In my last post I declared that women are equal to men in at least one thing (sci fi appreciation). There is one area in which women are almost entirely alone, though. Bras.
Men don’t generally wear ’em, so there’s nothing sexist in my saying “hey ladies, getting the right bra, what’s all THAT about?”.
I was super skinny in my teens and a late developer to boot, so I didn’t have much in the way of boobs until my mid-twenties, at which point they suddenly decided to get massive. The brilliant thing about that was that the rest of me stayed skinny. The crap thing was trying to find bras which fit my 32D frame.
Quick lesson in bra sizes for those who don’t know: the number (say, 32) refers to the ribcage size. So if you like being skinny, smaller is better. The letter refers to the cup size, the meat of the issue. So if you like big hooters, the later letters are better. If you like skinny women with big hooters, 32D is ideal. If you are a woman with that bra size, though, buying bras which fit both extremes is not so easy. I found that the cheaper end of the scale usually didn’t cater for me, so I ended up becoming fairly loyal to Calvin Klein whose bras not only fit me perfectly, but didn’t give me the pointy-boob look that I loathe.
The boobier among us are eternally grateful for the invention of the underwire, which gives us lift and support, until the day the wire starts to poke out from the fabric and lacerates your armpit. Also you can’t machine-wash underwired bras, so you end up trying to wash off the remnants of sweaty underboob and lint by hand. But still, underwire is a boob. I mean boon.
I stayed a steady 32D for many years, but once into my 30s I started to gain a little weight and moved up to a 34D (bigger back/rib size, same cup size). It became a lot easier to buy bras as 34D is a fairly common size. However, in the past 12 months I’ve gained some more weight, and realised I was starting to sport the dreaded four-boob look. For those not in the know, that’s when your bra cuts into your boob flab and creates double boob. It’s not nice to see and not really that good for your posture. Well-fitting bras are important. So in the past few weeks I took myself to several well-know bra fitters to see if I could find something interesting for Skepchick. Guess what?! I did!
Fitting #1 – John Lewis
John Lewis is a middle-market department store with an excellent reputation for bra fitting. I took myself to the Oxford St branch and although I had to wait 15 minutes for a fitter to be available, she gave me ample attention. First she measured my back/rib size (with my existing bra still on), then she measured the cup size and pronounced me a 34DD. This is one cup size up from my previous size, which didn’t seem entirely right because I was busting out of my existing bra. Busting out! Ha ha! Anyway, as part of the service she went off to find me some bras I might like. At this juncture I will explain that she was at least 65 years old, so when she came back with an armful of those buff-coloured bras that my nan wears, I wasn’t too surprised. I also noticed that she’d chosen the cheap bras, presumably because on my days off I am a scruffy git. Here’s where it got weird: having never had a professional bra fitting before, I didn’t realise that they actually put the bras on you. Lest any of the men reading are having some sapphic fantasy at this point, let me remind you that she looked like your granny. It was neither erotic nor useful, because she was fitting me for bras I had no intention of buying. Long story medium: none of the DD cups fitted and she pronounced me a 34E, which is correct, and also annoying because hardly any high street stores stock bras of that size. At this point I told her I’d be OK on my own, and I went and had a look at the extensive lingerie section. As predicted, nary a 34E in sight, at least not one I’d be seen dead in. Granny bras ain’t my style. Those of you who saw my 2009 Skepchick calendar photo will understand. So off I went to
Fitting #2 Marks and Spencer
M&S is supposed to be the last word in bra fitting. A slightly-lower-end-than-John-Lewis department store, they have an ancient reputation for underwear. Sadly, my experience proved that reputation means nothing if you hire miserable cows. The sour-faced matron who measured me clearly had better things to do – again I wondered if that was a result of my external scruffiness, or whether she just hadn’t had her breakfast gin yet. I asked for a bra fitting, she brusquely ushered me into a cubicle, demanded I lift up my top, measured my back/rib and said “thirty-four”, then measured my cup and snapped “C”.
C my arse (not ‘see my arse’. C-cup my arse. I need to clarify that for our partially-sighted fans who are using screen reader software. Although if you’re partially sighted I guess you can’t see my arse anyway. Sorry about that). I haven’t been a C-cup since I was 22. Before I could say a word, she walked off. Rude beeyotch! I wanted to do a gang sign at her but I don’t know any. There was only one thing for it. I would have to go straight to the top, to
Fitting #3 Agent Provocateur
I’ve bought their stuff before. AP are the last word in lingerie, but also bloody expensive so not really for everyday wear. I didn’t really intend to buy anything, but I wanted the fitting, and sure enough they had me pegged as a 34E before I’d even had chance to say “I know I look scruffy but really I’m a businesswoman and not a shoplifter, honest”. Although anyone who tags a sentence with “honest” probably is a shoplifter, or at least a cockney street urchin. Unfortunately, while the service was superb, they didn’t have any bras in stock in my size…at least, not the sort one could wear under a t-shirt.
In the end I went home bra-less. NEW bra-less, I mean. Tsk.
What I learned really bothered me. Clearly bra-fitting is not an exact science, and bras aren’t anything like standardised enough. Since the fitting, I’ve bought a couple of bras, some are DD and fit fine, and some are E and are only just big enough. I realise that boobs, like feet, don’t come in neat increments and are all subtly different, and also that bras, like shoes, get looser as time goes on, but this tape-measure-and-guesswork system seems woefully inadequate to me. Isn’t it about time we had something better?
Ten English pounds to the Skepchick reader who invents a boob-measuring machine, and a further 65 pence if you can persuade bra manufacturers to use its data as standard. I don’t have a neat boob punchline to finish with, so you’ll have to make do with this bizarre contraption I found on Google: