In a country where access to good fitting and affordable (and decent) DD+ bras is difficult to find, the marvellous bosom buddies at busenfreundinnen.net are on a mission to properly fit the boobs of Germany. I was lucky enough to snatch an interview with the lovely Joanna Ryćko, one of the founding ‘Busenfreundinnen’, and find out more about the site’s mission and genesis. It’s an inspiring story of women taking action for change, and one I hope will encourage more women to take action against bad fitting and poor service wherever it exists. It’s certainly challenging me to think how I can do more…
Busts 4 Justice: What inspired the idea for busenfreundinnen.net?
Joanna Ryćko: I come from Poland where Lobby Biuściastych were already making a difference. They inspired people to open their own bra-shops with proper bra-fitting and British brands. In Spring 2008 there were only a few such shops in Poland, but now in every big city there is at least one, and in Warsaw there are about 20. It’s an avalanche which you cannot stop anymore.
At the end of March 2008 I asked Lobby about my right bra size. I thought, what can be so complicated about it? – I’m intelligent and able to read from those size charts, so it’s not possible that I wear the wrong size. But I was curious. I was wearing the EU size 80C (36C) and they suggested me to try the British 30F (65F). It was amazing! I went to the nearest department store, where they – of course – didn’t have any bras with the band under 70, so I tried 70E on and was just stunned, how fantastic it looked and how comfortable it was. Two weeks later I got my first Freya, fitted by the owner of our first online shop with British brands and all sizes. I wasn’t really satisfied with this Freya model, but I was amazed about the idea.
At the same time some other Polish girls living in Germany were discussing the German Wikipedia article about bras, which they wanted to rewrite/change. I was searching for a good source on the German Internet to tell my German friends about the idea of bra-fitting. And there was none. As I’m studying computer science and it’s not a problem for me to take care of building a website on my own, I suggested, we could open”sister” or “twin” German forum.
The name was thought up by a friend of mine, since German is not my mother tongue and it was hard to come upon something original but also funny or ambiguous. And she came up with the idea for the word “Busenfreundinnen”. “Busen” is “bust”, ”Freundinnen” are female friends, so literally it would be “the friends of breasts”, BUT the word “Busenfreundin” means also “bosom friend”, a best friend. So it fit perfectly.
Our beginnings were quite hard, because we were only three and we had to do everything on the page: administration, moderation, bra-fitting, editing, pr and much more. When time passed more and more users become interested in the topic and stayed with us. We started to pick up the most active ones and they got the possibility to receive training in virtual bra-fitting from us. So they become our first virtual bra-fitters and after a while many of them also become mods, so they could help us managing the site. Now the team counts 30 members! There are admins, mods, bra-fitters, editors, pr-team, and experts in some special areas of bra-fitting such as small breasts or mum’s breasts. We all work very close with each other. Since the team is spread not only in whole Germany but also in other countries, we communicate a lot via Skype. It’s very helpful. But we also try to meet in small groups whenever it’s possible.
B4J: What is your mission?
JR: We want to make women happy
We want to rise the bra-fitting awareness upon German speaking women (mostly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland). To show women that their bodies are perfectly ok as they are and that they don’t have to adapt them to the bra industry, but that they CAN expect this industry to adapt to them and their needs. But as we know, most women don’t wear properly fitting bras and most of them have no idea about it, how it should fit to feel just good and form the breasts in a positive way. So the first thing is to show women, how to put on a bra correctly, because it’s the most important thing, if you want to be able to see if a bra fits. Second, we wan’t to explain, how a bra works, so they are aware of this principle, it’s important for understanding and judging, if a bra fits, which is the third thing we want to teach them.
Then we want to help them in finding a proper bra. It’s not only about sizes, but also about many other factors like the cut and help them find stockists. We have a large database of different shops and also another one of different bra models.
Now we are slowly able to go to the phase two, which is fighting for our needs. It’s very difficult to “obtain” a bra in Germany. They are very expensive here and they don’t come in enough sizes and cuts. So our users now started to write letters, e-mails etc. to underwear producers and shops. I hope, as our popularity grows, that we will manage to change the industry in Germany as Lobby did in Poland.
BTW. we have a very important rule in our forum: we never comment on women/users bodies, only fitting: we judge the bra or a cloth, if it fits, or how it changes the body. And it’s not only about negative commenting but also about positive. When you [positively] comment on somebody’s flat stomach, there would be many woman with not flat stomach feeling very bad about it. So it’s just a no go in our forum. And it transformed the atmosphere in the forum in a very positive way. So many women, who come to us, say, they never felt so good in their bodies before and that they feel safe at the Busenfreundinnen.
B4J: What is it like being a curvy woman in Germany?
Hmm, I think it’s difficult. The range of bras you are able to buy in normal shops is not enough. If you have any size which is not one of 70-90 (32-40) A-D you have to go to a special shop, where you will have to pay a lot for a bra, which would not fit anyway and look awful… I guess women who need a band under 70 (32) (and maybe have big breasts) have the most problems with finding a well fitting bra: under 70 cm you would be sent to a children’s department!
There are some brands which produce bigger sizes, which you can buy here in Germany, it’s not that they are not here at all. But it’s still not the whole size range and they are still not fitting everyone. And they are unfortunately not that cheap.
The other problem are clothes for curvy women. There are NO such brands in Germany as Pepperberry or BiuBiu, so if you have curves (and every women does!) the most clothes won’t fit perfect. If you are like really curvy – with larger breast and slim waist, you have to buy larger clothes sizes as you would normally do, because otherwise the breasts won’t fit (the most problems are with blouses) and you end up with having a sack around your waist.
So being curvy woman is not easy. It’s not cheap. It’s not feminine. It’s actually not curvy at all… It’s also not fun, if you have to wear only white, black and nude bras, because you are unable to find any other colors and patterns.
B4J: How many members do you have? Are they just based in Germany or are they from all over Europe?
We have about 3000 registered accounts and we have about 1500-2000 visits a day. Most of them from Germany, but also from Austria, Switzerland, Poland and other countries all over the world. Most of our users are in their 20ties, but there are also young teenagers and woman over 60.
B4J: Is busenfreundinnen.net making a difference?
JR: Earlier we were just too few to change anything. Now there are already many aware Busenfreundinnen out there, who are engaged in this topic and try to do something about it.
There were also few users wanting to surgically reduce their breasts. And as soon as they got fitted, they didn’t have to do this anymore, because their health problems were reduced to an acceptable level or just went away.
What do shops need to be motivated to change? I guess when their customers give them enough feedback, if women will get strong about their body’s feelings and needs, they won’t have another choice…
Thank you Joanna!
Busenfreundinnen.net is written in German, but with a good translation plug-in (Chrome is brilliant for this) everyone can take part. So if you’re frustrated and in a part of the world where bosoms are still without the recognition and support they deserve, go and find Joanna and all of the Busenfreundinnen for lovely, supportive and safe forum to find everything you need to get and fight for the fit you deserve. Or even better why not set up a Busenfreundinnen sister-site for your own country?
Gute Arbeit, Damen. Wir lieben dich!