Monday, June 22, 2015

How To Survive a Bra Shopping Trip to the Mall

A couple of weeks ago I shared an article from Buzzfeed about one woman's trip to the mall to find a bra. She visited 6 stores and was given 8 different sizes to try on. The article is a brilliant example of how confusing and misleading bra shopping can be. I felt so sorry for Kristin as she was put in size after size without being offered any explanation as to why some styles fit her better than others. Kristin has a tall shallow bust and needs a fitter who can explain which features to look for in a bra (besides size) to get a great fit.

Naturally I think online bra shopping is a great option (especially with us!) but I also want to arm you with the survival skills you need for a bra shopping trip to the mall. You need to be prepared because in some stores you're going to find poor fit advice and a sales hungry, rather than fit focused, sales person.

If your fitter measures over the top of your breasts then you know it's a bad fitting!

There are a few things you should expect from a fitting:
  1. You should expect to have a friendly, respectful and courteous fitter who listens to you.
  2. Some fitters will not use a tape measure and as long as you end up liking the bra and fit then that's OK but the very act of not using a tape measure does not make a fitter right.
  3. If your fitter does use a tape measure then she should stand behind you and take your measurements with your bra on but your top off. If you are anxious about taking off your top then make sure you wear a fine material (like a t-shirt) so that your measurements aren't distorted by a heavy fabric.
  4. Your fitter should measure around your ribcage (where your band sits) and around the fullest part of your bust over the nipples. If your fitter measures over the top of your breasts, under your armpits, then leave the fitting because they don't know what they're doing.
Survival Skills
You can learn a lot from a good bra fitter but it's also good to be on your guard ready to spot a bad fitter. After putting you in a bra the fitter should adjust your straps for you and ensure your breasts are settled correctly in the cups by pulling slightly on the tops of the cups and possibly asking you to move your breasts. Once this is done a good fitter will ask you how the bra feels. A good fitter knows that a bra has to feel right to the client.

The empty cup at the bottom of Kristin's cups is caused by the wires being too long for her breast height

There are lots of nuances to bra fit but there are 3 really obvious fit signs you can learn to make sure you're not being cornered into a bra that's not right for you:
  1. The band should feel secure and not easily pulled away from the body more than an inch. It can feel snug, that's natural for a new bra, but it shouldn't be painful.
  2. The cups should not wrinkle, gape or have breast tissue spilling out of the front, sides or worst of all there should not be breast tissue below the band.
  3. If you can see flat empty cup underneath your breasts (like the image above from the Buzzfeed article) but the cups look to fit nicely at the top, then the wires of the bra are too long and this style will not work for you. Ask your fitter for styles with shorter wires.
Don't Be Afraid To Give Feedback
Bras and bra fitting can be intimidating and it's easy to assume that your bra fitter knows best but they can only do their best if you give them honest feedback so tell your fitter what you think of the fit. You can learn more about your fit from a great fitter but ultimately you need to be happy and comfortable in the fit so your opinion really matters! xx


  1. I can so relate! Not to put down Butterfly Collection ,but I am going to try a shop about an hour from me called Sophisticate Pair.

    1. We totally understand that some people will always need to go to a physical store. You'll be in very good hands with Erica at Sophisticated Pair!

  2. argh! those long wires drive me nuts!
    I just gave up, sadly I don't have the money to go ordering online until I find the bra that fits everywhere. (specially talking about short wires on certain styles of bras) I refuse to stop wearing low necklines.
    My greatest fit are Dessous and Charlotte (but yo know those are not low enough). I have wide, but not tall boobs high on my flared ribcage. I realized that I have no hope on finding a low cut or strapless bra that fit entirely properly. specially this summer I feel dishearten about my strapless bras a Freya Deco and a Panache superbra, both are to long for me and I get an awful empty flat space under my boobs, (Deco is better but I still get that empty space), other thing that bugs me is that they are too tall for my necklines seriously they show on my tops. but I have no other choice I will try to fix the cups by cutting the extra material.
    perhaps Ill go to VS (since they make extremely low cups, they also have awful fitters but that is other story) buy a 38 DD or a 36 DDD and cut the band to fit my 32 rib cage...
    perhaps, that would work, not sure.

    1. Oh Sonia, this breaks my heart. You know exactly what you need and finding it can be next to impossible. My clients with short torsos or very high set breasts are some of the most under-catered for by the bra industry. You need short wires sure but then you also need shorter cup styles that aren't going to sit above every neckline you try on. Have you tried some Gossard styles in a 32G? They can sit a little lower. Perhaps an old Rhea by Masquerade if you can still lay your hands on one? I wish you every luck in your bra search. I wish we had the perfect bra to send you but I know we don't have it xx

  3. thank you those are great tips Ill try them!
    Honestly Parfait and Claudette had been great, but they tend to make a lot of medium gores, and they don't work for every neckline.
    as you say, its frustrating not to find what I'm looking for, I'm pretty sure that someone out there will listen to costumers like me and start designing more for us too. (it would be useful If knew how to design my own bra).
    And your blog and store are awesome! I just love how informative your site is and how much I have learned reading your blog.
    I'm a very grateful costumer

    1. That's very kind of you to say Sonia. I think Parfait is the best brand to keep your eye on because they are evolving in response to customer feedback more than any other brand. A short wired, short plunge is something I can see them making xx

  4. Great tips! I always find that my underwires role if that makes sense. Usually it's on one side but sometimes both. It's like the band under the wires rolls under the actual wire. What could be causing that? Is it a style issue?

    1. Hmmm. I'm not 100% sure I can visualize the problem but here are a couple of ideas about bands and wires. If it's there is material beneath the wires then this can roll against your body. If this is the problem then you want to look for bandless bras - these are styles that have no material below the wires. A bandless style should be described as such on a product page. The other problem with wires rolling is if the wires are too wide or narrow for your breast root shape. It's more especially a problem if the wires are too wide for your body which causes pressure and the bra can roll. I hope this gives you some ideas about what's causing your bras to roll xx

  5. So my band/ribcage measurement is exactly 31 inches, and my bust measurement is 39 to 39.5 inches. I've been wearing 32G bras by Freya, but the cups and band feel too big, and I'm constantly adjusting. However when I size down one cup, the underwire digs in at the sides and the cups are too small. My breasts are somewhat touching in the center, so I can't wear anything with a tall center gore (plunge styles fit best). I usually shop at Nordstrom, but while the fitters at my location are good and try their best, I don't feel like they've entirely grasped bra fitting for DD+ sizes. I'm only 18, and the lack of sexy and stylish bras (that fit) really wears me down sometimes. I'd venture to say that most larger bras have high center gores, and cover a whole lot of the breast, and while I understand that that is likely preferable for a lot of other women, it just doesn't work for me, especially since I rather like low cut necklines (although it's surprisingly difficult to find low cut things these days, no clue why. Don't even get me started on the lack of fashionable clothing that fits...).
    So my question is, should I size down to a 30 inch band, or stay at the 32? Also what should I do about the cup size and wire issues? Any help is welcome (and needed)!!

    1. Hello Cesca, you are totally right that there is a lack of styles for women with close set breasts who need shorter gores. Most bras have medium to high gores which can be very painful for women with close set breasts or short torsos.

      I think I've possibly just sent you a size consultation and my recommendation would be the same that you definitely need to try a 30 band. I recommended a 30GG because it's possible the puckering is being caused by your bra moving around, however, if the cups also feel too big then you want to try a 30G so that the wires and band are proportionally smaller. I think Freya's Deco range is going to be your friend so it's worth getting to know that collection. I hope this helps xx