Monday, March 10, 2014
The thing I don't understand about bras is... The difference between US and UK sizes and brand sizing variation.
US and UK sizing refers to whether the bra was made by a company using the US or UK size system, NOT whether it was bought in that country. The big UK brands like Freya, Panache, Elomi, Curvy Kate and Mimi Holliday use the DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ and K cup sizes. US brands like Playtex, Victoria's Secret, La Senza and Additionelle use the US size system D, DD, DDD, G, H, I and J - the US brands tend not to go beyond these letters.
When you line up the two systems next to each other you can see how your UK size translates into a US size and vice-versa:
There's no real explanation as to why different countries use different systems and it definitely makes things harder when looking for your size. In the full bust market the UK size system is definitely used as the default authority. US brands like Claudette use the UK size system because it translates more easily for full bust bras.
The reason there is fluctuation in size between brands (and between styles for that matter) is the same as why there is size fluctuation in sizes in clothing and shoes. There is no standard as to which machines are used to create a bra (and many items are still made by hand) so there is no way to produce a single 32F or 40GG size across the globe. Add to this the fact that different cup shapes alter the fit dramatically (a shallow 32F style will work on a woman with shallow 32F breasts but not on a woman with top heavy 32F breasts) and the materials used to create the bra will alter the fit (firmer materials give a smaller fit, stretchy fabrics, a more generous fit).
The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why they can't build ones that actually fit comfortably.
I hear this question a lot and the answer for most people is "you're in the wrong bra". Whether you're wearing the wrong style or size of bra, an uncomfortable bra means you're in the wrong one for you but it might fit someone else perfectly. There are a group of people for whom comfortable bra fit is near impossible without accessories or alterations. Certain muscular and skin conditions make bra fit hard, and very petite women can find it extremely difficult to find bras. But in general there are thousands of size and style combinations out there so the chances are there's a size and style that's right for you.
Remember that a lot of bras will never fit you and will never feel comfortable so if that sounds like all the bras in your drawer then you need to start narrowing down whether it's because the wires are too wide/narrow, the cups too tall/short, the band too big/small etc. Try our Bra Audit to get you started.
The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why some women simply refuse to wear the right size.
This is a complex one with no single answer. The two main reasons we encounter that keep women from well-fitting bras are they simply are not aware that bras outside of '34-42 A-D' exist or they have a preconceived idea of what bigger cup letters 'say' about a woman and their stereotypes keep them from trying a larger cup size (and usually a smaller band).
What I know for sure is that you can't rush someone into correct bra fit, they have to be emotionally ready to address this for any changes to stick.
The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why beige bras typically cost twice as much as coloured ones!
This is a great question and one I don't get asked often. Colourful bras tend to be fashion items that are created by a brand for a one off season. They are made in a limited quantity and so when a retailer gets to the end of a season and only has a few of that style left the colourful bras tend to be the ones that go on sale first to make room for the next fashion colour. Basic colours like beige and black are available from manufacturers all year round so their value doesn't diminish which is why they rarely go on sale.
I hope this sheds some light on some of your bra questions. Tune in again next week for another round of answers xx
Monday, March 3, 2014
If you've tried on every bra you can think of and always seem to get quadraboob or massive gaping then there's a good chance you've got top heavy breasts. When your breasts are very full on top you need a style that accommodates the upper volume. A style that can't accommodate the shape of your upper breast will cut into your tissue making it look like your cups are too small even if they aren't. In this post I'm going to help you figure out if you have top heavy breasts and what to look for in bras for a great fit.
|Left: Full All Round Breasts Middle: Bottom Heavy Breasts Right: Top Heavy Breasts|
How to tell if you have top heavy breasts
There are two types of top heavy breasts; one is volume of tissue and the other is density. To tell if you have volume heavy upper breasts you need to start with your nipples. In front of a mirror lean forward (without a bra) so that your back is parallel with the floor. Using the mirror look to see if your nipples are pointing directly down at the floor - this means you have full all round breasts. If your nipples are pointing more towards the front (nearer your chest) then you have bottom heavy breasts. If your nipples are pointing back (towards your tummy) then you have top heavy breasts.
|Left: Center Full Top Heavy Breasts Middle: Evenly Full Top Heavy Breasts Right: Side Full Top Heavy Breasts|
|For comparison this is the difference between Full All Round Breasts (left) Top Heavy Breasts (center) and Bottom Heavy Breasts (right)|
You can also assess the distribution of your tissue by stranding straight on in a mirror. You're looking to see if there is more volume above or below your nipple line. If you have top heavy breast volume you will see that your nipples appear to sit lower on your breasts when looking at yourself straight on. You'll also notice whether you have more volume to the outside edges of your breasts (side heavy breasts) even distribution to left and right or more tissue at the middle of your breasts (look for high gores to support the volume at the center of your breasts).
Top heavy breasts can also have soft breast tissue (the two are not mutually exclusive) so even though you might think you have 'saggy' boobs you might actually be full on top and need to look for a shape that can accommodate your upper volume and materials that are friendly to soft breasts. Breast density leads us onto the next kind of top heavy breasts.
The second type of top heavy breasts is to do with tissue density. If you have very dense tissue you find that your breasts create a very round shape at the top when you put on a bra regardless of whether you have bottom heavy, side heavy or even all round breasts. This happens a lot for young women but breast density has a lot to do with genetics so you can find yourself in your 60s with dense upper tissue. Because your breasts fill out upwards you also need top heavy friendly bra shapes and/or materials to stop quadraboob.
What to look for in bras for top heavy breasts
The shape of the upper cup of a bra needs to have the depth to be able to accommodate your upper breast volume. As well as the depth it needs to curve in a way that won't cut into your breasts. Many women have tried on lots of molded bras (seamless cups that are in a fixed shape) and constantly find that they have overspill. This is because the depth and edge of the bra is fixed and if your breasts aren't the same shape as the cup then the excess just spills over.
|Envy (left) and Jasmine (right) have a stretch lace upper cup that stretches to shape to your upper breast shape|
A top heavy breast's best friend is a flexible edge (like Envy and Jasmine in the picture above). A stretch lace upper panel allows for the bra to fit your shape rather than the other way around. The lower panels of the bra is usually fixed which gives you good support but the upper panel is flexible to give you a smooth profile.
|A lot of Cleo styles work well for medium to top heavy breasts because the upper cup is deep and curved to accommodate your upper breast volume|
Some brands, and styles, are designed specifically with top heavy breasts in mind. Cleo is particularly good because the cup shapes are deep with a curve that allows for top heavy breasts. This is also the reason that some women find that Cleo bras gape at the top because they have medium or shallow breasts that don't require the volume at the top of the cup.
Cups that have a horizontal (sweetheart cut) rather than a diagonal cut are usually friendlier to top heavy breasts, so some plunge styles tend not to be great for full on top breasts (depending on the material). If the angle of the top edge of the cup cuts across the natural curve of your breasts it causes quadraboob regardless of which size you try.
I hope these tips help you work out if your breasts are top heavy and which features to look for in a bra to get a comfortable and polished look. Let us know in the comments if you have any top heavy tips xx
Monday, February 24, 2014
Your skin is your largest organ and the skin over your breasts is some of the most sensitive on your whole body. Breast skin irritations range from serious allergic reactions to mild heat rashes. The right bra fit and materials can play a big part in looking after the health of your skin. NB. Any sudden or dramatic change to your breast skin should be seen immediately by a doctor.
How Bad Bra Fit Causes Skin Irritation
I have seen everything from rashes to deep gouges caused by ill-fitting bras and it's completely preventable. Here are the most common irritations and their causes:
Rash underneath the breasts and on the lower torso - this is usually caused by a loose band. When the band is too big for you the breasts are able to lie flat against your torso which means sweat gets trapped between your breasts and your body. Trapped moisture is always bad news because bacteria can spread there easily (yeast is all over our bodies and in the air so when it finds a good breeding ground it multiplies) and your breasts can rub against the skin of your body which worsens the irritation. Your breasts should be lifted completely away from your torso so that at least a layer of fabric lies between your breasts and your body.
Chafing and blistering between the breasts - this is caused by either a band that's too big or too small. More often than not this is the result of a band that is too big so the rigid ends of the wires in the center (the gore) rub against the soft breast tissue and jab into your sternum. Some of the worst cases I've seen are on women who were exercising in non-sports bra with bands that were way too big for them. Painful indentations and rubbing between your breasts can also be caused by a band that is too tight. Remember that bands can sometimes be too tight because your cups are too small so your band is partly being filled by your breast tissue which makes it tight.
Blood blisters and chafing in front of the armpit - this is either caused by your cups being too small or wearing the wrong style. If your straps rub against the skin around your armpit your first step is to ensure that your cups are big enough. If you have a lot of migrated breast tissue the straps can rub against your migrated tissue and cause rashes and blood blisters. Look for bras with a good side panel to encourage your breast tissue back into your cup and away from your armpit.
Material and Skin Irritation
Some women have allergies to synthetic materials, elastic and metal which can make bra shopping a nightmare. It's very hard to find a purely cotton bra or one with only plastic hardware especially over a D cup. Lots of women with allergies to synthetic materials use cotton liners to wear between their skin and the bra.
The most common irritations are caused by sweat when working out and this can be easily avoided by wearing the right sports bra. The Panache Sports Bra is a perfect example of a fabric that's perfect for the job. Most regular bras are a single layer of fabric so if you sweat the material saturates and then excess sweat just gets trapped against your skin which is bad news. The Panache Sports Bra is made up of several layers of fabric so that your sweat is drawn away from your skin (this is referred to as wicking). The fabric also has a larger than average weave so that air can circulate around your breasts as you work out. This is how a sports bra should be designed so that you don't suffocate your skin or encourage bacterial build up with trapped sweat.
Quick Tips for Healthy Breast Skin
1. Make sure you have dried off excess water from underneath your breasts after showering.
2. Never put on a damp or wet bra.
3. Itchy skin is usually dry skin. Moisturize with a chemical free oil like Jojoba or Almond.
4. Don't use an abrasive exfoliator on your breast skin. Use a gentle cloth or sponge in small circular motions so you don't strip the skin of essential oils.
If you have a skin irritation problem you think is caused or worsened by your bra then leave your question in the comments section xx
Monday, February 17, 2014
This is a subject that comes up every week when I'm speaking to clients about their bra fit. A woman's height is so often a factor in her bra fit that I'm surprised there's so little information out there about the correlation between height and bra fit. I hope this post will help you narrow down which features your bra should have in relation to your height.
Height and Breast Root Position
Firstly we need to talk breast root position. This is something I've written about before in Breast Roots and Bra Fit. Whether you're tall, short or somewhere in the middle you can have a high-set, low-set or medium-set breast root and this will play a big part in which kind of bra wires work for you. This excerpt from my previous blog post summarizes breast root position and wire length:
"Breast Root Height
On average, full bust women find that their breast root is between 5 and 7 inches lower than their armpit. If the distance between your breast root base and your armpit is less than 5 inches you often find that bra wires poke into your armpit. If this is the case for you then you have high set breasts and will benefit from bras with short wires that don't rise as high into your armpit.
If your breast root is farther down your body than 7 inches you can experience spilling at the sides of your bra no matter which size you try. You need tall bras with long wires that run equal to (or higher than) the side of your breasts."
Tall Women and Strap Length
Tall women often find that their breast root is proportionally lower than an average 5ft 5" woman and so they need their bras to be long enough to reach their breast root. Their breasts aren't necessarily so tall that they need a really long wire to encase a deep/tall breast, instead they need a shallow to medium wire length on a bra with long straps that can lower the cups down to their breast root. This might sound simple but you'd be amazed at how few bra straps are long enough for a long torso.
|Partially Adjustable Left: the straps can only be adjusted as far as the ring Fully Adjustable Right: the straps can be adjusted all the way forward or back|
If you are a tall woman with average or short height breasts then you need to find styles with a short to medium wire with a long strap. Here are some recommendations:
Cleo Bras - good for full all round and top heavy breasts. Lucy is good for side heavy and bottom heavy breasts.
|Cleo bras have long, fully adjustable straps. The cup shapes are good for full all round, top heavy and side heavy breasts|
Claudette has very long straps and the Dessous shape is good for wide set breasts, side heavy breasts and shallow breasts. Dessous has a short wire too.
|Dessous by Claudette has long, fully adjustable straps. The cups are good for side heavy, wide set and shallow breasts|
Jasmine, Gem, Tango and Envy are good styles for medium to tall breasts (ones that require a longer wire to encase a taller breast) that need longer straps.
|These styles have medium to long wires on long straps which are good for medium to tall breasts on long torsos|
Boobs Take Up More Space on Short Bodies
Imagine a 34G volume bust (34 inches around the body and a projection of around 8 inches away from the body). This volume of bust on a long torso is a very different fit to the same volume on a short torso. This is because the surface area that 34G breasts take up on a short torso is proportionally greater than the surface area on a long torso. The short torso woman with a 34G bust might find that bras jab her in the armpit more than the long torso 34G woman. When the shorter woman sits down her breasts are closer to her stomach than the taller woman so a bra with a band might flip up or cut into her stomach whereas it may not on a longer torso.
A surprising pattern has emerged through our size consultations. The same under bust and over bust measurements on women of different heights can alter their cup size by as much as three cup sizes depending on her height. It seems that for every inch you are under 5ft 4" your cup size is one volume larger than that of a woman over 5ft 5" with the same raw measurements.
If you have a short body or simply a short torso look for bandless bras with medium length wires. Fully adjustable straps are essential for short women. Check out my post on bras good for short torsos for some style suggestions.
Strap Position on the Shoulder and Height
Lots of bras have straps set too far apart for short women (and women with narrow or sloping shoulders). Besides making the straps slip off your shoulders more easily, straps that are too far apart for your body can buckle the cup shape. As you pull the straps closer in so that they sit on your shoulders it alters the shape of the cup and can cause gaping where the cups start to buckle. Short women benefit from bras with straps designed for narrow or sloping shoulders.
|Left: Cleo bras have wide set straps that are ideal for average to wide frames. Right: Dessous has closer set straps ideal for smaller frames (and sloping or narrow shoulders)|
I hope these height related fit tips help you narrow down what you need from a bra. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to get you answers! xx
Monday, February 10, 2014
I rarely write posts purely about bodies because, as you all know, my focus is boobs no matter which bodies they live on. For a long time though something has been niggling away at the back of my mind then last week 2 things happened that made up my mind about writing this post. As a size US 8/10 (UK 12-14) I have never identified as a skinny person, apart from maybe when I was 9 and my haircut and knees were the biggest parts of me. I developed hips and boobs as a teenager and they've stayed consistently prominent throughout my adult years. Considering I have some major curves going on I've never identified as a Plus Sized person either. I don't need to seek Plus Size retailers to find clothes that fit and I don't encounter many of the physical or emotional situations that I read about from Plus Sized women. So if I'm not skinny or plus sized, what am I in the realms of social discussion? Apparently I, like the millions of other women, don't warrant discussion because I don't fit neatly into either of the two body boxes.
Last week there was a news piece doing the social media rounds about a school girl who started a petition to encourage Disney to create a plus sized princess. I think this is a great idea for more diverse representation from an iconic company, however, this kind of thing happens a lot where the two options seem to be 'thin' or 'plus sized' which bypasses the millions of women who don't identify as either. I don't look at a Disney princess and think "Yeah, I have those kind of proportions" but I also wouldn't see a plus size character and identify any more closely. Very rarely do we see people petitioning for a middle ground and I'm not really sure why.
|With her defined tummy, hips and thighs Robyn Lawley is very relatable for lots of middle-sized women but she is almost constantly referred to as Plus Sized because the fashion industry only allows for 2 groups of size.|
A topic that has been well discussed is the definition of Plus Size models. Robyn Lawley is a prolific model who at a size US 12 (UK 16) is considered Plus Size by the fashion industry but she's also over 6ft and proportionally akin to a size 10, 5ft 9 woman. I understand that the fashion industry is polarized into thin and plus size but Robyn looks proportionally like lots of us middle-sizers (bar the exquisite eyebrows perhaps!) but we're not allowed to have her as an ambassador because she gets allocated to Plus Sized where we don't identify.
I personally don't need validation from a slew of social media memes to help me define who I am. I am fortunate to feel very proud of my body and the person it houses so it's not for my own identification that I raise this question. However, lots of girls and women don't fall into the category of thin or plus sized and their fit and esteem issues are just as valid. It would be great if we didn't have such polarized 'categories' of bodies but it's naive not to recognize that 'thin' and 'plus size' have very visible representation in social media, retail and traditional media so where do you look if you don't fit neatly into either camp?
|Elomi (left) is a predominantly Plus Size brand with most bands starting a 34. Cleo (right) is a predominantly Full Bust brand with most bands starting at a 28. The shaping needs of these two categories can be quite different.|
The second occurrence that prompted this post was an article I read about finding good bra fit which said "if you have big boobs then you need a plus size bra and there are lots of brands to choose from, like Elomi". Yes, Elomi is a great plus size specialty brand, one that we are delighted to carry, but not all women with big boobs are plus sized!
When Paul and I created Butterfly Collection the lack of understanding around boob and body size was painfully apparent. The term Full Bust (meaning a 28-38 band size with a D-K+ cup) was almost unheard of when we began speaking to brands and customers alike. People kept trying to lump us in the Plus Sized category because they didn't know what else to do with us. And that's the problem for me. It's just lazy to ignore that body size and shape is far more diverse than just thin or plus size and the fact that a term like full bust is so hard for people to grasp shows the lack of language and understanding around body diversity.
It's because of this stereotypical idea that big boobs live on big bodies that I wanted to raise this subject. If you aren't a plus size woman but you also don't fit into the 'shapes' of Victoria's Secret, strapless tops and thigh gaps then it can be difficult to know where to look for retail help and social empathy and I hope we can change that by changing our language around body shapes.
|Kat Dennings, Christina Hendricks and Mindy Kaling are all public figures who I can identify with on a physical level and they've all been labeled as plus size at some point by a polarized 'thin' or 'plus size' rhetoric|
If you identify as a Plus Sized woman then there are a huge number of blogs, stores, public figures, resources and shows that identify as Plus Size and so are easy to seek out. If you're a size 8, 32G with big hips, no bum and a trim waist then finding people, blogs, stores and advice that empathize is a little trickier. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Does it matter if there isn't a mass representation and language around middle-sizers? Am I underestimating the representation that already exists? Let me know what you think xx