Monday, March 18, 2013

So, I've been doing it wrong for twenty years...

Bra shopping, that is.

A recent bit of internet-browsing serendipity led to finally Doing My Research, and discovering that I, like many, have been wearing the wrong size for most of my life. At the age of 33 and as a person who sometimes sews/knits their own clothes, I feel a bit stupid. Why did it never occur me to just measure myself?

Proper bra fitting is one of those areas that mainstream shops/brands don't seem to take seriously. And it's important - additional back, neck, or shoulder pain caused by something as silly as wearing the wrong bra is something we can all do without, thanks.

My reading made me realise I've been wearing too large a band size with too small a cup size, which is apparently a really common problem. I never knew that it's supposed to be the band that holds everything up, not the straps. Therefore, the band needs to be snug (makes sense).

Also, I had no clue how cup sizes actually work: I assumed a B cup was for a certain size of breast, and a D cup was for another particular size. To my great surprise, this is totally wrong! The cup size simply corresponds to how much larger your full-bust measurement is compared to your underbust/band measurement. It's proportional, and therefore a person who wears a D cup or above might or might not look like a big-breasted person, depending on their band size. (This is all explained with proper diagrams in the links below.)

Armed with a tape measure, a willing helper, and this handy online calculator, I found that my suspicions were correct: I'm not a 16D after all. In fact, I need a 14FF, or thereabouts.

An FF cup sounds pretty gigantic, right? Well, I'm actually fairly normal-sized. Obviously I'm not small-breasted, but we're not talking super-boobs here:

Armed with all this info, and a starting-place in terms of probable correct size, I visited a couple of underwear outlet-shops yesterday.

I've always found bra shopping frustrating and waaay too time-consuming, and this expedition was no exception. I basically tried on every bra in each shop that was anywhere close to a 14FF (there really wasn't that much to choose from - most brands only go up to D in cup size), and with the help of the shop assistants, only found one bra that fit me well. Unfortunately, the cups were covered with lace - not good for me, as I live in tshirts - and the sides and straps sat too close to my armpits, which was uncomfortable when I moved my arms forward - as I would when using a computer, crafting, cooking, doing anything with my hands, really. So the search continues!

I did learn, after trying on what seemed like every bra on Smith St, that 14FF is probably my correct size, and that I need to look for bras with lower sides or with the straps placed further in from the sides (being able to move my arms freely is not an optional extra). The larger-cupped bras that I was trying on looked, to my 16D-trained eye, like things that elephants could use for parachutes - but when I tried them on, they looked just fine.
Assumptions, you are not helpful. :p 

Next, I'll try going to a specialist bra shop. First on my list is Brava, which calls itself "Australia's Premier Store for D Cup and Up". Wish me luck!

Recommended reading:
Are You Wearing the Wrong Bra?
On Sizing
Bra Fitting Basics
Fitting 101: Basic Guidelines for Your Best Fit
Does This Bra Fit? How Do I Tell?
Bra Fitting: Five Signs of a Poor Fit

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