Friday, 6 July 2012

BEGINNERS' GUIDE TO BRA FITTING

It's bizarre how I - and many other members of femalekind, I am sure - will happily spend £100 on a pair of shoes that get worn maybe once a month, at most. The cost-per-wear is ridiculously high, justifying it as an investment purchase.

However, bras are a different story. After much discussion with girlfriends recently it seems we are all in the same boat - buy a cheap bra from Primark, wear and wash to death, and expect it to do wonders for our frontal department. It just doesn't happen. Why do we spend so little on something we wear so much? An American study cites that 75-85% of us wear the wrong bra size. Where are we going wrong?

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I had a rather upsetting episode yesterday (just before heading out to work, might I add) when I realised that despite my bra drawer busting at the seams NONE of my bras fit me, in any way, shape or form. This prompted research into the modern brassiere, speaking to bra fitters, bra retailers, and bra wearers (that's you!).
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If you think the bra you are wearing right now is uncomfortable then just be glad you didn't exist pre-1930: your waist would have been whittled to an unnaturally tiny size, with your breasts pushed up under your chin in a notoriously uncomfortable corset. However, even in this day and age it seems many of us are still suffering in silence, simply assuming that no bra will fit. I asked for opinions on Twitter and was immediately met with some quite definite responses. Seems I'm not the only one with boobs on the brain:


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Those who I have spoken to face-to-face about this agree that they have drawerfuls of underwear, yet only wear a couple. What can we do about this?! I resisted the urge to get yet another cheap and not-so-cheerful from Primark and started out on my quest for the perfect bra by visiting Manchester city centre's Debenhams, as recommended by friends.
 
I took a variety of sizes into the changing rooms (30D, 32C, and 34B, if you are interested) and once in there a bra-fitting specialist came to help. She bore no measuring tape, and simply told me "try a 34C". Er, that's actually the size I was wearing before that didn't fit, but thanks. So I was left to my own devices and finally plumped for the 32C after trying every combination possible. It fit okay, but I really wasn't sure whether I had done the right thing.

My pals at The ├ęditeur have recently been nominated for Best Lingerie Retailer in the UK Lingerie Awards 2012 so I figured owner Annabel's brain would be the best to pick about fitting and where it is that most of us go wrong.

"The most common mistake most women make is wearing their bras too loose in the back but too small in the cup. The back should be fitted on the loosest hooks so when the bra ages/stretches you can tighten to maintain support. You want the back of the bra to be a tight as possible (as this is what gives the majority of support not the shoulder straps which is the common misconception) whilst still being comfortable, and your breast tissue should be fully enclosed within the cup. If you are bulging go up a cup size; if you are not filling go down a cup. The shoulder straps should be adjusted to a supportive but comfortable position." 



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A common complaint I came across when speaking to women was that pretty bras don't go to large enough - The ├ęditeur actually stock from a 30 back size to a G cup. Take a look at Elle Macpherson basics in particular, which provide great support. 

With regards to bra care, Annabel added: "It's best to hand wash bras as they will last longer, don't use fabric conditioner as it deteriorates elastane, don't dry on a radiator as the heat can melt the plastic stopper which stops the wire from popping out. Lingerie should be the first consideration when dressing as it makes such a difference to how your clothes look on you. It's important to have a few different bras styles in your drawer, including a t-shirt bra to give a smooth appearance under tight fitting clothes, a balconette bra to give uplift and to go under low scoop neck tops, a plunge bra to go under low V-neck tops, and a strapless, which can also be converted for a halterneck, one-strap or racer back."




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So, what have I deduced from my research? You just gotta try, try, try before you buy. Don't just depend on what the sales assistant tells you: try the bra on in a fitting room, and make sure it is returnable for a full refund after you take it home (provided you keep your receipt and tags). I did okay on my trip to Debenhams as I tried so many different sizes so I was able to figure out which fit, and was most comfortable. Make sure it is the chest strap taking the pressure and not the shoulder straps, and if in doubt, go to a specialist bra retailer who will really know their onions. You may pay a little more, but isn't it worth it for the comfort? Oxfam are also on the hunt for those barely-worn bras from your undie drawer, so that bra you wore once then realised that "actually, this doesn't feel right" could benefit communities in Senegal.


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It's about time bra manufacturers dispensed the thought that we would all like to go up two cup sizes or have fantastic cleavage; I would take a well-fitting bra over either of these claims. Goodbye, boys: it's time to look after the ladies!

11 comments:

  1. gazzy wazzy brookes6 July 2012 at 22:07

    after sitting in waiting rooms with other uncomfotable looking men, whilst my girlfriend spends a long time with a 'bra expert' only to find that none in the bras in the whole department store fit her, i concur with your annoyance. Perhaps tailored bras are the way to go? or some light fitting bookshelves?

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    1. I am just going to go to Ikea next time I think.

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  2. What a good post, I've learnt something already this morning (bra being on the loosest hook). It's amazing how many girls just wear 34B by default - I got myself measured a year ago and was a totally different size. xx

    South Molton St Style

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    1. Glad you learnt something - I certainly did when writing this post!
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  3. Warning: bra rant ahead!

    I used to be one of those women who wore the wrong size, the fault of bad bra fitters! M&S and La Senza, I'm looking at you. I then discovered Bravissimo and no longer have back pain! I'm a 28FF which sounds ginormous but it's really not - I'm a size 8 and don't look any bustier than average. I imagine there's a LOT of women that really should be a 30 or a 28 but are wearing the wrong size as they don't know that sizes smaller than a 32 exist or they don't want to pay the extra for it. I cringe when I see someone walking along the street with their bra strap up between their shoulder blades.

    John Lewis is the best fitting experience I've had outside of Bravissimo. A fitter in La Senza tried to tell me I was a 32C when I was spilling out of the 32DD I was wearing (the days before I discovered Bravissimo!)

    I only own 6 bras, each costing £25+, but they fit! Their price per wear is much better than any pair of high heels or any dress I own. Invest in your chest ladies!

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    1. Awesome comment Catriona, many thanks! It seems the only way we can find out about good bra fitters and retailers is by word of mouth - it's not something magazines or websites feature - so the more we talk about experiences like this the better for our busts. Next up on the cards is definitely a trip to Bravissimo.
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  4. Excellent post Dotty! I myself rarely, if ever, wear a bra... it's the hippy in me.
    Whenever I put one on, normally when visiting grandparents, or smart occasions I itch to get it off. I think I'm a 32B which is pretty small.
    I tend to wear crop tops like a pre-teen as they're soft and comfy.
    Not very sexy, but 'hey'!
    I also begrudge spending any money on items that no one sees, I also own no pyjamas. Just hundreds of bejewelled jackets! I'm very impractical!!

    xx

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  5. With so many women having issues finding the correct sizes in stores I am still puzzled as to why many stores don't stock larger cups with smaller bands!

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  6. I applied for a job with Debenhams in my gap year and got assigned to the Lingerie department, it was a complete revelation! I'd never really seriously considered getting fitted (pretty shy & plenty of body confidence issues) but once I'd learnt how to fit other people I could see how wrong I'd got it. And of course while I was working there I saw plenty of women who were wearing completely the wrong size, but I don't know how many slipped past. There must be plenty who, like me, just bought a bra and got the hell out of there because they didn't want to be prodded at. I find it quite sad that people get to the age of 50+ having never worn a properly-fitting bra, and are suffering more sagginess than they should be because of it.
    Gok should do something perhaps? They sometimes mention bra fitting in makeover shows but they never show & explain a good fit, and that's the most important thing. It's all very well telling someone to get measured but there are so many bad fitters out there. (I re-measured a lady who'd been told by M&S that she was a 40A and I sent her away a much comfier 36DD). Some chains tend to do better than others but can still be let down by individual stores, I have no doubt that there are terrible Debenhams fitters and excellent M&S ones.
    Sorry for the rant!
    Invest In Your Chest say everything much better and more knowledgeably than me, definitely worth a look:
    http://www.investinyourchest.co.uk/

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  7. Some good points that you have here! I did want to chime in to the "pretty bras don't go high enough cup/(small enough back)" - while it is true that there are a lot of great brands nowadays that cater to 28-30 backs and up to K cups, it's very hard to find these sizes in actual stores (online ordering is a must), and the choices get smaller and smaller the higher the cup sizes go. As a 28H/HH, I definitely feel the pang of seeing loads of pretty bras that will never come in my size!

    In regards to finding the right bra size - ultimately, it's what you feel is the most comfortable and provides the best support. I've learned, though, that the best way to estimate your size is to measure yourself, and not leave it in the hands of fitters (who can be very hit and miss)! Generally, your underbust measurement is your band size, and the difference between underbust and bust size is your cup size (for more detail: http://boosaurusbras.blogspot.com/p/bra-fitting.html)

    Thanks again for bringing up this issue! Our boobs deserve more than we're getting from most companies and fitters.

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  8. Recently i purchased 4 barely there bras, each costing $20, but they fit! Their price per wear is much better than any pair of high heels or any dress I own. Invest in your chest ladies!

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