Turkish underwear – Shopping for unmentionables

Underwear wrappedAs a young teenager I was a tomboy, so getting my first bra wasn’t something I looked forward to. When the fateful day came my mum took me to a long established Sydney department store for a proper fitting. There we were looked after by a woman with an enormous shelf-like bust. On this rested a chain attached to eye glasses propped onto the end of her nose, framed by a measuring tape draped around her neck. Instructing me to take off my T-shirt she quickly whipped the tape around me, all the while commenting to my mum about youth, size and perkiness, punctuated by intermittent laughter. Already feeling mortified, I remember just wanting to die when she helped me put on the bra by popping her hands into the cups to ensure I had it on properly, lifting and plumping up my adolescent breasts in the process.

Fast forward some twenty years later to Kayseri, central Turkey, where I discovered men and not women working in Turkish underwear shops. Despite the fact I wasn’t brave enough to venture into any of the shops I saw, those intense feelings of embarrassment immediately came flooding right back. They increased even more when I learnt the men just had to scrutinize you closely to determine your size. If budget was an issue, you could always buy a bra at most weekly outdoor markets, where the procedure was very similar only with a much larger audience. Even today whole stalls are dedicated to underwear, with white cottontails forming neat rows next to see-through lace thongs drowning in bells and bows, framed by super hero boxer shorts on one side and Disney princess panties on the other. All the bras on offer are pegged onto a rope forming an arc overhead, organized according to the lingerie rainbow of red satin, yellow, green or blue polyester, white broderie anglaise bridal, black lace, leopard or tiger skin print bedroom. Two or three men stand behind the counter, eager to bag your selection, take your money, or correct you on your choice of size. No matter the professional face they present in these transactions, I still don’t feel comfortable buying underwear from them.

Turkish underwear - are you brave enough to try it?You can discover what happened when I moved to Istanbul and went to buy more Turkish underwear by reading the complete version of “Shopping for Unmentionables” in the 2nd edition of my collection Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City. I’ll give you a hint, there was embarrassment involved.



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About Goreme1990

I’m Lisa Morrow, the person behind www.insideoutinistanbul.com. I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up a leafy middle class North Shore suburb. After finishing high school I went to Sydney University but failed to find my niche. After working as a public servant, cleaner, sales assistant, waitress, bar maid and car counter, I went overseas. Once there I hitchhiked through the UK, travelled in Europe and arrived in Turkey just as the Gulf War was starting. My three months stay in the small central Anatolian village of Göreme changed my life. On my return to Australia I earned a BA Honours Degree in Sociology from Macquarie University. An academic career beckoned but the call to travel was louder. After several false starts I moved to Turkey and lived there for ten years. In 2017 I moved to Lisbon, Portugal, but continue to travel regularly to Istanbul. In addition to my blog I've written a travel narrative memoir called "Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom: Adrift in Istanbul" and two collections of essays, "Inside Out In Istanbul: Making Sense of the City" and "Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries". I have a regular segment on San Francisco Turkish radio and in early 2017 I released an audio walking tour called "Stepping back through Chalcedon: Kadikoy Walk", through VoiceMap. In addition I write for various international and Australian magazines and websites, as well as for this blog. A full list of my published articles, with links, can be found on the Writing on Turkey and Writing Beyond Turkey pages.
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3 Responses to Turkish underwear – Shopping for unmentionables

  1. Goreme1990 says:

    Backtobodrum, thanks for your comment. My mind boggles at your description of Turkish underwear!

  2. backtobodrum says:

    I used to have a drawer full of Turkish knickers which seemed to want to live a life of their own when I was wearing them. Thank goodness for Marks and Spencers. At last i can buy underwear that has a crotch approximately in the same position as my own.

  3. I loved this piece, thank you 😀

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