Monday, August 27, 2012

A Guide for Parents of Busty Daughters

Many of the women I come into contact with talk about how there was little or no dialogue around breasts when they were growing up. Thousands, if not millions, of women in North America are left to figure out their breasts and bra fit over decades. This time can be fraught with doubt, self-criticism and both physical and emotional pain that could have been prevented with early bra education and support. The emotional and physical changes involved in developing breasts can be a daunting experience made much easier by an informed and supportive family.

The World Your Daughter Lives In
The reality of our world today is that we are exposed to more body commentary than ever before. Here is a pretty staggering statistic:

"By the time they're 17, girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve."

When we live in a world where you daughter is being bombarded with other people's ideas of how she should look it's even more important to instill a confidence that will allow her to be herself and be happy. I really like this resource pack for parents to start talking about body image, women in commercials, dieting and Photoshop.  

Why is it important to have a dialogue around breasts with your daughter?
It's not an overstatement to say that your early experiences around bras and breasts form a significant part of the foundation of your adult relationship with your body. Giving your daughter the language and tools to understand and support herself (physically and emotionally) can have a positive effect on her self-esteem, confidence, health and happiness.

Understand Your Own Bra History
Before you can help your daughter through her developing years, it's important to know your own bra history.

Busty Moms - If you were a busty teen and/or are a busty adult then you have some empathy about what your daughter is experiencing. It's worth writing a list of things that you remember being hard (sports, teasing, shopping etc) to give you a frame reference for the challenges your daughter might face.

If you were fortunate enough to have a parent who understood the importance of a well-fitting bra then you will have a good idea of what that meant to you. For most women there wasn't a lot of conversation around bras and breasts (it may even have been a subject shrouded in shame or embarrassment). You will know how this made you feel - you have the chance to change this cycle of shame for your daughter.

Smaller Busted Moms - You may not have been a busty teen (or a busty adult) but you have a daughter who is developing larger breasts. This can be daunting for some Moms because they don't have experience in dealing with larger breasts.

The first thing to remember is that your daughter's development is completely normal. Girls are developing breasts earlier and larger (for reasons including increased calcium in our diets, hormone changes in the food chain, increased use of the contraceptive pill).

There are many experiences you can share with your daughter no matter how big your breasts are and these create the bond of womanhood between the two of you. Here's one pearl of wisdom from my own Mum that let me know I was now a woman and part of an exclusive club:

"Women have to go through a lot so we should always have great bras and shoes to support us on the journey."

Knowledge is the key to effective communication so it's worth getting to know busty resources and finding other women who can help you support your daughter (I'll explain this more in the next section.)

The Dove Self-Esteem Project Relies on Role Models

Moms, Dads, Aunts, Friends, Grandmothers Can All Be Role Models
The best way we learn how to be proud of our bodies is to see people we love and respect being role models. You don't have to be busty to be a role model.

Moms - I know this is a tough question to ask but are you positive about your own body? Regardless of what size or shape you are, your daughter is looking at you to learn how to feel about herself by seeing how you treat yourself. We all have bad hair days, bad wardrobe days, bad "why are my hips still growing" days, but it's important to have more "I have a great smile", "I love wearing my favourite colour, "I love being tall/petite/curvy/athletic" days. By being positive about you, learning to accept a compliment and celebrating more than just your physicality your daughter will learn to see herself as more than just a body.

In the bra department the first thing you can do to be a great role model is wear the correct bra size. No matter what size you are, wearing the correct bra size (and knowing what correct bra size means) gives your daughter a tangible example of what wearing the right bra looks like. If you don't know what correct bra fit is then I recommend these articles:

Your Boobs Tell You When You Need a New Bra
Not All D Cups Are The Same
Bra Myths
7 Ways To Tell If Your Bra Fits

Dads - You may think that bras and boobs are not your department, but you have a big role to play. You may not be able to advise on your favourite cup style but you can be instrumental in building your daughter's confidence. If you have a busty daughter the reality is  that in her life she's going to encounter some moronic males who will consider it their right to comment on her bust. From the leering, to disgusting to offensive comments your daughter will need to know that this is not how true gentlemen treat women. You can be the yardstick for how she'll let men treat her, so treat her with respect and celebration and she will build a layer of self-respect that the moronic comments bounce off.

She needs you to let her know that she can be proud of her figure but not defined by it. I know that the length of my skirts gave my father heart palpitations from time to time, but he never made me feel ashamed of my figure always complimenting me on how smart, or colourful, or beautiful I looked.

Encouraging good bra support can also keep girls in sports (a horrifying number of girls drop out of sports because they are ashamed of their bust). Too many women tell me that they enjoyed playing sports with their fathers until their bodies began to change and then Dad became embarrassed. You can literally improve your daughter's health and happiness by taking the need for great sports bras seriously. You can do this simply by encouragement, acknowledgement or paying! It's being part of the conversation that matters.

For some Dads they are the sole parent and all aspects of growing up fall to him. For those Dads who have lost their partner to breast cancer the subject of bras and breasts can be doubly difficult. Here are some resources for lone Dad's bringing up daughters:

National Fatherhood Initiative
Fathers Raising Daughters Article
Wider Family and Friends - I love the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child". We are always stronger together and this applies to bras and breasts. If there are other members of your family or close friends who have a good relationship with your daughter, ask them to support you in positive conversations around body image, bra support and body diversity. If you're not a particularly busty Mom but your best friend is then enlist her help to empathize with your daughter and give her some shopping, fit, health or confidence tips.

Communication is the key to instilling the confidence your daughter will need as a busty teen and adult. If you know you have your own hang-ups about bras and boobs then now is the time that you can start to address them so you don't perpetuate the cycle of bra misery and shame for your daughter. Replace the sadness and frustration with joy and freedom. Check back next week for the conclusion to this guide. As always I love to hear your feedback, stories and suggestions. xx

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bra Statistic That Just Won't Die!

"85% of women are wearing the wrong bra." If you're even remotely aware of bra stuff you will have heard of this stat. It's been around for almost a decade and I am sick to death of hearing it. Has no one stopped to ask the question why this statistic is still being churned out? There are two explanations, either;

a) Not one single woman is listening to the endless parade of boutique owners and 'celebrity' fitters on TV and in magazines who advise women to get fitted regularly and we're all just running around choosing the wrong bra sizes for the hell of it,


b) The boutique owners and celebrity fitters churning out this advice are then putting you in THE WRONG BRA and perpetuating the cycle all over again.

I wrote to The Doctors show about how bad this fitting advice is (bands start at 28 and even lower in some brands!) - no reply. Watch Here
Why are Stores Putting You in the Wrong Bra? 
This statistic has been around for such a long time because about two thirds of lingerie stores and boutiques are not driven by fit, they're driven by sales. If you're driven by sales then you want to get as many women into as few bra sizes as possible and this means using the Plus Four Method. Getting 85% of women into 32-42 A-D size bras rather than the 40% or so who they actually fit makes a lot more profit at the expense of good fit.

There are around 250 individual bra sizes and that's a lot of stock to have available but rather than say "I'm sorry we don't have your size" many stores will simply put you into a bra that covers your breasts but does not support you in the band. Your band is the most important part of your bra so if it doesn't fit you're in trouble before you've even left the store.

Alison Deyette seems to have no problem advising women to wear the wrong bra size for Playtex. I got in touch with her to ask if she understood the dangers of adding inches - no reply. Watch Here

I know that adding inches to the band size works for some women, but they really are the exception and not the rule. For busty women the rule never applies, in fact you're more likely to wear a band size smaller than your ribcage measurement than one four inches bigger.

Every time I see a video of 'expert bra fitter explains how to find your bra size' I hold my breath to see if they're going to give out the right advice. Almost every time I am disappointed to hear them adding inches, denying the existence of 28 and 30 bands, measuring over the top of breasts, or saying things like "Some bras even go up to an F cup" as though it's revolutionary and the end of cup sizes.

Here are two of the worst video offenders I've found:
Measuring over the breasts and using the full bust measurement as your band size.

This video is from a HUGE company and they try to sell Plus Four as a 'fun story'. They add inches, advise expelling all the air from your lungs - common sense tells you this is a daft idea - and insist that the fuller bust model is a 36DD when she's clearly around a 32G. FYI, I would put the first model in a 28G or 30FF.

Be Bra Smart
Over the next few months you'll see some pieces from me that will all be marked with BE BRA SMART. This is my new campaign to empower consumers to demand more from the bra industry and boutiques. Your breasts are important, delicate and beautiful and deserve to have well made and properly fitting bras.

As you can tell from the image at the top, I want to turn the tables on the industry and shine a light on exactly how much bad bra knowledge, advice and fit there is out there. Our primary concern at Butterfly Collection Lingerie is that you can enjoy and feel comfortable being a busty woman. This means fit and knowledge are the main priorities. We're going to arm you with the basics you need to know about your breasts so that no matter where you shop you will know if you're getting the best service for your boobs. If you're not, then ask for better. It's only when consumers start to demand better service and product choice that we'll see a change and we can ditch this tired and meaningless statistic. xx

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bad, Bad Fitting Advice

It's been a rough week in the world of good bra fitting. I have wonderful moments every week with women who are ready to embrace being in the right bra. Unfortunately I have also been reminded that many women are simply not ready to be in the right bra and given how much lousy fitting advice is out there, I'm not surprised.

Brand Betrayal
A few of our wonderful Facebook fans got in touch this week to say that they had seen some dreadful fitting advice during commercials for the Olympics. They were so frustrated and wanted to know what they could do about it. The short answer is, tell them their fitting advice doesn't work for you. Consumers have the greatest power and it's only by voicing your opinions that brands will begin to change the variety of sizes they make and information they dole out.

There are some brands who are deeply concerned about correct fit (Claudette, Panache and Alegro are three of my favourites) but the sad reality is that most brands still use, and advocate, the Plus Four Method. One of the biggest culprits is Playtex US. Millions of women buy Playtex bras and if you really do measure as a 36C then these bras are amazing but if you're a 30GG being told you need a 36C so that Playtex can make fewer bra sizes and more sales, that's betrayal.

Playtex UK listened to the calls from bra bloggers to revise their size calculator and bra advice and they took it incredibly seriously, opened a focus group and made a commitment to better fit. Playtex US has completely ignored similar pleas and continues to promote crippling fitting advice like the video above.

While enormous companies like Playtex continue to promote outdated fitting advice there are huge mixed messages out there which are so confusing for women. I know there will never be a perfect consensus on fitting advice and techniques but we have to get rid of adding 4, 5 and 6 inches to the band as a general starting point - adding inches is the exception and not the norm.

Click to Watch

'Expert' Advice
In the past week I have encountered two videos who both claim to have bra fitting advice. The first video has a vivacious and engaging presenter who is obviously passionate about social media and has a huge following. This could have been a great opportunity to give thousands of women the gift of great fitting advice, but unfortunately the video is full of misguided and quite simply wrong information. Lots of women responded to the first video saying "thanks, great advice!" and a couple of lone voices said "I'm not sure this is right, your band should be smaller" and they were shot down (not very nicely) by other readers. This just made me realize that lots of women simply aren't ready to step outside of the 34-40 A-D bra world and while they have videos like this confirming their misguided knowledge, they'll stay there.

Click to Watch
The second video has a rambling section dedicated to comparing your boobs to fruit in order to get a good idea of your bust size. This made my head want to explode! Your boob volume means NOTHING without your band size so the handy apples and oranges guide is just pointless. There was only one response to this video when I saw it and that response was another narrow-minded jab at being busty - not helpful.

I get very disheartened sometimes because flying the flag for great fitting, smaller bands, bigger cups, more styles, shorter and longer straps, hypo-allergenic fabrics etc can make you feel like a lone nutter! But I have to remember that change takes time so I'll be here flying my nutter flag for every woman who searches out a better bra life! xx

Monday, August 6, 2012

What to Expect When You Start Wearing the Right Size

We help a lot of women into their first fitting bra. This usually means that they start wearing a smaller band and a larger cup (mostly because so many stores fit women into bands that are too big). There is an instant joy at putting on a bra that encases all your breasts and lifts them into the right place but what can you expect to feel after a few hours, days and weeks of wearing your right fit?

Firstly though... Should you be able to feel your bra at all? 
Busty women have been a little deceived about how their bras should feel. There's this idea that you shouldn't be able to feel your bra at all and I'm afraid that simply isn't true. There are definitely some things you shouldn't be able to feel in your bra:

1) Straps digging into your shoulders
2) Any poking into your breast tissue (the end of a cup wire is usually guilty)
3) Your band chafing your back (this happens when it rides up - taking your back with it!)

These are signs that your bra definitely doesn't fit but there is one thing that you will be able to feel in a correctly fitting bra:

1) You should be able to feel your band. This doesn't mean it will be tight but snug enough to feel (think about the feeling you have when you wear supportive but comfortable tights).

Your bra is holding up pounds and pounds of weight which is why you need a snug band to be able to hold all that weight in place. A band you cannot feel at all simply isn't doing the job (and the dents in your shoulders are probably paying the price!)

Things to look for in a more comfortable band
Quite simply, the deeper your band the less you'll feel it. This is straight-forward physics; imagine the entire weight of your breasts resting on a piece of dental floss then imagine how they'd feel resting on a giant rubber band. When you wear a deeper band the pressure is spread out over a greater area reducing the amount you feel it. 

How will your brand new, correctly fitting bra feel after ONE DAY?
In a perfect world your new bra would be like wearing silk woven by fairies from the moment you put it on until you send it off to bra heaven, however, a new bra is like new shoes, it needs some time to break in. Bras are incredibly complex to make and the more pieces there are in a bra the more sections there are to break in. This simply means that the seams need to soften and the elastic needs to stretch to your figure so that the bra works for your shape.

After one day of wearing your new bra you may experience some more pronounced red marks than usual (marks are completely normal for busty women, it's the result of wearing something elastic under pressure - think about the line your sock leaves after you take them off and they're just holding up your ankles!) It's a good idea to wear your new bra for just four hours on the first day, then four hours again on the second day. This will give your bra enough movement to break it in without putting too much strain on your skin.

How will your new, correctly fitting bra feel after A COUPLE OF WEEKS?
By this stage you will have washed your bra and this has done a few things. It will have washed off the starch that bra manufacturers insist on spraying all over new bras (if you have an allergy to starch then you should wash your bras before wearing at all). It will have softened (and by this I mean break down which is the inevitable progress of every bra) the fabric so that the stitching is softer. It will also have stretched the elastic slightly (I don't mean stretched it out) so that your bra can move with you more. By now your new bra should be feeling like a good friend.

How will your correctly fitting bra feel after a COUPLE OF MONTHS?
By now you and your bra should have shared some great outfits, collected some crumbs in your perfectly supported cleavage and enjoyed some luxorious washes in lingerie detergent. You may well find that you are already on the second hooks and this is where you will be for most of your bra's life because the bra has molded to your figure (if you buy a bra that fits brand new on the middle hooks you'll migrate to the tightest hooks very fast with nowhere else left to go). If you're taking care of your bra you can be on these hooks for a while. As the elastic breaks down further you'll move to the tightest hooks and be there for about one to three months before it's time to say goodbye and start again.

Do you have some tricks for breaking in a new bra and turning it into a trusty friend fast? xx