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Alanna Vagianos Headshot

The Nightmares Of Bra Shopping As A Small-Chested Woman

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Welcome to the Itty-Bitty-Titty Committee, I am the proud president.

OK, maybe not proud, but still the president.

As a fourth grader who wore a wire bra, I had high hopes for my cleavage. Sadly, said plans didn't pan out after I stopped growing at the age of nine. Now, standing at a mere 5'3" with an A cup, I've experienced an impressive number of cringeworthy moments -- all connected in some way to my small chest.

As a woman who has openly loved her body her entire life, it's both surprising and disturbing the amount of times I've been shamed for having a smaller-than-average bust -- from not being able to find my size during bra shopping to being asked the dreaded question "Have you ever considered implants?"

A few weeks ago I was standing in a large department store with my mom when I bravely decided it was time to go bra shopping. My mother, my knight-in-shining-armor for all things scary and a seasoned veteran in getting me through such painstaking experiences, took the lead and asked a saleswoman where the A-AA cup-sized bras were. The lovely woman cocked her head to the side, a bit confused, before recovering and racing through the infinite racks of over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders.

She came back empty-handed and told us the department store didn't carry that size. Before I could begin my adult-bodies-come-in-all-sizes rant, my mom intervened, asking "Do you happen to have a junior's section?" I decided to swallow my pride, since the end goal was still to find a bra that fit. The saleswoman nodded her head and we followed her out of the grown-woman section into the Baby Gap of bras.

And then it happened. In slow-motion my mom stepped in front of me, trying to shield my view from whatever horror was happening in front of her. The unsuspecting saleswoman was holding up a training bra, printed with a picture of two puppies and rhinestones that read "Best Friends Forever."

The store's bra section had to carry at least 30 different brands and styles and the only thing that fit me was something meant for girls between the ages of eight and 10. At that moment, I felt an embarrassment I hadn't experienced since middle school; where your face gets so hot that you can feel every appendage on your body both simultaneously tingle and go numb. I'm no longer accustomed to this kind of embarrassment. I'm not one to be genuinely embarrassed because, overall, making an ass out of myself has pretty much become second-nature. But this, this was a condescending, you-are-not-good-enough embarrassment that I felt in my bones.

After 23 years of evolving into a proud adult woman, a few pieces of fabric and (lack of) wire had reduced me to a pre-teen girl.

While having small breasts is just one of a million reasons women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies, there's something about an A cup that seems to take away a part of your femininity. Chalk it up to insecurity or that one ex who couldn't get over the "disappointment" of my small chest, but having small breasts has made me repeatedly question my sex appeal. This feeling likely stems from a culture that idolizes Kate Upton's ample bosom in movies and on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but it's even more damaging when this same thinking invades more private, all-female experiences, such as shopping for a bra.

If I had never been told that it wasn't ideal to have small breasts, it would've never crossed my mind that there might be something "wrong" with my body.

Unlike most young girls who yearned for their first bra before they had a bust or looked forward to getting their periods (I've never understood that) -- I had to wear a bra before I even knew what boobs were. I was the girl in fourth grade whose bra strap all the boys would snap and run off laughing. The irony of it all is I never wanted them when they were big and now, after years of no growth, I'm left rummaging for socks to fill my already-padded bras.

Over the years, I've learned to embrace and truly love my small chest. (After all, these are the only breasts I'll ever have.) And there are certainly some perks: I don't have to worry about back problems, I don't actually need to wear a bra and it's safe to say the girls will remain in the same place as I get older.

It's only in fleeting moments like shopping for bras with a clueless saleswoman or going on a date with a guy that just doesn't see past a small cup size that I feel a sense of inadequacy. Luckily, at the end of the day, they are just that -- fleeting moments.