Monday, March 31, 2014

Why My Daughters Won't Have My Maternity Bra Nightmares

This week's blog is a guest post from one of our customers who found her best bra fit in her 50s and has become a Bra Fit Evangelist. In her guest post she highlights the physical and emotional difference between her maternity bra shopping experience in the 1970s and the choices available to her daughters today.

"When I was pregnant in the 70s I was looking forward to everything that came with pregnancy. Buying things for the baby and maternity clothes for me to proudly show off my ‘bump’ and of course I’d need to get some bras for my larger pregnancy boobs. Getting things for the baby was exciting and fun but shopping for maternity clothes and bras was a wasteland for busty Moms-to-be.

I had always been busty and as a teenager had my fair share of doom and gloom in the fitting room. Bras over a D cup were hard to find in the 1960s but I naively thought that my pregnancy bra choices would be better. Surely there would be bigger cups available for pregnant and nursing Moms.

I was so sad to discover that there was only white or beige in one basic style (if you can call it a style) with almost industrial cups and straps and the cups still didn’t go above a D, they just got bigger in the band. I used to call them my ‘parachutes’ as they felt worthy of army manoeuvres. At only 23 years of age I was wearing bras that an 80 year old would find uninspiring. To accommodate my cup volume I had to wear a 42E and it made me feel huge, ancient and uncomfortable. Knowing what I do now I should have been in a 34GG or even a 32H.
A nursing/maternity bra like Sophie is essential in small bands and large cup volumes for busty women
With an ever changing body and serious breast weight the 42E bras did nothing to support me and so my pregnancies became times that I struggled most with my breasts. Pregnancy is such a special time and there are so many new things happening to you that you need and DESERVE bras that fit you and support you. You don’t want to be distracted by straps digging in and a sore neck when there are so many more amazing things happening like your baby’s first movements.

Happily for my daughters, there is now a wealth of choice in maternity/nursing lingerie. Smaller bands and cups up to a K add over 100 sizes than were available during my pregnancies. The band support is so important so it makes me really happy to know that busty Moms today don’t have to compromise on band support in order to get the cup volume. I wish I’d had beautiful choices because on those days when you are exhausted from sleep deprivation and constant feeding it would make a big difference to your self-esteem to know your boobs are encased in something comfortable and beautiful."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Weight Loss and Bra Fit

Whether you are deliberately losing weight or have experienced weight loss through a life experience like surgery or bereavement, the change in your bra size and fit can be very noticeable. Lots of people think their boobs will change size when they lose weight but there are lots of other things that can happen.

How each of us loses or gains weight is predominantly determined by our genes. The kind of exercises you do and your diet can make some difference but the biggest factor is your genetics. With this in mind there are no rules as to how you will lose weight or how your bra fit will change.

How to make your band last longer during weight loss

Using a bra extender on a smaller band can make your bras last longer if you're losing weight from your torso (Panache Sports Bra shown)
Some women will lose weight from their torso (back and stomach fat) and this changes their band size. Wearing a supportive band size is essential, especially if you are losing weight as part of a health plan over a long period of time. You can find bra extenders very useful during weight loss so that you can buy a band size that's a little snug initially but use the extenders to give you a comfortable fit for a longer period of time. This way you don't have to compromise on a supportive fit or comfort and your dollar goes further.

Losing from the band but not the cup
Losing weight from your torso does not necessarily mean that you will lose weight from your breasts. I know this might seem crazy to some people but it's very common that you can find your old bras still fit you in the cups but are too big in the band. To accommodate this change you need to go up a cup letter for every band size you have come down.

For example, if your best fit was a 34F (also known as a 34DDD) and your cups still fit but you now measure a 31 around your ribcage you need to try a 32FF (one band size down and one cup letter up) or a 30G (two band sizes down and 2 cup letters up). It can seem counter-intuitive when losing weight to find that your cup letter has gone up but remember that the letter refers to the difference between your band circumference and bust circumference. When you lose weight from your band but your bust volume stays the same it means the difference between these two measurements has increased which is why your cup letter goes up.
Losing from the cups but not the band
Similarly, you can lose volume from your breasts but find that your band size stays the same. This is an easy change to make in your size as you need to try smaller cup letters on the same band size.

Losing weight from both band and cups
If you lose weight from your torso and breasts then you need a smaller band and cup so a service like our Free Size Consultation can help you figure out which size is right for you.

Other weight loss fit factors
There are a couple of other factors you should know about breasts and weight loss. Losing fat can change the density of your breasts so where you might have had some upper breast tissue you can find that this has gone and you need to look for bras better for shallower breasts. Weight loss can also make stretch marks on your breasts more visible as the skin becomes less taut. This can also leave you with softer breast tissue than before so you might want to know about bra fit tips for soft breasts.

Bra investment during weight loss
I know lots of women find it hard to justify investment in well-fitting bras when they don't know how long the size will fit them. If you are losing weight over a long period of time then wearing well-fitting bras will not only support your bust but it will stop other issues arising, like back pain and headaches. If you have suddenly lost weight that has affected your bra size you may put the weight back on quickly and get back into your regular sizes, but equally you might be at your smaller size for a while. You don't need to buy lots of new bras in the smaller size, one or two will do, but the correct support will make you physically more comfortable while you're recovering. xx

Monday, March 17, 2014

Explained: Straps on 28 Bands, Cross Grading and the Lack of 26 Bands

Following on from last week' post, today I'm answering more of the questions posed via our Facebook and Twitter pages. 

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why there aren't more plunge bras or bras with short gores in my size! 

This is a great question and one I get asked about a lot. Lots of plunge bras stop around a G/GG/H in 28-38 bands. Over that size you really struggle to find plunge styles and this has a lot to do with the mechanics of creating a plunge bra for heavy or voluminous breasts. 

Plunge bras don't work for a lot of women (women with soft or center heavy breasts find plunge style don't give enough support or cause a lot of spilling). This is because with such a short gore and acutely angled cups, plunge styles have to rely on the sides and band to give lift and support. If you need support at the center then a plunge style will never work.

Plunge styles over an H cup (US J cup) are usually seamed bras because the seams contribute to supporting the breasts in a way molded cups can't. You can find non-plunge styles with a shorter gore but there definitely needs to be more options for H+ women who need a shorter gore.

Sizes sizes are cups that have the same volume (approximately) but different band lengths, e.g. 28G, 30FF and 32F are sister sizes.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... The fact that a 28G and a 32F have the same wire width, like seriously I'm not as wide as someone who wears a 32 so my wires should be narrower.

This is a great point about cross grading sizes. By that I mean that the proportions of a woman with a smaller band can be very different from those of a woman with a larger band. However, this can also be affected by wire shape. It might be that the 28G styles you're trying on have wider wires than you need and on a woman with a wide 28G breast shape it would work well. Some brands and styles use narrower wires than others.

Wire shape and length has been one of the biggest topics of the last 18 months and I think we'll start to see another shift in wire shapes from manufacturers in the next 5 years. 

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why no manufacturer makes 26 bands. 

You and me both! We've carried 28 and 30 bands for years now and we carry on buying them because we have hundreds of clients who need these band lengths. And yet, many of our reps tell us that very few of their customers (boutiques/stores) buy 28 bands because they don't have any customers who fit them. The fact that few boutiques carry 28 bands translates into lower sales in those sizes so manufacturers don't prioritize shorter bands.

I think a lot of boutiques don't fit bands correctly (hence the reason so many women are in the wrong size because stores put them in a bra with a band that's too big for them). If fitters had a better understanding of how bands should fit then there would be a great demand for short bands and the need for 26 and 24 bands would become more apparent.  

I really like that the Dessous style by Claudette has closer set straps so the fit is better for 28 bands
The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why are shoulder straps so wide on 28 bands.

Another great question! Are you sure you lot haven't been rifling through my bra wish list!? What I wrote above about the slow take up rate of 28 bands by stores and boutiques has a direct bearing on your question. Because 28 bands are hard to justify from a sales point of view for a manufacturer (to give you an idea, manufacturers sell about thirty 34 bands for every 28 band ordered) there is less budget to diversify the styles that are available in a 28 band.

For example, if you are a 34 band you can find bras that are full cup, plunge, balconette, tear drop shaped, smooth, seamed, close straps, far straps, convertible and longline because there are thousands of orders from stores for these sizes so brands can afford to diversify the styles they offer in a 34 band because demand is proven.

If more stores bought 28 bands then manufacturers would see a proven market and would invest in diversifying their styles. It's completely crazy that 28 bands tend to be on styles with straps not positioned for narrower shoulders. I think Claudette's Dessous is one of the few styles that truly accounts for the shoulder fit of a 28 band client.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why the wire is always a finger or two width below my breast

This is usually one, or a combination of, three things: Wearing your band too low, or cups with wires that are too narrow for you and your torso shape. Because each of these is a blog topic unto itself I recommend clicking on each of the links to find out the cause of your bras sitting low on your body.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... No matter how many I have, I always NEED MORE

Because bras that fit are not only comfortable but they're a joy to put on and look at! If you need more bras because they never seem to fit you then that's a bad thing but if you always need more bras because there are so many great ones out there then you're my perfect customer! xx

Monday, March 10, 2014

Your Bra Questions Answered

A couple of weeks ago I put this on Facebook and Twitter "The thing I don't understand about bras is _________" and asked our readers to fill in the blank. Today I'm going to respond to some of the replies and next week I'll follow up with some more answers.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... The difference between US and UK sizes and brand sizing variation.

US and UK sizing refers to whether the bra was made by a company using the US or UK size system, NOT whether it was bought in that country. The big UK brands like Freya, Panache, Elomi, Curvy Kate and Mimi Holliday use the DD, E, F, FF, G, GG, H, HH, J, JJ and K cup sizes. US brands like Playtex, Victoria's Secret, La Senza and Additionelle use the US size system D, DD, DDD, G, H, I and J - the US brands tend not to go beyond these letters. 

When you line up the two systems next to each other you can see how your UK size translates into a US size and vice-versa:
There's no real explanation as to why different countries use different systems and it definitely makes things harder when looking for your size. In the full bust market the UK size system is definitely used as the default authority. US brands like Claudette use the UK size system because it translates more easily for full bust bras.  

The reason there is fluctuation in size between brands (and between styles for that matter) is the same as why there is size fluctuation in sizes in clothing and shoes. There is no standard as to which machines are used to create a bra (and many items are still made by hand) so there is no way to produce a single 32F or 40GG size across the globe. Add to this the fact that different cup shapes alter the fit dramatically (a shallow 32F style will work on a woman with shallow 32F breasts but not on a woman with top heavy 32F breasts) and the materials used to create the bra will alter the fit (firmer materials give a smaller fit, stretchy fabrics, a more generous fit). 

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why they can't build ones that actually fit comfortably. 

I hear this question a lot and the answer for most people is "you're in the wrong bra". Whether you're wearing the wrong style or size of bra, an uncomfortable bra means you're in the wrong one for you but it might fit someone else perfectly. There are a group of people for whom comfortable bra fit is near impossible without accessories or alterations. Certain muscular and skin conditions make bra fit hard, and very petite women can find it extremely difficult to find bras. But in general there are thousands of size and style combinations out there so the chances are there's a size and style that's right for you. 

Remember that a lot of bras will never fit you and will never feel comfortable so if that sounds like all the bras in your drawer then you need to start narrowing down whether it's because the wires are too wide/narrow, the cups too tall/short, the band too big/small etc. Try our Bra Audit to get you started.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why some women simply refuse to wear the right size. 

This is a complex one with no single answer. The two main reasons we encounter that keep women from well-fitting bras are they simply are not aware that bras outside of '34-42 A-D' exist or they have a preconceived idea of what bigger cup letters 'say' about a woman and their stereotypes keep them from trying a larger cup size (and usually a smaller band).  

What I know for sure is that you can't rush someone into correct bra fit, they have to be emotionally ready to address this for any changes to stick.

The thing I don't understand about bras is... Why beige bras typically cost twice as much as coloured ones!  

This is a great question and one I don't get asked often. Colourful bras tend to be fashion items that are created by a brand for a one off season. They are made in a limited quantity and so when a retailer gets to the end of a season and only has a few of that style left the colourful bras tend to be the ones that go on sale first to make room for the next fashion colour. Basic colours like beige and black are available from manufacturers all year round so their value doesn't diminish which is why they rarely go on sale. 

I hope this sheds some light on some of your bra questions. Tune in again next week for another round of answers xx

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bra Fit Tips for Top Heavy Breasts

If you've tried on every bra you can think of and always seem to get quadraboob or massive gaping then there's a good chance you've got top heavy breasts. When your breasts are very full on top you need a style that accommodates the upper volume. A style that can't accommodate the shape of your upper breast will cut into your tissue making it look like your cups are too small even if they aren't. In this post I'm going to help you figure out if you have top heavy breasts and what to look for in bras for a great fit.

Left: Full All Round Breasts Middle: Bottom Heavy Breasts Right: Top Heavy Breasts

How to tell if you have top heavy breasts
There are two types of top heavy breasts; one is volume of tissue and the other is density. To tell if you have volume heavy upper breasts you need to start with your nipples. In front of a mirror lean forward (without a bra) so that your back is parallel with the floor. Using the mirror look to see if your nipples are pointing directly down at the floor - this means you have full all round breasts. If your nipples are pointing more towards the front (nearer your chest) then you have bottom heavy breasts. If your nipples are pointing back (towards your tummy) then you have top heavy breasts.

Left: Center Full Top Heavy Breasts Middle: Evenly Full Top Heavy Breasts Right: Side Full Top Heavy Breasts

For comparison this is the difference between Full All Round Breasts (left) Top Heavy Breasts (center) and Bottom Heavy Breasts (right)

You can also assess the distribution of your tissue by stranding straight on in a mirror. You're looking to see if there is more volume above or below your nipple line. If you have top heavy breast volume you will see that your nipples appear to sit lower on your breasts when looking at yourself straight on. You'll also notice whether you have more volume to the outside edges of your breasts (side heavy breasts) even distribution to left and right or more tissue at the middle of your breasts (look for high gores to support the volume at the center of your breasts).

Top heavy breasts can also have soft breast tissue (the two are not mutually exclusive) so even though you might think you have 'saggy' boobs you might actually be full on top and need to look for a shape that can accommodate your upper volume and materials that are friendly to soft breasts. Breast density leads us onto the next kind of top heavy breasts.

The second type of top heavy breasts is to do with tissue density. If you have very dense tissue you find that your breasts create a very round shape at the top when you put on a bra regardless of whether you have bottom heavy, side heavy or even all round breasts. This happens a lot for young women but breast density has a lot to do with genetics so you can find yourself in your 60s with dense upper tissue. Because your breasts fill out upwards you also need top heavy friendly bra shapes and/or materials to stop quadraboob.

What to look for in bras for top heavy breasts
The shape of the upper cup of a bra needs to have the depth to be able to accommodate your upper breast volume. As well as the depth it needs to curve in a way that won't cut into your breasts. Many women have tried on lots of molded bras (seamless cups that are in a fixed shape) and constantly find that they have overspill. This is because the depth and edge of the bra is fixed and if your breasts aren't the same shape as the cup then the excess just spills over.

Envy (left) and Jasmine (right) have a stretch lace upper cup that stretches to shape to your upper breast shape

A top heavy breast's best friend is a flexible edge (like Envy and Jasmine in the picture above). A stretch lace upper panel allows for the bra to fit your shape rather than the other way around. The lower panels of the bra is usually fixed which gives you good support but the upper panel is flexible to give you a smooth profile.

A lot of Cleo styles work well for medium to top heavy breasts because the upper cup is deep and curved to accommodate your upper breast volume

Some brands, and styles, are designed specifically with top heavy breasts in mind. Cleo is particularly good because the cup shapes are deep with a curve that allows for top heavy breasts. This is also the reason that some women find that Cleo bras gape at the top because they have medium or shallow breasts that don't require the volume at the top of the cup.

Cups that have a horizontal (sweetheart cut) rather than a diagonal cut are usually friendlier to top heavy breasts, so some plunge styles tend not to be great for full on top breasts (depending on the material). If the angle of the top edge of the cup cuts across the natural curve of your breasts it causes quadraboob regardless of which size you try.

I hope these tips help you work out if your breasts are top heavy and which features to look for in a bra to get a comfortable and polished look. Let us know in the comments if you have any top heavy tips xx