Here we go, into the most personal thing I have ever written anywhere. I generally consider my measurements nobody’s business, but I think this information might be helpful to others who struggle with getting a good bra. Ready?
I have been a little obsessive lately, I’m the first to admit. I can’t stop thinking about boobs. Weird, right?
I had a bra fitting at Macy’s, and bought two new bras in a very different size than I had been wearing. I had gained 15-20ish pounds, so I knew it had to be done. The woman at Macy’s measured my ribcage (about 29 or 30 inches depending on how tight you go) and agreed that 34″ was the right band size, but she added several cup sizes, to my shock. The new size felt immediately better. I stopped being poked and having pain that day. In fact, I wore one of the bras out the door.
I got a Calvin Klein Seductive Comfort bra (image from Macy’s website).
I do wish that had been the end of the story.
I decided after a week that two bras was really not going to be enough. I had already shelled out $100 for two items, so I was hoping to find something a little less pricey. What I found instead was nothing at all. There was not a bra to be had in my size in that store or in JCPenney’s or in Kohl’s. My friends will snicker now, knowing full well that I am not a busty gal by most standards. How is it that I could not find a bra in a big enough cup size?
To make matters worse, I noted that while at first super comfortable (and certainly better than what I had been wearing), the two bras I bought were actually not so wonderful. They were riding up in the back all day long. I had a different lady remeasure me at Macy’s, and she said I was between at 32″ and 34″ band. Remember, my ribcage is about 29″. While there wasn’t anything more in a 34 band than what I already owned, there was truly not a single item with a 32″ band. Not a single item. What?
I wear an 8 or 10 in ready-to-wear. I weigh 140 pounds and am 5’6″. I’m not a waif. What are skinnier women wearing for bras? I don’t get it.
Next, I ordered several items from Figleaves.com (cheap shipping, cheap return shipping if needed, and free shipping on exchanges). I ordered several styles from several companies in the size measured at Macy’s. No dice. I did keep one thing that fit marginally well because I could wear it on the tightest band setting (I see now that is a no-no; always buy something that fits on the loosest setting so you can tighten it as it stretches out with wear). And sheesh, I only had TWO bras. I needed it.
I continued to struggle, however. The backs on my bras were riding up, my boobs were not staying put, etc. I’ve been wearing a bra for 30+ years, so I kinda figured I knew how to wear one, but this was ridiculous. I turned to the Interwebs.
I already followed K-Line, a knitter and sewist, who happens to write a lot about bras. So I started reading more, checking out her links, and generally researching boobs, bras, anything I could to have a happier experience.
What I found was that many, many websites including bra makers and high-end department stores, use an outdated method of measuring and fitting women for bras. The formula in the past has included measuring your ribcage and then adding 4″ to that number. Then you would measure your full bust, and figure out your cup size based on the difference between the two measurements. This is, in fact, what the woman at Macy’s did to me. However, when she brought me some things to try on, she immediately said, nope. Wrong. She came back with more things in a different cup, same band size. Clearly, her measurement calculator was wrong.
With my new information, I headed back to the drawing board. This time I ordered several styles from different companies in a 32″ band from Brastop.com (free shipping, free shipping on exchanges, expensive shipping back on returns to the UK). I dutifully ordered up a cup size, based on the suggestion online. If you make the back smaller by one size, you need to make the front bigger by one size. Check.
I enlisted a good friend very nearly my size, and we spent an afternoon trying on bras and helping check straps and bands. I highly recommend the experience. We came out completely empty-handed. The bras felt tight initially, but I could still see the band riding up in the back after wearing for just 5 minutes. We agreed, we didn’t know how we were going to be able to tolerate 30″ bands, but I am going to find out. I am making some exchanges at Brastop in 30″ bands. I also increased several cup sizes.
I have probably spent no less than 40 hours reading about bras and trying bras on. I wish I could just walk into a great lingerie shop and get a true fitting, as apparently is possible in the UK. It’s frustrating ordering online and shipping things back. Through it all, I would say this adding 4″ business is crap. The websites I read said when the method of bra fitting was devised in the 1920′s or so, the ideal woman was considered to have measurements of 36-26-36. However, a lot of women had much smaller ribcages, so they added 4″ to this number to get closer to 36. Apparently, makers were in on this measuring method and made their bras accordingly. However, since that time, materials have improved and are much more elastic, allowing women to wear a much smaller band. I don’t know if explanation is a myth, but I can tell you, the band the Macy’s woman put me is in too big.
My recommendations are:
1. READ about bra fitting from some of the sites listed below.
2. Take good measurements.
3. Enlist a trustworthy friend for true feedback.
4. Try your clothes on over your bra. You need to know how they look while you are dressed. Wear the bra at home for half hour with the tags on, and note any riding up, poking, etc. Most of the time we are sitting, so check out the fit while you sit!
Here are some good sites, if you have more interest in this topic.
*Bra Fitting by MaHeDa. Lots of videos of how to measure, how to fit correctly as well as before & after shots. You can get the subtitles to turn on if they aren’t in English. This one shows exactly how to try on a bra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vM0tPUaooe8&feature=player_embedded.
*Ewa Michalak. This link is for an online shop, but part way down the page is a link to some videos on fitting. Such pretty things on this site too.
*Thin and Curvy. Great information on bra fitting, even if you aren’t thin or curvy.
*Venusian Glow. Much information here about escaping the “Bra Matrix” of ill-fitting bras.
There are several good videos that show what a good fitting bra should look like, especially on websites for bra sellers, such as Bravissimo. Sadly, their size calculators are based on the old-fashioned way of adding 4″, and will probably end up too big in the band. But they have good photos and videos to explain it. This one is good: http://www.bravissimo.com/perfectfit/fitting-video/.