Take Advice from an Expert

Source: alphamom.com via Rachel on Pinterest


The other weekend I went bra shopping.

Yes, I am getting far too personal on this blog.

I went bra shopping to finally replace my post-nursing hand me down bras from my sister.

The experience taught me a few things.

First, I really don’t like the act of shopping. I do enjoy that I have my new bras now, that they fit well and look good but, man, I hate the crowds. And trying things on and spending a lot of time in a store with other people searching and trying things on.

I tried on 30+ bras before finding the right one and then had to go to another store to find it in black. Per my own advice I got a nude bra and a black bra.

Second, I am not an expert. On bras or, really, most things. So I if I’m not an expert why do I refuse expert advice?

I was measured by a store assistant and advised I could try two different sizes: 38 C and 36 D.

I’ve been many bra sizes in my life. In high school and through my rowing career I was a (barely) 38 B. When I retired from sport my body fat composition changed and shifted and I became a ‘real’ 38 B. When I got pregnant I had to buy new bras as a 38 C and as a nursing mom I was a 40 D.

That’s a whole lot of bra sizes. Despite all the fluctuations I was convinced there was no way that I was a D cup right now. I’m not nursing and things have, uh, deflated.

So I tried on a lot of 38 C bras. None fit right so I kept going back to try on more styles. Eventually the head of the bra department saw me and asked me what size I was looking for.

I said, 38 C.

She looked me over and said, you’re not a 38 C.

You’re a 36 D.

After trying on over 20 bras I was ready to give her expert status some credence.

And yes, lo and behold, I am a 36 D.

I am not an expert on bra sizing. And thinking that I knew better than women that size bras for a living wasted a lot of my time (and Katy’s). I’ll also admit to buying poorly sized bras in my 20’s, things I really wanted to fit but ended up gouging me with under wire or being painfully tight on my broad rower back.

No more. I’m going with the expert’s advice from now on and I’ll continue to go to a store that offers sizing services and knowledgeable staff. I want my undergarments to be both comfortable, flattering and functional. Very happy to report that this style is doing all three for me.

I’ll save my expert status for things like living car-free with a toddler and let the bra experts do their thing.

Anyone out there have a drawer full of ill-fitting under things? Did you impulse shop or just think they would fit better after some use?


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  • I wish I could find someone around here that would measure/fit bras. I have some pre and post baby and nursing. I know they aren’t supporting me well, but I don’t want to buy an ill fitting one. I guess there are some around here, but it isn’t worth the trip to the either city ( I’m between Milwaukee, WI and Chicago, IL) which is over an hour away. If anyone knows of a place around here, I would appreciate the referral.

    I was happy to see the post on buying bras!! Your timing is impeccable, as usual!!

    • Hope you find a good shop to get fitted. Although the shopping part was painful I am so glad I went for it. My old bras were not doing me any favours. I feel a bit taller and the “girls” feel perkier. 😉

  • Yep, I feel your pain! After two children I had to get measured again recently too. The experts declared, and they are right, that I’m now an A cup :( Pre-kids I was a D, ah well!

  • The actual cup size of a 38 C and a 36 D is the same, just the rest is different.
    It is hard to explain, but as the number increases, the cup size decreases, so in theory the cup of a 38A would be the same as a 36B, 34C and a 32D.
    I have seen a few bra fitting seminars, and they say that most women are a letter to small and a number to big. I was a 34 B for years, only to find out I am really a 30 D- the cup fit the same, but the back was a world of difference.

    • KT: That is an interesting fact I did not know!

      Our local bra shop just went out of business. I have heard that Macy’s will measure you, but I am skeptical after having dealt with only local shops for the last 10 years.

      Glad you found a good fit, Rachel! It makes a big difference.

    • Thanks for saying this! So many women get hung up on cup size, and don’t realize that cup size alone is completely meaningless. A D-cup isn’t huge at all if it’s attached to a 32″ band! A D-cup is only a 4″ difference is circumference, for god’s sake!

  • Oh bra shopping! Firstly, a lot of those “experts” aren’t really so. I used to work at Victoria’s Secret Beauty (which is attached to the lingerie store), so I’ve seen first hand how little training there is to bra fitting. I’ve also found that US bras are not made appropriately to size. For example, the lowest size around they make is a 32 here. However, the around measurement should be your actual measurement around. Really, I should be wearing a 28, not a 32. Thus, until I can order a real bra (breakoutbras.com), I have to stick with ill-fitting bras. So glad you found something that works for you!!!

    • Why do you have to stick with ill-fitting bras and not order a proper one now? Surely 2 good bras (which don’t have to be expensive) are better value than a bunch of poor fitting ones. I have only 2 good ones (which are expensive) and thanks to regular h andwashing have lasted almost 2 years and are still going strong.

      • Actually, EVERY SINGLE bra in my size is AT LEAST $40. Thus, food comes before new bras at this point. Plus, I hate the fact that I have to shell out the cash before even trying them on. As for altering them, making them tighter will affect how the cup fits. Unfortunately, it’s not a cheap nor easy fix.

    • You could also buy one and have it altered (a few stitches can easily be done by hand). I had to do this while I was breast feeding, as I could not find a small enough nursing bra.

  • After reading this I decided to really measure myself and while I’ve been wearing a 36 D I’m actually a 30DDD/F. Good grief!!!

  • I’d had mine so long I could gt them over my head without unfastening them. Gave in last summer and purchased 2 new ones (and was properly fitted) – one black, one white (of course) – and yep had been wearing the wrong size.
    KT you’re spot on I was ‘a letter too small and a number too big’.

  • I have a few things hidden in my wardrobe that I ordered online, they didn’t fit and they I never got round to returning them. All other clothes fit perfectly as I tend to have a cull every year. I’m also quite strict when it comes to shopping – I only buy clothes in red, navy, beige, grey or white so everything pretty much goes with everything. It has to be something exceptional for me to buy it in another color. Saves me a lot of headaches deciding what to wear. But a little boring print, I know.

  • I despise shopping of all kinds. Bra shopping is the worst. After being measured, I think I’ve finally found a size that fits me so I’ve ordered it online (I can’t find stores that carry my size). I’m really hoping it works out.

  • Ha! A few years back, a good friend and I decided we were gonna crack the bra-fitting mystery once and for all. We visited numerous stores and got numerous fittings, all of which gave us completely different sizes. We finally turned to the internet for help, with much the same result.

    But then I happened upon a site that seemed to have foolproof instructions… it was something like “bra fitting for real women…” or something like that. Anyhow, we were dutifully following each step and then it got to a part where it said we should “choose which cup size we wanted.” Huh? Didn’t realize there was a choice there. Anyhow, we read a bit further and finally realized that we had somehow ended up on a site for transvestites! Oh my!

    At this point, I pretty much stick to exercise bras and tank tops with built-in support. It’s just so much easier.

  • I am still nursing, so I am different sizes at different times of the day! lol Pre pregnancy I was a 34A so truly, bras were optional! I still don’t like wearing bras, and am leery of the research linking underwire padded bras to breast problems. So I bought bralettes, “crop top” style bras, and v-neck crop top styles from Gap. Easy to nurse in, and provide the bare minimum amount of support!

  • Hi–I’m new to your blog and am really enjoying it! Re: today’s topic, if you have an Intimacy store in your area, the next time you shop for bras, visit them and just put yourself in their very capable hands. They will find the PERFECT fit for you and they have beautiful bras. Also, they alter and repair the bras they sell you, so say the band or straps stretch but the cups are still in good shape, they’ll fix it and you can get another life out of the bra. They’re bras are pricey, but worth every penny because they are pretty and they fit so well that you’ll forget you have them on. I can’t say enough about them!

  • yup , have been there as well. i look at my chest and just can’t believe i measure a 34D! I have to get measured again as i have lost some weight, but D is not at all what I imagined it would be. i always wore 36B then 36C pre kids, and besides nursing twins for 4 years or so i am about the same weight.. getting measured is the way to go and trying on in the store as opposed to the internet, makes all the difference.

  • If you think bra shopping is bad – you are welcome to go shoe shopping with me. You’ll soon stop telling tall girls that “we’re so lucky” because it’s dang near impossible to find shoes in size 12. Just saying.

    As far as nursing and bras – I love my nursing tanks from Target. Comfy and stretchy and easy to use. Regular bra shopping though… sigh. It’s on the level of jean shopping but not nearly as bad as shoes.

    • I’m a tall girl as well and do feel lucky to be 6ft tall. Even with my 11/12 sized feet :) The large feet do go a long way in curbing shoe buying temptation as you know. Nothing available in regular stores.

  • Ugh! Bra shopping! I’ve made so many mistakes, but now I always get an expert opinion. I’ve found Nordstrom’s (in the US) and Change (in Canada) to be reliable. One black, one nude, one sport. Never fancy!

  • love this blog.

    I dont own any bras. Of course I have to be slightly creative sometimes with your clothing to ensure people can’t see anything through! But being small-busted ,its not necessary for me. In fact I don’t even know what my size is., i think around 32 a.
    But the shoe thing..wow. I get tempted by every other shoe, i just love them. I have to restrict myself now since I have foot problems and can’t wear 90% of shoes.

  • Gals, bra shopping doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. It might, however, be painful to your wallet. But getting a good bra wardrobe is worth the money in a way that few other things are. I was having awful back pain every day from a combination of old car accident injury, big boobs, a desk job, and high impact fitness. Getting the right bra size (and a cushy pair of sneakers) cleared it up overnight. I went from a 38DD to a 34/36 F/FF (depends on brand). Basically, if your boobs are much bigger than mosquito bites, you probably need a bra from a manufacturer that uses European sizing. Most US retailers don’t carry much beyond a DD. Lane Bryant does, but their smallest band size is 36, and anyone who takes larger than that either has a big ribcage and broad back, as I do, or is quite plump above the waist.

    Here are some resources I’ve found to be invaluable:
    This is the best sports bra on the market. I loved it so much I bought two, and I frequently wear it as a regular bra. Perfect athletic support while maintaining a nice shape. I read recently that the elastic tube compression style sports bras that are everywhere were designed for a B cup or less. That’s not most women.

    Read all her bra fitting posts and measure yourself. She has links to websites where you can purchase and extensive reviews on different brands. Her advice holds true if you’re neither thin nor curvy. She also has a few links to sites where the less endowed can find pretty, non-teen-looking lingerie in tiny band/cup sizes. For those with narrow frames, don’t lose heart – there are 26-30 band sizes out there; you just have to dig!

    What to look for:
    Everyone D and up should be looking for brands such as Freya, Panache, Fantasie, etc. Freya has narrower, deeper cups that sit more in front – this is my preferred brand. Panache tends to run large in the cup, and their wires are wider set. I’d recommend this brand for women with wider-set breasts (ie, braless, do they angle away from the center?). I went down a cup size when I purchased my Panache sports bras.

    Where to look:
    Amazon.com – they don’t have much, but I’ve found the odd bargain here.
    eBay.com – there’s a surprising amount of discontinued, NWT lingerie on eBay for reasonable prices.
    Bravissimo.com (for UK orders. They’re usually cheaper than the US retailers, even factoring in overseas shipping, but be sure of your size. You do NOT want to have to try to return things, and shipping takes about a month)
    Pepperberry.com – Bravissimo’s sister site. They carry clothing cut for large busts. Most of it has a young business casual vibe comparable to Loft. Pricing is like Banana Republic/Ann Taylor. See warning above about being sure of your size. They have excellent customer service, so if you’re unfamiliar with their sizing, email them with your clothing sizes and measurements in both inches and centimeters before you order. Their tops run a bit short for this 5’10 girl, and be careful of waist seam placement on dresses. Their fit model is 5’5, so caveat emptor.

    I cannot stress the importance of a good bra enough! For tall women, properly supported breasts will help prevent a dowager’s hump in old age (according to my chiropractor). It makes your clothes hang better. It improves your posture and takes 5 pounds off your waist. Ironically, my breasts look a lot smaller and more in proportion to my frame after getting fitted. Choke on the price, choke on the huge cup sizes you might need, and then place an order anyway. Just be sure to get free shipping from a place with a good return policy.

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