On one special summer night for the past six years, visitors to Edinburgh could be forgiven for thinking they had indulged in one too many drams.
For one night only, the city comes alive at night with thousands upon thousands of women – and some men – walking the streets of the Capital in their bras. And not just any bras, for this is not just any walk. This is the MoonWalk Edinburgh, now in its seventh year of raising much-needed funds and awareness for breast cancer charity Walk the Walk.
Besides the actual walking and fundraising, the most important part of the event is making sure you have a bra that will stand out in the crowd.
The idea of the Moonwalk began in 1996 when founded Nina Barough woke one morning with the idea of power-walking the New York Marathon in a decorated bra.
Only 13 women took part in the first event, but between them they still managed to raise £25,000 for breast cancer charities.
Fifteen years later Nina – now a breast cancer survivor herself – has seen her vision spawn a huge charity which has raised in excess of £75 million.
Next month will see the streets of the Capital once again taken over by thousands of competitors wearing-brightly coloured bras of all shapes and sizes, walking a marathon course through the night.
They have the support of the city, visible in the buildings which light up pink for the night to help cheer on the hardy walkers.
The first Edinburgh walk raised £35,000 and this year organisers will be hoping to top the £2,080,255 raised last year, with the sell-out crowd of entrants all eager to raise as much as they can.
But first they have to make sure they have the ideal costume, and with that in mind the haberdashery department at John Lewis pitching in to help people decorate their decolletage and pimp their push-ups. Haberdashery sales assistant Agnes Clack, above, is described as the best in the business when it comes to bra-bunting, and customers are welcome to ask her advice on turning underwear into snazzy outerwear at any time.
Agnes, 54, said: “While we do get busier the closer the walk gets, customers are welcome to come in whenever they like to ask advice on how best to decorate their bras.
“Big flowers, feathers, ribbons, and maribou are always popular, and with this year’s Arabian Nights theme I expect to see plenty people adding gold ‘coin’ decorations too.
“Some people feel a bit uncomfortable about showing their tummy, but it’s easy enough to tack on some floaty fabrics along the bottom of the bra, which give a belly-dancer look without showing off the belly!
“However, there’s no rule that you have to follow the theme and with pink being breast cancer charities’ signature colour, many people are happy to stick with that.”
Men who like the idea of raising money for charity while spending time with women in their underwear need not feel left out.
Agnes added: “I would be more than happy to help any gents doing the walk who needed some pointers about how best to decorate their bra.”
The racing bra is provided by the Moonwalk as part of the kit sent out to every participant, and a spokeswoman also had a few vital tips for decorations
to help competitors avoid a few of the pitfalls of previous pained people.
“They dye very easily so that’s a really common way of decorating them, at least to start with, but most people like to go with something a bit more outlandish,” she says.
“Nina’s bra for London this year was designed by Swarovski, and we’ve had people like Paul O’Grady wearing conical bras with flashing lights.
“My personal favourites are a team called the Highland Coos who decorate their bras like highland cows. There are a few things to be aware of when decorating, though – most important, and a few of our competitors have learned this from painful experience, is to make sure the bra still has lots of elasticity in it after it’s decorated, so you can get it to fasten.
“Another important one is to make sure there’s nothing under the armpits that could rub or chafe, and nothing at the front which could get in the way.
“Other than that it’s free rein – this year’s theme is Midnight at the Oasis, so we’ll be expecting lots of Arabian-style bras, but really anything goes.”
Most of the money raised in Scotland stays in Scotland and to date the MoonWalk Edinburgh has raised more than £14m.
Grants have been made to the Breast Cancer Institute, Edinburgh, to help with the cost of the renovation of Ward 6 and a new theatre at the Western General and most recently a mammography unit.
The event also supports Scalp Cooling and to date the charity has placed 38 machines in 14 hospitals throughout Scotland, enabling cancer patients to keep their hair whilst undergoing chemotherapy.
• The MoonWalk Edinburgh 2012 is on June 9, starting at Inverleith Park