It turns out that a few days after I posted the photo from last year’s event at Bra La La, I ended up heading out to that lovely boutique for a Sunday afternoon-o-fun. The girls and I (and by the girls I mean my gal pals, not, you know, my breasticles. Although of course those came with me, too. We’re quite close that way.) hopped in the car and headed out to Maryland.
I’d emailed her earlier in the week to tell Mary, the owner, to tell her we’d be stopping in and would love to see her. Unfortunately she wasn’t there that day, but wrote back that “Anne-Elise and Courtney will take good care of you.” And God bless her if she wasn’t right.
When we walked in, Anne-Elise looked at the five of us oohing and ahhing over the pretty new things Mary had in stock, and said, “Are you the girls from DC?” We acknowledge the fact, and she continued, “Oh, Mary told us you were coming. She left a bottle of wine for you in the back, let me go get it for you.*” Because Interweb People, let me tell you: bra shopping sucks. But almost anything can be made better with wine, especially bra shopping.
Bras are such a weird thing. They are so many things to women – pretty, sexy, utilitarian, comfy, irritating, an upper, a downer, a reminder of what they have, a reminder of what they don’t have, a non-issue, a total issue. I, personally, have a very love/hate relationship with bras. I love their prettiness. I love the way they can make your body look and fit so much better into clothes. I love that you can have a little bit of sassiness in hot pink or deep purple or smoky, lacy blue going on underneath your top and it can be your little secret. But for the life of me, I hate wearing them. Would that I could jaunt around town braless! But I cannot. It would just not be a good idea, for no other reason than my own self-esteem: lift them up, look less lumpy around the middle! TA-DA!
Given this love/hate relationship, it’s no wonder that I don’t really care for bra shopping. Plus, I know I have sensory bizarro-ness when it comes to many things, particularly to clothes, and with bras even more so, and I tend to get anxious and fumbly when trying them on and my bellybutton starts to sweat and part of me is tempted to bolt from the dressing room altogether, not caring that I’m topless. (I thought this was a very odd reaction to something as simple as trying on bras, but turns out, not so much. I’m not alone in my bra shopping anxiety, I’ve come to find out from my friends. I don’t know if I’m glad or if I think we should all get ourselves into some sort of therapy.) And while all of this still exists when shopping at Bra La La, it’s….muted, in a way.
Maybe because of the wine.
The store is just so pretty and calm and there are such lovely things everywhere and it smells nice and the sales assistants don’t even bat an eye when you hold up a bra they’ve given you to try on and you say, “This one makes me feel like my boobs are all sorts of jiggly-wiggly and have a mind of their own, and I prefer more structure.” Those things help, too.
It’s the overall experience that makes it worth it to tamp down the anxiety and shop at Bra La La. It’s worth it to have a couple hours with my gal pals and ooh and ahh over pretty things and walk away with pretty, useful purchases. (And it’s also worth it because you know you won’t have to do it again for awhile.) You can’t really get that at, say, Nordstrom. You can get nice bras there, pretty bras there, yes, even a lot of the same ones Mary sells in her shop. You can even sometimes get a nice saleswoman to help you at Nordstrom. But you can’t get the intimacy, no pun intended, of a store like Bra La La at Nordstrom. And for me, that’s what makes all the difference when it comes to shopping for the smallest piece of clothing that makes such a huge difference in women’s lives.
*Note: This is not exactly normal service at BLL, as far as I know. Over the past couple of years the shop has been open and we’ve gotten to know the owner and have been going there for our underthing needs, and after that one time we had a mini-bachelorette party there for one of our friends, it’s just become…normal. Drink some wine, shop for bras. Repeat. I don’t ask questions.