Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bras That Actually Fit

If you are a woman, you know how remarkably un-awesome it is to have to go bra shopping.  It's even worse to come home empty-handed.  Fortunately, a little know-how will help you find one that fits within a reasonable price range.  If you happen to have a bra that used to fit, but has stretched out, see the post on Squeezing More Life our of Old Bras.

First, I would like to say that I have never come across a bra fitting guide that gives consistent, accurate results.  They tend to measure the difference between the band size and the measurement around or over your bust.  This does not take into account that some women have a wider or narrower breast circumference or upper back.  The only part of any bra fitting guide that comes close is the band measurement.  Before we go there, let's talk about bra design in general.  From what I understand, most women are looking for a bra that has a more or less natural shape (round, not pointy) that is supportive yet comfortable.  This may sound like a simple a man.  However, bras are quite uncommonly shaped in such a way, and very few bra sizes are available in most stores.  The good news is that certain brands or styles are likely to consistently fit your specific shape, once you find one that does.

Here's the rundown on how bra sizes really work.  The number on the bra size is the band measurement.  If you wear a 34, it means that the measurement around your rib cage, just under your bust, parallel to the floor, is about 34-35 inches.  The loosest hooks on a new bra should be nice and snug so that it could pretty much hold you if the straps were off your shoulders.  As the elastic stretches out with normal wear, you just use a tighter hook.  The cup size, which is represented by letters from AA to K (that I've heard of) has to do with the actual size or volume of the breasts themselves.  This measurement is relative to the band size, so the volume of the cups on a 34C and a 36B should be about the same.  So what's the difference?  The cups on the 36B will be narrower and pointier, while the 34C will be flatter and wider.  That said, if the cup size on a 36B is more or less correct, but the band size is too loose, you go up a cup size and down a band size to a 34C.  Note:  The C cup on a 34C is much smaller than the C cup on a 36C.  Someone who wears a 30F is really not that large-breasted, just small-bodied.  Someone who wears a 36F is pretty top-heavy.

Underwires are important for proper support.  I know a lot of people find them uncomfortable, which is probably because they're wearing the wrong size.  If the cups/wires are too narrow, they dig into the breast tissue.  This is uncomfortable, unsupportive, and overall unhealthy for your breast tissue.  It's important to find the correct cup size for proper comfort and support.  If the wire is wide enough to surround your breast tissue (all of it) without pinching or leaving a space, the band will be able to properly anchor the bra into place.  This also keeps you from bouncing.  Awesome.  Shoulder straps should not carry much weight.  If the straps are doing all of the work, it's probably because the cups are not the correct size.

So, how does one find the correct bra?  If you have something to measure with, measure your band size and round to the nearest even size, like 32, 34, 36...  It may be better to round down.  If you do not, estimate by trying on a bra and seeing how it fits.  After you have your band size, it is most likely trial and error.  I suggest going to an expensive boutique or Nordstrom or somewhere that carries a wider range of bra sizes.  (Bring a paper and pen.)  Many people's sizes simply are not carried by most stores, so they never know what their real size is.  Also, most bra fitting experts are useless.  They will most likely use a bra fitting guide, and then sell you on the closest size they carry.  Take a ballpark guess at what your cup size is.  If you are on the smaller side, start with a B.  A C-D is a good mid range and a DD and up is good if you are on the large side.  Honestly, most people judge themselves as a smaller cup size than they are.  A snug fitting band will probably require a larger cup size.  Just go with it.  If you've been wearing a B cup and find out you're really a D, the sudden comfort should be enough to make you happy.  Cut off the tags if you don't want to think about it.  Choose a few bras with the same band size and different cup sizes in the same style.  I thought I wore a 34C for years.  A little extra weight and some late hormonal growth put me a little large for that.  I wear a 32DD-DDD now, depending on the bra.  Looking back, I probably should have been wearing a 30DD-32D all those years.  These sizes to not exist in most stores.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  The bra is your size when it is snug at the band with the band parallel to the floor (not riding up your back).  All of your breast tissue should fit within the cup, not spilling over the top, out the sides or under the wire.  Adjust the straps last until they're tight enough to feel secure but not digging into your shoulders.  Put on a form-fitting shirt to see if you're bulging out over the top or not quite filling the bra.

So, you found your perfect bra but it's $50 or more?  Take out your paper and pen (you see, there was a reason).  Write down the brand, style number, and size.  Go home.  Check Ebay.  Chances are, you will find that same bra for $30.  Frederick's of Hollywood also tends to carry a wider range of sizes for a pretty good price and sexy styles.  I've gotten bras from them for $14.  Don't under-estimate Ross, either.  You can find great buys for $10.  Macy's also tends to have a clearance rack of really good bras, often in strange sizes.  There are a couple of UK brands (Panache is one) that sell D-K bras for a lot of money.  Check their sizing charts as they are a little off the US sizes.  Find one you like, then check for them on Ebay.  Victoria's Secret has some good quality bras if you do wear their sizes.  Check their clearance section online.  They have a good return/exchange policy if what you buy doesn't fit.  Le Mystere no. 9 carries bras specifically designed for women with implants.  Many naturally larger breasted women find that they fit better than other bras.

Bra shopping is pretty easy once you know your real size.  Some styles or brands may require a size up or down.  If you find a brand that fits you well (carries your shape and size), be sure to check out their other styles.  Also, see if they carry bra-sized sports bras or swimwear, as many do.  I've been known to wear matching lingerie on the beach.  It looks close enough and most people don't notice or care.  I like the supportive feel of the underwire cups.  Plus, it looks good.  Bonus.


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