Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Proper Fit

(Public Service Warning--for my two male readers, go ahead and invite your wives to read this post, but it probably won't hold much interest for you... I certainly don't mind if you read it, but it's one of those extra-girly sorts of posts, so proceed at your own risk. ☺ )

Over Christmas break I had a professional bra fitting.

Can I just say wow, and I wish I'd done it years ago?!

For the last *ahem* years I've always carefully followed the measuring directions, and for all these years I've been getting bras that more or less fit...some more, some less... Two bras of the same size would fit differently, and I had a hard time judging how well a particular style might fit until I actually tried it on. The problem is that I wore a size that is not carried on most store racks--I have a small band but a large cup and it's difficult to find a bra in my size, let alone enough options to be able to choose the one that fits the best. For most of my life I have bought bras via catalogs because that was the only place I could find my size, and as I said, some fit, but some did not. The problem with catalog ordering of course is that if you decide to send back the bra, then you have to wait weeks to get a new one, not to mention that the new one may or may not fit any better...

Four years ago I went to Victoria's Secret and had a bra fitting there, and they told me that I had been wearing the correct size all along (but gave me some help with finding styles/fabric types that would be better for my particular breast shape). I was so proud of myself, look, I've been wearing the right size all along... They say that 80% of women wear the wrong bra size, but look at me, I wasn't one of them!

Except that I was.

I was resigned to the idea that no busty lady bra fits the way that the smaller size bras fit on the models in the pictures. I was resigned to the idea that bras simply aren't comfortable if you're busty. I accepted that busty ladies just can't get anything that really supports or really stops the bounce...

I was wrong.

In the last few months I've been introduced to a few things by a few friends. They pointed me to places like this (photos) and this (photos) and this (good explanations but no photos) which illustrate what a bad fitting bra looks like...and I realized that I had multiple symptoms of bad-fitting-bra syndrome.
Then they sent me here, and said to try fitting method 2. You see, the method that many of us have been using for measuring was developed in a time when bras were made of stiff fabrics (rather than the stretchy ones we have now). The method simply isn't accurate anymore. The correct method is to measure your ribcage under your bust, and then use that number (add 1 if it's odd), but do not add 4-5 inches! Then lean over so that your torso is parallel to the floor, and measure around your unrestrained breasts and see how far they hang. Then take the difference between those two measurements. When I re-measured with this new method, "my size" went down two band sizes and up five (five!) cup sizes.Yes, I had a small band and large cup to begin with: now that status was exponentially increased.
At this site you begin by entering the current bra size you wear, and then answer some questions about fit (where the underwire lies, how far the band pulls out, etc), and it will tell you what your correct size should be. The answer it gave me was the same as the measuring method on that last site.

Fantasie bra "jana" goes up to K cups

So then I found a boutique that actually carried my size. (It's hard to find places that carry J cups, but they do exist. Larger than G is pretty much only made in Europe so you'll have to find a place that imports. Use the methods above to get a good estimate of your size and then find a boutique that says they have that size...don't risk doing a fitting at a place that doesn't carry your size!!!)
These import stores will be expensive. There's no way around that. I tried on six different bras in my size (yes, those two sites above had given me the correct size). I also tried on a few that were one band size or cup size over, just to make sure. Of the six, only one really fit well. Even among bras from the same company, different styles fit differently. I confess this made me a little nervous about ordering additional bras online... and it's definitely a reason to get a proper in-person fitting.

I paid $68 for that bra that fit. (Yes this means I'm still wearing some that don't fit right because buying new bras is going to take a little time to afford...). $60-70+ is a pretty common price for these imported bras, however if you're a really busty person you're going to run into that same price range in most places online as well (and there will be shipping to boot). So you might as well go to a brick and mortar store where you can try things on.

Places that are good for fittings: Nordstroms, Dillards, and import boutiques.
Places that are not good for fittings: anyplace with a limited size range in stock (including Victoria Secret). Basically if they don't carry bands from 28-48, and cups from A-J (or at least A-G if you're not so busty), then don't waste your time there.

Always remember:
If anything gapes, or pokes, or bulges, then it's not a good bra for you. Period. Try a different one. Bra shopping may not seem like fun, but having the right bra can make you so much more comfortable that it's worth it to get a good one.
Finally, because I know not everyone is willing to pay those prices, and I know that not everyone HAS to pay those prices because not everyone has the sizing issues that I do, I will mention some places I like to actually buy bras. It's true, they are online/catalog sources, so yes, there is that risk of ordering a bra that doesn't fit well and needing to exchange it. However, at least for me, having a professional in-person fitting has taught me what features and fabrics to look for, as well as obviously what my correct size is. So I hope in the future I will have a lot more 'hits' and a lot fewer 'misses' even with catalog ordering. Because it's awfully hard to find my size on the rack, and when I do there aren't many choices and/or they're really expensive.

  • HerRoom has an excellent style guide section where you can enter information about your breast shape and size (there are drawings, not photos to refer to) and it will give you recommendations about what styles will suit you. They also have a full range of sizes, including those good import brands. Fantasie is the brand of the bra that I liked best at the boutique. (This blog post also has some guides of what styles suit what shapes, including photos comparing.)
  • Marks and Spencer is a UK store (as opposed to a US Store with european brands). You will pay a bit in shipping, however the bra prices are significantly lower than most of the import places I've seen ($30-40 rather than $60+). So in the long run I think the prices are better. They make their own products, rather than carrying other brands, however their quality is highly recommended and I plan to try them out. If you buy internationally, be sure to check the size correlations, because US sizing and UK or French sizing are all different! More info on that here.
  • OneHanesPlace is an outlet catalog--wide selection of name brand regular bras, very good prices, up to DD and some F
  • Lane Bryant's Cacique line of bras have some nice larger cups (although they don't go into bands smaller than 36). In bands over 40 they go up to J, though the smaller band sizes stop at G. They also routinely run "buy 2 get 2 free" sales, bringing the average price per bra down to $20 or so (if you buy 4). They carry a really wide variety of colors and styles though, which can be nice for someone wanting to stay away from the 'granny bra' look.
  • Birth&Baby nursing bras (I posted about them here). Also, this site has some additional info on getting a proper size nursing bra (and has some brand recommendations).
There are several more sites out there that carry the size range imports, such as Fig Leaves or Bravissimo, however I have not checked them out yet.


Mallory said...

All the nursing bras that I have (except maybe one) I bought from Birth and Baby! I love them! The only downfall is that they are often out of stock, so it takes a long time to get the bra.

I, too, have had the same issue as you in finding what size I need. (Small band, bigger cup). I actually liked and wore VS bras before I got pregnant (the ones that cover and hold in, not push out...they actually do have them!) And I just recently discovered that they have nursing bras!!! I'm interested to see how they are.

Janeen said...

Most places won't even carry my size online! I am quite busty, got that from my dear mother who probably never wore the right size after she had kids because she would just get the largest bra they had at the store and that would be it and that is WAY too small for ME, for her, the bra would actually come out away from her body. So sad because I'm sure that didn't help her back any (she ended up needed back surgery). It's just sad how few options there are for women who are VERY large chested and by that, I mean a size oh, F and up. I'm an H, maybe even an I cup. Yeah, not easy to find bras in that size ANYWHERE. And even if I can find the cup, I'm not always able to find the band size and vice versa. So it just seems that no matter what, I'm stuck with a bra that doesn't fit the greatest and tends to be too tight in some way.

Christa said...

My problem when I was nursing was that they tell you get the same size as before in a nursing bra...HAHAHAHAHA. My boobs must get drastically larger than the average woman, because I had to buy two cup sizes bigger and they still seemed streched to the gills in the cups. I didn't loose them either, so I'm really worried that they will get even bigger this go around, they already are and I'm only 16 weeks. I don't know what I'll do with all that boobage.

Mae said...

I love the Victoria Secret Bra boxes. They were the best thing ever. They measured me and consulted with me on what I wanted from my bra and then they handed me two boxes and I got to try them all on. It was HEAVEN!

Katie said...

I've always heard from bra connoisseurs that Victoria's Secret is the LAST place you want to be fitted. But maybe it would be worth a try. I have heard that they don't carry my band size and will just try to convince me to wear a larger band and smaller cup size.

A year or so ago I was sized as a 32F through Dillard's. But they didn't have any nursing bras, so I went through Birth and Baby. PJ (is that her name?) confirmed me to be a 32F. When I found a bra that worked, I had to wear it on the tightest hooks from day 1 and it was not tight within a week. So I probably should have been a 30G. I was sure that I had a lost a huge amount of cuppage over the past year even though I'm still nursing, but I've only gone down one size on one side (maybe 2 sizes on the other side). So now I'm probably a 30F on one side and a 30E on the other. I doubt VS carries either of those sizes. is my first choice for bras. They have a fantastic return policy since they know you'll probably need to return several times.

Marly said...

Nordstrom is a good place to be fitted to :) I have not been the same since getting professionally fitted for bras. Its totally worth it. Oh and did you know, you don't just get fitted once. yea, you can change bra sizes over the years. I used to always be a 36 but I am now a 34. My cup size has always varied too.

Sarah Familia said...!!! They have a huge selection of bras in hard-to-find sizes. I signed up for free two-day shipping both ways with shoprunner (they do a free month trial, and when you try to cancel it they give you three more months for free). And then I ordered seven or eight bras in various sizes. It took me a couple of times ordering different sizes and brands, but I now have several bras that fit me perfectly. So it is possible to do it yourself without a fitting if you have a place that will do free two-day returns.

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