Friday, July 22, 2011

Why do I advise women to measure themselves?

 To many of you, this might seem like a ridiculous question: Why do I tell women how to measure their bra size? But believe it or not, many people are in favor of giving up on measuring tapes entirely.

You see, the best way to get the perfect bra is to go to a highly experienced fitter. This fitter can generally "eyeball" something close to your size, based on the bra you are currently wearing. It can often be a sign of inexperience if a fitter reaches for a tape measure, because it probably means they will be fitting women according to a formula, and not have a true knowledge of how a bra should fit. It doesn't matter if you measure a 32F or 30G or whatever, if the bra is giving you 4 boobs, it doesn't fit. Not to mention that sizing is going to vary a little bit in different brands and styles, and a good fitter know their inventory and can save you headaches by only bringing you styles and sizes they know will work for you.

So, it's much better if fitters simply know how to tell what a bra that fits looks like. Then we don't even need to deal with messy measurement algorithms and if you are a different size from what your measurements suggest, there's no problem with trying to shove women into a predetermined formula.

And then there's the fact that measuring is difficult and often quite inaccurate. It is especially hard to measure a woman's cup size with a tape measure, because cup size can vary so much based on the shape of your breasts. Plus, measuring over a badly fitting bra can lead to a very inaccurate measurement, often because the woman's boobs will be smashed down by the bra.

It's also really hard to fit yourself totally correctly at home. The importance of putting the bra on correctly is vastly underestimated and a too-small cup size can seem fine until you really pull your breasts in from the size. And even a really bad bra can seem great compared to an even worse bra that you might have previously been wearing.

Also, bra measurement methods are somewhat controversial- some people, like me, are opposed to adding inches to your underbust measurement, and say you should take roughly that as your size. Many places tell you to add between 4 and 6 inches to your underbust measurement. A few places, like Victoria's Secret, even tell you to measure above your breasts to get your band size! You might as well measure your foot...

Many online stores, like Bravissimo, refuse to even put a bra size chart on their website, instead describing how a bra should fit and suggesting you visit your nearest fitter.

It's clear that telling people how to measure is pretty problematic. So why do I do it?

Because I want you to be informed customers.

Even if you have what appears to be a great bra fitter in your area, if you know your measurements and the basics of how a bra should fit, then you can tell if the bras you are being given come close to fitting or not. Then you can tell if the fitter is doing their job.

A lot of times, a great bra fitting can be a wonderful prevention for a breast reduction. I, and other advocates of bra fitting, work very hard to get the message across that a good bra fitting can make surgery unnecessary.  A reduction might be an ok choice for some women, after other options have been exhausted. But I firmly believe in preventing unnecessary surgery.

But when women take that message to heart, and go to a fitter who does a bad job? They then assume that bra fitting won't work for them. They're just too big. They're weird, mutants, diseased. They need a cure for this horrible disfiguring disease they must have. Their boobs are so big they give them such pain and even an "experienced bra fitter" can't help them! They must need to chop those things off. All too often I hear from women who say "I got fitted, but I still have back pain/straps cutting in/4 boobs/ whatever. They think that they have already tried bra fittings and that bras must just suck... or that there is simply no hope for them.

For example, a friend of mine is getting a breast reduction in a month. I told her to try getting a better fitting and suggested where she could go. She told me, "[Mutual friend] already took me to get fitted. They told me I'm already in the biggest size made." Doubtfully, I asked what size they put her in. The reply? 34G. They told her 34G was the biggest size. I tried to explain that the fitters did not do a good job and that I could tell she needed a different size. Sadly, she did not listen to me and is still going through with the surgery. (I think she really just wants her boobs to be smaller for other reasons, and has to have "back pain" to get her insurance to pay for it.)

Also, the vast, vast majority of women in the United States simply do not have access to good bra fitters. It's easy for Bravissimo and places like that to say that you should just go get fitted. If you are one of my many British and Polish readers, you may not appreciate just how impossible it is to find a bra fitter. Most women in the United States are probably hours, if not days, drive from a fitter who isn't utterly worthless (ie Victoria's Secret or some such.) And if they can't even tell if that fitter, if that shop, is good or not... it's no wonder most people are shoving themselves into increasingly large band sizes+D.

But even if you are completely unable to make it in to see a fitter, and you order your bras solely online based on measurement and fitting advice, you can still get a great fit. Even if you don't do perfectly, it's likely that the new bras will be a vast improvement.

And most importantly, having online demand for more diverse sizing will send a powerful message to manufacturers, store owners, etc that yes, customers do want theses sizes, and they do want proper fittings. Bra fitting is increasing in popularity, and women are starting to make it known they won't settle for less than a perfect fit. And the industry is responding. Soon, more and more private bra boutiques will open up, making fittings accessible to more and more people. Perhaps larger department stores will rethink their fitting policies and size inventory. Even Victoria's Secret is rumored to be introducing larger than DD cup sizes. When well done bra fittings are available to everyone in the US, then yes, I will suggest that you toss aside that measuring tape and go get fitted. In the mean time, I'm doing the best I can to spread proper bra fitting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Outfit Post: Wrap dress

Wrap dresses are often advised for busty women. The fashion advice-ey places say they are "universally flattering." Eh, they sometimes fit, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them universally flattering nor universally fitting.
I like this dress, but I definitely wouldn't call it perfect. Especially with the amount of cleavage it shows. Cleavage- the all-familiar issue. You can wear a cami, but that's hot and icky in the summer. And they tend to roll up from my hips. 
Look Ma, no cleavage! 
My solution? A lace bandeau bra. Over my regular bra, obviously. And I usually have to buy a large or XL to fit my bust in. But they are absolutely perfect for layering without bulk or discomfort. 

Dress: Locally made from organic cotton :-D
Lace bandeau bra: Free People
Socks: Target
Shoes: thrifted

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reader Request: Professional clothing for big busts/ Blazers and Suits

Reader Melinda wrote me asking this in an email a while back:

Hi there!
I really enjoy reading your blog - I'm a 32F and 5'11", and clothing is hard for me to find. I'm sure it's even tougher for you! Thanks for providing some tips.
I wondered if you had ever come across blazers or suiting that works well for you? All the suit jackets I try on either gape funnily, or make me look huge. And I haven't found sites like BiuBiu or Bravissimo that sell more professional-looking jackets.
Any advice would be appreciated!

Well, for me personally, I don't need to wear suits or extremely "professional" clothing. In fact as an art student I am already frequently overdressed, if anything! ;-) However, I know that this must be an issue for a lot of you.

Melinda's question actually got me thinking- there are TONS of companies that sell button down shirts for women on my curvy clothes list. Carissa Rose, Campbell and Kate, Biubiu, and Bravissimo/Pepperberry and more all sell button downs for curvy women and nearly all started with the intention of solving the gaping button problems and providing solutions for professional women. And yet, while they have solved the button down problem... well, what about the rest of the ensemble???

Melinda has the additional fit problem of being tall. But most of us have secondary fit problems. My best suggestion, therefore, is to look into custom suits. There may be a place in your area that offers custom suits. Do a Google search or check out this website: Custom Tailors and Designers Association to find a good one in your area. However if there is not somebody good nearby, you can purchase made-to-measure suits and blazers online. When I did a Google search for "custom women's suits" there were tons of results. A few noteworthy ones: (I have NOT tried any of these!)

Moi-Meme Focuses on women's professional attire and specifically mention being able to handle tall sizing as well as a "full chest." They also have great spot-on advice for busty ladies which shows they really 'get it.' They definitely look like a really great option to me and would be the first place I would recommend.

April Marin offers a few suit options for quite reasonable prices.

Tom James has some nice looking things.

Blue Suits Online- There is a blog post explaining about them here.

Silk Suit Store

Anne Spang

Also check out Etsy. A few sellers that look especially good:




I'm lusting after this corset style linen blazer from seller One Avian Daemon, though it might not be professional enough for some workplaces- I'll let you be the judge.

It might be a bit more expensive to get a suit, blazer, or other work clothes custom made, but don't let that turn you off. A custom suit will undoubtedly be higher quality, the best fit possible, and ought to be considered a worthy investment. It also might not be as expensive as you think, so at least do some shopping around before ruling it out.

Also check out the blog Hourglassy if you haven't already- as a former corporate attorney, she is more familiar with professional clothing than I am and has some great suggestions for busty ladies.

I hope that helps! Has anyone found a good suit and blazer solution that works? Or have you tried any of the places I suggested? Let me know in the comments!

Image from Moi-Meme.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Outfit: Why scarves rule

There are basically two strategies for dressing big breasts:
1) Buy stretchy t-shirts and try to dress them up as best you can, and
2) Buy clothes that are designed with your curves in mind.

I alternate between the two strategies, personally. Not everybody can afford to buy special clothes, so it's useful to have some ideas for dressing up stretchy t-shirts.

My favorite two accessories for curvy ladies are belts and scarves. Usually, I use belts to define my waist, but the gathers in this shirt helped to do that on their own, so I chose this belt which lies lower down on my hips. If you're petite or slimmer hipped you will probably prefer this location for belts.

I was always totally against skinny jeans until I found these. I still wear boot cut or flared jeans most of the time but it's fun to experiment with a different style once in a while. And yeah, between the jeans and the belt this outfit probably emphasizes my hips more than I would usually go for. But I liked it anyway. And it's good to break the rules every once in a while.
Can I just say that scarves are awesome. Really really freaking awesome. They are seriously not given enough love by curvy ladies. I think many women with big breasts are afraid that a flowing, colorful scarf will draw too much attention to their chests. But I don't think that's true.

The way I tied this particular scarf, it creates a deep 'V' shape, breaking up the shape of my breasts without having to show the cleavage of a plunging neckline. This would also be a great strategy in the winter, when you want to wear a higher neckline for warmth's sake.
Scarves also are great for covering up cleavage if you have a shirt that's a little bit lower cut that you would like. They have an elegant, carefree, bohemian feel that I just love. If, like me, you crave soft, flowing fabrics, but need structure to flatter your shape, they are a good way to add that soft flowy feel in.

Oh, and they're cheap! You can find pretty scarves for a few dollars at all sorts of thrift, consignment, and vintage shops. So it's easy and inexpensive to create a collection. Within a few months of realizing how awesome they are, I had a whole basket full.

Shirt: Thrifted (Plato's Closet)
Scarf and belt: thrifted
jeans: Banana Republic
Bag: found at JC Penney
Shoes: Spring Step

Friday, July 1, 2011

Outfit: Lucky finds

 Sometimes, if you keep an open mind, you can find lucky, curve-friendly finds at regular stores. Of course, we're all familiar with the stretchy t-shirts thing, but it's nice to find something else.

This shirt had a super stretchy waist part and an hourglassy shape, so I was able to fit my boobs pretty comfortably in a large. Sure, I could have fit the rest of me easily in a small, and sure, it poofs out a bit more than I'd like from the side- but it's a really nice cool cotton summer shirt and it's really quite a good fit, considering.
The shorts were on sale from GAP- high waisted and stretchy, so they don't gap too much in the back, and the only shorts I've found that didn't cut in right at the middle of the widest part of my thigh. Shudder.

Shirt: Belk's
Shorts: Gap
Shoes: Merrell