras, since the turn of the millennium. I can't go back! It would be like going to prison (squashed) again!

I don't know how to describe it, and it makes no sense at all, but I have found such freedom in the long, comfortable forges of the original bullet bras. For me, bullet bras are the ONLY bras :-)