Monday, December 20, 2010

Bras.... it's a four letter word.

I am NOT including photos with this post.... because it's about BRAS... Yes, that's a Four Letter Word around here right now...

Bras. Guys love 'em. Somehow though, no one can seem to make a bra that not only looks pretty on, but is also comfortable. Ok, let me rephrase. That is comfortable for ME. Over the last year I've been on a mission. A mission to not only determine the "right" size for me, but to find a bra that is not only supportive but looks like something I'd want to wear..... Translation? A little less like a midieval torture device.

It's estimated that more than 80% of women are wearing the WRONG size bra... EIGHTY PERCENT They're either wearing the wrong band size, wrong cup size or both!! or, even the wrong style!! From what I've seen/experienced the two main mistakes women make are: 1. wearing a bra that's too big around - this results in the back band hiking up rather than sitting horizontal to the floor and 2. wearing a cup size that's too small - if you have "quad boob" going on, your cup size is too small - the top of the breast should have a nice smooth line to it when viewed from the side. A bra that fits RIGHT should support your breasts without the use of the straps - sort of like a strapless bra.

I've tried lots of bras since last fall.... one was really spendy. And, while it's really VERY comfortable, it doesn't exactly knock my socks off with the way it looks. Not to mention it's still not a perfect fit.

And, with all the descriptive styles out there, it's no wonder that we're confused when it comes to finding the right bra - underwire, soft cup, plunge, balcony, demi, strapless, convertible, molded up, full coverage, full figured, long line, minimizer, push up, sport, nursing, corset, bustier...... and then there's the assortment of materials - most are a combination of something with spandex or elastine added in for stretch. 

I think I'm getting closer to the right size, but have found one thing that really is disappointing. US bra makers apparently don't think women have "large" breasts. I'm referring to anything above a DD or F cup. Sure they "make" bras for bigger cups than that, but not in smaller bands (34 or smaller).

For anyone reading this who's lost in the whole sizing thing, here's the skinny on what it involves. Also, since over 80% of women wear the wrong size bra, I'm hoping that 8 out of 10 of my girlfriends will benefit from this!! And guys, listen up - this isn't just for women. If you ever buy your lady lingerie, it's VITAL that you get it in the right size!!! S/M/L just doesn't cut it when it comes to bras!!

Bras that we buy are typically listed by a double digit number and then a letter. The number is the band size, and the letter is the cup size, determined by the difference of the two measurements. To determine bra size you need to measure under the breasts, high up on the ribcage - essentially right under where the breast starts. If you have larger breasts, you need to get right in there under them!! Next, you need the measurement of the "fullest" point of the breasts - which means putting on the "best fitting" bra you've got and measuring around the middle - pretty much at the nipple.

For US bra sizes, it's pretty easy. Subtract the first number from the second number and then assign a letter to each inch of difference - traditionally:
less than 1"=AA
1" =A
And so on.

The first number should only be changed IF it's an odd number, in which case you round up to the next even number. Whatever you do, NEVER EVER EVER add 5" to the measurement. This is a holdover from when bras were made from materials that had ZERO give and elasticity. If I were to do this I'd end up wearing a 38 band and it would do NOTHING for me... might as well stick the girls in a couple of socks, I'd probably get better support that way.

Now, the REALLY frustrating part, at least for me, is that I'm not even IN the range of numbers I listed above. Keep going... like nearly 11" difference. Of course, right now Dale is grinning like the village idiot. Gotta love him for that!!

What I'm finding is that European bra makers figured out that women with "larger" breasts still would like a pretty bra. Amazing huh? But now comes the next P.I.T.A. part of the equation. Once you get past a DD cup, UK and US sizes are NOT the same. A US 34DDD is a UK 34F and it just gets more confusing from there. Then, you have OTHER sizing factors too. Most other countries use the UK sizing (European) but there are still some out there that don't, and they make GREAT looking bras!! For example, I'm usually a 34 or 32 band size, but in Polish bras I'm an 80F! For a look at these, click here.

And let's not even get started on how a 34DD is not the same size across manufacturers or even styles!!  Oh and underwires??? they can be set up differently as well - some are spaced farther apart, some go up higher on the sides, some are longer, wider etc....

Finding a bra for a "larger" bust that is not only pretty, but FITS without pain, is not an easy task. I still haven't gotten it "right" yet, but I'm working on it.  In the hopes of helping others, here are the links to assorted tools I've been utilizing to find the right size.

1. This is an electronic calculator that seems to be the best one so far that I've found for determining a STARTING place in finding your correct bra size. Take the measurements in inches & enter in the top two boxes. Remember that the first measurement should be fairly tight around your ribs and should be level to the ground - you do NOT want the band hiking up in back as that doesn't provide any support. This little tool is nice because it gives you US, UK and other sizes all at once based on the figures you enter.

Electronic Bra Size Calculator

2. Bravissimo - a GREAT UK based site/retailer. This shows how a bra SHOULD fit and explains that the size on the tag is not necessarily how to find a good fitting bra. I love how they use the word BOOBS... cracks me up. Don't forget to click on the link at the bottom right of the page - "view all correct positions" as it'll show you how a well-fitting bra should look on your body.

Getting the Perfect Fit - guide

3. A bra size converter - this is good if you have a bra you like in a US size, but would like to try a UK size (or vice versa). They also have a size calculator, but I wouldn't use it - it is still adding the 5 inches to band size. The only down side is that it only goes up to I cups in US sizes and J in UK, so if you're larger than that it won't be of much help.

US to Other countries bra size converter

Lastly, once you have your "starting size" look for bras in this size cheaply so you aren't spending a LOT of money trying to find the one that really works for you. eBay is GREAT for this. Sure, you can go into a retailer, IF they carry bras in your size, and try them on. The problem is, once you remove the tags, you can't return them and I'm finding that you really don't know how a bra is going to fit until you've worn it for a few days.

Even better, after you've washed it the first time.  That's when you really start finding out how a bra will fit you. What I'm finding is that bras get more comfortable after they've been washed the first time. Oh and about washing? NEVER EVER EVER just toss your bra in the washer. Even if you have one of those lingerie sack things or a special bra washing accessory. The very best way to ensure your bra holds up over time is to hand wash it, in cold water and lay it out flat to dry. You can also drape it over the shower curtain rod or something similar with the center of the bra being the "hang point." Never hang them to dry by the straps as it will stretch them out.

If you MUST machine wash a bra -  please, for the sake of your bra's longevity, follow these directions:
1. Wash ONLY on the MOST delicate cycle. If your washer has a "hand wash" cycle, hallelujah... because even "delicate" is not usually gentle enough...
2. Wash ONLY with other bras
3. Make sure that the back band hooks are fastened - this keeps the bras from getting tangled up with each other and keeps the hooks from getting snagged in the fabric.
4. Use gentle detergents - liquids are best
5. NEVER use bleach, even color safe bleach - as these can react with the elastics in the bra and make them break down faster.

I hope some of this info is helpful. The last tip I'll leave you with is one that I did NOT follow, and if I had, I'd have probably already found the right bra. Look at the bra that you have right now that you like the best - assuming you have a few different styles in your wardrobe. Next, take your measurements and look for a bra that is similar in style to the one you have, but in your "new" size. If you're buying on a site like eBay, look to see what range of sizes you can find in the same bra. Finally, if the first bra doesn't fit, refer back to Bravissimo's fit guide and start changing the band/cup sizes until you get the combo that works for you.

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