Monday, April 29, 2013

Which Sports Bra Should Full Bust Women Wear?

Sports bras are so much more than just well engineered bras that absorb impact, they are the mental and physical freedom to have a choice whether you want to participate in sports and activities that can lead to friendships, careers, improved health and well-being. A saddening number of girls stop playing sports or being generally active because they don't have adequate breast support. It's simply wrong that millions of girls and women miss out on the physical and emotional benefits of being active for the sake of a well-fitting sports bra. Things have changed a great deal in the last decade and we can ensure that fewer girls feel forced out of sports simply over the size of their chests and that grown women can take back control over their physical activities in a supportive sports bra.

Dove's billboard makes you wonder how many girls we could keep in sports with the right physical & emotional support
Why Do We Need Sports Bras?
We need sports bras because breasts don't have any muscle in them; they are held in place by two things, ligaments and skin. The ligaments (technical name Coopers Ligaments) stretch and contract to accommodate your movements. Your skin also stretches to allow for the force and impact of your movements. Unlike muscles, there is little you can do to alter your ligament and skin elasticity and strength, so the only thing you can do is add another layer of shock absorption that can take the impact strain your ligaments and skin alone couldn't handle.

Left, Simona Halep is categorically in the wrong sports bra and ultimately she resorted to a breast reduction. Serena Williams' bra shows the coverage and support a well-fitting sports bra can give.
When you work out your boobs are moving more often and greater distances than when you're doing everyday activities. During this time you need to protect your ligaments and skin from getting over-stretched as this can be very painful. To minimize the stretch factor you need to wear a sports bra that is designed to absorb the impact of your activity.

The Two Types of Sports Bra
There are two types of sports bras; Encapsultation and Compression. There is no right or wrong for which one you should wear, however, you should know how they differ to understand which one is right for you and the activity you're doing.
Panache Sports Bra is an encapsultation bra as it has distinct cups and comes in regular bra sizes
Encapsultation Bras have two distinct cups just like a regular bra so that each breast is housed in its own cup. Unlike regular bras the cups are likely to be thicker, longer (cup higher up your body) and have another layer of fabric wrapped around the outside of the cups that disperses impact away from the breast and around the whole upper body instead. These kind of bras keep the breasts as still as possible inside the cups without putting excess pressure on the breast itself. This kind of sports bra is also ideal for very busy days as it can be worn for long periods of time. Some of our customers use this bra for cycling, jogging, rowing, working out at the gym and playing soccer. Our clients who participate in triathlons and ironman competitions tend to use the compression style as some of the activities are maximum impact and they need virtually zero movement in their chest.
Enell Compression bras use sturdy fabric with shock absorbent elastic weave in the back to disperse the impact of movement across your whole upper torso

Compression Bras don't have distinct cups and instead reduce the bounce not with thickness of cup but by keeping the breasts very close to the body (this also means that the breasts are often touching). They do this by dispersing the volume of your bust across your whole upper body (this can be known as the monoboob look). Compression bras for large breasts tend to come very high on your chest as the breast tissue is being flattened over a larger surface area than an encapsulation bra. This kind of support significantly reduces the impact of being active as the vertical movement of your breasts (caused when jumping up and down) is greatly reduced. I use a compression sports bra for running because it makes my 32GG bust have almost zero movement. The downside to a compression bra is that you shouldn't wear it for prolonged periods of time ( a couple of hours wear is ideal) because the fatty cells inside your breasts are under pressure and excessive pressure for long periods can aggravate your breasts (rashes, infection, bruising). Plus sweat gets trapped between your breasts which can cause chafing for some women over long periods of time.
The Lite from Enell is designed to be more flexible, more lightweight and can be worn for longer periods
Enell also created a Lite version of their compression sports bra which is less supportive for high impact, however, it can be worn for longer periods of time and is also excellent for activities that require more flexibility. I wear the Lite for Yoga because it has no clasp on the back so I can roll on my spine without poking myself. 

Sports Bra Sizes
Encapsulation sports bras are sized like regular bras and manufacturers like Panache have 28 back sports bras up to a UK H cup (the same as a US J cup). At the moment there still aren't enough Sports Bra options for women over an H cup. Some manufacturers (like Royce) have some wirefree styles but I hope very much that we'll see an increase in the availability of sports bras in HH, J, JJ and K cups.

Compression sports bras don't have regular bra sizes (like 32FF, or 38H) because they don't have cups. Instead they are sized either as small, medium, large, or in the case of Enell (one of the biggest compression sports bra manufacturers) they use 00, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 etc to denote their sizes. Again, there aren't compression bras on the market for every woman (if you're a 28J it's incredibly difficult to find a sports bra). The most common solution I know some of our customers use it to purchase a cup size that works and have the band altered to fit them. I hope we see sports bras available for every woman very soon.

If you are a busty woman working out in a regular bra then it's akin to going to running in your highest heels. You wouldn't do that because you'd wreck your feet and you shouldn't do it to your breasts because you'll cause yourself pain, chafing and general injury. If you are the parent of a busty teen I urge you to seriously consider investing in a supportive and well fitting sports bra for your daughter so that she has the physical confidence to continue participating in activities that can keep her healthy and happy her whole life. xx

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Wire Width and Cup Shape Affect Your Bra Fit

Lots of women begin their bra fit journey by finding out there are bra sizes outside the 34+ A-D standard. Learning that you're more comfortable in a 30FF than a 34DD is an enormous step forward in better bra fit (our bra size calculator is a good starting point for figuring out your size range). What a lot of women don't realize is that there is another equally important part to bra fit besides Bra Size and that's Bra Style.

I know many women can't find their bra size and this is usually because they haven't tried on their correct size in the right style of bra. One of the biggest differences in bra style is the shape of the cup. If you're a 32F, for example, the bras available in this size will all have approximately the same cup volume, however, the volume can be dispersed in different ways. Below is a picture of the same volume of silly-putty molded into a wide and a narrow breast shape (Bratabase has an amazing resource for understanding breast shape). You'll notice that the wide base volume is shallower than the narrow based volume which is why we need different cup shapes.

The width of your breasts (often referred to as the breast root) makes a difference to how your breast volume forms your breast shape. A 32F women with a narrow root will have breasts that project forward more as the volume is stacked up over a smaller base. She may also notice that her breasts are round at the top as well. This woman needs a bra that has a narrow base (a narrow cup width) and a full, forward cup. If your cup feels very empty at the sides of your cup but you're spilling at the top then you want to look for styles with narrower wires and forward fuller cups.

A 32F woman with a wide root will find her breasts are spread over a wider area and so don't project as far forward. She needs a bra that can accommodate the width of her breasts and the cup doesn't need to project as far forward because her volume is spread out more. If your bra is poking your breast tissue at the side and you're not quite filling the cup then look for bras with wider wires and shallower cups.

Related Vlog Post: Cup Shapes and Bra Fit

The third direction that's important to consider when figuring out your breast shape is how far up your body your breast tissue extends (without a bra on). Some women have breast tissue high up on their body near their collarbone and this forms part of their breast volume so they need a long cup that can accommodate this tissue. Women with high tissue often find that they don't have much forward projection and so they need styles that are long in the cup but shallow in depth.  Many women are very flat through their upper chest across the breast bone (their breast tissue doesn't become obvious until farther down their chest - usually, level with their armpit).  If you're flat through your breast bone you'll find you can wear a variety of styles.

If you've been trying on the same style of bra, or even the same brand of bra, and are still struggling to find your size I recommend trying a different style or brand bearing in mind this information about how your breast root can affect the shape of your breast and so you'll need a cup shape that's right for you.  xx

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why Do Victoria's Secret Measure OVER your breasts?

Every week Lucy and I do online bra size consultations for women across North America. The majority of women who request a consultation have been fitted at Victoria's Secret and these are the women who invariably have the most bra complaints. These women are without fail wearing a band that is four to EIGHT inches bigger than their body as well as experiencing issues like straps that dig into their shoulders, cups that spill and straps that slip. The reason these complaints are so common with women who have been fitted at Victoria's Secret is because they measure for band size over the top of your breasts under your armpits. By measuring this way Victoria's Secret recommends that your band should be at least four inches bigger than your body, a fitting technique that is disastrous for full-busted women.
VS Fit Errors: Left: Band riding up, Center: Gore not against body, Right: Band not flush with the body
Victoria's Secret comes in for a lot of grief because good bra fit is not their main focus. Their models are often in the wrong bras in product shoots and runway shows and their over-zealous Photoshopping (to make models look skinnier or bras fit better) is legendary. In reality Victoria's Secret doesn't position itself as an expert in bra fit, they very rarely allude to bra fit at all. They are in the business of making a few bra styles and a few bra sizes in alluring colours and affordable prices that make you aspire to looking 'as sexy as an Angel'. The bra sizes and styles that Victoria's Secret do make are mostly suited to women with smaller breast volumes with closer-set breasts who need more band than cup ratio because their breasts are in a different position to full busted women.

Related Articles: The women who need to add inches to their band size

Victoria's Secret only makes 36 bra sizes and in practice there are over 175 bra sizes regularly available on the market (Butterfly Collection carries over 60 sizes) and over 148 other sizes available through specialty manufacturers. So you can see that the number of women for whom Victoria's Secret really can offer great bra fit is very narrow. The +4 measuring technique is appropriate for some of the women who can wear the limited size and style range from VS so that's how they can justify using the +4 technique. The problem is, Victoria's Secret will never tell you if their bras and bra fitting technique is not right for you (and let's face it, that's most of us). They'll never concede that your band size is smaller than those they carry or that your breast volume requires a cup size they don't have. Nope, they'll just use the same fitting technique on a full-busted woman and send her away in a bra that will causes a myriad of fit issues.

This is my greatest grievance with Victoria's Secret. Their lack of honesty about their fitting method's effectiveness leaves women feeling that their bodies are wrong, which doesn't make you feel 'as sexy as an Angel'. With their brand position in the market Victoria's Secret could be a hugely empowering influence on improving bra education and diminishing breast stigma in North America, but unfortunately they are part of the machine that perpetuates the idea that bra sizes outside of the 32-38 A-D paradigm is alien and that bra fit is secondary to looking sexy. 

No matter how dominant a brand is it's up to us as consumers to decide whether a product is right for us. Your breast health is too important to blindly put your faith in a gigantic marketing machine that tells you bras are just about push-ups and pouting. We need to be savvy shoppers who understand what good bra fit looks like and then decide whether Victoria's Secret bras offer us that fit (for many women the answer will be yes, but for the vast majority of us the answer is no).

How I Recommend Finding Your Band Size
I maintain that getting your band size right is the most important part of finding great bra fit because your cup size is determined IN RELATION to your band so without knowing your band size you can't begin to find the right fit.

Related Articles: Not all D cups are the Same and What Sister Size Bras Look Like

I recommend a good starting point for working out your band size is to wrap a tape measure around your ribcage directly under your breasts, against your skin where your band should lie. There's no need to breathe out or pull tightly, simply put the tape measure flat against your skin so that it is parallel with the floor all around your body. This measurement (in inches) is the best starting point for finding your band size (if you're an odd number then simply round up one to the next even number as your starting band size).

Related Tool: Bra Size Calculator

This is a starting point from which you might add or subtract inches depending on your physique. The reason that +0 is an impartial starting point is that as many women will need to add inches as need to subtract them so starting at zero means there's no weighting in either direction. As a very general rule of thumb, if you have a muscular, toned or just firm ribcage then you might have to add inches to your band size to allow for flexibility. If you have a fleshy torso or a springy ribcage then you might find that you need to subtract inches to find your band size because your band can't anchor to fat which moves up and down your body as you move so you need a firmer fit that account for the wobble of our middle bits (I wear one band size smaller than my ribcage measurement as my torso is squidgy).

I hope this helps you figure out whether your body and breasts fit one of the 36 sizes available at Victoria's Secret. If you are then you'll probably find that their over the breasts measuring method works for you, and if you're not then you've got another 300+ bra sizes to choose from! xx

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Sister Size Bras Look Like

From top to bottom these bras have the same cup volume: 38E, 36F, 34FF, 32G, 30GG, 28H
The relationship between band sizes and cup sizes is something I explain most frequently. The common misconception is that all cup letters are the same size of boob on different band lengths. So, for example, people assume that all women with F cup boobs have the same size boobs regardless of whether they're a 30F or a 40F and this simply isn't true. A lady with 40F boobs is actually five cup volumes bigger than the 30F lady and that's because when the band size gets bigger it increases the volume of the cups.  

Sister Sizes is a phrase that refers to bras that all share the same cup volume but have different band lengths. For example, a 34E and a 32F are sister sizes because when you go one band size down from a 34 to a 32 you have to balance the size by going up one cup from an E to an F cup to keep the cup volume the same. 

Click Here to read why all D cups aren't the same and Click Here to read why cup volumes increase as the band increases.

These bras all have the same cup volume spread out over different length bands. From top down: 28H, 30GG, 32G, 34FF, 36F, 38E

Because a picture speaks a thousand words I wanted to show you what sister sizes look like and how the proportions change. In the picture above the six bras shown are the following sizes from top to bottom: 28H, 30GG, 32G, 34FF, 36F, 38E.  All of these bras have the same cup volume, however, their band lengths and proportions are different.

You can see that the band on the 38E at the bottom is the longest band so the woman who wears this bra needs her band to go around more torso than the woman who would wear the 28H bra at the top which has the shortest band. Proportionally the 38E lady will look like she has a smaller bust because her bust volume is spread out over a wider torso. The 28H lady will look like she has a larger bust because her breast volume projects further forward on a narrower torso. In reality they have the same volume of boob but it is spread out over different areas of chest/torso.

From top to bottom these bras have the same cup volume: 38E, 36F, 34FF, 32G, 30GG, 28H

The Proportions 
While the picture above is helpful to show that the cup volume on these sister sizes is the same what it can't show very well is how the proportions differ. You can see that the bands on the 30GG and 28H (bottom two bras) are deeper and have more hooks than the other sizes. This is because the volume of a 30GG and 28H bust projects farther forward than the volume of a 38E bust (which is spread out over a wider area so doesn't project as far forward) so the band has to be stronger to counteract the projection at the front.

Besides the deeper band and more hooks you may also be able to see that the wings are darker on the 28 and 30 bands than the 38-32 bands and this is because it's double layered to give more support. The wing has to be reinforced as there is less length to disperse the weight of the breasts over. The longer the band the greater the area the weight of the breasts can be dispersed over. This is the reason longer bands don't need to be as deep or firm as the shorter bands.

The proportions of the bras differ in the following ways (you'll notice that the gore width decreases as the band length shortens and this is because the breast volume is gradually narrowing in width and increasing in projection).

Band Length
Wing with Hooks Length
Wing with Eyes Length
Wing Depth
Gore Width
Bra Science Vs Bra Reality
I wanted to explain this bit of bra science to further help you understand why cup sizes mean nothing without knowing the band size. In reality good bra fit is affected by things like brand, body shape, age, height and bra style. It's great to know the principles of bra science but remember that when a bra fits you well and you are comfortable that's the most important thing. Leave a comment if you need something explaining more xx

N.B: The bra used in these diagrams is Tango Beige from Panache Superbra

Monday, April 1, 2013

Directory of Full Bust Bloggers

Since I started blogging about Butterfly Collection bras and life for busty women the bra blogosphere has grown a lot! There is a wealth of diverse women writing about different breast sizes and shapes, fashion for busty and/or plus size and bra fit. To help you figure out which bloggers are right for you I've compiled a directory broken down by theme:

26-30 Band Full Bust Bloggers
These bloggers are very knowledgeable about the style, fit and comfort issues associated with being small in the band and large in the cup.
Invest in Your Chest
Curvy Wordy
Busts 4 Justice
Thin and Curvy
Le Curvy Kitten
Braless in Brazil
By Baby's Rules
Bras and Body Image
Venusian Glow
Undercover Lingerista
Quest for the Perfect Bra
A Sophisticated Pair
Miss Underpinnings
Obsessed with Breasts
Bras I Hate

32+ Band Full Bust Bloggers

These bloggers are full busted (D+ cups) and range from regular dress sizes to plus size.
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust
XL Hourglass
Fussy Busty
Bra Nightmares
The Full Figured Chest

Boudoir, Sleepwear and General Lingerie Reviews
These bloggers cover lingerie not specific to the full bust market. Beautiful to look at and some pieces that work for full bust women, these bloggers are well worth checking out.
The Lingerie Addict
Sweet Nothings NYC
The Full Figured Chest
The Lingerie Lesbian

Full Bust Bra Fitting Advice
Considering that bra fit is essential for feeling comfortable and supported it's no wonder this is such a widely discussed topic. As a professional bra fitter I take this subject very seriously and I recommend these sites for their bra fitting advice.
Venusian Glow Fitting
Boosaurus Fitting
Thin and Curvy Fitting
Invest in Your Chest Fitting
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust Fitting
Braless in Brasil Fitting
Sweet Nothing NYC Fitting

Full Bust Clothing Reviews (non-plus size)
Clothing for full bust women can be very tricky. A lot of clothing isn't tailored for dramatic curves so these reviews are really helpful for working out which brands and styles work for full busts.
Thin and Curvy Clothes
Curvy Wordy 
Bras and Body Image Clothes
Bras I Hate Clothing
Hourglassy Clothing (Campbell and Kate Shirts)
Quest for a Perfect Bra Clothing
Miss Underpinnings Style
Le Curvy Kitten

Full Bust Clothing Reviews (plus-size)
If you are full busted and also a plus size woman then finding clothes can be doubly difficult sometimes. These reviewers find clothing and styles for plus sized full bust women.
Fuller Figure Fuller Bust Clothing
Curvy Wordy

I hope you find this list useful, I will update it whenever I can. There is such a wealth of knowledge out there and it can help you feel happy, confident and comfortable in your full bust life! xx