Monday, January 30, 2012

Why are we so ashamed of our cleavage?

A couple of weeks ago I posted the picture above on our Facebook page because I love clever advertising and of course every busty girl has some experience of this situation. I was surprised that a lot of the Twitter and Facebook comments criticized that the girl in the picture has 'Too Much Cleavage'.

When you consider that a large proportion of bra sales rely on bras that add volume and cleavage to smaller boobs, why do we frown upon naturally 'cleavaged' boobs? The strength of feeling that this image evoked really got me thinking about the social and aesthetic sides to the question; What is too much cleavage?

What is Cleavage?
Cleavage is a relatively modern term deriving from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning split or gap. It was actually Hollywood who came up with the term to define the area of visible 'divide' between the breasts of their actresses. During a time when appearing moral was very important Hollywood devised a code by which they could measure how much cleavage it was appropriate to see on film. You'll maybe remember a wonderful scene from the The Aviator when Howard Hughes is defending Jane Russell's cleavage to the Hollywood Censors.

Cleavage is a partly mythical creature as it doesn't exist all the time. Just as your lap disappears when you stand up, cleavage evaporates as soon as you take off your bra. Because cleavage generally only happen when we're dressed, Fashion has a huge part to play in the story.

Cleavage Through The Ages
Fashion has treated the exposure or concealment of cleavage (this is called decolletage - the cleavage visible in a neckline) very differently over the ages. During large parts of the 15th to 19th centuries cleavage was seen as a sign of affluence and status so dresses were designed to enhance and display cleavage. It was far more risque to see a woman's legs than her decolletage.
Giuliano Bugiardini (1475-1554) Portrait of a Woman 1525
Fast forward to the 20th Century and the 30s and 40s were spent keeping boobs well and truly under wraps. Pre and post World War Two societies were used to practicality and thriftiness so underwear in the US and the UK was function first, style second. Modesty included keeping cleavage to an absolute minimum (hence the Hollywood Code of Cleavage!)

During the 50s and 60s women's liberation saw a huge backlash to restrictive undergarments so cleavage went out of the window along with the burning bra. Women didn't want restrictive girdles and agonizingly rigid figures, they wanted choice and diversity, in more ways than one.

The Canadians Bring Back Cleavage!
Our current perception of cleavage has only been shaped in very recent history. In 1961 Canadian company Wonderbra unveiled a little something called "The Push Up Bra". By the late 70s this bra was underpinning a resurgence in cleavage. In the early 90s Wonderbra repositioned their 30 year old bra with cleavage written all over it.

In 1994 the iconic Eva Herzigova print ad "Hello Boys" graced every magazine, billboard and bus siding. Bras were no longer the 1940s functional or the 1960s restriction but a 1990s liberation of sexual expression. Boobs were sexy.

Pammy and Breast Implants
The increasing desire to have cleavage brought about the sharpest every increase in demand for breast augmentation. Medical associations across the world were divided on the safety of using silicone and the long term effects of breast implants. The US Medical Association even went as far as to suggest that being small breasted was actually a medical condition for which breast implants were the medical solution.

The international success of Baywatch brought about the breast implant poster girl, Pamela Anderson. Her gravity defying orbs made her one of the most written about women in the US and UK during the latter part of the 90s.

The Cleavage Backlash
By the mid 2000s the cleavage pendulum was starting to swing very much the other way (if only mostly with women). I don't think there was one single factor that started this but I know for myself that an insane amount of boob exposure made it increasingly difficult to be a big busted woman. Pammy herself became a caricature of herself.

We began to see a number of breast implants gone wild (I'll never forget my disbelief the first time I saw this image, I couldn't understand why someone would do this to themselves) which made big boobs seem ludicrous - indeed I think these extreme implants are insane. The prolific spread of the Internet meant that boobs could be seen, watched, downloaded and screen-saved at the touch of a button - men were suddenly very used to having 'instant' access to boobs and cleavage. It felt like boobs were public property, well mine aren't.

Have women made us ashamed of our cleavage?
As a busty woman I am used to staring and comments. I have always felt that it's part human nature - we're always interested in that which is different - and part bad manners which is why I keep the "are you having a stroke or don't you know it's rude to stare" line handy. 

I think part of why being a busty woman today is difficult is the parade of boob first, personality later women on Reality TV. The prolific "look at me, I'm famous for nothing" personality has been manufactured for quick ratings and often includes breasts being referred to as assets or property which perpetuates the idea that big breasts equal vacuous women. Women have fought for centuries to be given equal rights and to be taken seriously so I really hate that a huge proportion of Reality TV relies on watching women defining their lives by their breasts/plastic surgery/shopping and tiny dogs. We are so much more.

I refuse to be pigeon-holed by the stereotypes that society forms around me. I love my cleavage, it is a part of me that is soft and evokes images of Marilyn Monroe in a flawless LBD (well in my head anyway!) I love that Mr Butterfly loves me as much in a turtleneck as he does in a plunging V neck and so do I, so I will continue to mix it up and bring out my rather fabulous decolletage when I want to.

I would love to know your thoughts on the evocative and mysterious creature that is cleavage xx

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rethinking Skin Toned Bras

Claudette's American Tan colour is a great addition to the full bust nude spectrum
North America buys more skin-toned bras than any other colour. It's important to remember that skin-toned bras come in all sorts of colours so no single colour is a nude bra. Too many stores refer to beige bras as Nude and this excludes the millions of women for whom beige would be far from nude.

Finding a bra that is as close to your skin tone as possible makes your bra less visible under pale clothing which lots of women welcome when wearing pale or fine clothing. With such a disproportionate number of beige bras on the market many women don't know that they have other options when looking for a skin-toned bra that's right for them.
Image courtesy of My Skins who create an array of skin toned bras
The Nude Spectrum
There are some manufacturers who are producing an array of skin toned bras and hopefully this will gain momentum. Currently there is still a lack of skin tone choices in the full bust market. I love the styles and colours available from My Skins but they only go to a D cup right now. Full bust manufacturer, Claudette, has created some really great skin tone bras up to a G cup so there is movement in the right direction.

From skin toned bras to colourful bras in the right hue, lots of bras can appear invisible under clothing
The Colourful Nudes
For lots of women a beige bra serves as a perfect skin toned bra, however, many others find they get a much more invisible look with other colours. The reason a bra looks less visible under clothing is because the hue of the colour is close to the hue of the skin. You can find a similar hue from other colours, not necessarily just a skin coloured bra. Some colours are particularly good at blending with skin tones, these include pale pink, lilac, yellow and even red. If you are very pale then pink and yellow can work well. If you have a mid-tone complexion then lilac and orange colours blend well. Darker skin tones work well with reds and purples which can appear invisible under clothing.

 If you want to rethink your skin toned bra then maybe venturing out into different colours will yield some surprising results! xx

Monday, January 16, 2012

What difference does material make to bra comfort?

The materials that make up straps, wings and cups of your bra can make a big difference to your comfort.

You know that I am an avid protestor against the Plus Four Method (adding four or five inches to your ribcage measurement to find your band size) because it is one of the biggest reasons women are uncomfortable in their bras. The Plus Four Method was introduced in the 1930s when fabrics were far less forgiving and adding the inches allowed for breathing. In the last 80 years we have seen the birth of sophisticated elastics that have literally changed the way bras fit.

Comfortable but supportive elastics mean that you can wear a band size that is exactly the same as your ribcage measurement or at most a couple of inches bigger. Lots of women even wear band sizes smaller than their ribcage because the elastics are so comfortable. Besides the evolution in elastics there has been a revolution in the fabrics used for cups and wings; in today's blog we have a look at what difference fabric makes to how comfortably your bra fits.

1. Microfiber - this refers to a whole group of man-made materials that are very thin and have the properties of being very soft, fast drying and moisture wicking. Microfibers include Polymide and Nylon. If a bra is made of over 60% of these materials you know it is going to be soft and moisture wicking.

A high content of microfibers (polymides and or nylon) in your sports bra gives it moisture wicking properties

Moisture wicking is very important for women who perspire a lot as the material keeps moisture away from your skin preventing skin irritations. You want a high microfiber content in your sports bras to keep you cool when working out.

2. Spandex/Elastane/Lycra - This trinity is actually all the same thing, it just has different names in different countries. I love than Spandex is actually an anagram of expands because, well, that's what Spandex does. Spandex makes up the large proportion of straps and bands and wing supports but it can also be mixed with cotton, lace and microfibers to create cups that stretch to accommodate any shape.

Elastane mixed with a polymide lace allows the Boudoir Starlet to stretch to your shape

Bras with a spandex mix fabric are great for women with one breast bigger than the other because the cups stretch to fit each breast.

3. Cotton - This magical fabric has been around for 7000 years and still can't be beaten when it comes to breathable and durable qualities. It's the breathable part that is important for bras. If you have sensitive skin or overheat easily then you need a breathable material that won't irritate your skin. Trapped moisture can cause rashes, sores and chafing. Cotton allows your skin to breathe reducing the risk of irritation.

Heather Nursing Bra from Royce with a 25% Cotton Content

Cotton content is very important in nursing bras because your temperature rises when you're pregnant and your skin can become more sensitive so using natural fibers next to your skin is important.

I hope this crash course in bra materials helps you understand what's best for your skin and lifestyle. If you have questions just write them below and I'll be happy to answer them. xx 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Holly Jackson Review: 3 excuses we use to keep wearing the wrong bra size.

I spent almost ten days with my female relatives over the holidays, and I'm pretty sure I've heard all the excuses people make for not having a bra fitting. My female relatives range in age from 40-70, and they spout all the same excuses I hear from my 20 and 30-something female friends. My very unscientific survey tells me that wearing the wrong bra size spans the ages and relies on well-worn excuses.

So here are the three most common excuses women use for wearing the wrong bra size, and why these don't hold water anymore:

1. "I love my cleavage!"
Admittedly, this excuse comes mostly from my friends and not my relatives, but it's a frequently cited reason for people not to explore the correct bra size. When your bra is too small, it does create mega-cleavage. Unfortunately, it does this by creating that lovely uniboob look that we all desire so much. If your bra is small enough, you may even find that your breasts spill out the bottom of it, making your chest look like a misshapen marshmallow.

I honestly don't know where this lack of cleavage fear comes from, but it isn't real. There are lots of great plunge bras out there for D+ women which lift, separate, and create some killer cleavage. You'll also discover the added bonus of having your breasts closer to your shoulders than your hips for the first time in your life when you get fitted correctly. Don't believe me? Pick up this Glamour Curves Plunge Bra in Gold ( and see for yourself.

2. "I've been a 42B/C/D for 20 years!"
I come from a family of small boned women who I suspect all wear 40 bands and up. It drives me nuts. In the world of bra bands, plus size is considered a 36. If you're between a size 0 and a 12, you're probably in the 28-34 band range.

This excuse comes from being fitted years ago and never getting fitted again. If you have lost or gained more than ten pounds, had a baby, or even toned up a lot then you should go get fitted. Claire does Skype fittings ( for precisely this reason. A bra size is just a number like anything else. Finding your correct number will help your spine, your posture, and your health for years to come.

3. "I hate bra shopping. And I can't buy bras off the internet because they never fit."
I sympathize with this. I dread having to go into a bra boutique that doesn't carry my cup size, or having strangers look at my chest. And I hate getting all excited about a bra that comes in the mail and doesn't fit.

If you really want an easy shopping experience, sign up for a Skype fitting. Claire will then find you several bras that are guaranteed to fit and send them to you. Presto, a basic bra wardrobe with very little work. After that, start learning what brands you like and how they fit you. Sites like Bratabase ( can be really useful when trying to find new brands that will work for you.

Last, but certainly not least, don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. If you're not sure if something from an online boutique will fit you, just email the owner. They're always happy to help, and you'll be happier and healthier as a result of being curious.

So which of these excuses are your female friends and relatives using for wearing the wrong bra size?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Your Boobs Tell You When They Need a New Bra

We are getting back to bra basics so that you can spend the rest of the year (and hopefully your life) in bras that fit you. Even if you don't yet know your bra size range (I say range because you may fit a 30FF in one style or brand and a 32F in others) you can easily work out if your current bras do or don't fit you by listening to your boobs. If your boobs are uncomfortable, irritated or feel unsupported then they're trying to tell you that your current bras aren't working for them. The Five Essential Fit Points in the diagram above are the easiest way to assess whether your bra fits.

Five Signs That Your Bra Fits (or doesn't!)
1. Cups: Your cups fit you when all your breast tissue sits inside the cup (this includes the breast tissue at your armpit). Your bra mustn't gape between the cup and the breast, this means the cup is too big (be sure that you've adjusted your bra strap so that your cup is close to your body before assessing whether it's too big). If you have boob spilling over the cup then it's too small or your band may be riding up high on your back causing your cups to tip at the front. If your band is riding up then check out fit check #2.

2. Band: Your band fits you when it stays level with the ground at the front and back even when you lift your arms straight up in the air. It is too small if it hurts and digs in. It is too big if it rides up your back or you can easily pull it away from your body. If you can lift your bra away from your body when you pull at the front of your bra your band is definitely way too big for you.

3. Gore: This is the centre panel that sits against your breastbone between your boobs. It should lie flat against your skin. If there is a gap between the gore and your body then either your cups are too small, band is too big or both. If the gore digs in then the band is too small on that particular bra - the same band size on a different brand may fit perfectly or the gore is too tall. Your breast bone and breast shape may require you to wear a shorter gore like a plunge style. If you have very close breasts (there's almost no gap between them) then you may find it difficult to get a gore to tack to your body completely. In this case it's important to check that the rest of the fit signs are correct.

4. Straps: Your straps need to be adjusted to accommodate a smaller breast (shorten the strap on the side of your smaller breast). If your straps dig in you need a smaller band size and larger cup. If your straps slip down then chances are your band is too big and riding up your back which causes your straps to lose tension and all off your shoulders so you need a smaller band size. You could also try a different style of bra with closer set straps if you have narrow or sloping shoulders.

5. Wings: These are the two parts that pass around your body and fasten at the back. The depth of the wings can affect how comfortable your bra is. If you have a short torso then the depth of the wing will make even more difference. Choose bras that leave at least 1/4 an inch space between the top of the wing and your armpit.

If any of the five fit signs above show signs of not fitting then it's time to check your bra size. An easy way to get started is by using our Bra Size Calculator. Take 5 minutes and check the five fit signs against the bra you have on right now and listen to whether your boobs are happy xx

Friday, January 6, 2012

The 'Emotional' Bra Resolution

If you are one for making resolutions then I ask you to add one more to your list; 'I resolve to feeling better in my bras.' The reason I say feel better is that I know for certain that wearing the correctly fitting bra is a life changing experience. Whether you love your figure, are working on getting fitter or are on a journey to accept your body, wearing the right bra will make you feel more confident and happy in your skin.

A lot of women don't realize that they can find bras in their size, or that wearing the right bra will change how they look in their clothes and improve their posture. Getting your boobs front and centre rather than resting around your midriff will be an enormous difference and that's just for starters!

How do I find the right bra?
Great bra fit is the one single thing I wish for every woman this year. This seemingly simple thing evades so many women not least because so few stores carry small backs and larger cups which is why we are committed to growing our collection throughout 2012 to help even more busty women find their perfect bra.

In the meantime January is going to be a month of Back to Basics blogs about what great bra fit means and how to find it. It's never a bad idea to do a checklist of bra basics and find out whether you're kicking off the year doing your boobs justice. Monday we'll look at the 5 vital fit signs that let you know if you're rocking the right bra for your boobs. Happy New Year everyone xx