Shopping with more questions than answers.
And if you want to replace your threadbare Boob Imprisoners, what better place than Bratopia?
I won’t lie. I’m mostly an online shopper, but I was excited to visit Bratopia. If you’re going to buy something, go to the ‘Topia of that thing. I also happened to be in possession of a generous gift card, and popping in on sale day meant savings galore.
What an experience it was, all for a couple of boulder holders (or in my case pebble pushers, but hey, who’s measuring?).
Sports Bra: Designed to be worn while active. Sturdy. Alleviates discomfort. The incredible invention allowing girls to walk around without a shirt and prevents them from jiggling. My bra of choice, and I needed new ones.
You’re probably familiar with the get-in-get-out “no thanks just browsing” approach to shopping that emerged in the early 1900s, when customers started being allowed to serve themselves. I love this approach.
Get in, buy stuff, maybe smile and say “fine thank you” at the register, get out. Bratopia is the polar opposite.
With its full-service offering, this haven of cleavage-huggers is an odd combination of pretentiously fabulous decor and down to earth staff.
Despite how intimidatingly busy it was when I popped in, I saw the girls at Bratopia welcome everyone regardless of shape, size, colour, or in my case, how afraid of shopping they were.
There’s no denying you’ll be looked after, but brace yourself. You’re in for an experience.
Upon entering, a girl took my name and said they’d call when a fitting room was free.
The melody of female chatter, bubbling from behind the wall of grey change-room curtains, was almost deafening
The girl taking my name smiled and explained the first and only law of Bratopia, “Try not to do too much picking.We do the picking for you. Relax for now, we’ll call you”. Then she turned to take the name of the next shopper.
Did she say no picking? Picking what? Picking on other customers? Picking things I like? Picking my nose? I stared at the shelves, chock-full of merchandise.
They can’t mean ‘don’t pick anything off the bulging bra-wielding racks in our glorious store’. Surely not. This is BraTopia. The promised land of can-clamps. The Eden of mammary muzzles.
After about 20 minutes of browsing, a girl in her early 20s called my name. I was escorted into a lovely, spacious change room where she measured me and asked what I was looking for.
Sports bras, I explained, similar to the one I was wearing. Like a rebellious teenager I showed her a few I’d picked out. Yes, I broke the law did my own picking.
The sales girl stared at my selection — a couple of strappy things but mostly athletic wear. Her eyes fixed on the sports bras and her lips closed. Slowly, she exhaled.
Our eyes met. She was here to help. She introduced herself as Jess, and promised to get me bras that look and feel fabulous. If something happened — a wardrobe malfunction, some extra picking was needed, anything at all, I could just yell from the safety of my change room and Jess would fix everything. What service. What a gal.
With a single graceful swipe, Jess grabbed all the bras I’d picked out explaining, after my heartbroken gasp, that they wouldn’t fit and she would bring me something better. Thanks Jess. Without you I’d be wearing some ill-fitting, out of style tit-mit. She promised to return soon, and sashayed out.
A few minutes later Jess returned with this tiny lacy thing, saying it was just to confirm size and fit. It was a beautiful garment, perfect for lounging around Hugh Hefner’s mansion and not moving ever unless you want to free the nipple. I tried it on. And then tried to breath. Key word: tried.
This doily-cum-bra was so tight my skin muffined over the top. Suddenly I had rows and rows of back-bacon creasing between my shoulder blades.
That’s normal, assured Jess. Preferred even. The bra will be more supportive, and the straps will last longer if the midsection is so tight your skin buckles like a knotted balloon. Most people don’t know this, but skin spilling over the top is a good thing.
I struggled with this idea. I still do. But Jess assured me it was true. Personally I prefer comfort over having your rib-cage crushed in the name of bra-strap longevity, but to each their own. Corsets are gorgeous, even if they do make you faint.
I pulled at the Hefner-seducer gripping my mid-section, and gasped that I was after a sports bra. Really, just a glorified singlet. I like running around. Tie a strap around my chest to stop my nogs bouncing high enough to smack me in the face and I’m happy. Do you have anything like that Jess?
“We’ll get to that” Jess said smiling, and disappeared again.
“Get to what? The thing I specifically asked for? This isn’t foreplay Jess. Just get me to Point B so I can go back to laying on my couch eating from an open bag of Doritos balanced on my stomach.” I said quietly. In my head. While standing topless in a change room, as an underpaid but enthusiastic girl pirouetted around Bratopia picking out my underclothes.
Jess returned with a number of pretty, not at all sporty bras. I started to wonder if she were hinting that I should change careers. She hung them on the coat hangers in a lovely display, told me a bit about their detailing, gave me a ‘we’re in this together, sister’ look, and stepped out.
Dutifully I tried them on. They were nice, and to Jess’ credit they fit well. Maybe I would get one. Then I glanced at a price tag. Holy porn star.
On the plus side, my gasp made me suck in my chest almost enough to make the torso-crushing melon harness fit.
The cheapest bra, a Simon Perele, was $154, the most expensive an Empreinte, at over $220. I was surrounded by French lingerie. My generous $150 voucher would cover one cup. Maybe a hook. If it was on sale.
As if on cue, Jess popped her head around the curtain. In a faint, oxygen deprived voice I whispered “sports…bra”.
After a little back and forthing, Jess brought back a couple of sports bras, including the Panache I’d picked out in the first place. Again she brought in my exact size first go. They were cheaper than the artsy bras, at just under $100 each.
I tried one on.
Ah, sweet release.
After a brief chat Jess, helpful as always, told me she’d leave the bras I like at the register for me.
In a moment of glamour, I asked about the sale. Who knows when Mr. Hefner may pop by unannounced. I need to be prepared. And look at these things. They’re practically works of art. Maybe I could splurge a little. Maybe one of them was 30% off or something.
The grand sale? If you spend over $150 you get 10% off. That’s $15 off on your cheapest bra. For this whopping discount, none of the merchandise — these $150+ bras — are refundable or exchangeable.
I promised to head right over to the register, with about a much sincerity as I promise to bound out of bed at 5am and go for a jog.
The second Jess was gone I peeked around the change room curtain to make sure the coast was clear. As promised, she was hanging my selection near the register.
Quickly I tip-toed over to the front of the store, picked out a few extra sports bras to try on and rushed back to the change room, grabbing a few normal braziers off the $50 sale rack on the way.
At the register I declined the pricier options, and walked away with my sports bras and a few $50 sale items, which were great value considering. I’m wearing one right now and it’s comfy, though Jess would be horrified at how loose it is.
Bratopia, with all its glamour, acceptance, and fancy bras, raises an interesting question. Are they celebrating the feminine, with their quality undergarments, supportive staff, and impulse-buy pleasure products surrounding the cash register?
In many ways this is a beautiful celebration of feeling good as a woman. On the other hand, if having your ribs crushed for the sake of a nice bra is considered normal, how free are you really? A more cynical eye may see it as monetized sisterhood.
Lissy, my oldest friend, loved Wonder Woman. She often talked excitedly about this beautiful 1940s icon, before the Stepford-esque regression in the 1950s and ‘60s. In Wonder Woman she found a powerful, independent, deliciously matriarchal hero. She was born from the soil of the earth in the image of the gods and raised by Amazonian women as a powerful fighter and a compassionate woman.
We had tonnes of comics and Lissy — talented as she was — would often draw her own.
I wonder how Lissy or Wonder Woman would feel in Bratopia.
If you’ve ever seen Bratopia’s marketing — brochures, pamphlets, website pictures, even their sales staff — you’ll be pleasantly amazed by the diversity of size, and natural beauty of their models. These women, large and small, are gorgeous, confident, and aside from a glimmer of light brown skin in one model, deliciously, successfully white.
To be fair, Alberta’s population is only 2% Asian, and only 2.1% Black, with other races barely registering on the radar. These models do appeal to the bulk of the Calgary demographic. And whoever you are, you’ll be paired up with someone like Jess, whose raison d’etre is to make you buy something that makes you feel fabulous.
Bratopia isn’t a discount, self-service store, and they don’t pretend to be. The business knows what it offers, and what it doesn’t. Because of this they have their bras down to an art, their service down to a science, and they flourish with the confidence of a business with a strong identity. Their style is consistent, gorgeous, and unapologetically snug.
Would I return to Bratopia? Despite the chest strangulation, probably, but only because the initial work is done. The sports bras are comfortable, and excellent quality. And now that I know my size and preferred brand the trip will hopefully be faster.
The girl at the cashier even saved my selections (including a couple I didn’t buy), so popping in for an upgrade should be easy. I would purchase from the sale rack though. $150+ is a bit much for me, even if they do bathe your chest in a celestial glow.
If you love high-end underwear, aren’t sure what you want, and love being celebrated for your size, Bratopia is perfect. Personally I just want something to keep these puppies under control, though the fanciness and special treatment was kind of nice.