Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fitting: why it matters to me

I was 19 when I first started trying to figure out my correct bra size. Not long into my quest, I'd occasionally I'd have friends ask things like, "Why does it matter? Why can't you be okay with the "sister size" thing, or something "close enough"?" As the search got more and more frustrating, I started to ask myself the same questions. Why wasn't what I was wearing "good enough"? What made me so special that I had to have a very well-fitting bra? (how strange, to want to have clothes that fit well...)

But I was even more frustrated with not knowing how bra sizes worked, with squeezing into the same two 36DD bras that I'd had since I was 15, with wondering why nothing seemed to fit me. I had been seriously contemplating breast reduction surgery since I was 16. So I kept on looking and researching, not even trusting fitters, determined to figure out for myself what no one had taught me. I didn't know why everything I tried seemed both too small and yet too loose, why bra sizes didn't seem to go above DD, what the numbers and letters really meant. I researched, was introduced to Paul Taylor's webcomic about a busty girl heroine, joined a livejournal community for smaller girls with larger busts, and tried on lots of bras - a task I had learned to loathe over the years.

And then I had my epiphany moment when I tried on a 30G bra at Nordstrom (no one had fitted me into it; I had measured myself and guessed through trial and error, then had it checked by a fitter). And I almost cried.

It didn't hurt. It didn't ride up or down. It didn't flatten or squish me. It didn't feel wrong. It had underwires, something I thought I could never wear. It was even... pretty.

I spent $80 on that Fantasie bra that day. I would've spent $300.

And then, in the weeks and months following, I did cry. Not so much for everything that didn't work, but because I had found something that did. I wasn't a freak. There were other people like me. I phased out my trial-and-error bras, the 34F's that were closer but not quite there. I learned what a correctly-fitting bra should look and feel like.

And, the best thing of all, the thing that even now, three years later, I sometimes forget: the upper back pain disappeared. The lower back pain disappeared. The shoulder pain disappeared. I had lived with the pain and discomfort for so long that I had just accepted it as part of me. When it was gone, I felt so free I could've shouted and danced (I probably did). I only remember it now when I wear or try on a bra that isn't my size or isn't the right fit. It doesn't take long to be reminded. But now, instead of accepting the pain, I know it's the bra, and not me. Because there's nothing wrong with me.

The main throwback to all those years of wearing poorly-fitting, sports-bra, "minimizer" bras is that I still slump, I still curl in my shoulders. It's hard for me to remember to stand up straight and proud, hard for my body to remember to stop compensating for back pain.

So I turn back to humor to keep from berating myself for slouching - these two comic panels have always stood out to me for that:

Bikini power! :D

My size has changed a bit since that period several years ago (I'll post on bra fitting while going through weight fluctuation sometime in the future), but the principles remain the same. I'm not a freak. The clothes are the problem, not me. I don't have to be in pain.

That's what I want everyone to know about themselves.

Oh, and thanks, Paul Taylor. For helping me learn that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And what if your bra size doesn't exist (yet)?

A quick rant: I may find it hard - nay, at times extremely difficult - to find bras in a 28 band (and a larger cup). I admit it was with some despair that I came to terms with the fact that I needed a 28 instead of a 30 band, effectively cutting down my options to online-only shopping and fewer choices.

However, sometimes even 28-bands are too loose for me. And more and more, I keep hearing about (and seeing) girls who need bands that are smaller than 28s. They need 26 and 24 bands (like Brittney from Thin and Curvy) or even smaller. However, there just aren't really any options for girls like this. Those needing a 26 band can try custom-ordering from Ewa Michalak, a Polish website, but these custom bras can't be returned, so the purchaser must guess at their size and hope their money on the bras and shipping isn't wasted. Many girls who need a sub-28 band don't see going through this somewhat difficult and expensive process as a feasible option. Therefore, they either remain frustrated with 28-band bras that are "close" to fitting right, but cause pain because they're not quite there, or they make do with loosely-fitting and unsupportive larger band sizes (30,32,even 34). How can good bra companies advocate the  "correct" way to fit yourself without offering options for everyone? It doesn't seem quite right.

I keep hearing rumors that Panache might be coming out with a 26 band bra, and I'm really hoping that they follow up on this (and that it covers a wide range of cup sizes!). How amazing would it be to have a bra available in your size, for the first time, to purchase directly from the main big-bra websites without having to custom order??

Bra companies, don't leave us out. Don't restrict us to one or two bras. Give us options! Give all of us the opportunity to wear the size we need!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shut out

If you're an "odd" bra size, you're probably used to feeling left out. Maybe you've given up expecting to find your size in stores at all. If everyone was wearing the correct bra size, I think this would be a more common problem... after all, there are somewhere in the range of 96 possible bra size combinations for any given bra (and that's just for back sizes 28-38, in cups A-K)! And yet, even some of the most inclusive bras at Victoria's Secret, Target, and regular department stores only carry around 19 sizes (with band sizes under 32, cups under B, and cups over D-DD usually left out). Even stores with an extensive range like Nordstrom carry around 45 sizes tops, with many of those sizes only having one option, and still whole sections of the population are left out. More commonly, only sizes 34A, 34B, 34C, 36B, 36C, and 36D (a mere 6 sizes!) are offered in many stores. That's quite a significant difference from 96, and helps explain why VS and other stores use incorrect fitting methods to make sure their customers buy something rather than being correctly fitted into something that they don't carry. Surely they realize that there's more than 6-19 types of boobs/bodies/figures out there?

However, even the big-name big-bra brands aren't immune to a lack of inclusiveness. Even the ever-popular Freya, Fantasie, and Panache often seen to be stopping short. If you do a search on Freya's website, the choices go drastically down the higher your cup size goes, especially in a 28 band. For example, a search for 28FF presents you with 23 available options. A search for 28GG gives you 11 options. Selecting 28HH gives you 5.

A few examples that leave me feeling "left out":

Freya Lacey

Love the look of this bra, and it goes at least up to a JJ cup...  in every band size except for 28, where it stops at a G cup.

Freya Faye

I applaud you, Freya - the Faye bra goes all the way up to a J in a 28 band, excluding only JJ and K cups. However, as is the case with many bras, the style/cut changes when the bra is over a G cup. I was able to try on this bra at Bravissimo. A 28G was nice and tight in the band and too small in the cup. A 28GG, however, was FAR too big in the band and loose in the cup. It felt like a completely different bra! Cue disappointment and frustration.

Freya Nieve Longline Bra

Yum! However, this longline version has a rather disappointingly small range of sizes. The regular balcony version has a much wider range, the same as the Faye, so I guess there's still hope for me there, unless the style changes drastically in GG+ cups like the Faye.

Bras I Hate made some interesting points about Freya as a brand. I have to say, I tend to agree with the fact that Freya seems to work best for boobs around the DD-F or G cup range, but doesn't fare as well above this, or for those under a 30 band. Possibly this has to do with the cut/style changing for GG+ and under 30 bands (still not quite sure why that happens). I've been thinking for the past few months about moving on from my fixation with Freya. I realized that I keep wishing/thinking/hoping/expecting that Freyas will somehow work for me, if only I could find one in my size that didn't change drastically when going from a G to a GG cup.

If I move away from Freya as I have from most Panache (wires too wide for me) and Fantasie (cup shape not ideal for me, and I don't know of any 28 bands), where does this leave me? I keep hearing praises of Ewa Michalak, and I've decided that the next bra order I make will be from there. There's some brands I haven't explored much, like Curvy Kate. And I'll keep a lookout for Cleo bras that are similar to the Poppy, like the Juna bra.

With 96+ size options, and many stores only choosing to carry less than 20 of them, it's no wonder so many people have misconceptions about bra sizes and how bras should fit. I think companies are getting more aware of the need for more options as more and more people find out their correct bra size, so here's hoping that stores will slowly but surely begin to stock more sizes and offer better fitting advice!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cleo Poppy Bra Review

In September, I got my first "new" bra in a long time - the Cleo Poppy bra (from a Bravissimo store, no less!). I usually steer away from Panache/Cleo bras, so I was surprised that I loved the fit when I tried it on. The shape is great, although I must admit I still slightly prefer the Deco. The Poppy band runs tighter than a Freya, which is good for me since even the 28 bands in Freya are sometimes too loose for me. The cups also seem to run a bit small, so if you fluctuate between two sizes, I would go with the larger one.

I definitely recommend the Poppy bra, especially if you don't generally wear Cleo bras, you find that Freya bras or other brands are a bit loose in the band for you, you wear a 28GG or H (as these can be particularly hard to find in general; however, it does stop at an H cup), you want to try or you know you like half-cup bras, and/or you want something fun but also comfortable and practical! My only complaint would be that the lace on top doesn't always lie flat, especially on one side, but that's fairly minor. The bra is also very comfortable (probably my number one criteria).

I would include a picture of it, but sadly my camera has basically died. Hopefully I'll be getting a new one in the next month or so, because lack of a camera is really proving to add to my lack of motivation to blog.

In other news, I finally took the plunge and got 13 inches of my hair cut off in October. I was able to donate the proceeds from the haircut to Breast Cancer research, donate my hair to Locks of Love, and got an awesome punk-pixie cut to boot! I'll have to get pictures of that as well when my lack of camera is resolved.

If I find other reviews of the Cleo Poppy Bra, I'll be sure to link back to them in this post. Let me know if you try it out, and what you think! It's inspired me to give Panache and Cleo by Panache bras another chance.