Boobs just don’t know how to support themselves. GET A JOB, BOOBS!
June 4, 2015 6:29 AM   Subscribe

This Is What It’s Like To Get Fit For A Bra At Six Different Stores: Kristin Chirico goes on a bra crawl. (SLBuzzFeed, lots of bra photos) posted by Metroid Baby (85 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
Speaking as a woman bustily gifted, Kristin Chirico earns my mad respect for enduring six different stores for bra shopping. I have been reduced to tears many a time shopping for bras. I need to buy some new bras but when you have big ole boobies, that takes some saving.
posted by Kitteh at 6:51 AM on June 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I'm not a big fan of Reddit, but /r/abrathatfits is a pretty amazing resource. One of their users made a great calculator (do not trust any calculator that adds inches to your underbust to calculate your cup volume!). Also, shout out to Bratabase and the Bra Band Project (both mentioned in the last link above). A Sophisticated Pair (a shop in NC) also has an amazing review blog. Size is only one part of the puzzle - shape is equally, if not more, important: wire width, depth/shallowness of cups, width of the gore, pendulous vs self-supporting, etc.

I stopped even shopping for bras in brick and mortar stores. There are few places that sell my size and shape in the first place, and it's just a minefield of body shaming. There are so many stories on /r/abrathatfits and the green and elsewhere online about the shitty things bra retailer employees have said to their customers, even at high-end shops. If you don't fit the Victoria's Secret narrow size range and molded cup shape you're treated as a freak of nature. Don't even get me started on "professional" fitters that don't know the difference between a US F cup, a UK F cup, and a French F cup (cup sizing standards are based on the brand's country of origin, not the location where the bra is sold). Especially annoying when you're dropping $50+ per item.
posted by melissasaurus at 6:54 AM on June 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


Haha I'm glad someone else got torture bras from Intimacy- I was recommended the same Mari Jo one too. I ended up buying mine because it looked so good, but it's so tight. It's lasted years just because I dread wearing it. Also I'm extremely narrow (they said 29E) and I found the straps weren't really on the right place to compensate, so the straps slip. I have to get u or racer backs most of the time.

I'll take this op to recommend people log at Bratabase. Maybe if online tools get good enough we won't have to go to stores.
posted by melissam at 6:56 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also can someone please disrupt the market for weird bra sizes? The super large or small or narrow or wide? These kind of bras are seriously expensive and there is really no reason for them to be.
posted by melissam at 7:01 AM on June 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Maybe if online tools get good enough we won't have to go to stores.

Or a 3-D printer. I'm SURE we can find some guy to design an overall system (printing, measuring fabric, etc.) that works.
posted by Melismata at 7:03 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also have the narrow shoulder issue and end up having to move in the straps on some brands (here's a great list of bra alteration tutorials).
I also usually buy mine super tight (like can't fasten) and use an extender for the first month or so until the elastic relaxes. I've found I get more use out of the bras that way (you're supposed to start at the farthest out clasp and move in to the other rows of clasps as the elastic loosens, this basically extends that principle). There's also the Rixie Clip for people who have a smaller underbust than what is commercially available in their area (or if you're in the process of losing weight and don't want to invest in an interim size).
posted by melissasaurus at 7:03 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fittings are only one part of it, but if all of the bras are made slightly differently (it's getting as bad as other clothing sizing) you really have to know for yourself how a good bra for you feels. I'm lucky in that I wear a pretty standard size (36D - I have not so large boobs that are wide set), but even then there's no guarantee that bras out there in that size will fit across the board. Plus I have shoulders that slope a little (I guess?) and so straps often slide off my shoulders in a well-fitting bra if they're placed too apart.
posted by bizzyb at 7:06 AM on June 4, 2015


Ugh, I forgot about when you have one boob that is slightly larger than the other boob and you're just like WHAT THE FUCK BOOB JUST LEVEL OUT LIKE YOUR PAL OVER HERE
posted by Kitteh at 7:06 AM on June 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Or a 3-D printer.

Some companies have tried a 3D measuring tool. The problem is that how your breasts act without a bra is not the same as how they act in a bra. A leaning measurment (torso at 90 degrees to legs) might yield a more accurate result, but could overestimate for pendulous breasts.

The part that really annoys me is not that bra fitting is nuanced (I don't fit most clothes off the rack, so why would an undergarment be substantially different?) -- the part that grinds my gears is that the nuance is ignored. It's just like "oh, you're skinny and have medium sized boobs, here's a 32B from random store xyz; it doesn't fit? well, then there's something wrong with you."
posted by melissasaurus at 7:08 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


My theory is that the whole "99.999% of women are wearing the wrong bra size!" was a marketing thing made up by the lingerie industry. They got Oprah on board, then all the lines concocted their own idiosyncratic sizing schemes.

Her advice at the end of the article is probably the best you can do: every time you need a new bra get fitted and try on a million different bras till you find one you like.
posted by Jess the Mess at 7:10 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Kristin Chirico is great. "I have now about had it with the pink room of pain. The volume of this wallpaper is set to 11."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have been reduced to tears many a time shopping for bras. I need to buy some new bras but when you have big ole boobies, that takes some saving.

Yes and it's like they assume that if you have large breasts you want lace but not anything cute or fun. I long for a bra with dopey stripes or little froggies but no, they are all lacy and classy. Just because I have enormous boobs doesn't mean I don't like silly things! Why do they all look like bras my mother wants? At least since I've started going to more expensive bra places I cry less!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:16 AM on June 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


Great article, but I wanted more Chirico snark.
posted by matildaben at 7:19 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is one bra I bought at place that fitted me and it was pale pink with lacy black over it. I was like, "Oh! Pretty!" It fit really great at the store. But when I wore it ever after, HOLY SHIT IT HURT SO BAD. Like, all the time. The worst part was my mom bought it for me when I was visiting in the States so I couldn't return it from Canada to there. I even called to ask. They refused.

I still have this stupid bra because it was expensive and I only wear it once a week so I resign myself to having a shitty boob day whenever that happens.
posted by Kitteh at 7:20 AM on June 4, 2015


Or a 3-D printer. I'm SURE we can find some guy to design an overall system (printing, measuring fabric, etc.) that works.

I'm pretty sure given the current state of 3D printing and fluid dynamics that it would take a team to design such a system. Speaking as a guy I think that team should mostly be women.
posted by poe at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


I gave up on ever wearing regular bras again when the only thing that was left available at my size (32F) were those godawful heavy padded cone cups that turned my boobs into monstrous titmissiles. I wore nothing but sports bras for like 8 years or so and it was such a relief, and so comfy. Unfortunately now I am addicted to the comfort of racerback bras instead of shoulder straps but since I don't care if people can see my bra straps under tank tops it's not that a big deal.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


honestly i think those revolting cone cups are the dastardly work of some 80s shoulder pad manufacturer who is angry that women don't want to look like linebackers in their business suits anymore
posted by poffin boffin at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another trick I've learned is to bend the underwires on some bras to curve to my ribcage better (do not do this if you might want to return the bra!).
posted by melissasaurus at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Surprising no one, Victoria's Secret continues to hate thicker women.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:22 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


The lesson I also pulled was to go to Nordstrom's to get fitted and buy bras.
posted by jadepearl at 7:33 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have both those Wacoal bras from Nordy's and they are the best. I'm surprised she didn't try a Freya because they have the flash style of a Vicky Secret bra with the fit of a Wacoal.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:36 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ha, I have a Marie Jo bra from Intimacy too. It was great for years, but I wear it less often now since I've gained a little weight and it feels sort of pinchy in the back. I spent a lot of time looking for Marie Jo bras marked down online, but they were few and far between - and most of their styles have weird trims that make them bad candidates for scoop necks or tank tops.

Most of my bras these days are from Aerie - I've found a style that works pretty well for me and that I don't want to rip off at the end of the day, and they're inexpensive - but I'm lucky, because I'm a very common size. Or, I was a common size last time I got measured. I'm sure I'm wearing the "wrong" size according to some bra experts, and I'm sure there's a bra style out there that will flawlessly and effortlessly carry my breasts like Venus on a pair of clam shells, but fuck it. I look fine, feel comfortable, and don't have to adjust throughout the day. Going from an ill-fitting bra to a well-fitting bra is a fantastic thing, but there's this whole mythology getting built up around finding the perfect life-changing bra, and if what you're currently wearing is good enough for you, it's not always worth the quest.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:36 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Surprising no one, Victoria's Secret continues to hate thicker women.

This is so true and it makes me even madder about their continued marketing to teenagers. Buying from Victoria's Secret was a sort of sexy status symbol at my high school and I assume that with the "Pink" line I keep seeing this is truer than ever. I wore Victoria's Secret underwear and bras because I assumed they were good because they were expensive to me at the time and because I wanted to project a certain sexy image and because they were so bad at measuring that they could convince themselves that they had bras that fit me (although I had to get them from those drawers under the counter because God forbid they actually display bras that fit larger bust sizes). I was in very good shape at the time and they still barely fit me; I would have been mortified if I hadn't been able to wear their stuff.

It's bad enough when you don't have options for thicker adults, but it's even worse when you market yourself to teenagers as the sexy brand and thus define who can feel good about themselves based on their bodies. If you're going to position yourself as the cute, sexy, fun brand for teenage lingerie and you don't provide any options for larger teenagers you are actively making the world worse.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:37 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Victoria's Secret hates everyone. I went in there looking for bras once and never again. I'm a 32 A (and ok with that) and every bra they gave me had so much freaking padding. And even with the padding the fit was off.
posted by mokeydraws at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Some companies have tried a 3D measuring tool. The problem is that how your breasts act without a bra is not the same as how they act in a bra.
posted by melissasaurus


Yup. In my quest for the perfect bra (34F, so yeah) I got fitted at a Jockey store. They use 3D molded plastic cups to figure out what size you wear. The fitter made her determination (they use a proprietary sizing scale so I don't remember what it was) and went and got some bras for me to try on. The bands were OK but the cups were hilariously small. We ended up going up four or five cup sizes from what their 3D measuring tool told her. Those 3D sizing cups were way wronger than any tapemeasure I've tried.

Also, the Jockey bras were too stretchy overall to provide good support. They'd probably be OK for smaller sizes, but bustier women have better choices. I'm loyal to Wacoal (style 85340 4 lyfe!) I buy two a year and retire the prior year's bras to dog walking/gardening/grubbywear. If they ever stop making this style, I will commit suppuku with an underwire.
posted by workerant at 7:58 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


My own story of shopping for 32-A at Victoria's Secret was told here. Fortunately, between middle-age weight gain and boob settling, I now can get by with a 36-B, which is way easier to deal with.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2015


TL;DR: Victoria's Secret is awful, Nordstrom's is amazing.

My theory is that the whole "99.999% of women are wearing the wrong bra size!" was a marketing thing made up by the lingerie industry. They got Oprah on board, then all the lines concocted their own idiosyncratic sizing schemes.


Eh, the problem with that theory is "Victoria's Secret and others want to cut costs and only manufacture limited numbers of sizes and then try to squeeze women into those sizes" (which you can see in action in the article!) is to me, much more likely.
posted by damayanti at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The only person I've ever personally known who was happy with Victoria's Secret bras was one of my nephews: the envy of all his teenage buddies, he had a parttime job there stocking their shelves --- the kid was paid to handle women's undies!


Years later, he still has his official employee t-shirt....
posted by easily confused at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2015


Ugh, yeah, that new Jockey measurement system was hilariously bad. Pretty much every online reviewer tore it to shreds.

My go-to brands at the moment are Avocado and Comexim (some styles now sold in the US under the name Wellfitting), both out of Poland and great for the narrow/projected size range. They're pricey but really well made and comfortable. The staff at both companies is also really great if you're unsure about sizing or the first bra you order doesn't fit as you anticipated. Ewa Michalak is another popular Polish brand.

Sidenote: I've helped several other Mefites with sizing and brand/style selection via memail, so if anyone wants personalized help feel free to memail me!
posted by melissasaurus at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


> Victoria's Secret hates everyone

I went to a Victoria's Secret years ago when I was thin and was told by the saleslady that I needed a padded bra. I said I didn't. She repeated emphatically that I did.

So yeah, they hate the skinny, as well.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:28 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a similar bra size and one of my favourite things in this article is noticing how the horribly ill-fitting bras make her look like she has huge bulges of fat under her arms, and then watching them magically disappear with the right-sized bras. The sizes aren't even that different! But the right bras look fantastic on exactly the same body on the same day.

It is so easy to stand alone in the dressing room feeling that you are the one who is failing (not the bra). This feeling is exhausting and humiliating and it's one of the main reasons I would have given up before reaching the beautiful bras. I would have been home cuddling with my cats by then, feeling ugly.

I try to shop at the rare stores that actually stock my size. Otherwise every bra in the store makes me look awful and it is really difficult not to internalize it.
posted by heatherann at 8:34 AM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


the Body by Victoria line is the only kind that fits me right now (36DD).

they're expensive but i got their credit card and then they sent me a bunch of coupons. i went in one day and handed a salesperson the like 10 coupons and said "you guys sent me all of these and they expire in like a month. please help me figure out the best deal." and i got a $60 bra for $10.

they hold up in the wash and dryer (i know it's a nono).

any other bra from them is crap tho. absolute fucking crap.

part of the reason i'm trying to lose weight right now is so i can go back to cheap bras because this shit sucks.

i want froggies on my bra too! or unicorns. or something. ANYTHING!
posted by sio42 at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2015


After six months of epic bra shopping and bra fitting failures, I collapsed in a heap in the Von Maur dressing room, topless and despairing while a teeny tiny woman (who oddly enough has the same triple-D boobs I have) gaped at me with a bunch of black bras in hand. To be fair, she had gotten the size right, but she refused to believe that I was not happier with the underwire bras and she just would not bring me any of the many Wacoal wirefree bras they had on the floor. She insisted that the wired bras she brought me were super comfortable. They're not. They suck. Even when they are the right size.

When I got home, I ripped the underwires out of all the bras in my house. I have not been this happy with bras since the early 80's when bras came with fully articulated, non padded cups and no fucking underwires. Seriously. I'm in my 40's, I know my breasts are sagging, but I don't need goddamn wires to hold them up.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:41 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


wow now that i've actually read the article, i feel like i need to listen to y'all and her and actually buy a waacol bra.

maybe just one tho because i'd hate to plunk down for it and then my dang boobs go down a size in a few months. but it would be awesome to be supremely comfortable for a bit.

i read the reddit thing about measuring and that's how i ended up where i am bra-wise today, after getting measured and trying stuff on at macy's and VS.

sigh.
posted by sio42 at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2015


also i have recently discovered long-line (surgical) bras and i might not wear anything else ever again
posted by poffin boffin at 8:47 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This reminds me that I really need to go in for a fitting and how much I'm dreading it. Especially since my upscale local boutique is not off watch for being transphobic, and in any case I think they fit me a band size too small.

(I already knew not to go to the Pink Jail of Pain.)
posted by immlass at 9:12 AM on June 4, 2015


Personal bra-hack; buy a bra that fits (as much as possible) and if it's underwire, I cut that sucker out (make a small cut at one end of where it's sewn in, they slide right out.) Underwires do not work for me, maybe I'm too short-waisted or something, but it's like I'm being cut in half. No.

Also, I own some of those nip-cover things that are silicone because it's either tissue-thin or Padded Hellcones for bra cups and I don't need to poke people's eyes out. Plus the band extenders, because to get the band size I need I'd have to buy hilariously too-big cups.

I have said before, and will again; my fantasy is to start up a bra company that sells bra cups and bands separately, that can be fastened together. And come in every size. Imagine, needing two different size cups and being able to buy them (also good for mastectomy folks)! To buy a racer back, a regular strap, whatever and just pop in the cups you already know fit! To have them in all colors/patterns! Nursing bras!

The only thing that might not work for this is sports bras, or else you'd need really strong attachments to take that much abuse.

If capitalism were the all-knowing god conservatives believe it is, this would already have happened.
posted by emjaybee at 9:16 AM on June 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


I love Wacoal. I have a zillion of the Embrace Lace in various colours.
posted by jeather at 9:17 AM on June 4, 2015


Nordstrom and Chantelle are amazing. I've been buying from them for my wife as Christmas gifts for years, and 9 times out of 10 the fit has been impeccable. The Nordstrom staff know how to measure, but I think the biggest difference is that they point you straight to the brands that cater to your particular size.

I wish I could say Chantelle worked for me, too, since I love the way they look, but for my particular situation (silicone forms), I haven't found anything better than Victoria's Secret's full-coverage bras. It's a different set of complications altogether, but I really wish pocket bras were available on the mass market.
posted by WCWedin at 9:18 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the Bible says, "To everything, there is a season", so when is the best time to buy bras from Nordstrom? Basically, when are the best sales? Bras are EXPENSIVE!
posted by jadepearl at 9:31 AM on June 4, 2015


The best fitting bra I ever wore, I bought at Lane Bryant. And then they promptly discontinued it. Fuckers, I hope they step on a Lego.

I have a larger band size (38-42 depending on manufacturer) AND a larger cup size (G-I, same) so finding bras is a nightmare, and buying without trying them on is a fool's errand, and yet they are only available online. And to really tell if a bra fits you need to wear it for more than 30 seconds, and you can't return bras that have been obviously worn or washed. AND bras in my size cost $50-$180. It's maddening.

What I really want is an online site where I can say "The bra that fit me perfectly was the Lane Bryant / Cacique Lace Overlay French Full Coverage Bra in a 40G" (and yes, they still have french full coverage bras, but not THAT one and the cut is somehow subtly different) and it will say "OK you wear this size in Kris Line and this size in Curvy Kate and this size in Freya, and here are bras that will technically fit but which will not suit your boobs, and here are bras which will PERFECTLY suit your boobs." Is that Bratabase? I would pay literal folding money for this service.
posted by KathrynT at 9:32 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I still have this stupid bra because it was expensive and I only wear it once a week so I resign myself to having a shitty boob day whenever that happens.

It shouldn't matter that it was expensive. Stop succumbing to the sunk cost fallacy and throw the damn thing away. Life is too short for shitty boob days!
posted by Jacqueline at 9:44 AM on June 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


And to really tell if a bra fits you need to wear it for more than 30 seconds, and you can't return bras that have been obviously worn or washed.

I buy online (Amazon, retailers' sites, FigLeaves, etc) and then wear them around my apartment for a few hours (with tags on) while I do other things to see if they fit. If I have to adjust it a bunch of times, or it doesn't work when I'm sitting, etc, then I return it. I have yet to have an issue with this method (buying from any major online retailer). I also try on a couple of shirts to see if the bra will work with the clothes I own.

What I really want is an online site where I can say...

Yes, this is Bratabase. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. And as more people use it and measure and rate their bras, it gets better.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:45 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, she deserves some kind of award for trying on that many bras in one day. It stresses me out just thinking about trying on bras at six stores in a row. Last time I went bra shopping at a real mall with a convenient selection of places to try, I was so fed up by the second store that I decided I didn't need a new bra after all. I could make do with the one that still fit pretty ok, supplemented by the four or five that were totally stretched out and/or had the underwires poking through the fabric to stab me in the sternum.
posted by gueneverey at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2015


There is also a big secondary market for selling bras -- new with tags, new without tags, lightly used, heavily used, etc. Bratabase has a listings feature; there's also eBay, /r/braswap, and /r/randomactsofbras (for donating bras to other members). I lost about 2 cup sizes after going off hormonal birth control and would not have been able to afford enough new bras (read: more than one) without selling my old ones. I bought a couple bras from no-returns places or international retailers (where return cost would be prohibitive) and was able to sell those for full value.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I buy expensive Nordstrom-quality bras for half off or more on eBay. When I do get a fitting I do try to buy at least one bra at full price.

The frustrating thing with bras, for me, is that it's not just about size but about style. Wacoal bras in the style that seem to work like gangbusters for Kristin just don't fit me right, no matter what. I think it's because i have a short torso?
posted by muddgirl at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2015


I stopped wearing bras per se because the endless shopping mentioned above literally takes more time than I have. Plus they all started to hurt me one day. I started wearing those tank tops with cups from Uniqlo. They're awesome. I can buy them en masse, there's no fussy impossible sizing to futz with, and I can wear a fresh one every day. Perhaps not AS supportive as a proper bra but they're comfy and I find a lot of liberation in the fact that no one is supposed to be looking at my boobs anyway. Why should I give a fuck what they look like if it's making my life difficult?
posted by bleep at 10:14 AM on June 4, 2015


God, Kristin Chirico is SO GREAT. Her writing improves my quality of life so immensely. And this photo! Such truth! The one time in my life I went bra shopping in a store was so panic-inducing as to be deemed unrepeatable, so my hat is seriously off to her for willfully putting herself into such contortions for our benefit. Also she is hilarious and awesome and I totally want to be her friend.

I went to a Victoria's Secret years ago when I was thin and was told by the saleslady that I needed a padded bra. I said I didn't. She repeated emphatically that I did.

This is exactly what happened to me, too! My mom and grandma were/are both serious bra-burning second-wavers so I didn't even know that bras were A Thing until my late teens. Once the memo made its way to my inbox, I hopped on down to the mall to the sexy jail/pink room of pain, accosted the first saleswoman I saw, and delivered a slightly less emphatic version of, "See, I would get these horrible things cut off if I could, but since I'm the kind of person who passes out cold when she gets a fucking flu shot, barring some sort of miraculous no-incision, no-anaesthesia surgery-type-thing, I would appreciate it if you could direct me to whatever will make it so they don't flop and glorp around the front of my body like the disgusting flaps of meat that they are. No padding. Ahem. I mean, NO PADDING. PLEASE HELP ME MAKE THEM INVISIBLE."

She looked at me like I was an alien. "No padding at all? None? I don't know if we have something like that... especially at your size." Apparently my rack is small enough to have it seem weird to her that I didn't want to make it look bigger, and indeed would prefer to make it as flat as humanly possible. I walked out with a damnably uncomfortable 33B underwire contraption and a head full of regrets, suffered through like six years of bra-wearing hell, and finally gave up and returned to my current gloriously braless lifestyle. I don't give a fuck if it's gauche or even straight-up offensive to anyone in the world, I'm the one who has to deal with these godforsaken things, and they do not like to be cupped or crated.

Not to mention the fact that there are zillions of dudes with much bigger tits than me who get to walk around with their front-flaps swinging free -- bare, even! -- and nipping out every goddamn day. So I throw on a super-comfy Uniqlo Airism tank or two (thanks y'all!) for basic coverage and, other than that, just leave 'em be. This route is highly recommended if you're similarly blessed with tiny boobs; my heart goes out to all the sisters in the world who have no other option but to strap 'em up/down/etc.
posted by divined by radio at 10:16 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Life is too short for shitty boob days!
posted by Melismata at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, cups need to come in half sizes, because you can end up with either too small or a lot of extra fabric and no options in between.
posted by emjaybee at 10:26 AM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's so refreshing reading all of this and hearing that so many other women go through the bra shit I've been going through for decades. It is sad that it hasn't gotten any better.

The one time I did get a "proper fitting" she insisted on selling me a pricy bra with a too-tight band. I took it back. I'm slender, don't have particularly wide shoulders but I do need a 38, dammit, and even then it's usually on the last hook.
posted by mareli at 10:30 AM on June 4, 2015


Man, at least she was able to try on bras at 6 different stores. I'm so thankful for the large-size bra store in town (shout out to The Pencil Test!), but beyond that I just buy bras on Amazon Prime and return them for free if/when they don't fit.

I just got measured a few months ago and while I am really glad I have a few bras that fit well, my boobs look bigger just because of how much better supported they are, and some of my shirts/dresses fit even worse now.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've also had the same funny/not-funny conversation several times, where someone will say "oh, you should totally try brand X or website Y! They have bras that go all the way up to 42whatever" but then I look and notice that their cup sizes only to go G - in US size.
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I was in high school, I went to Victoria's Secret. It was a really big deal as I lived in the middle of no where and it was impossible to get bras big enough for me. I'd heard Victoria's Secret was famous for bras. I was stoked, and decided to ask the salesperson to measure me so I could find the right one.

'34C', she announced.
'Oh, that's interesting,' I said conversationally. 'I thought I was a 32D.'
'Honey,' she sneered, 'You might have been a 32, but-' (smirking at my hips) 'you certainly aren't now.'

I tried on the recommended 34C, but it rode up in the back and I couldn't keep my boobs in. Biggest shopping, erm, let down ever.

On the other hand, I still miss living in the UK where Debenhams had such lovely salespeople in the bra department and a huge selection of bras in much larger sizes (F! FF! G! GG!). Also, the sales were amazing. Such a different experience. Almost worth living in perpetual rain for Debenhams' bra department.
posted by brambory at 11:45 AM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Victoria's Secret: we can get you pregnant, but after that go shop for box bras at sears like the rest of the moms.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, supposedly I'm a 34B, at least that is what I learned when I obediently got measured in the 90s.

Back then, all bras were seamed with soft cups. So I bought the 34B bras, and dealt with the large bubble of bagginess in the centre of each cup by folding them over and stitching the bagginess down while the bra was on.

Eventually moulded cups arrived, and that was better because it didn't matter that the cups didn't fit me.

Even that became unsatisfactory after a while, because all the cups were too shallow for me and I just couldn't accept living in a state of permanently popping out of my bra.

I eventually found out the right make and model through Internet research.

Certainly not by going to a shop and having some saleslady ask me DID YOU KNOW THAT 80% OF WOMEN WEAR THE WRONG SIZE BRA? HAS ANYONE EVER SUGGESTED TO YOU THAT YOU SHOULD GET MEASURED? I BET THIS NEVER CROSSED YOUR MIND AMIRITE? No, I certainly have not been told this information over and over again every single day since 1990. I'm definitely sure this isn't propaganda intended to blame customers for the fact that lingerie manufacturers intentionally make the wrong sizes in order to sell you new bras all the time.
posted by tel3path at 12:16 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


ugh and also because I do happen to be one of the .000001% of women for whom Victoria's Secret bras DO actually work well and are comfortable, and convenient, and surprisingly affordable on sale even, I am also subjected to body shaming from my peers and random internet peoples who are all like "VS is the antichrist and literally worse than Hitler and they promote teenage anxiety and HOW COULD YOU" and I'm like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

tl;dr: NOBODY WINS IN THE BOOBIE-SHAMING WAR.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:53 PM on June 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


True story! I once asked the sales lady at VS if they had my size, and she laughed at me. She said "we only have normal sizes." Fuck you, VS lady. My boobs are awesome, and your store sucks.

At this point, I have a couple of bras that I know work, and I buy them when they show up for sale on Zulily. There is no store within a hundred miles of me that has bras in my size, so it's either mail order or wait until I go to a big city.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:08 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get super evangelical and worked up about bras because I spent so much of my life miserable because of ill-fitting, unflattering bras (I'm as 34G who was wearing a 38DD last time I bought e.g. Target bras) and I want everyone to get to experience the same joy and relief that I did. I'm only 5'2" so if my bust isn't perfectly architecturally supported at all times, I suddenly look like a completely waistless burlap sack potato lady no matter what kind of shape I'm in. It's been a serious self esteem issue for me so it meant a lot to finally get things under control. A few things from my experience (and I know most of this is in every article like this but I'm completely incapable of refraining from saying it; please read this as irrepressible enthusiasm and not a hard-sell routine) -

- Everyone always thinks the band is too tight at first because they're not used to the band doing all the support work. I found it soooo uncomfortably tight the first time I wore a correctly-fitted bra but I was totally used to it within a week because it was so comfortable and didn't shift around all the goddamned time. The idea is that you want to buy the band tight so that it won't be ill-fitting as soon as it stretches out (sort of like fancy jeans). The rule of thumb is that you should be able to fit 1-2 fingers under the band when you buy it and no more.

- Many people think the shoulder straps should be holding your boobs up, but that is not correct - that kind of fit will cause your band to ride up your back all day and force you to adjust it lest you look like you're smuggling saddlebags under your bra band. You want the band tight enough to do almost all of the work here. The bonus is that then you don't have to worry about pulling the stupid band down all damn day.

- The most common problem is wearing a too-big band size with a too-small cup size. That's what I was doing before. That's where you get the unflattering backroll issues, the band creeping up your back all the time, the gore in the front pulling away from your sternum, the breast tissue & fat getting shoved up into your armpits, the constantly having to adjust everything all the time.

- Cup shape varies in so many ways that it's worth it to try on a zillion bras just like the (hilarious!) OP. The most important thing to get right in my experience is the underwire width. I cannot even tell you what a joy it is to wear a bra that actually fits across the base of your breasts and doesn't push any of your breast tissue up into your armpits. When you're looking at molded cup bras, it's important to pay attention to cup profile, too - many of them have too much volume at the top for me even though it's correctly sized across the bottom. I have better luck with non-molded bras because of this (and at first this made me think I must be fitting the cup size wrong when it was just the wrong bra shape).

- This might be bordering in TMI but you'll hear people talk about fat migrating around when you wear too-small cups and it's true in my experience. I had a serious back- and side-fat issue around my bust when I wore way too-small cups and after a few years in properly-fitting bras, it's almost gone. My cup size has actually increased by two sizes since I started wearing properly fitting bras while my band size has gone down. The best way to see if this might be happening to you is to do a very serious bend-and-scoop procedure when you put your bra on next time. Seriously get in there and try to situate all the fat/breast tissue at your sides into your cups. Many women will find that their cups seem hilariously small when they do this - that's a sign you could benefit from trying a bigger cup size. It's just so much more comfortable when that stuff isn't getting smashed by underwires.

- Since it's such a horrible pain in the ass to find bras, I find one or two cheap models that work for me (I'm loving the Modern Movement stuff at Dillard's right now - Dillard's has a great lingerie selection) and I just watch for those model on ebay. I can get my bras for close to Target price that way.
posted by dialetheia at 1:14 PM on June 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Seriously get in there and try to situate all the fat/breast tissue at your sides into your cups.

I hear people say this all the time and I just? what? idgi? My boob area fat, and indeed the fat on my entire body, is not made of sculpey or similar, it is not something malleable that can be pushed by hand into place and then it remains there to become a boob.

im so confused and frankly mad that this isnt a thing i can do
posted by poffin boffin at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Melismata:
Maybe if online tools get good enough we won't have to go to stores.
Or a 3-D printer. I'm SURE we can find some guy to design an overall system (printing, measuring fabric, etc.) that works.
I'm assuming this was a joke (because, really, do you want guys designing your bras?), but it seems that bra manufacturing is, in fact, rocket science, not something left to machines. NASA employed Playtex seamstresses to hand-stitch space suits.
posted by fedward at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, my side fat is regular all-purpose fat and not breasty material. I think that's the kind of advice that works great for certain types of breasts and not very well for others. My boobs are others.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I hear people say this all the time and I just? what? idgi?

You're scooping the tissue into the cup, in front of the wire (so it's not under the band). It's called the "scoop and swoop" (text explanation and nsfw video). Another explanation with (nsfw) pics here.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:46 PM on June 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Some bras have those rigid rib-thingies on the sides that are supposed to push the sideboob/fat forward but all they do is dig into my armpits and sides, I have been known to take them out also.

I am not looking for a boob-corset, just a boob-container that is soft on the inside and supportive with no pokey bits. And doesn't look like an orthopedic garment (looking at YOU, Playtex "18-hour" bras, shudder).
posted by emjaybee at 2:11 PM on June 4, 2015


dialethia I agree! there is tons of information out there on the interwebs on this too if you only know how to look, or, like even know it's a thing? I feel like it's not just r/abrathatfits and regular Hairpin and Salon articles, but also like, this subject comes up on the Blue at least biannually. And yet still here we are.

the thing is, there is SO MUCH judgment and shaming and body policing out there FROM ALL SIDES of the equation tbh that one is made to feel guilty and bad and wrong and privileged and judgy and whatnot for basically even bringing it up regardless of what side of the argument you fall into, y'know?

I vote a hearty fuck you to ANYONE in a bra (or clothing) store of any description that engages in this whole shame spiral. OK for me VS bras are just right and more comfortable for my unique body type, and their tshirt bras I can walk in, pick out and pay for, no horrible saleslady involved. I wholeheartedly agree that if they have terrible staff, or a terrible message then CALL THEM ON IT. The thing is, their stuff does work well for my specific instance of being required to perform femininity as my job and lifestyle dictates, though, so...

I mean I remember being pissed as a teenager with my skinny androgyne bod at being told "no you can't stack hay in that" (thin tank top) because boys will rape you, duh. THE SAME BOYS MIGHT I ADD WHO WERE ALLOWED TO STACK HAY WITHOUT SHIRTS ON the fuckers. And the ones who policed my nipples in high school and shamed me into wearing a (sweaty, uncomfortable) training bra over my board-flat torso? MEAN GIRLS INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO MY FEMALE GYM TEACHER THAT'S WHO. So fuck that "we eat our own" bullshit, too.

My boobs fly free about 50% of the time, and I only added a goddamn sports bra to my cycling kit repertoire after a crash that shredded my entire right side, breast and ribcage because ow, fuck that, too.

My take, for what it's worth, although feel free to ignore it because I'm someone who doesn't endure Bra Struggles. Please, do be empowered to go forth and find a bra that fits correctly, and hopefully doesn't cost 2 months rent or involve horrible Bra Harpies who make you cry in the pink S&M shame-dungeon.

I really think the a'la carte piecework / kit bra idea is actually onto something and I hope that can become like a kickstarter thing or a viable model because omg. Even in athletics I see women who struggle with unruly boob issues and the shaming and judgment that follows on. The teammate I came up with through the ranks as a younger rider? Boobs the size of her head that, I shit you not, would hit the top tube if she tried to ride in an aero' tuck, and oh jesus christ don't mention what assholes some of the dudes were to her about it, I can't even. She ultimately got them reduced and was much happier to be able to ride (and god forbid walk around normally!) pain-free and without a giant flashing neon OGLE ME AND MAKE SHITTY REMARKS billboard on her chest anytime she wore a skinsuit.

tl;dr: fuck the bra industry and the apocalyptic hellhorse it rode in on and the entire puritanical patriarchal corporate sociophilosophical pit of ooze it crawled out of. THEY'RE JUST BOOBS fercrissakes. Half the fucking WORLD has them, it's not like we can't actually solve this within my lifetime even?
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:13 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


That's perfect melissasaurus, the pictures in that second link show the scoop and swoop really well - it is really hard to describe! And of course I'm not saying it'll make a difference for everyone; just that if you do a good scoop and swoop and your bra suddenly seems too small, it's a decent sign that it would be worth trying a larger cup size. Scooping and swooping might actually be one of the most important parts of fitting a bra for many women (and of course for many women it might not help at all, and of course that's totally fine! - but for me it was a 2-cup-size difference and if it helps even one woman find a better fit, I still think it's worth saying).
posted by dialetheia at 2:19 PM on June 4, 2015


My boobs are pretty forward-facing and I can mostly avoid the scoop and swoop if I just kind of lean forward and poke at them so they fall into their correct bra-place.

I didn't want to spend lots of money on bras so I made my kissfriend read all of the bra fitting guides and see how things are supposed to fit and made him go with me to a bunch of stores and help me find fitting ones from the sale racks, and I found a handful of pretty good ones. Also that I was wearing 2 cup sizes too small, probably because my breasts had grown out kind of a lot since I last tried to figure out my size. It was way easier to just get help from him with the strap adjustments and keeping track of what I'd tried and stuff because he has a good brain for that kind of thing. I had the most success at Kohl's; I'm a 36D.
posted by NoraReed at 2:26 PM on June 4, 2015


You're scooping the tissue into the cup, in front of the wire (so it's not under the band).

oh ok, that doesn't really apply to my problem, then. (which is this little bit of chub that sticks out by my armpit, and if i somehow tuck it into the bra, which is really just pushing it behind the strap, it pops back out as soon as i move my arm in any way.) the underboob scoop doesn't really apply to me either since until last month they stuck straight out like ICBMs and are currently super lifty on their own.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:29 PM on June 4, 2015


yea my dude is an engineer with a good head for design aesthetics and he is really, really, really good at fitting room advice and isn't weird about body issues, and is generally awesome in every other regard, and in sum: reader, that's why I married him.

disclaimer: your relationship dynamics mileage, as with all other things, might vary.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:38 PM on June 4, 2015


try on a zillion bras?

AintNobodyGotTimeforthat.gif
posted by mogget at 3:43 PM on June 4, 2015


. And the ones who policed my nipples in high school and shamed me into wearing a (sweaty, uncomfortable) training bra over my board-flat torso? MEAN GIRLS INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO MY FEMALE GYM TEACHER THAT'S WHO.

Yeah, so I'm a 32A? maybe? (maybe less?) Do I really need to wear a bra? Once a student left a comment on an evaluation that I should "wear a bra!", so now I've been paranoid to go out in public without one. (Yep, that's right, I have been shamed by an anonymous student comment.) But really, I'm not uncomfortable without one...Are there non-bra options that are socially acceptable?
posted by leahwrenn at 3:49 PM on June 4, 2015


Hey, I know about non-bras! I'm also on the very-small side (in breast, not stature). I exclusively wear non-underwires, generally "bralettes", I think they're called. It's not the padded, push-up look, but I think a happy medium between a "real" bra with all of the architectural support and no bra at all.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 4:25 PM on June 4, 2015


in general I feel like the layered-tank thing is the optimal "non-bra" for me, but then I have an almost pathological loathing for all things elastic, so ymmv
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:58 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will frequently wear a bralette or a camisole (with or without a boob shelf) as a sort of middle-ground of wearing-a-less-bra-y-bra. I also have some pretty nice Bali wirefree bras that actually provide really good support without an underwire. They look like something a grandma would wear but wevz.
posted by NoraReed at 5:56 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The best bra I've ever bought turned out to be a size 34G. I had been wearing something like a 38D for a long time, and when I first tried on this bra, I thought no, way too tight. But damn if my back troubles haven't disappeared. Kudos to the Dillard's lady who finally found me the right size.
posted by jenh526 at 6:20 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Undershirts (aka camisoles) are a good non-bra layering option for when you maybe want another layer of coverage, but don't feel like you need a bra. They even make ones with an additional "built-in bra" layer, if you want to go that far. Back when I was an A cup, these were a key part of my wardrobe.
posted by epj at 6:42 PM on June 4, 2015


Oh if you're little, you can get camisoles with slight foam pads built into them - I am so so so jealous of those, I remember wearing them briefly in early puberty, and they are super comfortable, like built-in bras that you can ignore. And you can even get foam cups or bra liners and sew them into your favourite tops so you don't have to bother wearing a bra with them - all built in!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:53 PM on June 4, 2015


yea my dude is an engineer with a good head for design aesthetics and he is really, really, really good at fitting room advice and isn't weird about body issues, and is generally awesome in every other regard, and in sum: reader, that's why I married him.

I'm not an engineer, but I get taken along to give review/advice on bra shopping trips, and one of the noticeable things is how some places have their fitting rooms set up really well for this (Nordstroms is the best, with comfy chairs and lots of privacy; Victoria's Secret is the worst, where you are forced to stand awkwardly right in the way of people shopping while trying to not look like a pervert, and there's no way for the person in the dressing room to come out without flashing the whole store).
posted by Dip Flash at 7:41 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I vote a hearty fuck you to ANYONE in a bra (or clothing) store of any description that engages in this whole shame spiral. OK for me VS bras are just right and more comfortable for my unique body type, and their tshirt bras I can walk in, pick out and pay for, no horrible saleslady involved. I wholeheartedly agree that if they have terrible staff, or a terrible message then CALL THEM ON IT. The thing is, their stuff does work well for my specific instance of being required to perform femininity as my job and lifestyle dictates, though, so...


I don't think anybody is judging anyone for being able to shop at VS; if you're within the standard size range that they carry (34-38 band, B-D cup seems to be the sweet spot) then you've won - you can walk into any shop in the USA or anywhere else and find a good bra that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. That is amazing and miraculous and you have no idea how badly I wish I could do that.

But then there are the rest of us, who have been treated like we're gross freaks, or simply been wearing ill fitting bras because of crap measuring by poorly trained, underpaid staff members. And we thought that this was something that was wrong with US, because we were trained to believe that if our bodies deviated from a particular, narrow standard, this was somehow a moral failing, something that WE did wrong.

Victoria's Secret is the most visible lingerie chain in the US, possibly the world, and their image, policies, and practices have a disproportionate impact on the way we shop for lingerie, which carries over into the way we see and feel about our bodies, because intimate apparel is, well, intimate. There is nothing wrong with you if you wear a 36B, there is nothing wrong with me for wearing a 28G, but one of us is going to get a VERY different message about that. And that is neither your fault nor mine.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:15 AM on June 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


One of the reasons I think Wacoal bras tend to fit so well, and have a reputation for doing so, is I have noticed that they tend to run a little tight in the band and a little large in the cup. I don't know if they do this on purpose, but if so, it's very clever, since the most common fit issue seems to be people wearing a too large band with a too small cup.

They are affordable on clearance, if you don't mind your bras being weird colors.

Otherwise, I swear by Freya for the most part, though I have also had good luck with Panache and recently Natori sports bras. I have recently gotten some Polish bras that are absolutely gorgeous, though they tend to run large in the band - I had the most epic email exchange with a sales representative who was trying her damnedest to fit me without even seeing me, bless her heart (Gorsenia still runs large in the band, sorry.)
posted by louche mustachio at 12:23 AM on June 5, 2015


Victoria's Secret is the most visible lingerie chain in the US, possibly the world, and their image, policies, and practices have a disproportionate impact on the way we shop for lingerie...

which is why I so wholeheartedly agree with the author of the article in the OP when she says in her bullet list at the end to SPEAK UP if you're not getting proper service. Blog about it, Yelp review about it, write snarky comments on their website, contribute to yet another Hairpin article, whatever it takes! I vehemently concur with the idea that VS is actively making things worse for a significant percentage of the populace for enforcing a set of useless "norms" and promoting the sense that only certain sizes are "normal", but that doesn't change the fact that they provide an affordable, convenient option for me. I get that.

But nothing will ever change unless people, specifically women, get more confident with confronting the issue. And it doesn't actually make life any better for people to just double down and scold women who DO fit into that narrow range of sizes for shopping there. I've been scolded more than once both online and in person for saying I shop at VS, who seemingly like Whole Foods and Amazon, seem to fit the mold for companies who fit the "it's ok to judge people for shopping there" model of performing social justice "correctly" as a progressive feminist advocate or whatever.

yes it's intimate apparel, but even more reason to not take any bullshit about it because without speaking up about this (and there has been A SHIT TON of publicity about this on the internet of late) then it will continue to be an "invisible issue" and people's perception of "normal" will not ever be adjusted.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2015


OK, Bratabase question: they have an interesting sizing system, two numbers separated by a colon, eg 40:8. Try as I might I can't figure out what those numbers refer to; I think the first is the band and the second is the cup, but I can't figure out how they arrive at that cup measurement. Anyone know?
posted by KathrynT at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2015


The first number is the underbust measurement (with "comfortable" tightness), the second is the breast perimiter -- you lean over (somewhere between upright and 90 degrees), then measure from the sternum, over the nipple at up to your outer ribcage. I think they do that so they can compare/analyze it with respect to the bra measurements you input (esp. cup depth).
posted by melissasaurus at 6:26 AM on June 6, 2015


IANAW, but... sometimes in the past when I got eye-tested, the optician had a funky mega-adjustable steampunk test pair that could be fiddled every which way not just for the optics but for the fit of the frame on my face. Is there no such thing as a super-adjustable test bra where you (ore more probably, the assistant) can get everything just right with all the bits in situ, before using that info to source the final choice? Tape measures just don't have enough dimensions.

I can see that 3D measuring devices won't in general work, unless you have a really clever mathematical model that can transform the bra-less boob into its in-cup state, but if the measuring device is also the bra then that problem goes away.

Running with this, I can imagine a measuring device that you wear during fitting, where you're given some sort of control surface to shrink/grow/tighten/loosen the various components until you're happy, then another device that makes the final product with your aesthetic choices. Quite a project, but we have the technology. Or just make the darn things way more adjustable in the first place.
posted by Devonian at 8:02 AM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


IMPORTANT BOOB UPDATE: I happened to stop by a fancy real-life lingerie store (Zovo in Seattle) that had a sign in the window that said "Cup sizes A-M, free complimentary fitting" and I stopped inside and the very nice 25 year old working there knew EXACTLY what was up and spent 45 minutes fitting me and now I own the NEW best bra I ever owned, which is a 38J and not a 40G, and which cost me $72 and is so comfortable it makes me want to cry because none of my other bras are this comfortable which means I will have to buy at least one more.
posted by KathrynT at 5:40 PM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


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