I hate my boobs. I do. They’re just so big. It’s impossible to find a decent bra, and even when I buy the biggest one I can find they don’t hold me in. They’re so irritating – if they’re not digging in to my shoulders the wires are poking me in the side. My nipples escape regularly, and if you look closely (or not so closely) at my dress it’ll probably look like I’ve got four boobs rather than two because they just won’t stay in place. Not that clothes ever look great on me: I’m such a weird shape that clothes shopping is a nightmare, and the last time I tried to buy a bikini I cried in the changing room. I mean, I get that I’m freakishly big, but I just wish it were easier. I’m saving up for a breast reduction now. I just want to be normal.
You’re right, this isn’t me. I love my boobs. But this was me, once. When I was a teenager in the standard M&S issued wrong sized bra (sold to me with a sympathetic smile and the phrase “you are unusually big” to really make you feel good about yourself, of course), I detested my body. But fitting standards and the availability of even DD lingerie was so poor on the British high street that I had no choice but to accept the horrible bra-in-a-box offered to me, and the appalling support it provided me as correct. I never questioned the bra; I only blamed, hated, and ultimately hurt my body for being wrong.
What sucks is that, fifteen years later, every day I see scores of blogs, forum posts, Facebook messages and e-mails from women who still don’t know that that’s NOT how it has to be. Fifteen years later, a UK lingerie shop doesn’t see just how insulting and totally misleading it is to have a ridiculous sign like the one above (it’s genuine!) in their window. If you find it hard to find bras that fit, it’s not your body that has the problem. You’re just in the wrong bra. And if you’re being fitted a company that makes you feel abnormal or wrong for your shape, or that seems to wilfully perpetuate bad advice in order to keep women in as small (but hugely profitable) a size range as possible, you’re in the wrong shop too.
Don’t question your body: it’s brilliant. Question your bra size.
1: Why am I such a freak?
You’re not. Really.
2: Why is it so hard to find a decent bra?
Finding a decent bra gets significantly easier when you find your perfect fit. If you’re constantly experiencing straps digging in, straps falling up, band moving or riding up, cups overflowing or the front pulling away from your body, you’re wearing the wrong sized bra. Most often (though not always), this is in the form of a back size to big and a cup size too small – which is sadly the standard and long outdated fitting advice given by fitters the world over.
3: Why would the fitter say I was that size, if I’m not that size?
I’m sure she’s well meaning in her advice, but often blind adherence to the unreliable +4 method [see: Study Finds +4 Method “Not Accurate” for more on this…] and the sausage factory nature of high street fitting rooms leads to women being totally mis-fit. Trust yourself: if your bra is uncomfortable it is the wrong fit for you, regardless of what the fitter may be telling you. Don’t be afraid to disagree.
4: How do I know when it’s the right size?
Finding a decent fitter is invaluable (there are good ones out there, but they’re not always found in your average high street shop. Bravissimo is something of a trailblazer here in the UK, and of course there are many boutiques too), but it’s important to educate yourself too so you have the confidence to speak up when it feels wrong. There are a few basic rules you can learn. Bravissimo sums it up clearly with visual aids here, but to summarise: the band should be firm and horizontal to the floor (even when raising your arms above your head); the shoulder straps should not dig in or slip off – and they are not there to take most of the weight of your breasts either; the front center should sit flat against your chest; your breasts should not spill over and cause quadraboob (even in a demi-cup!); the wire should track along where the breast meets body, and fully encapsulate the breast without sitting on it or digging in at the side. For most of these issues, the solution is usually a smaller back size and a bigger cup. If you’ve been wrestling unsuccessfully with D cups, don’t be surprised if you find yourself much better served by an F, a G, or beyond…
5: How can I even be that size? Is that size even real?
Forget everything you think you know about bra sizes [see: What Most People Don’t Know About Bra Sizes if you’re in any doubt]. The letter means NOTHING without the band size. A D cup on a small backed bra can be the same volume as the A cup on a bigger back. And the alphabet goes on far beyond D, and more often than you might think…
6: Why shouldn’t I just get a breast reduction?
That’s your choice, and for some women it is the right one. But before you go in for an expensive, invasive, risky and irreversible surgery, make sure that a better fit isn’t exactly what you’ve been looking for. Mine was nothing short of life changing… and that’s exactly what every woman is entitled to.
Enjoy finding that fit, ladies x
photo by @peasoneday on Twitter.