I had to go bra-shopping yesterday. For many of you ladies, this means swinging through Wal-Mart or Target, finding your size along the ABCD continuum, and then choosing between all the options — front or back closure? Black, white, nude or pink? A little pink bow at the middle, or plain? Racerback, convertible back, strapless? And so on.
My problem is more complicated. I recall a soundbite from a designer who did a gown for Aretha Franklin to wear to some awards show: “She wanted strapless. Do you have any idea what sort of engineering work goes into a strapless gown for Aretha Franklin?” Now that I think about it, it’s sort of a cheeky thing for a man to say about his client, who should rightfully get some discretion from her dressmaker. Now that I know more about the Queen of Soul, it’s entirely possible her check bounced.
Anyway, I’m not Aretha, but I can no longer shop at Wal-Mart or Target. If I ever lose 20 pounds or so, the problem may be eased somewhat, but I was in the far outer regions of those stores’ selections years and pounds ago, and likely will be again, barring surgery. Some of us are just made that way. It’s not a glorious problem to have, in case you’re wondering; I’d rather have been born with $20 million, and spend my life worrying if people really like me, or my bank account.
And while the problems at my end of the size spectrum get easier every day — thank you, obesity epidemic! — I still prefer to shop with an expert at least once every couple of years, and that means I have to take myself to Harp’s, in Birmingham.
Harp’s is a legendary lingerie store. It’s the second one I’ve patronized in my life, the other being Town Shop in New York City. Both had, amusingly enough, the same power at their core — an ancient lady who sits behind the counter, a tape measure around her neck that she rarely needs to use because she’s seen every size, shape and color of boob under the sun. She can size you at a glance, under two sweaters and a winter coat. Modesty in fitting rooms is out of the question, because she looks at your chest with the same eye your mechanic turns on your fuel-injection system.
Both ancient ladies are gone now. Mrs. Harp died a while back, Selma Koch of Town Shop a few years before that. I’ve quoted Koch’s New York Times obituary here before, but just in case you missed it, here’s the lead:
Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 95 and a 34B.
Betty Harp lived to be 93. Obviously something about spending your days surrounded by breasts leads to long lives. She, too, had a great obit, once you got past the part about fitting bras on the angels in heaven:
A master saleswoman, with a sense of style and a knack for making women feel beautiful, attributed to her great success. She owned stores in Hamtramck, Ferndale, Warren and finally, Birmingham. For 63 years she fit generations of mothers, daughters and granddaughters, six days a week – only resting on Sunday.
Any woman who left her store, left with an uplift and a story to tell. Known for her youthful, cosmetically untouched face, wit and spunk. Her secret to life – “Eat very little, use Vaseline or olive oil as a face cream, work like hell and don’t take crap from anyone.”
Mrs. Harp is gone, but she trained her staff well, and the lady who waited on me also didn’t need a tape measure. She also sold me a camisole in the new miracle fabric of I-don’t-know-what, but lordy, does this thing stretch. One size fits 0 to 24, and they’re highly recommended for pregnancy layers. Their website touts them as solutions to the problem of plumber’s butt in the current style of low-rise jeans. That’s women’s style for you — sell you a problem, then sell you a solution.
I bought the camisole after touring the rest of the store and its array of treasures — the high-end European stuff, those panties Scarlett Johansson wore in the first shot of “Lost in Translation” — and decided that whatever else I am, I am not the sort of person who drops $29 on a pair of panties. This camisole is intriguing, however. So smoothing! I’m going to experiment a bit.
Lots of good bloggage today, so let’s get started:
Via Eric Zorn, a hidden treasure from the Chicago Reader — a short-lived, ’70s-era magazine for teen girls called Star, presumably because they couldn’t call it Starfucker and sell it on respectable newsstands. As the Reader writer points out:
The second issue is my favorite so far. The advice column runs a letter allegedly from a girl who’s worried about her 15-year-old sister sneaking out and dating guys old enough to go to jail for having sex with her, and the columnist actually scolds her for being a drag.
Thanks to Mitch Harper, for remembering my interest in clowns that go bad, or, in this case, have bad visited upon them:
Two street clowns were found dead in southeastern Mexico along with messages allegedly from a drug gang accusing them of working as army informers, their families said Tuesday.
Police busted a Nigerian drug mule at the Detroit airport the other day, carrying — in her stomach — an astonishing 2.5 pounds of heroin in those little oval packages we all remember from “Maria Full of Grace.” The story is remarkable mainly for the photograph of the 91 packages all cleaned up and lined up on a hospital tray, and to think what it took to swallow them all.
Finally, regular readers know how much I love the work of Roy Edroso over at Alicublog. I knew he’d hit a rough patch of late, but I didn’t know there was an Edrosothon in progress to help him get through it. Now you know, too.
A great weekend to all.