December 13
At my best, I try to be a voice for children. At my very best, I help them find their own voice. ************************************ We don't accomplish anything in this world alone...and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something. - Sandra Day O'Connor * ************************************


Mamoore's Links
OCTOBER 1, 2009 11:07AM

Training Bras: A Middle School Flashback

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I first began noticing it last spring at the fifth grade graduation.  It felt like it had happened overnight. All those little girls who had been in my son’s second grade reading group were suddenly sprouting boobs.  It seemed to be part of a right of passage, as if these girls had to arrive at graduation wearing some kind of bra.

Ready or not, here they come. 

When we arrived at the middle school orientation in August, they took my breath away.  Boobs everywhere. Not that I hadn’t had an eyeful all summer, but really, it was startling to me to be surrounded by so many young girls with obvious breasts. How had this happened? 


Then, last Friday night, as we waited for the high school football game to begin and I was quietly observing the young women around me, my mind started drifting back to a moment still vividly etched in my brain.  A day so humiliating that I have tried to bury it deep within my memory bank.  A day most girls wait for with baited breath but I cringe to recall.  The day I got my first training bra.


I’m the oldest girl in my family.  That means I got to be the first one to experience all that great adolescent girl stuff.  It also means I was my mom’s experiment, the one she joyfully wanted to share each passing milestone with.  She waited for my breasts to bloom like she was awaiting the birth of twins. She could barely contain her excitement at the prospect. Unfortunate for her, I was a very late bloomer.  And it didn’t help that I was almost a year younger than most of my classmates.


By the time I was in seventh grade, it was obvious I was lagging behind my peers. 


At slumber parties, my friends would practice that required sleepover right of passage: slipping your bra off while still clothed.  In the locker room, back when gym was an everyday occurrence that included donning a hideous gym suit and taking a shower, my friends proudly displayed their pretty training bras for all to see.  I tried to dress as quickly as possible, hidden behind my locker door.


I had a steady boyfriend, Joey.  He didn’t seem to mind my lack of development, maybe because most of our dates involved playing Ghost in the Graveyard around the neighborhood and boobs weren’t required.  But, never fear, he noticed.  About half way through the school year, I decided to break up with Joey because I had an undeniable crush on Chris.  The next day, Joey pushed a note into my locker that said Chris would “never go with you unless you pump up your flats”!  I know this, because I still have that note in my diary.


It didn’t help that I had a short hair cut.  My mom’s attempt to make me look 1970’s trendy only enhanced the fact that I could pass for a boy.  Once, when Joey and I were still an item, we hopped on the bus to go downtown to the movies.  As we boarded, the bus driver looked right at me and said “How are you boys today?”  Joey snickered.  I wanted to die.  A few weeks later, one of the counselors at school approached me in the hallway and told me I should get my ears pierced because from far away I looked like a boy.  Seriously, he said that, then he walked away chuckling. One right of passage my mom would not allow me was pierced ears.  Not even after we went for a family photo shoot and, while wearing a smashing pantsuit I had made in sewing class, the photographer mistook me for a boy.  Luckily, we had to do a re-shoot and I made sure to wear a skirt.


So, my life went on kind of like that, until we neared the end of seventh grade.  Then, with no previous warning, my mom decided it was time.


One day after school, I walked in the front door of our house, followed by my older brother, two of his friends, and my best friend.  My mom, usually off doing some important something when we arrived home, was like a child on Christmas morning as she waited by the door.  Next to her sat a large bag from Weise’s Department store.


 I know you can feel this coming….


There I stood in the entryway, totally unaware of the horror that was about to occur.  My mom quickly pulled from the shopping bag two training bras with matching underwear.  She handed them to me like I had just won Olympic gold, never stopping to think that this might not be a moment I wanted to share with anyone, especially not my brother and his friends, or my best friend who also happened to be the class gossip.  Everyone in the room exploded into embarrassed laughter.  Really loud laughter.  And my brother, the meanest of the mean kind, made some wise cracks about how I might be ready to wear a bra when I got to college.  I burst into tears and ran to my room, sure I would never emerge again. I could hear my brother and his friends reliving the moment outside my bedroom window.  My friend was long gone. She’d probably run home to call all of our other girlfriends on the phone and fill them in on the big moment.


Really, bra might be stretching the description of what these were. Glamorized undershirts might be better. 

                       jockey training bra


Even that was probably more than I needed.  But, I so desperately wanted one. 


A few hours later, when my growling stomach forced me to come out of hiding, the yellow and white striped bras with matching underpants were sitting outside my bedroom door.  I quickly shoved them into my closet and knew I would return to them as soon as possible.  After dinner, I slipped into my closet to try on a bra for the first time in my life.  Again, it was really more like putting on a kiddie bikini top but, to me, it was magic.


I made two mistakes my first day at school in my new training bra.


First, I somehow didn’t think that word could spread so quickly or that people would be so mean.  It wasn’t just my brother and his friends, but all those classmates that my friend had actually called.  It was like an episode of Mean Girls come to life.  I have one note (why did I keep these things?) that was signed by six or seven girls and boys in my class, congratulating me.  My brother and his friends, just a year ahead of me in school, would follow me down the halls trying to snap my new undergarment.


Second, I should never have used the Kleenex on my first day.  Yes, cringe along with me.  Somehow, I thought no one would notice if I magically appeared larger over night.  Not huge, mind you, I wasn’t crazy.  But I did enhance what God gave me ever so slightly and hid it under a sweater at breakfast so my mom wouldn’t notice.  She didn’t, but when I took the sweater off at school, my best friend did.  Oh, the agony of remembering that moment.


I went home and put those bra/undershirts in the back of my drawer and I don’t think they saw the light of day again until I was well into eighth grade.  Even then, it was probably too early.


I have noticed one big difference between the starter bras of my middle school years and the ones most girls seem to be wearing today.  It helps to answer my questions about how those girls could have grown so quickly. 


A ‘teen starter bra” from a recent online article….





Guess there’s no need for Kleenex when you’ve got one of these!


I have a year to decide what to do when my fourth grade daughter is ready for fifth grade graduation.   I certainly know what I won’t do.


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Here's the link to the article, just in case you need to brush up on this stuff...'s_First_Bra

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Oh does this bring back memories....I was a late bloomer like you. And it didn't help that my gym locker was next to the bustiest girl in school. I swear she had like DDs in 7th grade. Or maybe they just seemed like DDs compared to my inverted chest. And I definitely agree with you about today's "training" bras. I don't know what girls these days are "training" for but some of these training bras these days would make Larry Flynt blush. Seriously - back in my day, the standard training bra was white cotton with a tiny little pink bow between the "cups" (if you could call the straight piece of cloth a cup).

And girl - you should definitely burn those notes that you've been keeping all these years. Exorcise those demons and let go of the pain!
I'll probabloy be your only make cimmenter on this one, but I've been wordering about this myself. I walk down the Santa Monica Promenade a lot, and there are all these 12 year olds with cleavage walking around. Frankly, I find it revolting. Hell, with some of these new bras, I could have cleavage.
Oh dear...the agony of those moments. I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective) to develop at a fairly normal age. I started with training bras at about age 12 or so, but it was because I wrote my mom a note begging her to let me get a bra so I wouldn't be the only one in my homeroom without one. It was a little pink lacy thing with a bow between the cups.

I was a much later bloomer when it came to my period...that didn't happen until I was 14. I'd already had sex before I had my first period, which is a whole other story.
rice paddie - You're you want to come over for the note burning ceremony?

john - It's a whole new world in the land of cleavage.
I cringed through this entire piece, which is a tribute to your ability to write with such remembered realism! I feel your pain, even though mine was the opposite - I would have given anything NOT to develop, or have to deal with the bra. It's rather a wonder that any of us survive adolescence. (And where's the EP that this deserves?)
Ash - Oh, how I longed for the kind with the little bow between the cups!

Owl - I don't know that many of us went through this stage without some cringe-worthy moments or wishes for something other than what we had. My daughter and her friends are just entering into this stage of life and I'm holding on for the ride!
Lorraine - I wish your locker had been next to mine!
I don't have any real recollection of a training bra -- except that when my older cousin grew out of her first bras I inherited them. In a paper grocery bag. They were pointy bras with the quilting in a swirl on each cup. Looked exactly like Madonna's wild point bra outfit.
Agggghhhhhh..... You had to go there didn't you?

I was the first girl in my small parochial school to wear a bra. The debut of my training bra was something my mother shared with my best friend Betsy's mother. So the next day when I arrived at school Betsy leaned out the classroom window that overlooked the ramp where ALL the kids were dropped off and shouted "Look! Mandee's wearing an over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder!" When we came back in from mid-morning break Alex had written "Trainer Tits" on the blackboard, and by PE at 2:00PM Bobby had tried to pull my shirt off to see it - earning himself a punch in the face and me a trip to the principal's office.

One of the all-time worst days of my 6th grade year!
(omg - you made iamsurly feel crazy for a moment. well done, mamoore. well done.)
It's the itty-bitty titty committee
What a brilliantly cringe-inducing piece. Well done.

But just so you know - it's not easier for the big-busted girls. I was a C-cup in the 8th grade. I was 12. It was not a gift. I got just as much crap as you. Middle-school kids are wholly uncivilized, that's just a plain fact. This is one of those rites of passage that pretty much sucks for everybody, and you summed up the feelings for both sides.
ohhhhhh Sister. I know exactly what you're talking about. I know I didn't have a bra until I was in at least the 8th grade and I didn't have any boobs then either. I had to buy my baby girl hers in the 6th grade and now, just a few short years later, we are divided by one cup size. Don't get me wrong, the kid is built like a brick house ... I don't know if it's because she's so athletic or hormone fed chicken or polluted water supplies, but I didn't have as a freshman in college what 8th and 9th graders have now ... geeeez. They aren't ashamed of it either. I've given the boob issue way too much thought, maybe, but even though I was underdeveloped by comparison, I'm not sure I was socially or psychologically capable of dealing with such boobage at fourteen or fifteen years old. So all I meant to say was GREAT POST ... I literallly felt myself shrinking down in embarrassment while reading it ... amazing how that stuff gets down in your soul and never goes away. xoxo
Ouch! You bring back such painful memories. My first training bra was hot pink. I got it in 6th grade because I begged my Mom (my radical feminist Mom, who never wore a bra herself.) She said, "But you have nothing to put in it!" I knew that. (Oh, how I knew that!) I just wanted to stop being the only girl who was still in an undershirt. My (two years younger) brother teased me, relentlessly, about my "over-shoulder-boulder-holder." I didn't actually have anything to "put in" a bra until I was about 16 (I was, in addition to being an all-round late developer, a gymnast and dancer; that slows the process even more.) Of course, once I did start developing, I got quite voluptuous very quickly, and had to deal with comments like, "Wow! You sure made up for lost time!!!" Adolescence just really sucks, no matter how you develop...
skeltn - You were setting trends without even knowing it. Those bras are all the rage on Mad Men.

Oh Surly, I wish you had walked the hallways with me that day, my brother needed a date with your fists!

Owl - my pleasure, anything for the cause.

Noah - Ya think I never heard that one before? Believe me, it was on my brother's favorites list.

Mary - Sorry about the cringe-effect. I know that some of my well-endowed high school classmates would have gladly traded places with me.

Ann - It does hit where it still hurts, doesn't it? I'll be calling you when it comes time to take my girls bra shopping, better yet, can you hop a plane and join us? I can't even begin to imagine treading those waters.

Eva - I think that's just it, even though we all have different stories, we can all flash right back to those moments during our teen years that make us want to shrivel up and hide. If my mom had asked, I would have liked a hot pink one, too, with a little bow.
Yep, memories. When we were in high school, my brother, who was a grade behind me said, "At least you never have to worry about somebody wanting you just for your body."
In my experience, you can't train a bra to do a darned thing.

Oh my gosh your mother's timing was historically AWFUL!

I feel for you. Even though it made me laugh. Sorry!
Oh dang girl! I do feel your pain! How is it that some parents really don't get that you may not want to share your "growing pains" with the world? And why are they so proud of it in the first place as if you just won the National Spelling Bee?
GAH! You need to throw some of those old notes in a pile and set them on fire.... Up until about three years ago, I could still wear things that looked like a training bra. I miss those days.
mginmn - Your brother and mine must have read the same sister torture book!

shiral - Laugh away, I don't mind.

zashin - You think she would have had a better sense of adolescent protocol than to pull them out in front of boys!

cartouche - I only realized I had the notes a few years ago when I unpacked some of the boxes that used to be stored at my mom's. They make me laugh these days instead of cry - though a cerimonial burning would be fun.
Another empathiser here. Only my Mum was the opposite. When I asked for a bra for my 13th birthday, she responded with 'Why? You've nothing to put in it.' The embarrassment of developing teenage boobs or not, sticks with many of us. I'm sure you'll handle it perfectly with your daughter.

The irony of it all is when we're older and not bothered any more, we find ourselves searching for a bra big enough to cram the damn things in. Although these days I see ten-year-olds flaunting boobs and it makes me shudder. The joys of being female.
Linda - thanks for visiting from across the pond! The pains of growing up seem to be universal. Wonder what it's like for girls in those tribes where they don't wear tops!
What a wonderful rite of passage piece. Just loved it. Especially this line:

"She waited for my breasts to bloom like she was awaiting the birth of twins."
"Second, I should never have used the Kleenex on my first day. Yes, cringe along with me." I am someone who probably didn't really need a bra until after pregnancy, this brings back similar memories. I guess it's another reason to be thankful I have a boy! Really enjoyed this - it was well written and struck just the right note; the fact that you survived and became a well-adjusted confident woman comes through the cringe!
My Mom was a clearance-table shopper, and just before my fifth-grade (11th) birthday she bought a bunch of training bras, which she presented as 'booby-prizes' for some of the games at my party. Some of us needed them, and some of us didn't, but it was a funny way to introduce the idea.
This was a great piece, and I love how you tied your memory into the 'developments' in your son's class.
Lea - Glad you liked it!

Blue - Thanks. My best friend was, like you, thrilled to finally have breasts when she got pregnant. I do, sadly, know another woman who continued to nurse her child for much longer than she really wanted to just to keep her boobs big, at least the baby got something out of it!

Nora -That's an awesome idea. I'll keep it in mind for when my daughter and her friends are a little older. I'll also clear the idea with her first!
I was a late bloomer too, but my mom apparently had more compassion than yours. I was taken to the local lingerie shop and measured my the little old ladies who worked there. That was embarrassing enough, but I'm so sorry you had that experience!

Great story, well told.
I am so sorry, what an ordeal! Those of us who bloomed early had it so bad, we envied the smaller girls and never realized everybody has body issues at that age. I ask you, though, to imagine me needing a real bra at 10, up to a DD at 13. It was literally painful. And of course, psychologically... any young teen with big breasts was immediately branded a slut. I didn't even know what that was.

Burn the notes and the memories. You're all grown up and I hope, proud of whatever body you have. Just from your avatar, you're just lovely. Science is beginning to note that girls today develop way too early because of all the hormones in our food. That's sad too. Good for you too for learning from your mother's honest mistake.
Limited Express makes padded lacey bras for ten year old girls. This upsets me more than I can say. Well actually, the parents who buy these bras upset me even more. And yes, many memories brought up...I was teased mercilessly in junior high for being the carpenter's dream...flat as a board.
sweetfeet - I can't imagine having to go through the measuring thing as a newly developing girl - or as a grown woman for that matter!

Sally, wow, talk about the other end of the spectrum! One of my good friends in grade school was wearing a bra by 2nd grade and another, who I was on swim team with suffered terribly because she was so big (not to mention because of the boys who told her she would be great at the breast stroke!). Ok, 3 votes for burning the notes, I guess I'll have to do it!

Mary - My oldest daughter is turning 9 next week and so far we have managed to stay away from Limited Express though I did see the longing in her eyes when she saw the Abercrombie store last time we were at the mall which is even worse!
oh, god, love, this takes me waaay back. this is such a great post. i remember having a sleep over with a friend who had breasts and wore a bra and i was just in awe of her. i was so curious about how she could just carry those things around with her without a htought. then, of course, mine started to sprout and my pervert father said the "teddy needs a bra" thing at the dinner table. it was awful. all these decades later, i'd give anything for small boobs so i didn't have to be encased in uncomfortable underwire and could wear tank tops... sorry, you know i'm in a nostalgic and weird place because of all the stuff those pics brought up for me. thank you for your lovely lovely comments. i couldn't be more grateful. love love lvoe!
MaMoore, I can't even remember my training bra experience. I just said this to Edo and he said, with a glint in his eye, "Well, all I can say is they trained very well!"
rated for great humor!!! :)
Teddy -Happy if this made you smile!

Deb - If you can't remember then at least that means it wasn't traumatic. I love your husband's comment!
This certainly brings back the memories of the embarrassment and excitement of my new find; I woke up one day at 14 and...breasts! Great post.
Oh, this brought my own cringe-worthy memories to the surface. Unlike your mom waiting patiently for you to "blossom," mine was in big-time denial about it. I NEEDED someone to buy a bra for me. I was teased mercilessly about my noticeable breasts in 5th grade but my mother kept insisting I was too young for a bra. Finally, an older neighbor girl gave me some hand-me-down clothes which included a few bras. I shudder when I remember that my first bra was a used one, but at least the boys stopped teasing me after that.

P. S. I'm with Owl, looking around for the EP that this deserves.
Caroline - For you, it happened over night the natural way, for me, kleenex.

Lisa - There are girls, in my son's class, probably similar to you back in the day, that I do want to take shopping for, at the very least, an nice undershirt. That bra must have seemed like a treasure when you found it!
mamoore, thank you for this. I am reliving my own horror now. Like Lorraine I also developed a sense of humor instead. I am still saving up now to buy a training bra of my very own. :)

ahhhh, I wish I could say that I couldn't relate to this at all.... I was the last to develop too - called "stick girl" or "Winnie Cooper" or my favorite "pancake chest." But I never thought of stuffing my starter bra - hmmm... that could have changed things. This could be a chapter in a teeny bopper novel, loved it.
Oh yea - did I mention that I have 3 sisters and the two younger ones (3 and 4 years younger!!) got bras at the same time as me.... enough said.
This was definitely EP worthy - I was right there with you. I don't know how I missed this.

Mine was wrapped up as a present which I opened in front of all my friends and relatives! I turned bright red - I hope my mom was pleased at least. I, too, know what I won't do.

I was like Sally - way too early and didn't know what it all meant.

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane... (Rated).
Actually...I think it was Kim C. not you! I could probably look back through my old notes and find out (sadly, I still have some). Either way, I survived and love you still.