Ladies, do you remember the first time you were fitted for a bra? If you’re in your thirties or forties, you were probably between the ages of 11 and 15, with an anxious parent waiting outside the dressing room as an older lady with shellacked hair, creased lipstick, and bifocals measured, poked and prodded at your nascent breasts. These ladies were from another generation, when shape wear and cone bras were NOT optional, but a requisite of proper womanhood. They often had decades of experience measuring boobs under their girdles, and they did not play around- they would find you a bra that fit perfectly, even if it was a hideous shade of beige with 5 rows of hooks.
Finding a bra that fits well is fucking important, given many of us spend the majority of our waking hours wearing one. Nobody wants saggy boobs, straps that dig or slip, or stabby underwires. But unfortunately, it would seem that the aforementioned generation of bra experts have all retired or passed away, only to be replaced by a legion of 22 year old minimum wage chippies in stilettos who are more invested in stroking one’s ego than helping you find a bra that actually fits properly.
I first noticed this shift about seven years ago. I had a friend who I’ll call “Martha.” Martha was a curvy girl with smallish boobs, about a B cup if I had to eyeball it. I was a little surprised when I was getting rid of some too-small D-cup bras and she offered to take them off my hands. “I went to the department store the other day and found out I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size all along!” she crowed. “I was wearing a 38 B, and it turns out I’m actually a 36D! The sales lady told me that I have a bad habit of pushing my breasts back into my armpits, which is why they look smaller than they really are.” I smiled and nodded politely, but all I could think was WHAT THE FUCK. How does one push one’s breasts back into one’s armpits, exactly? What bizarro logic inspired this convoluted and patently dishonest sales tactic?
So, it’s a well known fact that you can drop a band size if you add a cup size, and essentially have the same size bra. A woman who is a 36C can probably wear a 34D, and vice versa, though you’ll probably get a better fit if you stick to your true size. Nevertheless, you’ll meet a lot more women who claim to be a 34D than a 36C, since the tiny ribcage to huge boob ratio is considered the feminine ideal. This new generation of bra saleswomen are exploiting these insecurities to score hefty sales commissions. I have heard stories like Martha’s over and over again- a small busted woman tells me of her miraculously promotion to a C or D cup by a persuasive salesperson (who then convinces them to buy a bunch of bras in their “new size”).
I can’t help but feel a little cynical about these shenanigans. Nevertheless, I was curious when a fellow big busted lady (I wear a 40 or 42 DDD, E, or F, depending on the brand) told me that Nordstrom sells several lines of fancy larger-sized bras. “They have this special measurement system where they have twice as many cup sizes as a regular store!” she gushed, showing off her fancy bra in the changing room of the Korean bath house where we spending the afternoon. Intrigued, I asked my mom to take me bra shopping as a birthday present, since those puppies ain’t cheap.
The young, eager saleswoman at Nordstrom whisked me away to a dressing room where I presented my boobs, and she got to work with a measuring tape. “Okaaaay,” she trilled, after punching some magical rib cage to bust ratio into her pocket calculator. “You’re a 38 H!”
WAIT, WHAT? I hadn’t worn a 38 band since I was in high school, and although my friend had warned me about their extended cup size system, I wasn’t exactly ready to be an H cup either. H cup was bra size no-woman’s- land, inhabited by porn stars with massive implants who looked like they might fall over from the weight of their breasts. I sucked up my pride tried on a handful of bras in my “new size.”
“This feels kind of tight,” I wheezed, as I struggled to breathe.
“That’s because you’re not used to getting proper support!” she insisted in an authoritative tone. She was correct in that my boobs were utterly immobilized- not even jumping up and down could elicit a jiggle.
I left that day with two new bras, expecting my life to be forever changed as a result of this much-hyped bra fitting. Well guess what: 9 times out of 10, I choose to wear my cheaper 42DDD Lane Bryant bras over my $50+ 38H Freya bras from Nordstrom. True, the Freya bras give me more support, but they also give me backaches, and the underwire digs painfully into my armpits, leaving red welts. Frankly, I think a 38 band is just too damn small for me. (To be fair, the salesgirl at Lane Bryant also said that I’m a 38, but admitted a 40 might be more comfortable for daily wear.) Am I insane to think that vanity sizing has replaced accuracy? I am ok with wearing a bigger band size if it means I’m not distracted by how uncomfortable my bra is all day long.
Ladies- don’t buy the bullshit these salesgirls are slinging about how a “proper bra fitting will change your life” and how “most women wear the wrong size bras.” It’s nothing but a bullshit sales tactic with no basis in reality. I suggest, instead, trying on several dozen bras until you find a few that actually fit well. You can still lie about your bra size if you want to, but at least you’ll be comfortable while you’re doing it.
Update: I wrote a response to the negative feedback I’ve been receiving about this piece which may clarify things for people. You can read it here.
Find out what else Bianca has to say here.