By the time you’re the mom of a preteen, you’re used to the challenges of buying bras for yourself: figuring out your cup size, what styles suit you, how much support you need. Plus, you know that, in the end, bras are just underwear. But for a girl not yet comfortable with her budding breasts, bra shopping can be awkward and embarrassing.
Dealing with awkwardness
When Burlington, Ont., mom Donna Stephens* took her 11-year-old daughter, Melody, to the store in search of her first bra, it felt more like an undercover spy operation than a regular shopping trip. “Even when we were in the lingerie department, Melody shushed me if I inadvertently said the word ‘bra,’ and she warned me not to say it again,” says Stephens. “We were surrounded by bras, but I wasn’t supposed to mention them.”
Melody grabbed a few options and disappeared into a change room. “I was not allowed to see them when she tried them on. I just had to hope they fit her properly,” says Stephens. “My contribution was to pay for the ones she picked.”
Mary Green’s* daughter, Stella, was 11 when she emailed her mom saying she thought she needed a bra. “She even included links to some styles she liked,” recalls the Montreal mom. Stella had no idea what size she needed, but was not about to let her mother measure her. Still, says Green, “she was actually excited to shop for bras in person, I think.” Stella chose bras in fun colours with sparkles and pretty trims. Once Green knew her daughter’s size, she was able to pick up similar ones during other shopping excursions.
Get a proper fitting
Louisa Bond’s* daughter was hugely uncomfortable (and somewhat unpleasant) about getting a bra, so her mother took her to a small lingerie store where the owner specialized in helping women get a good fit. “I brought her along with a friend of hers,” says Bond, who lives in Victoria. “I went window-shopping and let the fitter work with them.”
The bra her daughter chose in the end was lovely, but also expensive. “Seventy-five dollars,” says Bond. “I figured it was worth it for the fitting and for dealing with a very self-conscious young girl,” she says.
Be sensitive to her insecurities
Some girls are quite matter-of-fact about the changes of puberty. But for others, handling the situation with sensitivity is essential. As Stephens says, “When I was young, it was humiliating to have your bra strap show — now it’s a fashion statement. But that doesn’t mean your first bra isn’t a big step. With all the openness about sex, we sometimes forget that these things can be embarrassing to young girls. It’s a very personal, private thing for them.”
“I don’t need a bra!”
I was a little tomboy who felt offended by the suggestion that I might need to start wearing a bra, even when I obviously could have used one under the white T-shirts I liked to wear. My mother’s solution: undershirts that gave me a little modesty. There’s no rush to get a girl to wear a bra if she doesn’t want one, as support is not really an issue at this age, and camisoles or tank tops can often provide as much coverage as is needed.