Monday, July 29, 2013

Bra Fit: Different Bra Back Shapes

This post arose out of one of my Skype fitting appointments (thank you Ursula!). My client asked what a leotard back means and it struck me that I've never explained this aspect of bras! The way the straps and band meet at the back of your bra can affect your fit. First of all here are a couple of reminders about the anatomy of the back of a bra (image above):

1) The straps attach to the wings. The position and angle at which the straps attach to the wing determines which shape back the bra has.

2) The band is the reinforced elastic along the bottom of the bra wing that culminates in the hook and eye closure which fastens at the back.

3) The wing is normally made of a different material to the cups, usually something very strong like powernet fabric that can withstand movement and multiple wears while giving support.

A Guide to Bra Backs

1) Square Back - the band and wings cut straight across the back and the straps meet the band virtually at a right angle. On this style the straps cut across the deepest and widest part of your back which can give you more visible lines under clothing. The straps are also set farther apart on the band so the style can be tricky for women with narrow or sloping shoulders.

A band that is cut straight across your back where the straps meet the band almost at a right angle is a square back. Photo of Isis Blue from You! Lingerie
2) Leotard Back (also known as a U back) - This is the most common type of back on full bust bras because the deeper wings give more support, plus, the straps are angled to travel over a narrower part of your back and the deep U shape towards the closure reduce visible lines under clothing. The straps do not necessarily sit closer together at the front, the angling is only at the back.

A leotard back is the most common shape on full bust bras as the band lends support and shaping for heavier busts: Example is Lucy Purple
3) V Back - This is an exaggerated version of the leotard back. The straps are more acutely angled towards the closure so that they form a V shape. This is ideal for women with narrow or sloping shoulders. It should be noted though that this bring the straps close together at the front as well which some women like and others don't.

Wacoal's V back is a much loved feature of their Basic Beauty bras
4) Racer Back (also known as T or Y backs) - Racer backs are much more common on A-C cups, however, you do find them on full bust bras, especially sports bras. On regular bras this kind of back is desirable so that straps are hidden under tops with a narrow back or narrow straps. On sports bras there will be an options Racer Clip which allows you to bring the straps together into a T shape for increased stability.
Lots of full bust sports bras have a racer back option for added support (like this one from Panache Sport)
5) Strapless/Multiway/Backless - A strapless bra will usually have a deep horizontal band (similar to the style on the square back). The depth of the band is important to give support. It will have detachable straps that you can use as regular straps or as a halterneck or crisscross back depending on what you're wearing. These strap shapes are known as multiways. A backless bra for full bust women usually relies on a converter strap (like the one by Fashion Forms in the image above) which lowers the visible line of the bra farther down your back.
A strapless bra, like Evie on the left, comes with detachable straps that can be made into a crisscross or halterneck back.
I hope this guide helps you understand which backs you might need or want to get the best fit for you. Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions. xx

Monday, July 22, 2013

Online Bra Consultation: Top 5 Fit Issues

We've been doing online bra consultations for over two years. It is one of our most popular services probably because it's fast, free and it doesn't matter where you live you can find out more about your bra fit. I created this service because it was an easy way to get bra and breast knowledge to lots of women and I believe understanding your own breasts is liberating.

The consultation is a simple form that is filled out with a couple of measurements as well as details about which bra you're currently wearing, your height, dress size and bra issues. From this basic information we put together a profile of the size range that would be best for you as well as styles that would suit your shape best. There are some fit and size issues that come up time and time again.

Lucy is our busiest online consultant and has done almost 1000 online consultations! She compiled a list of the top 5 fit issues she sees most often in the online consultations:

1) Over 80% of women who listed Victoria's Secret as their most comfortable bra cited their band rides up.

2) Most women whose straps are digging in are wearing a band that is too big for them and don't realize that that's the reason their straps dig in.

3) Lots of women feel wires poking in their armpit but it's most common in women under 5ft 4"

4) Over half of the women we do consultations for measure between 24 and 31 inches around their ribcage.

5)  Besides wearing a band that's too big the most common cause of straps slipping off is wearing a cup that is too small.

You might feel like you're alone in your bra frustrations but you'd be amazed how many women are experiencing the same bra frustrations as you. Learning about better bra fit can take a while and it's a lot of information to take in especially if you learn that you need a cup size you've never heard of and a brand not available at your local department store. I wanted the bra size consultations to be an easy introduction to better understand your bra fit. Lots of our clients tell us that it was the beginning of their journey to better bra fit which makes me super happy! xx

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bra Fit: Which Gore is Right For You?

Continuing our series about the finer points of bra fit, this week I'm explaining how different gores affect bra fit. The gore on a bra is the part between the cups that sits between your breasts. This little bit of fabric can be the best and sometimes the worst thing about a bra! The most common complaint about gores is that they dig into the breast bone which can be very painful. I'm going to explain what your gore does and how to choose ones that are right for you.

How Should a Gore Fit?
On wired bras the gore should lie flat against your body. Non-wired bra gores won't lie completely flat against your body because there's no wire to bring the cup back around your breast towards your body. It's rare but some women find that no matter what they try the gore never lies flat. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1) Their breasts are so close together that the gore always gets twisted
2) Their ribcage or breast bone is curved in a way that prevents the gore from lying flat

If your gore doesn't lie flat then you most probably need a smaller band. If your cups fit you but your gore doesn't lie flat then you should try one band size smaller and one cup letter larger (this will ensure you don't lose any cup volume).

The center panel comes up high on sports bras (like the Panache Sports) to minimize vertical bounce

What is the Gore For?
The gore's job is twofold. It contributes to the shape the bra gives you and most importantly it's a key part of support.

Shape - If the gore is narrow then the cups will sit closer together making the shape better for close-set breasts and forward projection. If the gore is wide then the cups sit farther apart and make the shape better for wide-set breasts.

Support - The depth of the gore changes how much vertical bounce a bra will reduce. A deep gore will generally give you less vertical bounce. This is why sports bras come so high up so that the vertical bounce is almost eliminated when exercising.

A low, wide gore (like this one on Idina) is great for wide-set and average set breasts that are side heavy.

Gores for Wide-Set Breasts
If your breasts are heaviest at the sides and spaced quite far apart with very little full breast tissue in the middle then you'll want to look for wide to medium width gores that are short to medium height. A tall gore can give you too much cup at the center which your breasts can't fill. The shorter gore will still give you enough support as you don't have heavy breast tissue at the center that needs support.

Dessous Peony with Limeade is a great medium gore style for side heavy breasts

Look for bras with high side panels that will give you the support where you need it, like the Dessous range from Claudette above.

Gores for Average-Set Breasts
If your breasts are full all round and set averagely close together (you can get 1 to 3 fingers between your breasts) then you need extra support at the front/center of your bust. This is especially important for women over a G cup as the increased projection away from the body needs vertical as well as horizontal support. 
A medium/tall gore like Jasmine is great for average set breasts (both rounded and shallow) that need forward support
Look for medium to tall gores. If you are shallow through the top of your breasts look for styles with stretchy upper cups that will give you a smooth fit.

Gores for Close-Set Breasts
If your breasts are very close together then gores can be a real pain! Some styles will have gores that are narrow enough for fit between your breasts (lots of my clients like Melissa, Bella and Meg) but a lot won't be. Very short gores (most usually plunge styles) can be a much more comfortable fit. The gore sits flat against the body just below where the breasts meet.

A short gore style like Tango Plunge can be excellent for close-set full breasts as the cups offer full support
If you have full all round breasts then look for cups that rise vertically from the gore rather than cutting acutely across. If your breasts are shallow through the top then you can look for plunge styles with cups that come out more acutely from the gore as you need less cup coverage.

How to Adjust the Gore
If you find a bra that you love but need to alter the gore then there are a few things you can do.

If the gore presses too hard into your breast bone then you can physically bend the wires away from your body. You'll need to apply quite a bit of pressure so it's important to do this while NOT wearing the bra so that you don't tear the material. If you haven't tried styles with a lower gore then I suggest you try them as taller gores might simply be incompatible with your breast bone shape.

If the gore is too wide you can make it narrower by following these steps.

If the gore is too tall you may be able to shorten it by pushing the wires down away from the top of the gore then removing the excess material at the top. Be aware that this will also affect the angle of the cup so this is not a minor alteration.

I hope this helps you figure out which gore shape is right for you so that you can have a comfortable and supportive fit. Let me know in the comments if you have a gore question xx

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Right to Bra Choice

There is a lot of science to bras, but there is an equal amount of choice. I always tell my clients that I can tell you how a bra is technically supposed to fit but if it doesn't feel right to you or you don't like the style then it's the wrong bra because you won't wear it, and that defeats the point.

I have said before that just because a bra is your size does not mean it will fit you and this is because style is as important to fit as size. Depending on your physique some bras will have cups that are too far apart or too close together, wings that are too high or too short or cups that are too round or too flat. This doesn't make you or the bra wrong, it just means you're not destined for one another.

Over the past 6 months there have been a few bra conversations in the media and social outlets that undermine the idea that bra fit is unique to each individual. There are two commandments that I urge you not to break; 1) a bra band that rides up your back means your bra is totally redundant and 2) cups that don't encase your whole breast can damage your breast tissue. However, aside from a band that supports and cups that don't rest on breast tissue the rest of bra fit is a very personal thing.

As long as it doesn't ride up the choice of how tight you prefer your band is up to you (l) Delphi (r) Profile Perfect

You may like a bra band that is very snug, or you may prefer it to be as loose as it will go without riding up. Neither of these things is wrong, they're just choices and that's what I think the whole bra business should be about. Manufacturers should strive to give choice in both size and style and commentators, like us, should strive to empower and inspire women to explore their choices. It's personal choice that I think has been challenged by articles saying you should never wear a tight band or you should never have cups that come too high. From bloggers to manufacturers there are some pretty stark articles out there that say "the way I say to wear a bra is right and anyone who disagrees is wrong." and that's just plain nonsense! What feels right for one woman will feel awful for another so we need to stop telling each other what we have to do and encourage each other to find our best fit, whatever that might be.

Your best bra fit will rarely be an overnight epiphany. It is an ever-evolving journey that changes with your body, life and preferences. What I hope for all of you lovely readers is that you have the knowledge to understand what your best bra fit looks and feels like (bands that are parallel around your body and smooth cups are the foundation) and the confidence to pursue your journey with an open mind (never say never to a leopard print bra!)

Every now and then I think bra conversations need grounding. Goodness knows I understand how passionate and emotional the subject is, but we must remember that we don't need anyone else's approval to be happy in our bra choices, we just need to seek out what makes us happy in our bras. If you are in doubt about where to begin finding your best fit or how to get out of your own bra rut then our support team can help and I highly recommend Fuller Figure Fuller Bust, The Lingerie Addict, Boosaurus, Bratabase, Venusian Glow and Braless in Brasil for bra fit information and pure lingerie inspiration. xx