Pakistani women and the fault in our bras.

Noreen* could feel the underwire of her bra digging into her left breast. She was uncomfortable. She had to buy a replacement bra immediately. The girls could not wait. Her only option - Hidden, a shop (which, ironically, was not hidden) at Centaurus Mall in Islamabad.

She walked in and asked the girl to give her anything in 40D. The salesgirl looked at her chest and asked, 'Are you sure? Do you know your size?'

Noreen rolled her eyes and said, 'Yes, of course I do. I've been wearing bras for quite a while now.' The salesgirl started walking towards Noreen with a measuring tape and insisted on measuring her chest.

After wrapping the tape under and on her chest, the salesgirl exclaimed, 'Aha! You're a 44B.'

As fast as lightning, the salesgirl went through the stock available in the small shop and came out with three options - all cotton, all ugly and each for Rs1,300 to Rs1,400.

It seemed reasonable, so Noreen bought three and went home.

Three days later, she was pleased with her purchase and was wearing her new bra to work...when the strap snapped. She quickly fixed the situation with a safety pin. An hour later, the other strap also snapped...

Dude, where's my bra?

Buying a bra should be a pretty simple process. You walk into a shop, look for what you want, find it in your size and you're out. But in Pakistan, it's nothing short of an ordeal. As a plus sized woman, it's near impossible.

In Karachi, for example, women go to Bohri Bazaar, Zainab Market, Triumph or Women's Secret. In Islamabad, there is Hidden and Lingerie by D. Watson, Lahore has Al Fatah and a few other stores. Many women prefer ordering online via, Daraz or Cherie Lingerie and other pages on Instagram and Facebook. Seems pretty simple, right?

Wrong. In bazaars, bras and panties are sold at stalls which are generally run by men. Women cannot get sized or look through at what they want in a safe and comfortable environment.

Bras on display at Karachi's Bohri Bazaar. Photo: Tooba Masood

At other stores, there is a problem of limited options and sizes - in most stores, 38D is the biggest size available. This does not mean that they don't have bigger sizes, it's just that they run out quickly. You might, occasionally, find a larger cup size but not very often. This limits your choice in style and fit of the bra, material, comfort, support and colour. Triumph/IFG does have cup sizes E, F and G but the bra cut/style is limited to one or two bras - the Doreen and the delicate Doreen and both are minimisers.

I remember going with my mother to buy my first trainer bra or BD/BEEDEE as it used to be called then. We went to a bra store in Clifton called Intimate. The bra itself was just a short vest type of thing with no real support. It was made from cotton and was extremely uncomfortable. My first real bra wasn't much different. I just remember that it had three colour options - black, white and beige. My mom wanted to buy all three but the saleslady at the store insisted that young girls should only wear white or beige. I truly wish I had told that aunty to sit down.

When asked where they buy their bras, some women said that they begged and ordered to friends and relatives living abroad or bought bras when they travelled abroad. Some said that they ordered via online pages but many said that they bought locally. Here is what they had to say.

For Karachi-born Khadija, who buys bras from local stores, there are very few options available. 'The bras here aren't cute and tacky sexy but they offer comfort for everyday wear,' she said. 'The market...

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