I’m a tall, big boned, barrel chested A-cup, and my boobs are spaced so far apart that cleavage isn’t a thing in my world. Meanwhile, my petite, built-like-a-bird sister is walking around – all five feet, three inches of her – with the kind of rack people pay plastic surgeons for. We’re a perfect example of just how much variation there is when it comes to women, their body types, and their breasts.
But for all our differences in physical endowment, we have one thing in common: our grandparents, who owned a hosiery and lingerie store, and literally made it their life purpose to ensure that women were wearing properly-fitted undergarments.
Grandma and Grandpa would have rolled over in their graves if they could have seen the bargain-bin boulder-holders I was outfitting myself in a few years ago, hastily purchased from whatever rack held the cheapest selection, with nary a measurement in sight.
But after four pregnancies and years of nursing, and increasing frustration in trying to fit my ever-changing boobs, I finally relented and had a professional bra fitting – and let me tell you, it was life-changing. I could practically hear my grandparents saying, “We told you so.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather let the girls swing free in all their floppy glory. But, for me, bras are a necessary evil. However, there are a few tips to make them slightly less evil. Wearing the right bra makes your clothes look better and your day infinitely more comfortable.
• Bras are an investment, not the best place to skimp. Spend money on a good one.
• In fact, spend money on several good ones; you shouldn’t wear the same bra every day, because the elastic needs to “rest” between wearings. To lengthen their lifespan, wash them in cold water with a mild detergent – not the kind that includes fabric softeners, which will actually break down the stability of the cups – and let them air-dry, either flat or hanging up.
• Pregnancy, weight fluctuations, and menstrual changes can all affect your size. Get yourself a professional fitting at least yearly (and some say every six months, but that’s a bit unrealistic). Most places offer them for free.
• If the thought of someone sizing up your goods in person makes you feel skeevy, you can measure yourself at home using a cloth measuring tape and an online calculator like this one from HerRoom.com. (Although if you can make it through a trip to the gyno, you can make it through a bra fitting … just sayin’.)
• Don’t stubbornly pigeonhole your girls into one cup size, because here’s where it gets weird: cup sizes actually change with the chest size – as band size increases, so does cup volume, even in the same letter category. This is when “sister sizes” come in handy. If your band fits but the cup doesn’t, change the letter but not the number (i.e., 36B to 36C). If the cups fit but the band doesn’t, change both the letter and the number: a 36C’s sister sizes, for example, would be 38B or 34D. And if you need to change both the cup and band sizes, change the number but not the letter (i.e., 36B to 34-38B). (I know, it feels like rocket science, but it’s worth it!)
• Just because you’re a certain size in one brand of bra doesn’t mean you’ll be the same in another. Just like jeans, brands can vary pretty widely in fit.
• If your boobs are two different sizes, shop for the bigger cup size and help the smaller sister out with a padded insert (if there are inserts in both sides, just remove the one from the bigger side and put both in the smaller).
• Observe the two-finger rule: You should be able to fit two fingers between your back and the band, but not your whole fist. If you can fit more than two fingers, you need a smaller band size.
• While trying on a bra, lift your arms up over your head. The front band should lay flat against your sternum, and all your breast tissue should be inside the cup. If the bra doesn’t fit both of these criteria, it doesn’t fit.
• The back band should never be higher than the underwire. If it rides up, it’s the wrong size.
• A bra will stretch approximately three inches over its lifetime; don’t fasten on the tightest hooks until the bra starts to stretch out. When your bra is loose on the tightest hook, it’s time for a new one.
• When you’re putting your bra on, don’t forget to lean forward and fully “scoop” your boobs into the cups. Side boob, underboob, all the boob.
Whether you’re a member of the itty-bitty titty committee or your cup size is “watermelon,” you’ll benefit immensely from finding the right fit. I swear.
Give your ladies some love in the form of a wardrobe overhaul, and they’ll return the favor by looking – and feeling – more fabulous than ever.