Ruth Picardie says: 'Forget the new Wonderbra'

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The Independent Culture
Once upon a time, in the land before children, my boyfriend came home from work with a Wonderbra in his bag. It was black, it was lacy, it gave me an astonishing cleavage and I never wore it because I was self- conscious about the size of my breasts (a matronly 38C).

Many years later, another Wonderbra has been invented, a satin strapless one which promised the same cleavage without "those unsightly bra straps". How I rejoiced for, having had children, I was desperately in need of glamour instead of snot in my hair. Plus my breasts - after breastfeeding twins - were now a mere 36C. In fact they were the only bit of my body that hadn't turned into blancmange after pregnancy, so I wanted to show them off.

The bra, which arrived in the post, came in "purest white satin" (as opposed to "devilish black") and looked, compared to the original product, a touch sensible: no lace, no see-through panels and only one silly bow. But I pushed my doubts aside, told myself to stop projecting, and concentrated on the problem in hand: what on earth does a woman wear with a strapless Wonderbra? Only debutantes wear backless ballgowns, and boob tubes are so hip they're not even in the shops yet.

First I tried on a red velvet stretch top with a bra-revealing scoop neck that had been a disastrous red velvet mini dress. (OK for 16-year- olds but obscene on adults). Alas, I looked like a sausage. Then I tried on a little knitted top by Nicole Farhi. "What do you think?" I asked myhusband, while effecting a catwalk twirl. "I'm not not sure," he replied (too blatant? too big? too flimsy?), "about navy and black." Eventually I decided on a casually unbuttoned, semi-transparent shirt from Ghost, which was both sexy and covered the blancmange.

What a strange effect my strapless Wonderbra had. For the first hour of the party, my cleavage was roundly ignored by everyone, including lads' icon David Baddiel. (My social life isn't that sad and frumpy, after all.) But by 10.30pm, my husband was signalling frantically from the other side of the room. Was he so inflamed with desire that we had to leave now? Was a lust-crazed bore bearing down on my person? Was the babysitter about to go one Malibu too far? It wasn't until we got home that I realised the truth: that my nipples had popped clear of the bra.

Dear reader, it grieves me to reveal that the strapless Wonderbra - in essence a large, satin band - does not work. First, the underwiring fails to create an authentic, Eva Herzegova-style decolletage, not all of which can be blamed on my diminished breasts. Far worse, the cups don't stay put. Someone tell the designers that those "unsightly bra straps" are functional; otherwise the marketing department will have to change the slogan from "Look no hands" to "Look no bra."

All is not lost, however. If you've bought one already, the manufacturers are - this week - donating pounds 1 of your pounds 20 to a noble cause: the Breakthrough breast cancer charity. Otherwise, National Wonderbra day is not until Friday: make sure you slip into the original version. Meanwhile, I've just rediscovered the pleasures of my black lacy one from long ago. Which, for an ageing mother of twins, can only be a good thing.