Here's what I want to know: Does anybody wear a bra anymore?
None of the women I know have mentioned personal lingerie liquidation. Not one woman has said to me, "You know, after years of adhering to a basic standard of feminine apparel, I've decided to toss it to the wind. From now on, no more bra."
Apparently the women's garment industry runs in different circles than I do.
I've been doing some end-of-the-summer-season shopping and I am struck by the sparseness of fabric used to make the shirts and dresses offered in a majority of stores. I'm not talking just the juniors department, but women's styles in general.
If I want to wear a bra with many fashions, I'd better want to expose my underthings as well. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and anyone else who happens to look my way is going to see something that once was private.
Unless, of course, I resort to the alternatives. It might be safe to assume that the average woman has strapless bra of some sort. But in many instances, with the backless dress and the like, even these apparatus won't be concealed.
And who wants to deal with the complication inherent to convertible bras? Why anyone would consider wearing a bra with straps that pose a risk of getting wrapped around her neck and stuck over her ears is beyond me. If I need a spotter to put on a bra beneath my sundress, I'm out.
So, what's the woman who is concerned with a certain degree of modesty to do?
Well, she could ditch the bra and wear the suggestive sundress only at the beach, miles from home. That way, there is little chance of running into anyone she knows and facing the awkwardness that ensues.
She could wear the best bra she can figure with the sundress, and spend the day uncomfortably twisting and tugging in a futile effort to cover cups and straps alike. If the dress is casual, she could wear a tank top underneath. Or maybe if she is going swimming, just pull the dress on over her swimming suit and claim to be all about function.
I gave in and bought a couple inexpensive and — aside from the undergarment issue — comfortable dresses that I will wear in public only accompanied by a cardigan. Other than that, I decided I would just wear frocks from previous years, and keep on looking for something both attractive and practical.
For years, I've heard friends with teenage daughters lament that it's difficult to clothe them modestly. It started with popular retailers selling shirts made of thin, chintzy fabrics that were cut short. Now the shirts are longer, but they are cut so narrowly that they'd need to be wrangled just to stretch over an ironing board, let alone over a typical human body.
I don't know where trends are headed next. I do know I'm not going to fill my closet, or my daughter's, with items that miss the mark on basic ideals like dignity and comfort.
I'll just keep looking. If having decent things means having fewer things, I'm good with that.
Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.