Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Guide to Getting Your First Well-Fitting Bra

So, you know that your old bras don't fit, and you're tired of it. You've measured yourself or used a good bra calculator to get a fairly accurate estimate of what your current true bra size is. And, you've also discovered that your new size is going to be hard to come by in most stores.

Now what?

First of all, good for you! You've taken the first big step to getting a bra that's perfect for you. That's great!

The prospect of finding a bra outside of the very small "normal" size range sold in most U.S. stores can be a daunting one, though. If you live near a store that sells a fairly good range of bras around what your estimated size is, that's great. The selection may be very limited (as in, the store may only carry one or two options for each size), but take this as an opportunity to try out a few bras in your size range. For example, if you estimate that your size is around a 30G and you live near a Nordstrom, go try on all the 30G's that they carry! If the cups are too small, try some 30GG's, or too big, try 30FF. Back feeling too tight even though the cups seem to fit in a 30G? Go to the sister size of 32FF. And so on.

But if you've already exhausted the limited options of nearby stores, or you just aren't able to find your size anywhere, you'll have to venture into the world of online shopping.

Buying online for the first time

Online shopping can seem scary - trust me, I know! Some people are dead set against buying any article of clothing online. "How will I know if it fits me?" they ask. "I never buy anything unless I try it on first."

These are admirable and understandable sentiments, but unfortunately, in the world of U.S. bra shopping, they're very often just not feasible. A good number of us will have to accept that, for the present, there are either very few or no choices in physical stores. If we don't want to suffer from ill-fitting bras, we're going to have to turn to the wide world of online bra stores, where choices abound (yes, there are lots of choices even in "weird" sounding sizes!).

Lots of pretty bras in "weird" sizes (28-30 G-HH) - almost all gotten online

But where to start? There are quite a lot of great online bra stores that sell almost every size imaginable. You may be hesitant to spend a lot of money on a bra that you don't know for sure fits. Fear not! While many of us have seen those good, well-made, out-of-the-norm-sizing bras sold in stores for upwards of $80-$100, the median price for brand-new bras on most bra sites is really more in the $40-$60 range (and all good bra sites have reasonable exchange/return policies). Still feels too expensive? Still more web stores (like Brastop and Lovebras) sell overstock and discontinued colors and styles for much cheaper prices (in the $20 range). Even cheaper options can be found through ebay (and ebay.co.uk), online communities/friends, and sites like Amazon. And remember - a well-fitting bra is an investment. It's much better to spend $50 on one great, well-fitting bra than the same amount on two bras that fit you terribly, give you pain, and do nothing for your shape!

So, you have a good idea of what your size might be, and you're ready and willing to try ordering bras online. But wait! Don't go ordering twenty bras in your newly-estimated 34H just yet! Measuring yourself and using a good bra calculator will give you just about as good as an estimate as you're going to be able to give yourself; however, it doesn't mean that the size you come up with will always be your exact starting size in every bra. Breast shape, body type, and personal preference are factors in determining bra size as well. Not to mention that different brands, different bras in the same brand, and even different colors in the same style of bra can fit differently even within the same size! Some styles are more suited to different breast shapes than others, too.

All this information can get overwhelming quickly, but don't despair! Rather than trying to learn everything there is to know about bra brands and styles all at once, just start by looking online and finding a few bras in your estimated size range that you like. It may be preferable to pick one brand (like Freya or Curvy Kate) to start with. Once you've picked a few styles that you like within a brand (if you can), research about these particular few bras a little. Many bra sizes will note how the bra fits - if it runs big, for example, or if the back runs tight. Ask someone who may have tried the bra before, if possible - there are lots of bra bloggers out there who give thorough reviews to bras they try out. Ask questions! Adjust what size you'll probably need to order from your estimated size, if applicable. Rinse and repeat for the starting few bras that you order to try out (I strongly recommend ordering at least 3 different bras at first to try out to get a better sense of what you need - even if you know you're going to return most of them).

Determining fit

Once the bras you've selected and ordered arrive, you might get lucky and discover that they all fit you perfectly. Yay you! You're set for the next little while.

For some of us, though, maybe only one or two of the bras fit - or none of them seem right. That's okay! You've still learned something. Try on each bra and note if there are any obvious signs of a poor fit. Cups too small in all of them? Return them and pick a few more bras in a cup size up! Write down what size, brand, and style of bras you've tried and how they seemed to fit before you return them so you have something to go off of.

Also, remember that new bras often need a little bit of breaking in (just like shoes!). If the bra seems to fit pretty well but feels tighter in the band than you're used to, remember that after a few wears and a first wash, the elastic should relax a little. You can also wear an extender until the bra loosens a bit if it's more comfortable.

Care and upkeep of bras

So, you've settled on a bra size and confirmed it with a few new bras, and you may have spent a pretty penny on them. How should you care for these investments that you've just made?

One of the most important things is to handwash/hand dry only! There's no faster way to create stretch, wear, and weakness in your bras than to just toss them in a load of laundry. Bras may have the amazing power to give support to voluminous bosoms, but they're still delicate underthings. Treat them gently!

Related to this, try not to wear the same bra for two days straight. This is why owning just one bra that fits  isn't going to do your boobs justice, by the way. The elastic in a bra needs some time to relax after you've worn it all day. And, if you have only one good bra, what are you going to do when that bra needs washing? (and don't say you'll just wear an old, ill-fitting one!)

Note that the fewer bras you have, the more strain each bra has to take from daily use/washings/wear. I recommend owning 2-3 bras as a bare starting minimum, hopefully working up to about 5 if you're able. The 5 bras you're cycling through wearing will last longer than the 2 bras you're having to wear all the time! [As an aside - I would still caution against going haywire and ordering twenty bras at this point. You may very well find that your size changes a bit in the months after you start wearing a good, correctly-fitting bra for the first time, due to breast tissue migrating back to where it's supposed to go.]


Do you remember your first foray into the world of correctly-fitting bras and online bra shopping? Any other advice you would add, or questions you have?

8 comments:

  1. Great intro to bra shopping for a newbie!

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    1. Thanks, June! Let me know if you think of any additional basic advice! :)

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  2. What a fantastic and comprehensive guide to starting off the process of finding a bra that fits!!!! Excellent post!

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    1. *blushes* Thanks, that means a lot coming from you! xx

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  3. This is an excellent guide! Thank you so much :D I'll be sharing it on my next Link Love.

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  4. I'm fairly certain I'm a 26 in band size, seeing as that's what my ribs measure as at my normal weight. Recently I put on a few pounds so it's a little higher measuring at a 28. Something I've noticed is that a 30 will look okay in stores, with minor flaws (riding up by 1-2cm), but once it breaks in the band is undeniably too big.

    I've learned that a proper fitting band will probably be really tight at first, maybe even uncomfortably so, but will fit beautifully once it's broken in. It's just something to keep in mind. If you can't breath or anything then there's a problem but if it fits "perfectly" before it's broken in it will probably be loose once it does.

    This guide is excellent, thank you so much!

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    1. I'm glad this was helpful! It sounds like you'd definitely want to wear 28 bands over 30 bands, and maybe move on to 26's (or steer towards the tight 28's) after you get a feel of how the 28's are working in general! It may be easier to get used to 26's after wearing 28's for a bit.

      You're so right that a bra might seem like it fits okay when tight and brand new, but get completely useless in terms of support once it stretches out at all. The bra should feel pretty firm (though not hurt/stab/rub) to start out with, and it will loosen a bit with time.

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