Sunday 23 June 2013

Let's Just Figure Out Cup Size For Starters

In the past few weeks, I’ve read a bunch of articles in which we can see that the bra blogosphere has begun to infiltrate popular media, and it seems to really confuse people. See, for instance, this Jezebel article "Are Bras From Outer Space? Why Can't We Figure Out Bras?" The article was followed up as well. 

The New York Times also recently ran an article about Jockey. I have to say the media blitz surrounding this frustrates me a little. Jockey is not a brand that I am super familiar with because it’s not one of the brands that’s ACTUALLY been quietly working towards better sizing for years. Okay, they created a new sizing system. Cool. But Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate have been doing it for years without ever getting this kind of exposure. Still, it's good to see bra sizes getting more exposure--one woman mentioned in the article wears a 32H, and there's no backhanded comment about that being a "huge" size. I'll try to find out more about how the Jockey sizing performs on larger cup sizes when I have more time on my hands.

But most frustrating are articles I'd characterize as "backlash." Check out this one: "Stop Telling Us We're Wearing the Wrong Bra Size." 

It really upsets me when people seem to believe that proper bra fitting is “a scam” designed to fool women and drive sales. By all means, if you truly believe this is all a big marketing scam, just continue to wear the size you’re wearing—if you’re happy enough in a size that you're unwilling to question it, then I’m going to respect you enough to believe that it is a size that works for you. But you also have to accept that tons and tons and tons of people have NEVER had the privilege of feeling like that. When your boobs are actually too big for the standard 32-38 A-DD sizes, and you’ve tried on hundreds of bras and maybe found two that sort of work if you readjust constantly throughout the day, you’re going to be pretty predisposed to be open to questioning your size. Before I got fitted properly, my ill-fitting 36C didn’t really feel right. I didn’t BELIEVE in my heart that I could be bigger than a C, but when I read an article in Oprah suggesting that I go down a band size and up a couple cup sizes, I switched to a 34DD because I knew something was wrong. I was pretty sure that was the right size for me, but I still could hardly ever find a bra in that size that fit, because I was convinced that most bras just sucked. (That’s a symptom, folks! If you think bras suck, try a radically different size.) So then I allowed my friend to drag me to a bra boutique, which fitted me into a 30GG. Boom, life made sense. No more constant readjustment. It’s not a scam. Some people really do need sizes that are not served by mainstream companies. 

As always, I enjoyed seeing the author of the backlash article get lampooned in the comments by like-minded souls: 

"Maybe you're just cranky because your bra doesn't fit. Adding inches to determine band size is outdated and inaccurate."

"This is the dumbest thing I have ever read. I imagine the author does not have large breasts. The difference between a proper fitting bra and an ill-fitting bra is night and day if you have large boobs. The reason why so many women are wearing the wrong size is because the lingerie industry tries to squeeze women into a limited number of sizes so they don't have to stock large numbers of sizes. Many women don't even realize a better fitting size exists… The reason people need to keep hearing about this stat is because too many women think a bra is SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable and painful at the end of the day and they are NOT."

"A correctly fitting bra does so much more than "make elements of your life pleasant"! It improves posture, can improve the shape and firmness of the breast both in the bra and out, should not cause discomfort or chafing unlike the wrong size... it can heal decades-long insecurity issues about your breasts. It's all-around better for a woman physically and emotionally to wear the right size bra. It absolutely IS a revelation when you find a perfect bra. It seems you are yet to find your right size... when that happens, you will know what we all mean by "revelation". 
Please don't write an arrogant article about something which you know nothing about."

--And yes, by the way. Getting the right bra fit can reverse aging because your boobs will get better shaped and less saggy when you’re no longer smashing them down against your chest in cups that are nine sizes too small. They’ll recover from the damage over time.

But I do understand that for your average woman who has never been exposed to bra fitting, it can be kind of confusing. I think the confusion often stems from the band size issue which so many bloggers (including me, of course!) are passionate about. But the biggest issue for people in the G+ range (especially those who don’t know yet that they are in that range) is really CUP SIZE. Going down a bunch of band sizes will accomplish nothing in terms of fit UNLESS the cups are big enough. If anything, sizing down in the band before you find big enough cups will make small cups seem even smaller, and make the subject even more confused.

So if you don’t have a clear idea on what size you are, you’re reading blogs and think 36DDD might not really be your size—focus first on cups. When you finally try on a bra with cups big enough, you will realize, if you haven't already, why bra fitting is so important to women in the blogosphere. And then, with that figured out, you can go down in the band until it feels stable and doesn’t ride up.

Here are the signs that you need a bigger cup size. Keep going up, up, up until ALL of these disappear!

1.     Obvious visual signs like a bulge where the bra meets your boobs.

2.     When you press the center gore (the part between the cups) flush to your body, the cups start to seem smaller, even if they “fit” otherwise.

3.      You’re wearing the largest size you can *find* because it’s the largest size you could find, rather than because the next size up was too large.

4.     You have to readjust or tuck your boobs back in often throughout the day.

5.      When you reach into the bra and lift your boobs up into the cups, the cups suddenly seem smaller. This process is called “swooping and scooping” and is meant to make sure all your breast tissue is inside the bra cups.

6.     Your boobs look or feel somehow out of proportion, like they don’t really match your body. This is a more personal one for me, and I’ve heard other women mention feeling like this as well before they got into big enough cups. Wearing too-small cups, especially with a too-big band, can cause your boobs to sit lower on your body, which can obscure your waist and make you feel like your body is hidden.

7.     If you feel like your boobs are a huge hassle and are kind of taking over your life—try bigger cups!

To ensure that you’ve found the proper size, keep going up until you find a cup size that is too big and wrinkles even after you scoop everything in and adjust the straps. Once you’ve found a cup that’s too big, try one size smaller. That’s your cup size!

As for band size, try measuring your underbust. Add 2 to that measurement if you prefer a less-tight band, add 0 if you want a tight band. Voila, that's your band size. If you change your band size after figuring out your cup size, remember that every time you go down a band size, you have to go up a cup size to get the same cup volume, because cups are proportional to bands. This limited conversion chart will help you get the idea. (E is the same as the American size DDD.)


Saturday 15 June 2013

My Friend's Fitting Experience

Recently I had my first experience of actually fitting someone into a better bra size. It might surprise you to know that I’ve never done that before! Instead, I’ve referred people to the shop near where I live that does fittings, and I’ve helped many people online.

It can be hard to fit someone in person because most of us don’t have a ton of bras in random sizes lying around. I happened to have an old 32E Deco that was once my sister’s before her size changed, and I suspected that it might be around the range of my friend's size. I think it helps a lot to have at least one bra in the general area of what you think your friend might need. Otherwise, a fitting would be best accomplished in stages—first do a preliminary measurement and chat, then try ordering a few potential sizes from a website that offers free shipping. Depending on your friend’s size range, you might also be able to find bras for her to try in a store like Victoria’s Secret, Marshall’s, etc.

My friend came in wearing a 34C. She told me she often wears bras in B, C, or D cups and just buys them without trying them on, so she was getting a lot of inconsistency in her fit and was uncomfortable. One major complaint was the sensation of her band moving around throughout the day. Her underbust measured 33’’, but because of her complaint about the 34 band feeling loose, I figured she would be happier in a 32 band, so that’s what I suggested.

We also experimented with measuring for cup size and entering the measurements into good online bra size calculators, like the one at Sophisticated Pair or Curves and Corsets. These calculators did suggest similar sizes to what my friend ended up in, but it can be really hard to tell how a size will fit someone from a straight cup size measurement. That's why it's still important to do a fitting in stages, ultimately providing options to try something on. If you don't have any bras for your friend to try, using one of these calculators is a good first step. Then you or your friend can order bras in several sizes--the suggested cup size, one size smaller, one size bigger, etc. 

My friend reads my blog and said her boobs have lower fullness. Because of that, I knew the Deco might not be the perfect shape, but I had her try it on anyway. At first she thought it was way too big in the cups, but then I taught her to “swoop and scoop”, which she’s never done before. After doing that, the cups changed from looking way too big, to looking like a near-perfect fit with just a tiny bit of gapping!

My conclusion is that she will probably want to wear a 32E in bras that don’t run big. (Deco runs one cup size large, so the 32E that was slightly too big is the equivalent of a 32F in many other bras.) After an initial fitting, especially with someone who hasn’t swooped and scooped before, there will likely be some tissue migration—breast tissue that has been squashed into the armpits by wearing poorly fitted bras will gradually become part of the breast again. So once this has occurred, a 32F may be the perfect size for her.

The real takeaway for me is the importance of emphasizing the “swoop and scoop” method. I’d never realized how much it needs to be emphasized, as it always seemed intuitive to me and I always did it even when I was wearing a 34DD. But now I realize that lots of people wouldn’t think to do it, and it can make a really huge difference in the size you need. If you don’t lift your boobs up into the bra and pull in all the tissue, you can damage your boobs over time—being pressed down like that day after day will eventually lead to loss of elasticity (commonly known as sagging). If the bottom of your breast touches your torso at all INSIDE the bra, that’s a sure sign you need to lift it up so that it is fully supported by the bra. Once you’ve done that, the cups of the bra may seem smaller—a sign that you need bigger cups!