Tuesday, October 26, 2010

growing up and sports

Confession: I love being active, but I almost never am.

I've always had a competitive edge, and growing up, that largely showed itself in school and sports. While I did participate in some competitive sports (soccer, swimming, tennis, and basketball), I generally just liked jumping into games of soccer or ultimate frisbee or racing. I loved being the best, I loved winning, I loved competing, I loved just being active.

This all started to go downhill soon after I hit puberty, and gradually fizzled out. I experienced rapid unexpected boob growth, and by the time I was around 14, I was embarrassed to be seen running and I started holding back. Plus, it was uncomfortable. I played team soccer for the last time when I was about 16, and that was it.

Being busty shouldn't be a reason for not playing sports. But for me, it was. I had no concept of a properly-fitting bra, let alone sports bra. I was 15 and in an ill-fitting 36DD and felt shut out from doing what I had once so loved. I was embarrassed to join in games with boys - something that I had always done - because invariably I would be in pain from the extra movement, I felt awkward, and I would "accidentally" get bumped in chest a lot.

I felt no other choice than to withdraw from sports and games, and, in consequence, withdraw from other people. I felt that something was wrong with me, and at 15, I clearly recall sternly telling myself that I needed to "grow up" and stop wanting to be active and play games, because I thought I must be at that point of being "too old." I didn't know what that meant or entailed, I just knew that I was getting to the point of being unable to. I would start running as I always did - then stop abruptly because of the awkward and obvious and painful bouncing. Stop! I told myself. You're being stupid again! Grow up!

And so I learned to curl my shoulders in, to stand with my arms over my chest, and I learned to stop running. I learned to be picked last instead of first. I learned to protect myself. I learned that I would be treated like an adult by males in their 20's and older because of my body.

I still like being active. At summer camps, I gave the kids in karate a run for their money - those little boogers could never catch me! But I avoid working out (something I've never really liked anyway - playing a game is so much more interesting), and every time I see a game of ultimate frisbee being played on campus, I want to run and join in, but I don't.

Even now, after I recently got an Enell sports bra for a mere $20, I would have to actually be wearing it at the time, or go back home and change completely. There is no way I could wear that corset-like apparatus all day, 'specially simply in anticipation of a game that may or may not be happening. It would be competely impossible for me to play any sort of active game in one of my (2) regular bras, though - I literally would pop out of them (experience speaks).

I know that other busty girls who are very into sports can and do deal with it by wearing supportive clothing when they're playing. But what about day-to-day life? When I was in my teens, I thought I had to resign myself to the fact that I wouldn't be able to play sports ever again. I know now that this doesn't have to be the case. However, I just haven't figured out the specifics yet. I thought getting a good sports bra would solve everything, but it really only works for planned-ahead events where games will be the only activity. Day to day life? I'm guessing either a really good supportive regular bra that would work for at least light activity, or a sort of semi-sports bra that would at least keep everything contained, although it would allow for a rather limited wardrobe.

I need to get out of this non-active funk one way or the other! And yes, swimming doesn't require a sports bra. However, it does require a swimsuit (something I haven't owned since I was 15). It's been on my to-do list to get one for oh, about a year now. :P

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Victoria's Secret and sizing


If you know me, you know that I strongly loathe don't really care for Victoria's Secret. I'm of the opinion that it's the devil they fit people poorly and offer a very limited range for a shop that's specifically lingerie/bra oriented.

Is Vicky's all bad? Dear readers, pretty much no! If you fit within their fairly limited range, you'll be able to find bras there and sing kumbaya with all the other patrons. If not? You'll either be made fun of (true story) or they'll try to convince you that you fit into the size range that they carry (also true story).

I know my bra size (after years of wondering what the heck was wrong with me when I was 14 and didn't fit into anything at department stores). If you're not so lucky, though, and you go to Victoria's Secret to get a fitting, chances are you'll be put into a size that's not ideal for you.

There are many methods used to figure out your bra size, but the best way I've come across is to measure under your bust and use that as your approximate band size, then measure your bust at its fullest point and use the difference as a starting point for your cup size. For example, if your underbust was 31" and your bust 35", you might start by trying a 32D and go from there. If the band is too large, try a 30DD (when you go down a band size, you need to go up a cup size to get an equivalent cup); if the cups are too big or band's too small to hook on, try a 32C, etc. Bottom line, try things on until you get something that works and use the measurements only as a starting point.

At any rate, Victoria's Secret doesn't use this method to figure out your band and cup size. Instead of taking you to the back and properly measuring you as a starting point, they use the following method:
-Take above-the-bust measurement (around your body, under your armpits) over your clothes.
-Then measure your bust (again, over your clothes, often in the middle of the store).
-Then take the above-the-bust measurement and subtract that from the bust measurement to get a cup size (depending on the number of inches; 1 inch difference = A cup, 2 inch = B, etc).

I don't doubt that this method yields at least somewhat satisfactory results for some. But for others, particularly the large-busted and/or thin, it is ridiculously inaccurate.

For an experiment (and because I was at a mall I knew I wouldn't be coming back to anytime soon), I went into a Victoria's Secret a few months ago to see what size they would fit me into, even though I knew they don't carry my size in their stores. I was curious as to whether they would get an accurate size and whether they would refer me to another store.

(story time!)
When I asked to get fitted, the girl dutifully pulled out a measuring tape and told me to put my hands on my hips. She quickly whipped the tape around under my armpits (about 34 inches) and over my bust (about 37) as she asked me what size I was currently wearing. Then she proclaimed: "Okay, you're a 34C."
"34C." I repeated, not sure she was serious and that she had heard what the current size I was wearing was.
"Yes, or possibly a D, since you have a smaller frame," she said confidently.
Several questions were running through my mind, namely how I could magically fit into a size that I hadn't been able to get into since I was 11, and on what planet a 34 band equaled a small frame. However, I played along and gathered a few 34D's.
I buzzed her over to the fitting room after I'd somehow gotten one on, feeling ridiculous. "How are those fitting?" she asked, cheerily and automatically. I showed her how the band was riding way up and how the cups barely covered the very front of my boobs. The fit was so completely, ridiculously off that I wondered how she would salvage the fitting, much less keep a straight face.
"The cups are way too small," I said helpfully.
"Hmm, how's the band fitting?" she asked, buying time as she sidled around me.
I pulled it several inches away from my body so she could see how loose it was.
"Okay, well, maybe you're a 32DD. Or maybe even a 32DDD," she offered, it seemed to me seriously. "Since you have a small frame." 32DDD is the smallest band/largest cup size they offer, and only in one or two bras usually only sold online. "What size did you say you were wearing currently again?"
When I repeated it, she said "Okay," noncommittally. Then she left, still looking perplexed as to why her original fitting didn't work and probably sure that I would fit into a 32DD (which, incidentally, has virtually the same cup volume as a 34D).

Why was the fitting so very far off? Had the fitter bothered to actually measure my underbust, from which the band size should be based off of, she would have discovered that it measures about 28.5 inches. That's quite a far cry from the measurement she used to determine band size (34), and it's about 9 inches different from my bust measurement as opposed to 3 inches. Using the same method of one inch per letter, these new measurements come much closer to my actual size. It's not that difficult.

So why doesn't Vicky's use this method? I'm not completely sure. Most obviously, I would think it's because they only carry a fairly limited range of bras (32-38 bands, A-DD cups; most of the 32's come in only A-C and sometimes D). Their goal is to sell bras; I get it, they're a business - it makes sense (to a point) that they would want to try to fit people into what they carry.

More importantly, though, I think for at least some fitters the method used is based on an ignorance of how bra sizes work and because they aren't really aware of sizes beyond what they stock. I've known girls who've gone into the store asking for "odd" sizes like 30D and were told "That size doesn't exist!" I've also heard about or experienced being told that you can't possibly be the size you're wearing, that Victoria's Secret doesn't sell "weird" sizes like that, that anything 34 and below is "tiny," and that something is wrong with you if you aren't the size the fitter tells you you are.

I think that their sizing method (of taking a measurement of over the bust for a band size, which I'm reluctant to even link to) could work for people who have a over the bust measurement that is close to their under the bust measurement. But the fact is, not everyone is like that. I thought we were supposed to celebrate our differences, Vicky!

The perhaps even more prevalent method I've seen of adding 4-5 inches to the underbust measurement to get a band size seems to me an even more blatant attempt to get nearly everyone to fit into a relatively small range of bras. A girl with a 29 inch underbust and a 36 inch overbust would be fitted into a 34B or C with their standard math equation (29+5 = 34 band; 36bust-34band = 2 inch difference). A fitting estimate using her actual underbust measurement would put her into about a 30DD. Next time you go to a store see how many 34C's you see in relation to 30DD's. A girl that's a 34C = lots of sales. A girl that wears a 30DD = no sales (at least for Vicky's).

I'm sure many people have had good experiences with Victoria's Secret. Sadly, I haven't, and it bugs me to no end when I see girls getting fitted into sizes that are obviously wrong, especially if the girls are made to feel that it's a problem with them, not the bra they've been given to try.

I may not be "normal." But you know what? Neither are you. You have your own special and unique body that shouldn't be defined and constrained by what measurements you have and what society tells you that normal is.
If you should be wearing a 30C, then you shouldn't have it hammered into you that you have "tiny boobs" and must wear a 34A, because you're tiny and tiny people wear A's. You shouldn't have to be told that your bra size doesn't exist and you can't possibly be a C. You shouldn't be made fun of because you're "so skinny" because a 34A is slipping off your shoulders because the band is too big.
If you really are a 34F, you shouldn't be told that you're a 36D because that's all the store has. You shouldn't be forced into bras that are too tiny and make you feel fat and ugly and ridiculous.
If you're a 32H, you shouldn't have to endure being the brunt of "big-boobs" jokes or told that you look like a porn star or endure horrible back pain because all that the salespeople can do is hand you a 38DD and tell you that you should get a breast reduction.
And you know what? If you wear a 34C and you fit everyone's definition of "normal" and you can get bras at Victoria's Secret, more power to you. Because you are you. And you are beautiful.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Great Sizing Enigma

Situation: You go to your friendly local Nordstroms and venture into their lingerie department. You're currently wearing a DD, but you decide you want to try a size up, but you're a little confused as to how the sizes all work 'way up in the above-D realm. So you decide to ask for help.

"Do you have any, uh, E's, perchance?" you ask the girl.
"You mean DD?" she asks sweetly.
You thought you remembered seeing that E came after DD in the sizing world, but who are you to question the all-knowing salesgirl?
'Uh, yes," you reply. "I mean, no... whatever is a size up from DD."
"Oh, that would be DDD. Same as F," she chirps, rummaging around in the racks. "DD is the same as E."
You wonder why they even call it E if everyone just says DD, but you obediently follow her and take the selection of bras that she hands you.
A few moments later in your searching, you happen upon a size E bra and wonder why it's not labeled "E/DD," but are too confused to ask by this point.

Yes, the world of bra sizes is a confusing place. Even helpful salesgirls can make things more confusing. But do not despair, fellow bra-seekers! The secret is simple. European/United Kingdom and United States sizing follow different systems after size D. The differences aren't too great at first, but they magnify quickly to the point where you might be asking the Nordies salesgirl for an H (UK sizing) and she hands you a US H, which is the UK equivalent of a FF. (if they even carry these sizes)

Here's the UK/US Size Conversion Chart to make things more clear: (taken from BareNecessities.com, which, by the way, I recommend both as a site for finding bras and for some (but not all) good info on the way bras should fit)

US ------------ UK
I ---------------G
L ---------------HH

As you can see, this isn't really a problem if you wear a D or smaller, but it can get really confusing trying to translate bra sizes between brands if you're looking for a DD or above. The US doesn't deal with double letters or so-called "half" sizes (although the difference between, for example, F and FF is a full cup size), choosing to tack on as many D's as they can before finally giving up. U.S. brands have a problem with getting over that "D" threshold on their tags. One can understand asking for a "Double-Dee," but what are you supposed to do when you get further up? "Yes, I'm a *counting on fingers* D-D-D-D-D" or "a Quintuple D" ....ridiculous. And yes, many U.S. brands do put "DDDD" instead of the simple "G" on their tags. To make things more confusing, the person used to U.K. brands will assume the DDDD is an F.

The best way to deal with this is to know your brands and sizing differences beforehand. It's difficult to figure out the sizing system that all the different brands follow, but knowing a few of the main ones and realizing the differences in the tags is easy to do.

Also, knowing what brands stock bigger cup sizes/smaller back sizes is really helpful when scanning the bra section of the store. If you don't see any of these or the salespeople don't know these brands, then chances are you're not going to find anything that works if you're looking for a D-DD cup and above paired with a 32-34 band and below.

Good U.S. sized brands:
-Wacoal (and b.tempt'd)
-Lunaire (and Whimsy)

Good U.K. sized brands:
-Panache (and Cleo)

There are others, obviously, but these are the most well-known that I most often see good stores stock (and I've tried some of them [the ones that carry my size] myself). The sub-brands in parenthesis are the more "youthful" and/or "sexy" versions of the main brand. Often these brands will vary in how they fit somewhat from the main brand (for example, Cleo tends to run smaller than Panache).

I often feel like I should run an inventory of all the brands carried in shops around here. What bothers me the most is when stores carry a brand that has a very large range of cup sizes, but they only carry a few sizes in that range, and no small band/large cup combos. What's the point then, really?