Some of you know I lived in China for 3 years (2003-2006). We hoarded a lot of stuff while we were there. Medicines, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, razors, etc. We lived in a fairly rural city and finding western goods was difficult. When we did find things like Crest Toothpaste, it was often in odd flavors such as seaweed and tea. And western goods could also be quite expensive. We picked up extras whenever we traveled to the United States, as well as Singapore or Hong Kong. And one of my bathrooms looked like a Walgreens.
One thing we did not think much about when we moved to China was clothing. My ex-husband is 6’0″ and I am 5’5″ and rather busty. So clothes shopping in China was not much of an option. Although he was able to buy some shirts in a mall in Shanghai. I can honestly say I purchased maybe 3 or 4 items of clothing in China during our tenure as ex-pats. One of the last things on my mind when moving to China was my bra situation. I had 4 good bras when I left for China in September 2003. We did not plan on returning to the United States for 8 months, but I assumed those 4 bras would last at least that long. So imagine my surprise when one-by-one they started to break. Straps, hooks, seams…you name it, it was coming undone. So as my last bra was being held together by one hook and a few safety pins, I decided to I would head out to the local department store and see what I could find. I did not hold out much hope since I was/am a 38F/G and my left leg is bigger than the average chinese woman.
I went to the 4th floor of the Wenfeng Department store and made my way to the bra section. I was able to find a salesperson who spoke a little english and between my broken chinese and her broken english, I was able to tell her that I needed a bra. She giggled and spoke quickly to her co-workers in chinese. I could see that this was going to be quite entertaining for them and they gathered around to see how this was all going to play out. She turned and went away and a few moments later emerged from the back room with a measuring tape. I could see by its length that we were going to be cutting it close. As she stood near me she wrapped her tape around my chest and brought the two ends together. Just barely. Her cheeks were flushed as she looked up at me and laughed. The tape ends barely met together. Yes, I was as big as their measuring tape. I looked down at the size and she proudly exclaimed (rather loudly) that I was a 90!!!!!! Seriously??? A 90??? No American woman wants to be told they are a 90 in anything, unless it is their weight.
After we ALL stopped laughing she looked at me and told me in the little english that she knew, that they had ONE bra in my size. As she hurried to the back again I stood frozen in fear. I imagined the bra sitting on a shelf all its own in the back. That shelf reserved for the “special one-of-a kind bra.” What in the world would this ONE bra look like? I could only imagine it looked like one of my mother’s bras from the 1960’s and I felt myself becoming a little sick inside.
She returned with bra in hand and carefully sat it down on the counter and began to remove the tissue paper which surrounded and protected it. And then I began to see…blue. Light blue. Not my favorite color, but not totally disgusting either. Then bows. Small bows. One in the middle between the cups and one on each strap. And lace. Not too much, just a little around the top of the cups. This was not so bad. And my salesperson and her co-workers must have felt the same way. Because just then, small cheers were starting to erupt. VICTORY!
I eagerly paid my 450 Yuan for my new bra while she re-wrapped it carefully and placed it in a box, then in a carrying bag. My receipt was stamped and I was ready to go. I felt a certain pride as I left the store. I had successfully shopped for a woman’s bra in China. Not just any bra, but a 90.