Monday, January 28, 2013

How Your Age Affects Your Bra Fit

I fit women of all ages from young teens through to women who have seen lots of bras and lots of life. Larger breasts aren't the proclivity of the young, there are many older women who use our online bra fitting services because they have all the same problems finding D-K cup bras in regular stores coupled with the challenges of changing breast tissue and skin.

First of all a quick explanation of the difference between breast tissue and breast skin. Your breast tissue goes deep down and comprises glands, fatty tissue and ligaments. Your breast skin is the epidermis layer covering your breasts. The changes in your breast skin as you age can affect the way your bra fits, which styles will work for you as well as some other fit factors to take into account. Here's my simple guide to how your skin affects your bra fit through different decades.

Related Article: How to look after the ligaments in your breasts

Teens to Twenties
From the time you develop breasts and throughout your twenties your breast tissue and breast skin stays pretty much the same (unless you've experienced pregnancy, significant weight gain, weight loss or illness). Some women will find that their breast tissue is very bouncy and firm so they need bra styles that accommodate fullness all the way around the breast. Some styles may fit really well at the bottom and sides of the bra but cut too tightly across the top of the breast where the tissue is still full and firm. Balconette styles as well as cups with a fine edge (like the lace top panel on the Marcie bra above) are ideal for full, young breasts.

Scarlett Johansson has naturally full breast tissue at the top of her breasts. This is very common for lots of young women.

Aside from common skin complaints like acne, during the early decades your skin has a lot of natural collagen so it stays firm and smooth so you don't have to think about your skin when choosing a style. Only women with allergies will find that they need to think about their skin as well as tissue when choosing a bra.

Related Article: What difference the material of your bra makes to your skin

Thirties and Forties
During these two decades our skin begins to change as we produce less collagen (the naturally occurring protein that gives the skin strength) and less elastin (the protein that allows our skin to bounce back into place after stretching). The reduced amounts of these two proteins means that skin can start to look a little duller (as new skin tissue isn't being replaced as quickly) and you may notice some decrease in volume.
You can see here that with the right support you can have full cleavage but you may have naturally lost some volume at the top of your breasts over time.
If you've had children the gradual change may not be as apparent because the significant breast changes of pregnancy can reduce the volume of your breasts more obviously than the effects of reduced protein production.

If you've been wearing well-fitting bras through most of your life then your Cooper's ligaments (the ligaments behind your breasts) can still be in good shape so many women won't see pronounced drooping. However, lots of women notice that they are shallower through the upper part of your chest than they were in their 20s. This is completely normal. You may find that some molded cups leave you with a gap at the top of your breasts, this can sometimes be corrected by coming down a cup size. Otherwise, it's a good idea to look for non-molded 3-part bras that shape to the body (unlike a rigid molded cup that your breast has to fill).

Fifties and Sixties
The changes to your breasts during these decades can be as sudden and confusing as those we experience during puberty. There are two main things that happen to change your breast tissue and skin during this time. The Lymphatic System changes and slows down the rate at which your body can flush out toxins. This means that your skin can't get rid of the debris in the cells as easily (this is why you may notice more cellulite during this time as fat and toxin deposit settle under your skin.

The second big shift is the changes in estrogen production which reduces the plumpness of your skin and contributes to the skin on your chest and breasts starting to sag and wrinkle. While this doesn't sound like the most fun you can have on a Wednesday, it's also not the end of the world. With the right bra you can still have great shape and comfort.

Related Article: What life can do to your breasts and bra size

To counteract any loss of tension you should look for bras with vertical seams that will support a lifted look. When your breasts lose tension they tend to spread east and west. To corral your breast tissue back into a forward position you need a seamed bra with a supportive side panel which moves the breast tissue forward like the Lucy bra above.

As we get older the skin over our breasts becomes less plump and softer.
As the skin on your breasts begins to wrinkle it's important to put your bras on correctly. Women of every age ought to sweep their hands over each breast when it's inside the cup to ensure that no tissue is trapped against the wire and the tissue is settled comfortably in the cup. In addition to this movement you may also find that you need to smooth the skin away from the gore and into the cups. Press against your gore with your left hand then with your right hand smooth the skin of your left breast away from the gore and into the left cup. Repeat on the opposite side.

Seventies onwards
Many women experience changes to their bone density in later life and this can affect your bra fit if your ribs and shoulders become painful. Because bone changes (like osteoporosis) can affect your flexibility it can become more difficult to put on your bra. Ideally you want a front-fastening bra so that it's easier to put on, however, there simply aren't enough front fastening bras for women with large breasts. I hope this is something we see changing in coming seasons.

Look for bras with wide bands and wide straps so that the weight of your bust is dispersed over a wider area. This will relieve tension. Wire-free bras can also reduce the pressure and even though the shape will be different from a wired bra the support is equal.

I have lots of customers who rely on the Enell sports bra for support and comfort as it's front-fastening, wire-free and incredibly supportive.

I hope some of this information helps you understand your bra fit better. Your breasts will inevitably change over time but by understanding what's happening to our bodies and knowing how it affects our bra fit will keep us in great bras at every age. The bras that suit you best may change with time but you can have lift and comfort throughout your life. xx

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Holistic or Tape Measure Bra Fitting Better?

First of all I should probably explain what Holistic Bra Fitting means. Some of you may have been to a lingerie store where the assistant helping you hasn't used a tape measure to determine your size but instead has just looked at you, maybe asked what size you're currently wearing and brought you a bra size to try on.

Holistic bra fitting judges which size you need based on how well your current bra fits, your build, height and posture. Considering how many stores use a tape measure incorrectly to figure out your size (Hello Plus Four Method!) it's not surprising that some stores choose to avoid it completely.

The five main fit signs used to assess size in the holistic approach are:

1) Are the cups spilling over or wrinkling
2) Is the band too loose or tight
3) Does the gore lie flat against the body
4) Are the straps digging into the shoulders
5) Is the band at the same height all the way around the body

Determining your bra size using a tape measure uses the difference between your ribcage measurement and the measurement around the fullest part of your bust to figure out the best band and cup sizes to start with. There are lots of other factors that affect your bra size so this is why the tape measure method should only be used as a starting point as we explain in our Bra Calculator.

Lots of people think that the holistic approach to bra fitting is better than using a tape measure and others think that the tape measure is better. My personal approach is that these two techniques are not mutually exclusive and you should use both to find and maintain your best bra size.

The five fit signs are hugely helpful for working out whether you need a smaller band, larger cup size etc. The reason I don't think you should rely on the holistic signs alone is that they don't give you a base size to work from or towards. Let me explain.

The fit signs are essential for figuring out if you need a different size e.g. a spilling cup says you need a bigger cup

Lots of women who contact Butterfly Collection for a free bra size consultation are wearing a bra band that is six, eight and even ten inches bigger than their body which means they can be up to five band sizes away from their best starting size. If these women relied solely on the holistic approach then they may come down just one band size and still be uncomfortable in their new bra size leaving them more disillusioned with bras and potentially giving up on finding the right size. It would take an awful lot of trial and error to find out which band and cup combination you need based solely on the holistic approach when you're five or six sizes away from your best fit.
Full explanation of Sister Sizing
I recommend using three steps to figure out your best bra size starting point. Let's take an example of a woman wearing a 40E whose bra band is riding up, cups are spilling and straps are digging in. She can find her best bra size starting point this way:

1) She measures around her ribcage and finds that she's a 32 band. She realizes that this is four band sizes smaller than she's wearing right now. This gives her a band size to work toward.

2) Using the sister size chart she works out that to get the same volume on a 32 band as she has now on her 40E she needs to go up four cup letters to a GG.

3) By assessing all of her fit signs she realizes that she is spilling over her cups (NB this might be because the band is so loose the bust isn't contained) She decides to try one cup size larger to stop the spilling so she arrives at a size of 32H.

Left just to use the holistic approach this lady may have just come down to a 38F and would still have significant issues with her fit. By measuring at least around your ribcage and knowing how to use this in conjunction with the fit signs and understanding the band to cup ratio you stand a much better chance of getting to your right bra size faster. xx

Friday, January 18, 2013

First Video Blog Post!

Hi Everyone - a very quick post to let you know that my first video blog entry is up. I'll be creating these every couple of weeks to add some context to the things I write about here as well as highlighting great bra and boob articles from around the web.

I'll also cover bra fitting issues as well as answering specific customer and reader questions that arise in the week. I hope you find it useful and please let me know if you have any suggestions for things you'd like me to talk about. Happy Friday! xx

Monday, January 14, 2013

How do you know when your bra is dead?

If you have shortened your straps to gain support your bra is probably dead.
Today's blog post was suggested by one of my lovely customers who struggles to know when it's time to say goodbye to a bra. Because there are no hard and fast rules about how long a bra lasts it's important to know how to tell when your bra is dead because wearing it for a long time after it has lost its effectiveness can do you more harm than good.

The hook and eye fastening on the back of your bra is the easiest place to start. When you buy a new bra it must fit you comfortably on the first row of hooks. This is because your bra will stretch and over time you need to be able to fasten your bra on the tighter rows to compensate for the elastic losing its tension. If you buy a bra that fits you on the second or third row of hooks then it won't fit for you for as long which means you're throwing away money.

Your bra should fit snugly on the first row of hooks so that you get the most life out of your bra
The first time you fasten your bra on the tightest set of hooks you know you have between 4 and 6 weeks left of regular wear (this depends on how often you wear it and how you wash it). If your bra doesn't show other signs of significant wear and tear (we'll cover those next) then you may be able to have the band shortened by a tailor (or do it yourself if you're good with a needle). When shortening a band it's important to shorten each side equally i.e. if you take an inch out of one side you must take an inch out of the other side. This ensures that your strap tension stays equal on each side.

Depending on how well this job is done (and the integrity of the rest of the bra) you can get a further 2 to 4 months of wear out of the bra. It won't last as long as a new bra with the same band length as the elastic has aged.

This is the lifeblood of your bra. It's the elastic that keeps your band snug against your body (which is the part of your bra supporting most of your bust's weight) and it contributes to the shape of your cups and the support of your straps. Besides giving you support the elastic also makes your bra flexible so that it moves with you as your breathe and bend. As I've talked about before, elastic needs time to shrink back into place after it has been heated up by your body heat. This is the reason you should only wear a bra once every 3 days.

If you see white hairs appearing on the wing and band of your bra if means the elastic in the fabric has broken
No matter how well you take care of your bra the elastic will deteriorate over time and the bra will lose its support. It's worth noting that cheap bras are made with cheap elastics that stretch out quickly. More expensive bras use better grade elastics which are more resistant to heat and moisture so your investment lasts proportionally longer.

As the elastic in your bra stretches it begins to break and you will see this breakage in the fabric of your bra. Little white fronds will appear on the band, wings and straps. This is a sure fire sign that your bra is dead. No repairs or alterations will resuscitate this bra. The elastic that allows for breathing and movement is now dead so it's time to say goodbye.

The Fit
If a bra that once fit you well now seems to dig into your breastbone or poke you under the arms then you should check your fit signs (for example, is the band level at the front and back). The change in fit could be due to a change in your figure, however, it may also be an indication that the bra has died. If after checking the five fit signs you realize the bra is not giving you correct support then it's time for a new bra. If the bra still has the elastic in tact and the fabric isn't too worn then you should consider recycling it by donating to a thrift store.

Clear Damage
If there are holes in your cup or band, if there are hooks missing, wires poking through the material or any tearing on the material then your bra needs to be replaced. 

I hope this helps you figure out which of your bras need to be disposed of or recycled so that you aren't compromising your support and health on a dead bra xx

Monday, January 7, 2013

How much money should you spend on a bra?

Welcome back to Butterfly Collection's blog. Mr Butterfly and I had a fantastic holiday, I hope you did too. I had a chance to recharge my bra brain and plan some new products, tools and blogs for you lovely busty ladies. Some highlights of my break were a Stilton cheese the size of my head, crackers filled with tea, baking my first ham and buying blue boots!
Having spent a few pennies over Christmas I had to get back to my budget for the clothes and shoes I know I'll need this year (sometimes need means want if I'm honest!) I have a few rules of thumb that I use for how much I'll spend on lingerie and this helps me figure out my lingerie budget for the year.

Everyday Bras Budget: To get the longest life out of everyday bras they should be worn once every three days maximum. This gives the elastic time to recover between wears. If you wear a bra once every three days it should last about eight months (longer if you're wearing it less often and caring for it correctly) which is 80 wears. I average between $0.80 and $1 per wear so I'm willing to pay between $64 and $80 for an everyday bra.
Solution Bras Budget: Strapless and Multiway bras are essential for some outfits but I don't wear them regularly. I want these bras to do a great job when they're on but I expect them to last at least two years. I average two wears per month because I wear my strapless bras more often in the summer than I do in the winter. That's 48 wears over two years and I'm happy to pay $1.50 per wear because being a comfortable and strapless 32GG is worth the investment! This means I'm willing to pay around $70 for a solution bra.

Sports Bras Budget: I wouldn't run in cheap heels so I don't run in a cheap plunge bra. A sports bra should work in ways that regular bras simply can't - disperse impact, reduce bounce and wick away sweat. I know the damage that can be caused by wearing improper support so I think sports bras are worth up to $1.50 per wear.

I average that I'll use a sports bra twice a week (if you're more active you need more than one sports bra so that they have time to recover between wears). I expect a sports bra to last at least eight months (preferably 12 if I look after it correctly) so in eight months that's 64 wears at $1.50 per wear means I'm willing to spend up to $96 for a sports bra.     

Happy Bras (AKA Pretty/Must Have It/Luxury Bras): I don't think these bras are optional as they make me happy, I keep them for quite a while and life's too short not to wear beautiful things! I buy at least two seasonal bras every season in pretty colours or patterns that inspire me for the time of year. I'll wear them on and off for at least a year but probably more intensively at the beginning.
I buy one or two pieces of luxury lingerie (these are rarely bras as I find it almost impossible to find luxury lines in a 32GG) and I may only wear them 6 times a year so I expect them to last years if not forever!

I budget for 10 bras a year that I don't rely on for my daily support or activities but that make me happy, excited about being busty and inspire me to dress up. For this I budget $75 per item and this is simply based on what it's worth to me to have these options. That's $750 per year.

Sales Budget: I expect to buy some of these bras in the sale and average savings of about 20% over the year. I buy my everyday bras as and when I need them because I refuse to struggle and make do; my breasts and sanity are worth more. But for some of my Happy Bras I'll wait for sales (like the huge End of Year Sale at Butterfly Collection that ends on Thursday!)

I hope some of these lingerie equations help you figure out what your bra life is like and how much you can realistically budget each month to keep your boobs happy and supported in 2013. xx

UPDATE: I should clarify that this is how I work out my bra budget but your own can be worked out using similar ideas. You NEED 3-4 everyday bras to get you through a year plus 1-2 sports bras if you are active. That's a basic wardrobe which costs between $200 and $300 per year (around $20-25 a month) Figuring out what kids of bras you need and then which bras you would like to have gives you the basis for your budget xx