“I can’t see her, Dave, darling, can you just – no MOVE your head I can’t see her if you’re there, will you just – oh for GOODNESS SAKE!”
Dad’s close up and squinting face is taking up most of the space on the Skype screen across my laptop with just a few random sections of Mum’s little face desperately bouncing around the back of him trying to squeeze into any visible corner to try and get a peek of me on her screen.
I’m trying on my wedding dress in its latest state but parents are in Portugal living it up so we’ve had to depend on the wonders of Skype to share where dress is up to and to garner the thoughts and observations as to its development.
“It all looks a bit ‘meringue’y’ from here, Jem!” Dad shouts; clearly in full wind-up mode – “shouldn’t you be sitting on top of a loo-roll?!”
(Now emitting loud peels of mirth at his own hilarity)
“Right that’s it – GET OUT – you’re no longer allowed to be a part of this, Dave, I really don’t – no – how – what are you doing??” Mum shouted.
(camera click sounds from laptop)
“No DAVE, you CAN’T take photos of this bit, she’s not ready yet, and you – no you mustn’t – Dave, I FORBID you to put it on Facebook, get off – out – OUT…I mean it, now – OUT!”
The screen is momentarily blurred as I get a 2 second 360 whip-round view of their house while Mum’s laptop is wrenched unceremoniously away from Dad’s mischievous paws and eventually placed back into the safety of Mum’s desk before he is shoo’d away from the proceedings.
At the moment all I can see is Mum’s shoulder squished against the camera.
“You OK, Mum?” I ask, exhausted from my relatively short time so far on Skype with my parents.
“Yes, hello my lamb! Sorry about Dad, I’ve sent him back up to the roof now so we’re safe!” she says reassuringly as she repositions the laptop carefully, leaving us to surmise, by the angle of the camera, that she’s talking to us wearing only a hat with a yellow flower in it.
“WHOOPS, bahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” she hoots, upon catching her own image “I look like I’m naked! I’M NOT! LOOK!” she says, flashing the camera down to her black strapless cossie – “I’m not, I’m not!”
“So, Mum the dress…?” I try.
“Yes, sorry darling – go back a bit…..back a bit more…mmmm’n’again…..k, now turn slightly….STOP! Ohhh, Jem, it’s looking AMAZING, darling – oh, Janey (dress-making-chum) WELL DONE!! Jem, are you pleased??”
Affirmations that I am, in fact, delighted are soon halted by a shrill interruption;
“Jem, darling, what’s happening to your boobs?
“What’s underneath the dress, I can’t quite see – NO not that bit – yes that bit –well, whatever it is – yes just shift it up a bit, no actually down – actually darling can you just take it right off, it’s not working at all, it’s giving your boobs a very odd shape and it’s throwing the whole top of the dress off.”
One pleading look from me to Janey and, without fanfare, she’s somehow managed to whip the offending article right off me without disturbing even a stitch on the dress.
“YEP!” Mum said, triumphantly. “That’s miles better already….although…..hang on….(OH, WHAT NOW, WOMAN???)……I think…….hmm……yes, darling I think you need something underneath the dress…something to really hoist you all in (“hoist” said with accompanying arm gestures
to boob area) – to do the real work under the dress so that the dress can just sit, unperturbed, atop the thing underneath, do you know what I mean?”
Well, I didn’t.
And I don’t.
I’ve never really done underwear.
Well, I have in the traditional sense – obvs always wear knickers (bar one inexplicably bold year in the late 90’s) and I’ve been a fan of the ‘bandeau’ bra since I was about 18 – mainly because my boobs have never been very remarkable in size so I’ve never had to worry about it too much. Also, the one and only time I got measured I was told, loudly, in La Senza that I was a 34AA and sadly they didn’t stock any bras in my size. So after that I never bothered checking again.
We eventually deciphered from Mum that what I was looking for was a basque or corset, so I thought I’d begin my search online to avoid any more mortifying experiences a la La Senza. However, I had no idea what size to order, so had to run a pre-search on ‘the right way’ to measure your boobs.
After 6 different websites had resulted in 6 different bra sizes; each one so violently disproportionate and disconnected from the last one, I quickly realised that no shop actually knows what they’re doing, because there’s no way I am can be a 36AA in one shop and a 34E in another.
Not knowing a scrap about who’s good and who’s not, I had a root around the Westfield website (I place I detest, but needs must) and following some extensive Google imaging for the specific shape of basque I needed, I cross referenced a picture with Rigby & Peller. Never heard of ‘em – but had a conversation with a very helpful lady on the phone who said that, while sadly they did not have what I was looking for in my size (36B, I had guessed), I should come in anyway to be measured and go from there.
Being the most expensive of all options before me, I decided to head to Westfield 2 hours before my appointment to scout around the cheaper places in the hope I might find something perfect for half the price.
Words cannot describe the utter idiocy I encountered during this brief search – I am exhausted even thinking about it, but I feel I must share in order to prevent others reading from making the same mistakes I did.
Kicking proceedings off in House of Fraser, I asked a lady wearing a HoF badge where their bridal underwear section was; the section I had seen heavily advertised on the home page of their website.
“Through there.” She replied, casting a hand in an unknown direction, without looking up from her till, in a voice not dissimilar, in its tone and interest, to Roz from “Monsters Inc.”
“Right, thank you.”
As I sailed into an arena so clearly not meant for brides, I asked another lady if I’d accidentally missed it and was it back where I’d just been?
“We don’t have a bridal department.” She said, bordering on annoyed that I’d had the audacity to ask for her help while she was flicking through a House of Fraser catalogue.
“Oh. Sorry. That’s weird – sorry – I was just directed here by your colleague telling me this was where the bridal department was?”
“Try that till up there.” She managed without looking up.
By my third attempt with as many ‘assistants’, I was tinkering on the edge of snippy but, being British, still remained terribly polite.
“Excuse me, sorry to disturb you – I’m looking for the bridal department for some underwear – am I close?”
This particular lady does look up at me at make eye contact (hurrah!) but only to slowly laugh at my question (less hurrah) in a seemingly sympathetic yet patronizing tone, obviously saved especially for the more socially inept members of the public (a sea into which I seem to have been swept, unfairly and on pure assumption) that no, they do not have a bridal department, with the added implication, by her judgmental eyebrows, that I am a complete tit for having asked her in the first place.
I reach into my Satchel of Patience one last time and ask her if she has anything even close to what I might be looking for. This was met with further soft laughing in an almost kind way, but is only serving to make me want to punch her straight teeth crooked, while she’s half-heartedly showing me ‘an option’.
My tongue was tempted to ask her directly exactly what it was about my questions that was producing her exceptionally high levity, but I bite down hard on it while I wrestled my cluster of 5 different size options of this one piece of undergarment towards a changing room.
As I approach the changing room, I’m met with another HoF Member of Joy, oozing charm and personality, who tells me, through almost dead eyes, after glancing up from her critical role of ‘staring into NOTHING’, that I cannot try that particular undergarment on in this particular (EMPTY) changing room because it’s part of the underwear section, rather than the lingerie section – another section that is COMPLETELY EMPTY, where she is THE FOURTH member of staff I’ve encountered and I am STILL the only civilian for miles!!!!!!!!
(Is it me?)
I wondered if there was visible steam shooting out from my ears at this point but her nonchalance indicated there was not, leaving me to stomp my way round to the next-door, unmanned, changing area. By now I was hot, sweaty and naffed
off, and I hadn’t even taken my top off yet?!
Harumphing away behind the curtain, I noticed I was surrounded by posters, advertising HoF’s “Complementary measuring service” with bold statements such as “Need any help finding your size? Just give us a shout!” and a ‘concierge’ button inside the changing room telling me to “Just ring the bell!”
I notice with interest, mine has a sticker slammed over it stating; “Apologies, this service is currently unavailable.”
More like code for “Soz, love – it’s after 5.30pm and we can’t be fucking arsed.”
Having well and truly cooked my swede, I decide that even if these items are a perfect fit, I just don’t want to hand over my money to this establishment.
HOUSE OF FRASER: INVEST IN TRAINING YOUR STAFF.
I won’t go into the rest of the department store atrocities I encountered over the following hour, but needless to say, my search was fruitless, and having now been swept up by my lovely little sister Amy, who’d come to my rescue and marched me into the ‘fancy part’ of Westies, we soon arrived at my Rigby & Peller appointment bang on time.
“Hello!” a young lady beamed at me. “Jem? I’m Natalie – we spoke on the phone – welcome!”
“Hggghhggaaaaaarrfffrmnnmph” I managed. No idea what I was going for but all she got was a gargle.
“Sorry, she’s had a tough time in some other underwear shops.” Ames explained, fixed smile in place, not breaking eye contact with Natalie, while taking my elbow firmly and guiding me back up to a normal standing position.
“Ha! Not a problem – follow me – can I get you a drink?”
“We’re ok thank you,” we say politely. That is until we see empty champagne flutes inside the changing room which turns our reply into an “actually, no, wait, can we – YES, thank you so much!”
Safely snuggled inside one of their silk dressing gowns in a comfy chair and halfway down my first glass of pop, I began to realise why these fancy places are worth it every once in a while. Natalie returned and I regaled a small part of my hellish experience while she nodded along sympathetically and gave me many a fascinating fact on women and their bras. Apparently we’re all wearing the wrong sizes because the old fashioned measurement is so spectacularly out of date coupled with the change in women’s bodies and added to that people making cheap clothes; – well. Like our breastal (yes, breastal) areas, it’s just a mess.
“Can you just drop the gown for me, Jem, so I can have a quick look at your bust?”
“Ooo, yes of course” I bluster, already embarrassed, “sorry let me just” (places glass on floor) “ok, here you go.”
I drop the gown and immediately cover my boobs with my hands, a la Carry On, rendering her inspection completely useless. Idiot.
“No worries!” she says, doing a quick 2 second look at my features and then with a “2 tics” she’s gone, and out through the curtain.
“Oh. But…she didn’t measure me?” I say, despondently; previous measuring memories crashing back to me, vividly.
She comes back in with a corset that looks divine and in a matter of seconds I’m winched in and for the first time in my life I have a proper waist and boobs.
“BLIMEY that’s amazing! Thank you so much, I thought you didn’t have my size??”
“You told me you were a 36B, Jem, and you’re not.”
“Oh, bugger, right, sorry – what was it 38A or something?”
(slight pause for dramatic effect)
“Mmmmm, no, you’re a 32D, Jem.”
(further measured pausing)
“What???!!!!!!!” I exclaim, leaping into the air and all the way around to face her.
To say I was ecstatic at this news is an understatement – I was giddy with glee, and I am so in love this Natalie person for delivering the news to me that I feel I could hug her – no wait – I am hugging her, I am real life hugging a nigh on stranger, while half naked and a little drunk in a changing room in Westfields, and yes, I am now kissing her on the cheek and inviting her to the wedding.
Rigby & Peller.
Don’t go anywhere else.
They get you drunk and make your boobs look amazing.
If it’s good enough for The Queen…
Next on my list of vitals; pants.
I’ve been advised by a few recently brided chums not to go for white underwear, as it can show up through your dress in flash photography. Instead, go for ‘nude’, which in turn opens up the gateway to another mine field; the almighty Spanx.
I’ve never bought a pair before and as they come in a variety of different shapes and sizes I had to have another online delve into the world of flesh coloured shape-wear to better educate myself ahead of purchase.
I’m horrified – HORRIFIED – to discover that some of these flame retardant pieces sport a ‘gap’ amidst the undercarriage so that the wearer can pee without removing them completely.
A gap charmingly described on some blogs as ‘a discrete flap’.
A discrete. Flap.
I can’t imagine a worse description for any material surrounding that area of the female body that you’re supposedly meant to feel safe in.
“M&S Seamless” for me, thanks very much – keep your flaps well away from me.
Two more sleeps……….TWO MORE SLEEPS!!!!!