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I Did a Bra Photoshoot to ‘Fix’ My Saggy Breasts. This Is What Happened

bra shoot

My post of exactly a year ago about how, at the age of 45, I had yet to find a bra that fits (and my engineer husband’s attempts to rectify the problem), spawned 41 comments, most of which came down to: Go get yourself properly fitted, followed by a list of local places beloved by readers.

I did what they suggested and high-tailed my way to one of the named locations. There, I got fitted. (They told my husband they had a waiting area with manly things like TVs playing football. “But I wanted to watch,” he pouted.) I purchased a 30FF bra that seemed to get the job done, both taking the pressure off my back and keeping me from spilling out of the cups when I bent over. I was also told that I’d been putting on bras completely wrong lo these past 30+ years. They showed me the right way to do it. I did it once. At the store. And never again afterwards.

This new bra did offer me the support completely lacking from the previous Victoria’s Secret undergarments I’d also been measured for back in the day.

READ: How I Ended Up Donating Over 1,000 Bras to the Homeless

But I still felt like I was trapped in a vise. I couldn’t wait to take it off at the end of the day. I avoided wearing a bra completely all summer long and, even in the winter time, still go out without one to as many occasions as I believe I can get away with (i.e. school drop-off and pick-up, grocery shopping, etc…) It was a solution, but it wasn’t an ideal one.

Then, a few months ago, my tragic plight caught the eye of the editors at First For Women Magazine. They were doing a photo-spread entitled “You: Younger & Slimmer With the Right Bra,” and they invited me to participate.

Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not particularly concerned with looking younger and/or slimmer. (I’m one of those outlier women who doesn’t even own a scale, because I don’t care about how much I weigh, only how I feel.) But I am interested in the possibility of living a life where I don’t have to choose between tipping over and breathing. So, what the heck, I was game!

First, at the pre-photo-shoot bra fitting, they had to decide exactly what sort of bra problem I had. After all, you can’t fix a problem until you’ve created it. After much back and forth, the editors decided my problem was a Saggy Bust. Fine by me. I’ve nursed three kids and never had much of a waist to begin with, so now I kind of go from breasts to hips without much of an indent in between.

I tried on a variety of available bras, and finally settled on a Wacoal Visual Effects Minimizer (I am not being compensated to promote this, just sharing my experience). It appeared to offer me both ample support and a bit of breathing room.

So now it was time for the photo shoot. You’d think, since it was a spread about bras, that would be the only area of me that needed to be excessively prepped for its grand introduction to the reading public.

READ: Why Lena Dunham’s Lingerie Selfie is Important

You would be wrong.

Two artists slathered me in make-up while a third blew out my hair. My glasses came off (though that was more of a light reflection issue) and I was fitted with a carefully chosen wardrobe. When the sweater didn’t hang the way the stylist liked it, she tightened it in the back with clothespins. I was given shoes with heels so high, I literally needed to hold on to the photographer’s assistant in order to take a single step, and once placed on the X, teetered there precariously.

I was back lit and front lit and told where to put my hands and which way to turn. (You’ll notice in the photo for the Before shot, I am facing more towards camera. In the Bra-Vo I’m angled away.) And all that so I could “look natural!”

It certainly didn’t feel natural. But I was used to that. When I had my picture taken professionally for my books’ “About the Author” pages, I learned that looking up isn’t really looking up, looking down isn’t really looking down, and the most important thing is to know where your chin is at all times.

Overall, the photo shoot went well and I had fun (plus a complimentary bagel and lox, because the best part of production is the craft services’ table). I guess the magazine was pleased with it. Of the six women profiled, my pictures were selected to be on the cover. Maybe I was just the most hopeless case?

When I sent the pictures to my parents, they didn’t initially recognize me. Finally, my father emailed, “It must be an optical illusion. You look great!”

Uh… thank you?

READ: Why Can’t I Find a Bra That Fits?!

My husband wasn’t thrilled either. He thought the photos actually made me look older, rather than the promised younger. I explained to him it was because usually I wear my hair in a pony-tail and dress too young for my age. I don’t mean 20s or teen too young. Because that would suggest a modicum of style. I mean like a 4-year-old who’s just learned how to stick her arms in sleeves and zip her pants, but not color coordination.

He also pointed out that they took the thing he liked most about my breasts—their lush, round, plumpness—and minimized them. “What’s the fun of that?” he wanted to know.

Well, how about the fact that I no longer shudder at the mere thought of putting on a bra? That’s a good one.

Plus I have a couple of really nice photos. That apparently don’t look anything like me.

But the best part was my behind-the-scenes glimpse at the world of modeling and fashion. I understand now that if I ever want to look the way I do on the cover again, I don’t just need a new bra. I need a stylist, a make-up artist, a hair-dresser, and someone to follow me around with flattering lighting at all times (that is, if I could even move in those shoes, which in and of itself is highly unlikely).

I also have something to illustrate for my daughter if she ever finds herself down in the dumps about not looking like the women in fashion magazines or on TV.

I can show her these pictures. I can show her myself.

And we can both have a good laugh.

Feel free to use me (and my breasts) as a teaching tool in your home, as well.

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