Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Playtex and bad fitting advice

I must admit: few things get my dander up more than when actual bra companies - the very ones who are trusted to help women find a well-fitting and comfortable bra - give completely misguided bra fitting advice, resulting in thousands of women in ill-fitting bras who have come to think that bras are supposed to be uncomfortable. Just take a look any of the statuses of the Playtex Facebook page and you'll see dozens of comments from women complaining about the pain that they're in and the troubles they have with bra-wearing.

Playtex, you are part of the problem. Beckie of Busts4Justice has recently re-started a campaign to get Playtex U.S. to become aware that their methods of adding 5-6 inches (!!!) to underbust measurements to get a band size is completely and totally wrong. Their bra-fitting calculator gives results that are ludicrous at best, telling me, for example, that I am not a 28GG, but a 32D - a size I haven't been able to wear since I was 12. A size that would barely cover the front of my breasts. A size that would ride up in the band were I able to actually wear it for long enough. In short, a size that is so ill-fitting that it is physically impossible for me to actually wear around, and would cause me a lot of pain if I were attempt to do so.

I emailed Playtex to address this issue, explaining that the calculator gives very off results and telling them what size I actually wear as compared to what the calculator recommended to me. I asked them to reconsider their fitting methods and to consider taking down the calculator.

This was their (non) response:

"Thank you for contacting Playtex Brand.  We are always delighted when Consumers take time out of their schedule to share their comments and welcome the opportunity to address inquiries regarding our products.

We will forward you comments to our appropriate department. We suggest you get a professional bra fitting at a department store. The stores that offer the bra fittings are Kohl's, Macy's, Belk and our Outlet stores."

...What? Not only did they completely ignore my explanation and questions, they snidely tell me to go get a professional bra fitting, perhaps at one of their stores. Their stores do not offer my bra size. Neither do any of the other stores mentioned. The least they could've done is directed me somewhere that had a wider range of sizes - Nordstrom or Intimacy, for example.

The response I was given, coupled with the responses received by several other bloggers and the total lack of responsiveness from Playtex through their Facebook page, makes me wonder - does Playtex even care about giving women the right fit? Or are they just out to sell as many bras as possible, even if they're selling women bras that don't fit them well? Adding inches to underbust measurement ensures that a much larger portion of women will stay within a 32+ band and a below DDD cup. But this isn't right.

Here's hoping that Playtex gets their act together and starts responding to the concerns voiced by so many.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bra Fitting: Finding a bra online

So, you've looked in stores for a bra that will work for you, and you just weren't able to find your size. Or maybe you just want more choices!

Fortunately, there are many great sites nowadays that offer a wide range of bra sizes. Many of them are based out of the U.K., but shipping is generally surprisingly quick. Some of the ones I list here are larger, very well-known sites, while a few are smaller and not as widely known. All of them, however, are worth checking out!*

I've listed the main brands that each site sells below - this doesn't mean that they don't have other brands available, but there will be the most choices and variety in the brands listed.

Main Brands: Curvy Kate, Fantasie, Freya, Gossard, Krisline, Panache
Sizes Sold: 28-46 D-K
Shipping: UK (shipping to US: £6.95, or free with £75 purchase)
Brastop is one of my new favorite sites to order from. You can always find great deals and discounted prices on bras here - it's a great choice if you need to order a variety of sizes to determine your size (you'll have to pay for return shipping, however). Sometimes there will be codes for additional discounts or free shipping! Check back often for new selections and prices, just be aware that your size in any particular bra may get sold out if you wait too long.

Breakout Bras
Main Brands: Elomi, Fantasie, Freya, Panache
Sizes Sold: 28-38 D-K
Shipping: US (free standard shipping)
Breakout Bras has a great page on fitting advice, as well as a larger selection of maternity items. They do offer a variety of sizes and brands, but it's a bit hard to shop by size (select a category first). Their FAQ also states that they will match prices.

The Big Bra Bar
Main Brands: 2wenty8, Curvy Kate
Sizes Sold: 28-36 DD-H (*note: the site plans to offer one of their bras in a 26 band starting in March!)
Shipping: UK (shipping to US: £7.00, or free with £75 purchase)
The Big Bra Bar is a newer site, and has a selection that is really quite small, focusing on a range of just 7 cup sizes and 5 back sizes. However, the offerings are good, and the owner (Nikki Hesford) is both passionate about offering choices to smaller backed/larger cupped women and willing to listen to the desires of customers.

Main Brands: Bravissimo, Fantasie, Freya
Sizes Sold: 28-40 D-KK, 32L
Shipping: UK (shipping to US: £7.95)
Bravissimo is always chock-full of new offerings and beautiful bras in a wide range of sizes. It's one of the easiest sites to use, in my opinion; you can search by size, style, brand, and color with the dropdown list, and it will update based on how many options are available depending on what you select. They will also offer very helpful fitting and sizing advice if you email them with questions.

Sophisticated Pair
Main Brands: Elomi, Fantasie, Freya, Panache, Wacoal
Sizes Sold: 28-42 D-KK
Shipping: US ($7, or free with $50 purchase)
A smaller, US based site, A Sophisticated Pair has a smaller selection of some of the most popular bras.

Butterfly Collection
Main Brands: Several choices in each of these
Sizes Sold: 30-38 D-K
Shipping: Canada (free US shipping)
One of the few Canadian-based bra sites, Butterfly Collection offers a good variety of brands with several choices each. The sizing choices are solid, though a bit limited in comparison to larger sites. US and UK sizing equivalents and fit recommendations are listed for each bra.

Bare Necessities
Main Brands: Bali, Calvin Klein, Chantelle, Felina, Freya, Le Mystere, Lily of France, Maidenform, Panache, Platex, Wacoal
Sizes Sold: 28DD-H, 30-40 AA-K, 42-54 A-N (US cup)
Shipping: US ($5 shipping, free with $70 purchase)
Bare Necessities offers a wide range of sizes to choose from. It carries more U.S. brands than many other sites, so be mindful of brands when looking for your size.

Main Brands: Chantelle, Fantasie, Freya, Gossard, Just Peachy, Panache, Wacoal (see all brands offered)
Sizes Sold: 28-46 AA-JJ (the majority of sizes within this range, with a few additional offerings in larger backs)
Shipping: UK ($4.95 US shipping)
Figleaves offers one of the widest varieties in terms of brand and size. If you want to explore a wider variety of brands, or you want to order a variety of bra sizes within the 28C-DD cup range from the same site (most small band/small cup sites stop at B or C), this is a good option.

Her Room
Main Brands: Fantasie, Panache, Freya
Sizes Sold: 28-58 AA-K (28 bands only to HH; higher US sizes like L, M, N in larger backs offered as well).
Shipping: US ($5 shipping, or free with $70 purchase)
Like Figleaves, Her Room offers a wide array of brands and sizes. The site is also very user and search-friendly.

Main Brands: Anita, Chantelle, Fantasie, Freya, Panache (all brands listed here)
Sizes Sold: 28AA-J, 30-56 AA-N (all sizes listed here)
Shipping: US ($6 shipping, free with $75 purchase)
I haven't had much experience with Linda's Online, but I do know that I'm impressed with the sizes and variety offered, as well as the user-friendly site and good bra advice!

Large Cup Lingerie 
Main Brands: Freya, Fantasie, Parfait, Miss Mandalay
Sizes Sold: Varying; 28 D-H, 30-36 D-K, 38 D-J, 40DD-G
Shipping: Free worldwide!
LCL has a small but solid range of bras, and the prices are definitely reasonable (some in the 15GBP range)! The site is very easy to navigate.

Ewa Michalak
Main Brands: Ewa Michalak
Sizes Sold: Can vary; generally 30-46 A-K, with a few 28 bands and larger cups in some sizes. 24-28 bands (as well as other sizes) can be custom ordered by contacting the owner through the website.
Shipping: Poland (shipping to US: 45pln/$13.50)
Click on the English flag on the top of the page for an English-language version of the site. I've heard great things about these bras, and the prices aren't bad either! Just be sure to convert to USD ;)

Additional Links:
Looking specifically for small cup/small back sizes? Check out Brittany's post on Resources for Smaller Busts.
Tight on cash? Take a look at Bras I Hate's post for tips for bra shopping on a budget.

Have you had good or bad experiences ordering bras online? Any other site recommendations? I'd love to know about them!

*disclaimer: I have personally ordered from several of these sites, but not all of them. As far as I know, all of these sites are legitimate and have good reviews.

Edit: Reader Suggestions
Thanks to readers for these additional online shops!

Big Girls Bras
Main Brands: all brands listed here

Sizes Sold: Range includes 28-58 AA-N cup (mix of US and UK sizing), with not all bands available for all cup sizes (shop "by size" to see what's available).
Shipping: US ($4.95) [to Canada: $8, International, $30]

Main Brands: Curvy Kate, Fantasie, Freya, Gossard, Krisline, Panache
Sizes Sold: 28-48 D-K (all sizes listed here)
Shipping: UK (US shipping £6.95)
The Lovebras site setup reminds me of Brastop - the prices seem to be similar too!

The Bra Chest
Main Brands: Fantasie, Freya, Gossard, Panache (these are the only brands stocked at present)
Sizes Sold: 30-42 DD-GG
Shipping: UK (US shipping £5)
I find it a little strange that they call searching by band size "search by chest size". It sounds a little misinformed! Their sizing that they keep in stock seems rather limited, but the prices aren't bad, and the delivery times seem quite fast.

Belle Lingerie 
Main Brands: Cleo by Panache, Fantasie, Freya, Lepel, Panache
Sizes Sold: 28 D-G, 30 B-J, 32-38 AA-JJ, some cups in 40-44, 32-36 K
Shipping: UK (US shipping £7.95, must use Paypal)
Check for Belle Lingerie selling on as well.

Beautiful Bosom
Main Brands: Freya, Elomi, Curvy Kate, Fantasie (these are the only brands stocked)

Sizes Sold: A-K, 28-48
Shipping: UK (US shipping: they say to contact them - does anyone know this?)
There is a link to their store on the site as well. BB notes that they stock all sizes available in the bras they carry, and to contact them if your size isn't listed. They seem to use only Paypal as a payment method.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bra Fitting: Finding a bra in stores

After measuring yourself and getting a good idea of what your true bra size is, you may feel a little stuck. "But where can I find a 30F/34HH/28C?" you ask. "I've never seen one of those anywhere, much less heard of one!"

You're not alone in suddenly feeling that stores have let you down in regards to their bra size offerings. I recently helped a relative of mine measure herself and try on a few bras. She'd been wearing a 34C, and I estimated her at about a 28F/30E. This relative, like me, has a history of back pain that could be helped (or even eradicated, as in my case) with a correctly-fitting bra that offered good support. The problem? The store we were in (Nordstrom, no less) offered no bras with a 28 band, and very few in a 30 band. The best I could do was show her that a 30DD was too small in the cup and tell her that she should look for a 30E elsewhere - online, perhaps, where I could show her a myriad of sites that offered bras for less than $35.

But the hour of being surrounded by expensive Nordstrom bras and the inability to find a bra that fit perfectly had taken its toll. She offered up the excuses I've heard so many times before - "It's too much trouble - too expensive - what I have is "good enough" - I don't need to spend money on a bra when I could buy other things." And she left, still in a bra that offered no support whatsoever and that was probably causing some of her back and shoulder pain.

It's true, sizes outside the "norm" can be quite difficult to find. For those in the U.S. in particular, it's very difficult - and sometimes near impossible - to find bra sizes in a 30 or below band or above a G cup. But don't give up hope just yet! Sizes like these do exist, and they're far from being the ugly grandma bras that you may associate with "larger sizes"!

For those of us in the U.S, here are a few stores that offer a range of sizes larger than the average department store:*

Range of sizes that they may stock: 30-46 band, AA-HH cup
Range of sizes that you can actually expect to find: 30-38 band, A-G cup
Nordstrom can be a good place to start looking, even if you know that they don't have your exact size. If you think you're a 28G, say, you can go looking for the sister size of 30FF to try on to see how close the fit is, then base online searches off of that. Often the saleswomen will offer to order a size that they don't stock if you find a bra that you like that's not your exact size.
Nordstrom is generally a fairly good place to get a bra fitting, although I've heard of and had hit-and-miss experiences. It's best to get an estimate of what size you are by measuring yourself at home, then take what they say with a grain of salt (but be open! you might get a really great bra fitter).

The range of sizes you can expect to find is generally about the same as Nordstrom in my experience, although both stores will vary on their stock depending on each individual location. I've noticed that Nordstrom is more likely to carry a few good U.K. brands like Freya, Panache, and Fantasie, while Dillards seems to carry almost exclusively U.S- sized brands like Wacoal/Whimsy/b.tempted and Chantelle. The main problem with this is that U.S. brands are less likely to carry smaller band sizes, so it may prove more difficult to find a small band/large cup combination. However, I have seen 30 bands for A-G cup for at least one bra every time I've been to a Dillards.

Fredericks of Hollywood
Range of sizes they may stock: 32-42 band, A-DDD/F cup
Range of sizes you can actually expect to find: 32-38 band, C-DDD/F cup
Fredericks uses U.S. sizing, and their specialty seems to be mostly for a small range of sizes (most bras I've seen there are 34-36 band, D-DDD/F cup), but it can be a good option to check out if you fit within this size range.

Range of sizes they may stock: 30-44 band, A-HH cup
Range of sizes you can actually expect to find: 32-38 band, A-F cup
Intimacy stores are generally small and pricey, but the upside is that the fitters are fairly knowledgeable, and they will alter bras for you so they'll fit you better. If you're a 28 band, they can alter a 30 down, for example. Back when I was looking for 30G's, however, I could only find 2 options in the entire store, one of which fit fairly well, but it was well over $100.
Another note - some of their bras are U.S. sizes, so bras in a "30G" may be labeled "30I" instead.

Boutique stores
Often through a little online searching you can find a nearby bra boutique store. Stores like these have the potential to be better at any of the above stores, both in terms of selection and fitting. It's best to call ahead to get an idea of what sizes they carry, especially if you're going to be traveling out to visit. Some boutiques will even carry bras in a 28 band!
I know of a few good boutique stores in various cities (either through hearsay or experience), and I may compile a list one of these days.

Generic Department Stores and places like Kohls, Target, etc
Generally I would say avoid stores like this for any kind of fitting advice, but if you fit into the range of 32-38 A-DD, you may be able to find a bra that works for you.

Clearance Stores like Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx
These are hit-and-miss, but once in a while you can find great bras for much cheaper than you would at a department store. Generally 32-36 band, D-GG cup is what you might expect to find if your search is successful.

Some words of caution:
Even though stores like Nordstrom and Dillards may be better than the average store for finding and getting fitted into a bra, take note that these stores are still a business, and thus they will want to sell you something (like any other store). Neither of these stores carry a 28 band, so it is quite unlikely that they will actually fit you into a 28 band, for example - they may give you a 30 band and tell you that it's "good enough", or even tell you that you can't be smaller than a 30 or 32 band. Personally, I've had bad experiences (I've been made fun of and told I couldn't be a 30 band or smaller) and good experiences (the same store a year later there was a very sympathetic and helpful salesgirl that was a 30F herself and knew a lot about fitting, including that I was a 28 band). So don't get discouraged if you have a less-than-helpful experience, but just be aware that there's always going to be the occasional salesperson who doesn't know what they're talking about.

Do you have any recommendations/bra shopping experiences to share? Questions? I'd love to hear them!

Coming soon: Finding a Bra Online - for those of us who need or want more choices.

*(Note: "Ranges they may stock" means that they advertise (online or in store) to carry these sizes. "Ranges you can expect to find" is the range that they are most likely to have in-store without having to look for the one bra that they do have in the back or ordering it for you. You may get lucky and find more of a range than you were expecting depending on the store, however.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bra Fitting: How to Measure Yourself

For years, I was confused about bra sizing and what it all meant. I was "fitted" at various places - all of which gave me different sizes, none of which fit well - but I still had no real idea of what the letters and numbers were for. The "36" in a 36DD probably had something to do with bust measurement, I thought, and "DD" just meant "really big boobs." But no one ever explained it all to me, and I grew more and more frustrated with painful and ill-fitting bras. I couldn't go above a DD, because a DDD bra would be WAY huge (if they even existed), I thought. And I had no idea why my bras felt too small yet the bands felt too big. It wasn't until I scoured the internet for guides and for what bra sizes really meant that I was able to estimate what my bra size really was and finally find a bra that actually fit me.

There are some great guides out there already for measuring yourself for a bra size, but here's my explanation/experience. If you've never been sure of what your bra size is, or you just want to check or gain some understanding about how sizing works, correctly measuring yourself is the best starting point!

What you'll need:
-A fabric tape measure

Optional, but helpful:
-A mirror
-Someone to help you hold the tape straight

Step 1
You'll want to be standing in front of a mirror if possible, wearing just a bra. Start by taking your underbust measurement (in inches). Hold the tape fairly firmly, but not so tight that it cuts into your skin. The number you get will be your approximate band measurement - the even number you see when you read a bra size (i.e. the "32" in a 32D bra).

Write down this measurement, rounding to the nearest even number if it's a half number and/or an odd number. In my case, the measurement is a little under 27.5, so my band size is 28.
If you get an odd number, say 31, you'll probably first want to try rounding up to a 32 band size, but you may need to round down to 30 if you find that a 32 band feels too big, especially if you're slightly under a 31.

Step 2:
Next, you'll want to take your bust measurement. There are two methods you can try.

Method A
This is probably the preferred method. For this first method, make sure you're wearing a non-padded, non-sports bra. Hold the tape somewhat loosely, but tight enough to keep it straight across your bust. As in Step 1, a mirror and/or a friend may be helpful here to help make sure the tape is straight.
Write down this measurement. In my case, it's about 36. Round up or down to the nearest number if you get between two numbers.

Method B
Alternatively, you can bend forward, sans bra, and take your bust measurement this way. Some people may find a more accurate measurement this way; it's also best to do it this way if you don't have any bras that fit (that is, if they're squishing you down or gaping, thus not allowing for an accurate measurement).
This number may be a little different than the number you get for the first method of this step. When using this second method, I get 37.

Step 3:
Subtract the number you got from Step 1 (your underbust measurement) from Step 2 (your overbust measurement for whichever method you used) to get a cup size.

In my case, since my actual underbust measurement was closest to a 27, I'll use this number, even though my band size is a 28 (some people use their estimated band size for this equation, but I get a more accurate estimate if I use my actual measurement):
36-27= 9
37-27= 10

Step 4:
Starting at the letter A=1, count up however many letters equal to the number you got. (For example, a difference of 4 would equal a D). This can get a little tricky, particularly since US and UK brands use different sizing, and because of double letters. It's helpful (and probably necessary) to refer to a chart when figuring out cup size. (Be sure to start at A for 1 inch difference)

In my case, using the UK side of the chart:
9 = G
10 = GG
(A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, FF, G, GG = 10)

Thus, I should start by trying a 28G or 28GG (UK sizing).

If you came up with a size that you've never heard of, never fear! If you can't find your true size in store, there are many great places online that stock a wide range of beautiful bras.

I know that I generally wear a 28GG (but ranging from a 30G to 26J in various brands!).
For me, then, I get the most accurate measurement when I bend forward to get my overbust size and when I round down to my actual underbust measurement for the equation rather than use the rounded-up band size.

These slight variations you can get with different numbers is why it's very important to treat this as a mere starting point for figuring out a correct bra size. There is no "magic formula" that will give everyone their exact bra size. This is partly due to differences in body type and the need to use "rounded" measurements. In my case, I measure around 27.5 and either 36 or 37, rather than the 28 and 36 that could be used for this calculation if I rounded differently. I also have fuller-shaped breasts, which may lead to the need to go up a cup size when using these kinds of calculations. You may need to go up or down a band size depending on how firm your underbust is.

Thus, the only real method to find out your bra size is to actually try on a variety of brands and sizes of bras, keeping in mind that sizing will often differ slightly between brands and even between different styles in the same brand. What these calculations do accomplish, however, is that they give you a very good starting point for figuring out a range of sizes to try. Most certainly it is much more accurate than other methods that tell you to either add 4-5 inches to your underbust measurement or take an over-the-bust measurement to get a band size. Either of these inaccurate methods will  give you a band size that is too large and a cup size that is too small - for example, the Victoria's Secret method of taking an over-the-bust measurement rather than an underbust measurement gives me a size 32D or 34C - sizes that are completely, ridiculously, and totally off (see my previous post on getting measured at VS).

When trying on bra sizes, remember a few key things:
-If the cup is too small, go up a cup size, not a band size.
-If the band is too big, go down a band size and up a cup size (i.e. from a 34F to a 32FF). This will keep the cup volume about the same.

Other good resources to measuring/fitting yourself for a bra:
Thin and Curvy
Bra Calculator (Note: When I "round down" for my underbust measurement  (27) and use the Method 2 measurement for my overbust (37), I do get an accurate 28GG).

Some guides and examples for correctly-fitting bras:
Common bra fitting problems - Bravissimo
Fitting and sizing guide - Breakout Bras

Further reading:
Tips to Understanding Bra Sizes
The Alphabet Does Not Stop at DDD

Do you think you've been wearing a size that's way off? Got questions about fitting or sizing?