Finding Sophia

The beauty of being a woman.

Cross-posted from Lovely Magazine

When I was 15, I shot up five inches and blossomed into a full C-cup. My mother took me, as a rite of passage, or perhaps out of respect for my new bust line, to the famous Trashy Lingerie in Hollywood. Despite its name, Trashy’s was known for its impeccable tailoring and workmanship. The designs were stunning and there was a fleet of in-house seamstresses. Back in those days, this was the mid-’80s, you needed a membership to enter the store. I remember the pink card my mother produced at the door like a secret agent. This was lingerie for the serious buyer, not some touristy “adult store” where one came to gawk at sexy underwear. Each client was attended to by a dedicated saleswoman. The lighting was discreet, the carpet plush. Rich hues lent a dream-like ambiance.

© Lovely MagazineThough I was already acquainted with the world of underwire, I suppose my mother thought I should have a proper, beautiful bra for my generous bosom. Before that day, I don’t remember being particularly fond of my breasts. If anything, they were a nuisance. I was self-conscious running during P.E. I couldn’t consider leaving the house without a bra, while many of my girlfriends could still get away with wearing a camisole for support. I don’t think I had any idea what I — by which I mean my body — really looked like. I was in denial that my girlish figure was developing a shapely silhouette.

My previous bra-shopping excursions had been in department stores, with chaste-sounding brands like Maidenform and Vanity Fair. Trashy Lingerie was a different universe. Every piece I saw there was a work of art. It was like entering a beautiful boudoir, a secret passage to an unknown world — not of sex, but of sensual womanhood.

I was led to a fitting room with heavy curtains and intricate light fixtures. The saleswoman brought several samples and I chose an exquisite lace style. When I opened the curtains to show my mother and the clerk, they nodded approvingly. I turned to look at my reflection. So beautiful! The bra was stunning, and my breasts… I turned from side to side admiring the shape, the curve, the dip of cleavage.

I peeked at the price tag — $50. To my teenage brain, that was a fortune, let alone the price of one bra. My mother said I could have three.

I spent several minutes agonizing over the color swatches and finally chose purple, royal, and light blue. I held each one like a treasure, marveling over the delicate lace, the detailing on the strap, the scalloped edge. I didn’t want to go back to my sensible ivory bra. It didn’t feel right anymore. Not special enough for this beautiful pair.

Next, the saleswoman brought a pink satin bustier and hooked me into it. When I turned to see my reflection, I gasped, stunned. I couldn’t stop looking at myself. I was in love with the woman in the mirror. Her body, my body, was gorgeous. I already had an hourglass figure and the bustier fit perfectly. I had never seen anything so feminine. I ran my hands over my womanly curves thinking of Sophia Loren; she has always been my favorite beauty icon.

In that moment, I was transformed. I wanted to hug myself. What luck to be born a woman!

The price of the bustier was somewhere north of $150. I looked at my mother beseechingly. Was it possible that I would be taking the precious bustier home? Could I feel like this every day?

She smiled and said, “It looks beautiful. You can have it… if you lose 10 pounds.” I blinked back tears.

I never lost the 10 pounds. I never got the bustier. Instead, I got years of pressure from my parents to “slim down.” I always knew that I was loved. They told me every day that I was smart, that I was pretty, that they were proud of me, and that I was a good, strong person. They instilled in me tremendous confidence that I could achieve anything — but I could never please my parents completely because my body did not fit their standard of beauty. It was a source of constant disappointment for me, for all of us. They wanted me to be perfect.

The woman in the mirror told me I was already perfect. The woman in the mirror, in fact, became a plus-size model. That woman strides down the runway alongside “regular” models smiling at women of all shapes and sizes in the audience, hoping to remind them that they, too, are already perfect.

©2007 Lovely Magazine