Gals, let’s get real. We’ve all seen the headlines.
ONE THIRD OF WOMEN WEAR THE WRONG SIZE BRA!
80% OF WOMEN WEAR THE WRONG SIZE BRA!
These are the two figures I found on the first page of Google (well, there was another one that said 85%, but the claim was made by somebody who was described as a “royal bra-fitter” because she once hung a measuring tape around Kate Middleton’s tits or something so I refuse to give it credence).
But you get the picture. There is a pretty substantial percentage of the breast-having population that is “risking aches, pains and saggy boobs” (thanks, Daily Mirror). These stories have been doing the rounds since at least before I had something to put in a bra. And yet, we women refuse to learn! Why won’t we just get measured and fitted for our bras properly?
If only it was that simple.
I’ve been a large-chested girl for years, even when the rest of me was much smaller than it is now. I still remember the first time I was ever fitted for a bra properly, at Bravissimo, and discovering that after years of believing I was a 34B (interestingly, according to Women’s Health, the size that women are most likely to believe that they are when they are actually not) that I was in fact a 32DD. I felt like an absolute freak. In fact, I phoned my sister and cried.
Over the years (and many, many conversations with friends later – I know a surprisingly large number of women ready to race me up the alphabet) I grew fond – even proud – of my epic chebs. Sure, I’ll never stop sulking at having to sacrifice waist definition for fitting my chest into any dress that zips up the back, and if you’re not careful with your posture you’d better be prepared for the resulting backache, but they’re mine, and they’re healthy, which makes me instantly better off than around one in eight British women.
(While I have you: did you know that you can sign up to receive free monthly text alerts from the bloody brilliant charity Coppafeel to remind you to check your breasts? They never fail to brighten my day when they arrive, too, as well as being far more useful than any stupid Facebook status game about the colour of your knickers.)
The one thing I’ll never stop resenting, though? How difficult it is to find really beautiful underwear in larger sizes – at least, on the high street.
Like, I suspect, many British women, my first experience of shopping for bras came via Marks and Spencer. It was there that I was first measured (so easy! so embarrassment-free! I didn’t even need to take my shirt off!) and it was there where, for years, I was told that I took a particular size. I don’t say this to knock M&S, but I think when you hit a certain cup size they just don’t know what to do with you. You can tell just by looking at their lingerie, where cute balcony-type styles instantly transform into floral Bags for Life round about the double-D mark.
Luckily, the internet has made it far easier to track down gorgeous undies in larger lady sizes than it was when I was growing up. Brands like Elomi, Freya and Curvy Kate consistently knock it out of the park with beautiful designs to suit a wide range of shapes and sizes, and at price points that won’t make you cry (the set in the picture is the ‘Morgan’ in the Blaze colourway, from Elomi’s AW16 collection,* and it’s the prettiest and best-fitting bra I’ve worn in a long time). And I don’t think I’d ever go anywhere for a sports bra now that isn’t typing “Shock Absorber” and whatever size I’m measuring as these days into eBay and seeing what comes up.
But how do we marry up the fact that online shopping provides a much wider range of styles and shapes with our apparent difficulty in purchasing the right size? I guess what it comes down to is knowing what makes a well-fitting bra, and not doing that thing where you order online and then can’t be bothered sending things back. For example, support comes from the bra back (and, to a lesser extent, the cups), not the straps; so that’s the most important thing to get right. Also, a new bra should fasten snugly on the loosest set of hooks: the others are there so that as the bra slackens with wear, you can fasten it tighter. Not, as I thought for years, to cover more sizes.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, for my comfort, I need to spend that bit more money to get the best quality bras I can afford. At least these days, I don’t have to settle for something boring with it.
This post contains a PR sample, but all views are my own and unbiased.