Monday, February 21, 2011

About comments, emails, and blog growth...

Hello there!

So, when I started this blog just four months ago, I knew it was a subject that needed talking about. But I had no idea how fast this blog would grow! I'm delighted, of course. My main motivation for starting this blog was being able to help people find clothes and bras to fit, and to be able to network with other busty ladies. And that has been happening, and that's great!

Another thing that's been happening, which is also great, is I've been getting a LOT of comments, and emails. And I really love receiving them! And every time, I want to make sure to respond to everybody, and to answer any questions. I also am a person who tends to be extremely careful about how I word things and how I explain things. I want to give everybody the best answer possible. But unfortunately, sometimes that gets to be a bit too much for me, what with being a full-time college student with other responsibilities, and all. So, I am still working on answering everybody... but I know I've fallen behind a bit lately and I'm sorry for that. I think (hope) most of you would rather receive careful, thought out responses even if it takes longer.

And I also have to keep posting... which gets harder to do as often because I'm busy responding to everybody!

Maybe I'm over thinking this (I do that a lot :-P) but I wanted to let you know that if you have commented or sent me an email recently, I'm not ignoring you and I WILL answer you, I promise. I may have to respond to comments less in the future, though, like only when somebody asks a question or something. But please keep leaving them! I do like receiving them and reading them, and I like having your feedback.

I just wanted to let you guys know... thanks for your understanding and if anybody has thoughts on this, or suggestions, please do let me know! And thank you for reading and responding and generally being awesome.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Where can I buy my new, correct bra size?

So, you have learned to measure yourself, and your new bra size was probably a bit of a shock! Especially if you don't have any good bra fitters in your area, (read about signs your fitter sucks here) you will most likely have to buy this new size on the internet. Almost all of the bras sold in an actually good range of sizes are made in the UK, but with the power of the internet, you can still buy them even if you don't live there! Here are the websites I would recommend:

Bravissimo-- I know that I've made it clear I'm not currently a fan of their clothing range, but they started out selling bras and that's still what they do the best! They have a huge range of sizes, very pretty bras, and an easy-to-use website. They just introduced an L cup bra! Oh, and yes, they are in the UK, but shipping to the US has been pretty painless in my experience.

Bare Necessities
Bare Neccesities: Free Shipping over $50, a wide selection, and free exchanges! That means they will pay for you to ship things back if you need to exchange for a different size. You can search by size and they also have helpful articles, and their bra measurement guide actually tells you the correct way to measure!

Freshpair Static Banner Blue Font

Freshpair: You can search by size, they have a huge selection of stuff, and orders over US $40 get free shipping. They have helpful articles on lingerie styles, care, fit, and more (although follow my fitting guide for bras, not theirs! Lingerie We Buy for Ourselves
HerRoom: Similar to Freshpair. Free shipping over $70. I especially like that they give you the measurements of each bra (so that if, say, you find that you need a shortish center gore or something, you can compare that measurement to a bra you already own) and I also like that they show you a preview of the bra under various different necklines. Great selection, some 'different' things than other places, and even their own brand for full busts!

  eBay-- Whatever you want, you can buy it on ebay. Search for your size + "bra" and make sure to turn on worldwide search. Good place to get cheap bras in your size, but not recommended for your first bra since you generally can't return items.

(Some of the above are affiliate links. Some aren't. I am recommending these because they are the websites I recommend, whether or not they want to give me a commission for it!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bras for the sub-28 ribcage- do you need a 26, 24, 22 band size?

I have a confession to make. I have studied bra fitting for years, even started a blog on it, fitted multiple people.

But I'm not wearing the right size myself.

Why am I wearing the wrong size? The bra I am wearing right now is a 28H. But I measure 24" around my ribcage. If you've read my post on how to measure yourself, you know that your band size should be roughly equivalent to your ribcage measurement. That means I actually need a 24 band size. But 28 is the smallest band size any company manufactures.

It's more than just measurements, however. It's also about how it fits. I've written about how to tell if your bra is ill-fitting, and mine shows many if the signs: cutting into my shoulders, riding up in the back, making blisters under my breasts where the wire rubs. I also don't feel like it really looks right. Maybe it's just because of my longish torso or something, but I don't really feel like my breasts look as well supported as they could be.

Just to prove it to you guys, this is a picture to show how much a 28 back bra rides up on me.

It's very frustrating. I have chronic back and shoulder pain, and I know it would be better without the pressure on my shoulders. And those weird calluses under my breasts just suck! Besides, I know how awesome and life changing the right bra can be for people- yet I am unable to experience that for myself.

Manufacturers think that my size wouldn't sell very well. But I don't think that my size is nearly as rare as they say. I do think that bra fitting awareness is part of the problem, however- women won't demand their size unless they know their size!

I certainly see women all the time that look just as small-framed as me. I also see a lot of petite women who claim to wear a 28-30 band but then have 22-24 inch waists. Unless their ribcages are much more triangular than mine, I suspect many of them have similar ribcage measurements and need 22-26 bands for the bras to truly fit. Bra fitting is important for petite and small-chested women, too. I do need the support in a whole different way, though!

Is there a great solution? No, not yet. But here are a few options that I have looked into:
  • If the underwire is uncomfortable due to poor fit, you could try a soft cup or nursing bra in the closest size you can find. Bravissimo currently has 3 styles of soft cup bra that all start in a 28 back.
  • You can get your band altered. If you are in a 28 and need maybe a 26, this could be an acceptable solution. But I haven't had much luck with it because the band just needs to be altered too much and I end up with a poor fit. If you need it shrunk more than 1 band size this is a bad idea.
  • You can browse reviews and look for especially snug 28 backs. Again, this will probably only work if you are around 26-27".
  • This blog talks about a polish bra company called Ewa Michalak. Supposedly, their bras are very, very snug and their band size 60 (European sizing so think more along the lines of CM not inches) could be appropriate for a 24" woman. When I heard this I ordered some straight away in excitement. They told me via email that a 60 ought to be "ideal" for me. But unfortunately, I didn't find the bras to be nearly at tight as they said. While they were a little bit better at first, they were far from a perfect fit and when I held them up to one of my 28 bras after wearing them for a few weeks (so they had stretched slightly at that point) the bands were pretty much the exact same size. I wrote them and asked about this, and they offered to make me a 55, but they didn't really explain why the band was so much looser than everybody said. I may take them up on the offer, but honestly, I think I'd need a 50, since their 60 is basically a snug-ish 28 and I need 2 sizes smaller than that. I know I have a decent amount of Polish readers from my Biubiu review- if any of you have any insight into what happened here, I would LOVE to hear what you have to say in the comments.
  • You could look into custom, and that's what I've come to. Unfortunately, most of the websites offering custom bras that I could find were very expensive and the bras were hideous. I have been in contact with a seller on Etsy about a custom sized bra. It will take her a while to make it for me, but I will let you know the results!
One more thing: If you measure less than 28" around, the ONLY way manufacturers will EVER start offering better sizes is if they know customers want them! So please, write manufacturers and tell them what you want! For the sake of all of your fellow small-ribbed women, if not for yourself. I've had good luck writing on the facebook walls of many companies. For example Panache responded to my request within an hour and said they would consider it if they got enough demand. Other brands that might listen are Curvy Kate, Freya, and especially Bravissimo. (Bravissimo is responsible for the existence of 28 bands and L cups, so...)

There are also several questionnaires by some smaller manufacturers linked here where they said they had had requests for the "statistically unlikely" band size 26, which in their sizing system (4" snugger than normal so the add-4 method essentially works) would be for a 22" rib cage. When I took the surveys, they didn't even have a space for under 26" ribcage measurement! I had to write it in under "other" or mention the size I need when answering other questions. Let's prove them wrong! Us smaller-ribbed girls do exist! And we need the support!

If you are a manufacturer reading this and you want to introduce smaller band sizes, please let me know. I will shout about your brand from the rooftops! :-) Thank you.

Are you smaller than 28"? Do you have another sizing frustration? Do you have any suggestions for finding smaller band sizes? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reader Question: Bra-fitting help/underarm "fat"

Tessa asked me this in a comment, and I decided to make a separate post answering her so that others could benefit from my answer:

"For several years now I have been unable to get a properly fitting bra. Though certainly not for lack of trying. No one carries a simple t-shirt or smooth look type bra that works on my chest. I’ve been to “Intimacy” (and they have a no return, only exchange policy), Nordstrom’s, and Macy’s. The fitter at Macy’s was a real joke, although ON MY OWN there, through trying on just about every bra in the store, I found the best make due solution. I have a wide set, firm-for-my-size chest with quite a bit of breast tissue that extends under my arms, and no one seems to be able to help me, so I DO resort to settling for a bra that “will do”. The girl at Intimacy hinted that it was fat, and not breast tissue under my arms. So I got insulted on top of having my hopes crushed. Nice. I refuse to pay $70+ for a bra that gives me rocket boobs, hurts under my arms and makes it hard for me to breath. I would LOVE some ideas or suggestions.

- Tessa
P.S. And don’t get me started on back bra-roll!"

Yikes! What terrible experiences! I can't believe that the "bra fitter" at Intimacy was so rude and insulting, not to mention ignorant. It's a shame you can't get a proper bra fitting in your area, Tessa, since it can be hard to do over the internet! But I'll give it my best shot.

If you have "fat" under your arms, that is almost definitely breast tissue! What happens is, when you wear a bra that doesn't fit right, (the cups are too small) your poor breasts' tissue can't all fit, so it 'escapes' wherever it can- mostly into your armpits. Over time, it just ends up staying there permanently. But wearing the right sized bra, combined with putting it on correctly, can fix this problem, as well as the back-fat issue.

The first thing to do is to follow my measuring guide. It's likely this will be more accurate for the band size you need than cup size, but luckily you have access to places where you can try bras on before you buy them. (If you or anybody else reading this has the same problem and doesn't have access to a store with a wide enough range of sizes, you can order 3-5 bras with the band size I suggest and different cup sizes, try them on, and return the ones that don't fit. It's a bit of a pain, but worth it to find your correct size. I am planning a post soon on how to buy bras on the internet.)

Since the fitters you have seen weren't very competent, I'm guessing they didn't show you how to put on a bra correctly. This step is really important because 1) too-small cups will seem fine until you pull all of your tissue into them and 2) That underarm breast tissue needs to be pulled back under the underwire and into the cups, so that it can "rejoin" the rest of your breast tissue. So make sure when you put your bra on, you scoop as much of that underarm 'fat' as possible into the cups.

I recommend you start with the band size you get with my measuring guide, and keep trying on bigger cup sizes until you find one where you cannot fill it out, even after scooping into it. The cup size smaller than this is the right one. If in doubt, go for the bigger size.

After you have found the right bra, keep putting it on this way, scooping the underarm tissue into the cups every morning. After a while, the tissue will move back front and center, where it belongs. You will probably find you need to go up a cup size or so after the tissue migrates back. But your breasts will actually look better and firmer, with a nicer shape. And you won't have "fat" under your arms anymore! Yay!

As far as what bra style to start with, you want to try to get a fuller cup bra rather than a plunge or balcony style, so that the underwires go up high enough at the sides. Unless you're petite or have especially high breasts, that is, and then you may find that a balcony style goes up high enough under your arms, and a full cup style might be too high.

Since you mentioned you have a Nordstrom's nearby, here are a few styles I would recommend that come in a good range of sizes and fulfill your wish for a simple, t-shirt bra. I have personally owned all of these and have recommended them to friends, and they consistently get good reviews online.

Fantasie '4510' Smoothing Molded Cup Underwire T-Shirt Bra (Starts at a 32 on Nordstrom's Website, although I know for a fact it is made down to a 30.)

Fantasie Smoothing Underwire '4520' Balconette Bra (If you do find you need a balcony bra, or for the future after tissue migrates.) Starts at a 30 band size.

Freya 'Deco AA4234' Plunge Underwire Bra (May not be the best style to start with, but it gives a great shape, makes nice cleavage, and is available down to a 28 back (But a 30 at Nordstrom's)

Tessa, it's unclear from what you said if you think your breasts are wide-set because of the underarm tissue, or if you have other reason for thinking so (like if your breasts are far apart in the middle, making it hard for you to create cleavage, for instance.) If you do still think you have wide-set breasts, I have heard Panache is a good brand to try because their bras have wider underwires. Brands like Fantasie, Freya and Curvy Kate have narrower underwires. I don't have a ton of personal experience on fitting wide set breasts, I'm afraid- I personally have the opposite problem.

One more option to try- smaller boutiques are more likely to have better service and a wider selection. You could try going to manufacturer's websites (such as freya, panache, and fantasie) and looking for a store finder. That's how I found the closest place to me- 2 hours away. (sigh.) But it is worth it if you can get a better fitting experience and have the ability to try on more styles. Here's where I go, if you are anywhere near Greenville, SC. You can also google "(name of your city) bra fitting" and see if you can find anything- maybe yelp reviews or such. Just make sure the store carries at least 28-40 D-K.

If you want to read more about underarm fat and how a bra that fits properly can help, the blog Venusian*Glow also has some great information. The writer speaks Polish, and so she is able to translate some of the research that has been done in Poland on breast health and bras- it seems like more research has been done in Poland on that than in the US and English-speaking countries.

I hope that helps, Tessa- feel free to ask me any more questions, and let me know how your search goes! Does anybody else have suggestions for Tessa?