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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published December 11 2011

Halgrimson: Underwear shopping has changed

When I was growing up in Fargo, buying lingerie began when growths about the size of a gooseberry began to appear on my chest. Mom took me to a shop downtown where I was fitted for what was called a training bra.

I don’t know what we were training those little growths for since no one was supposed to touch them, especially the guys who took us to the movies and wanted to sit way up high in the balcony and drape an arm around your shoulder.

At the store, we went into a dressing room with the woman who was specially trained in the fitting of various elements of lingerie. There was even a framed certificate in the dressing room telling of her qualifications for the job and where she had been trained.

In those days, the variety of lingerie items was far smaller than it is today and some of the items available in the past have disappeared from today’s shelves.

As I grew out of the training bra, I shopped by myself so I guess those garments did the trick. Although the local department stores such as deLendrecie’s, Moody’s, Herbst, Penney’s and Sears had small lingerie sections, my favorite place to shop was the Virginia Flora Corset Shop even though I wasn’t in the market for a corset.

The Virginia Flora also sold hose with the garter belts and girdles required to hold them up before the days of pantyhose.

When I shopped at the Virginia Flora shop, it was located at 608 1st Ave. N. It was named for its founder Virginia Flora who came to Fargo from Iowa in 1942. She was a widow. After working in the lingerie section of a local department store she started her own shop in 1956.

As I recall the store had banks of large, plastic boxes that served as drawers for the bras, panties, slips and other lingerie that the store carried. Nothing was individually wrapped as it is now. Colors included white, black, red, navy, light blue and pink. I hated the pink.

I do not remember Mrs. Flora, but the woman who managed the store after Mrs. Flora’s death in 1958 was Mrs. Luella Foss. She was not only knowledgeable but kind and gentle with girls and young women whose shapes were changing. She always had a smile for you and could find just the thing you needed. It’s not that way anymore.

I suppose in days gone by women could find racy undies at Frederick’s of Hollywood, whose ads in the movie magazines tempted some. Now you can find flamboyant underwear at Victioria’s Secret in the mall.

I’ve never been there but I have a pair of lacy, purple undies given to me by my plumber a long time ago. I still wear them.

Readers can reach Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com.