posted in: Day In The Life 14
Brassiere in a box, c. 1954. Image: Wikipedia.
Brassiere in a box, c. 1954. Image: Wikipedia.


This afternoon I did a handful of demos at the Iowa Quilt Museum. The museum is housed in a gorgeous, late 19th century building on the town square of my hometown of Winterset, IA. I’m so proud to be from Winterset, proud that the state quilt museum is about 1.5 blocks from my mom’s house.

The building that houses the IQM used to be a JCPenny department store. I remember going in there as a kid. I remember the sweatpants on racks, the baby clothes hung on the back wall, the menswear department, the housewares — all of it. It’s where you went to get clothes and sheets and a lot more if you were a Wintersetian back in the day. Our small-town JCPenny department store looked a lot different from how a big city or suburban department store looks today, it’s true; but our JCPenny was one shop with many sections, so it was a department store to us.

The renovated, retro-fitted mezzanine where I did my demos today was one of the more interesting places I’ve worked. This is because I realized that I got my first training bra on that very mezzanine.

Seriously. I was talking to people about the American quilt, stitching on a Singer Featherweight owned by my grandmother and I remembered that I got my first bra in the same exact spot where I was sewing. Saying “I got my first bra” is to say that when I was beside myself with grief for one, Mom purchased for me a cotton slingshot. That’s what training bras are, of course: cotton slingshots. Question: What were we training for, by the way? Did we have a choice?

Life is weird. I remember I got a pastel yellow bra and a pastel pink bra. The yellow, interestingly, was my favorite of the two. Each bra was literally two triangles and a piece of string. Like I cared how it was made. When I put on the bra (especially the buttercream yellow one) I felt so beautiful, so grown-up. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling like a force of nature. I felt like a woman, finally. I felt like a person.

Today — and tonight, doing a lecture on the ground floor of the old JCPenny’s — I thought, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”