Since beginning my weight loss journey several months ago, I have dropped bra sizes several times. I went from a *cough*hack*wow! look over there!" To a 40 C. Then 38 DD. Then 36 D. Now a 34 DD. I certainly don't mind the shrinking process and a couple weeks ago, it was once again time to get some smaller bras. 

Please don't get the idea that 34 DD means I'm some amazingly buxom pinup babe.  I'm normal size. Like most women in America, up until last year I had been wearing the wrong size bra; band sizes way too big and cup sizes way too small. But now I know better!
This is the bra that fit the best this time.
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Calvin Klein Seductive Comfort Customized Lift
The straps are all elastic, silky, and extremely comfortable.  They never slip and are wider than they appear in the picture above. The picture below is accurate.  The nude above turned out to be too dark under my lightest white shirts so I got the ivory as well as the dark purple below.  The purple one has lace over the band which I've really ended up liking.  It keeps the band more snug.

Why 3 colors?  Click Bra Education in the category list at right for the full scoop!
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Now, ever since I did all the research last year into how a bra should fit, I can easily go into Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx or other similar stores selling quality bras at a discount and find ones that fit.  But for you, dear readers, I continue to research who provides a proper fitting and who most certainly does not.  For this trip, I hit the University Mall in Provo, UT, beginning at Macy's.

Macy's was like getting a bra fitting at JFK airport.  Have you ever been through JFK?  It's filthy, there always seems to be popcorn on the floor, and nobody speaks English.  The sole saleswoman in sight was extremely intent on helping an older male customer so after waiting way too long, I just started grabbing bras.  I did finally get her to open a fitting room for me, and in a thick accent I could barely understand, she said, "You 36 C."  I could only assume she was employing her X-Ray vision powers because she never pulled out a tape measure.  And I'm not a 36 C, though I did try that size on just in case. 
The fitting room was filthy, even the walls, and inexplicably there was popcorn on the floor! After trying on about 15 bras I left and headed down the mall to Victoria's Secret.

Ah, Vicki.  I like your lingerie but your fitters are clueless. I had not yet had a fitting at VS so I walked in, asked for the best fitter they had, and was directed to a manager.  The saleswoman who greeted me was plenty nice but the manager gave me the stink eye up and down.  No, I'm not a size 2 and neither are you, sister. You might want to check the 'tude in front of a paying customer.
I told her I was here for a fitting and she asked what size I was.  I said I wasn't sure but my current 36 bands were too loose and the D cups were gaping a little.  She asked if they were VS brand, I said no, and still with the stink eye she pulled out her tape measure.  Over my clothes, she wrapped the tape low on my back (below my bra clasp), angled it up at my armpits, and then across my chest above my breasts.  "Well in OUR sizes you're a 38 B. My rooms are all full so just hang out."
I don't mind when company's spend a lot of time on their customers, but during my 25 minute wait, she took three girls in front of me who had arrived after me.  I finally walked over to a set of bras and over my clothes, tried on a 38 B.  On the tightest hooks It just hung there, barely touching me, and the B cups didn't cover half of my girlness. Same with 3 other styles. I laughed and walked out, feeling very Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge!"

My last stop was Nordstrom.  As always, they were a delight. I told Kate I'd been losing weight and my 36 bands were too tight, cups were gaping a little.  She led me to a lovely and refreshingly clean dressing room and pulled out her tape measure. 
One word about bra fittings, ladies.  Check your inhibitions at the door!  I took off my shirt and she measured me over my bra, which provided a much more accurate reading.  She measured firmly around the rib cage and slightly more loosely around the fullest part of my bust. I rejoiced that she did it correctly. Then she disappeared for a minute and came back with a huge armload of options.  I stripped down and, with her in the room, put on the first one.  It would have been stupid to have her walk in and out a million times. I just turned my back and got on with it. I knew what to look for in terms of fit, but I wanted to see what kind of feedback she would provide.  And she did great! Snugged up the straps just right and gave good suggestions for what to try style wise. We had a good chuckle about how too many women buy bright white bras.  According to Kate, in most other countries, white is a "fashion color" and not the standard color, which I thought was interesting.  The nude closest to your skin color is the best basic to buy.

$100 plus dollars and three bras later I walked out of Nordstrom happy as usual.  Mega kudos to Kate for a great fitting!  Thumbs down to Macy's and Victoria's Secret, at least the University Mall locations. Macy's won't be seeing me again but I might give VS another chance someday. We'll see.
 
 
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a pair of breasts must be in want of a good bra.
As we wrap up the Bosom Series there are several topics that still need attention so lets dive right in!

Style vs Size
In order to get that correct fit we've been talking about, many of you are going to have to look outside the most popular sizes and stores.  The popular sizes being 32 to 36, B to D cups.  And that's fine!  It's far better to have a bra that fits and flatters you properly.  Many stores only carry a limited range of the most common "vanity" sizes and will push to get you into one of them.

The style of bra plays a significant role and it can be hard to reconcile style and size.  Not all styles will suit you.  If you're like me, you have more fullness in the bottom of the breast than in the top, causing some styles of bras to gap, even if the band and underwire fit great. I found some bras would technically "fit" but the way the cups and/or straps were styled just wasn't flattering.  They'd create back bulges or the wires would come too far up under my arm or the cup pulled awkwardly.  So I moved on. 

Some women have wider breasts, fullness in the top, or narrower breasts.  If the sizing seems good but the cups still aren't quite right, try a different style, and not just more sizes in the same style.
Calculators
I came across many measurement calculators and recommend that they are a place to START, and start only.  Many said to add 4 or 5 inches to my ribcage measurement.  Huh?  How was that going to get me the snug-fitting band I know I need?  I believe it was Eternal Voyager, who I blogged about at the beginning of this series, who gave the great example that when shopping for panties you don't add 5 inches to your hip measurement! Victoria's Secret says to start at the back band, wrap the tape measure under your arms and up over the top of your boobs.  I did this and the resulting band was huge on me.  You can trust the calculator more if it says something along the lines of "measure your ribcage snuggly and around the fullest part of the bust gently."
Color
Wondering what color to buy?  NUDE!  Always wear nude under whites, not white under white.  Yes, that also applies to my fellow LDS sisters.  Trust me on this one!  White bras glare through white shirts.  Nude bras disappear.  And when I say "nude" I mean nude for you.  The bra closest to your skin color.  For my Caucasian skin even a pale pink bra is better under whites than a white bra.  I own only one white bra.  You can wear any color bra you want under dark shirts... except white! Certain lighting will make that white bra glare brightly through black/dark shirts.
Putting on the Bra
Let's remember the look we're going for.  Supported and shaped.  Like this...
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There's a certain amount of scooping required to properly seat your girls within the cups of a bra.  I wasn't doing enough.  Many women (me included) will put on their bra's and while holding the underwire, tug a little bit at the top of each breast.  Several sites said to scoop a little more or even hold an underwire in each hand, bend over at the waist and give your chest a good jiggle.  For me, a solid swoop and scoop, beginning under my arm, works great.  Once I started doing that my cups fit much better.  So, clasp the band, slide the straps, swoop and scoop into the cups.  Voila!  Supported and shaped.
Parting Thoughts
There are a few items in every woman's wardrobe that don't just NEED extra attention, but DESERVE it. Jeans, swimsuits, and bras.  These three things, perhaps above all else, warrant your all out shopping efforts.  When any of these three don't flatter they are absolute wastes of money.  You are guaranteed not to wear them often, if more than once.  The payoff for dedicating time to the hunt is huge. 

A woman's breasts will change many times over her lifetime.  Puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain/loss, age.  Bras must evolve with the boobs.  And they have.  Technology has created nearly weightless bras that do a wonderful job of supporting and shaping us.  Who knows what the future will bring.

I hope you've learned a little from my bra quest thus far.  I'll keep you posted as further events warrant!
 
 
It's the second installment of our Bosom Week series and today we're discussing the ins and outs (or maybe better put, the ups and downs!) of bra fit.

Lift  and love, ladies.  Don't shift and shove.
Sculpt and tease.  Don't heave and squeeze.
If there's one thing I've learned so far on this quest it's that the size on the tag doesn't matter.  Fit is everything.

Here are the 2 key points to remember:
  1. The band should be SNUG.
  2. The cups should HUG.
Let's expand on Point 1, because this one is the most crucial, and according to a zillion sources, the one where we women are making the biggest mistakes.
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Bravissimo

Snug means the band should run horizontally from the bottom of the cup to the back clasp.  And when it's new, it should do this on the loosest hooks so that you can maintain the fit as the bra ages by tightening the hooks. If your band is too big it will ride up in the back.  As soon as that happens, the support is lost and the bra is a failure.
If you've been wearing loose bras for a long time that snug fit that's correct might feel weird or uncomfortable.  Give it a week!  You'll quickly find that having properly supported breasts with nice shape is much more comfortable than sagging free.

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Intimacy


When I started trying on my existing bras, I was shocked to find that even on the tightest hooks, most of them rode up in back.  I'd put them on, turn to the side, and whoops! - a nice diagonal line from the bottom of the cup up to the hooks. And it wasn't because I had the straps cinched too tight.

Hook your thumb under the clasp of your bra and pull it away from your back.  You should not be able to pull the back of the bra more than an two or so inches away from your body.  If you can't pull it at all, it's too small. Snug doesn't mean tight. You should be able to slide a finger or two under the band all along the sides and back.

Almost all the support should come from the band and cups, NOT from the straps.  Many women keep tightening their straps to lift their breasts when in reality, the band and cups should be handling that job.  According to Intimacy (the miracle-working bra specialists frequently showcased on What Not To Wear) 90% of the support should come from the band, and only 10% from the straps. But it's hard to gauge whether your band is doing 90% of the work.  We might think it's doing 90% when in reality it's more of a 60/40 split, or worse. 
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Bravissimo

Now about Point 2.
A good hug goes all the way around.  Applying that concept to the underwire of the cup means it should "smile" all the way around the bottom of your breast.  One end should sit under your arm, slightly behind the breast so that it doesn't dig into the breast.  The other end should stop between both breasts.  And it should lay flat against your ribcage, not flat against the bottom of your boob.  At no point should it gap away from your ribcage or sternum.  If it does, it's too small.

That was another mistake I was making.  The cups were too small on many of my bras, with the underwires tilting away and starting somewhere in the side of my breasts, instead of flat under my arm.

The cups should not gap, pucker, pull, or create quadra-boobs.  You shouldn't swim in them nor bulge out of them.  The style of the bra will have much to do with this (which we'll discuss in the next post).  If the band and underwire fit you well, but the cups don't, try a different style of cup; full coverage, balconet, demi, angled, etc.   Here's a nice little video covering the finer points of good bra fit.
Fact: Most women are wearing band sizes too large and cup sizes too small. 

Join me for the next post in the series when we'll talk about color, calculators, and reconciling style vs size!
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Here are today's links:
1. The Top 10 Bra Mistakes at Intimacy.
2. A nice Full Experience bra fit video from Bravissimo in England.

*Eternal Voyager, whose Bra Matrix I linked yesterday, let me know she would be happy to answer any questions about bras, fitting and breasts through her blog.  She's done a lot of research on the Bra Matrix and I've learned a lot from her.
 
 
Bosom Week has arrived! 
I've been looking forward to this series of posts for a while and am anxious to exchange information on a feminine issue we all face. 

Like many women before me, I embarked upon a quest to find the perfect bra. 
Not that there is only one perfect bra manufactured out there somewhere, but the perfect bra for me.  I am still on that quest and I want to share with you what I've discovered so far.  Like me, you will probably already know some of this, but hopefully you'll learn something new.

Today, we're going to examine the reasons WHY women need a good bra, and part of what that entails.
  • ALL women need support and shaping, no matter how large or small your breasts.  Even the tiniest of breasts can flop, giving up on its job of enhancing your feminine figure.  Don't make the mistake of thinking boobless can equal braless.  The picture below illustrates what happens when a bra doesn't do a proper job of supporting and shaping.
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That's not a happy breast on that left side.  Down and out is not a good description on any terms. 
 - Proper support helps preserve breast fullness and firmness while preventing back pain and poor posture. 
 - Proper shaping helps more than just the look of the breast.  As you can see on the "before" side, the breast has sagged low on the ribcage - encroaching on the smallest part of the woman's body.  Any woman will look better if she can keep the area from the bottom of her breasts to her waist as long and lean as possible.  This is a crucial style tip!  The only difference in the two halves of the above picture is an ill-fitting bra vs a well-fitting bra.  She looks 20 lbs thinner and significantly taller in the "after" half. 
In the next post in this series we'll go in-depth into how a bra should fit to properly shape and support your bosom buddies.
  • A good bra saves money.  Make no mistake, well-made bras aren't cheap, but they can save you a small fortune over time.  Several years ago a friend of mine was lamenting how much she had spent on clothes that year and still wasn't happy with her wardrobe.  It was easy to see that one of her main problems sagged, I mean, sat squarely on her chest.  She was full-bodied up top and was clearly wearing bad baggy bras.  When she asked for advice, I told her that getting a few great bras is where I would start.  She balked at the idea, stating that "expensive bras don't do anything special." I told her I didn't mean "expensive" I meant "well-made and well-fitting."  She finally agreed to get fitted and at least try some on.  And as expected, she was amazed by her transformation.  Miraculously, most of the new clothes she had complained about now looked great, as did a mountain of clothes she had stopped wearing.
  • A good bra is one that shapes, supports... and perseveres!  The elastic in bras simply doesn't last forever, but those that give up the ghost too quickly are a waste of money. If you have a bra that refuses to do it's job after a month or two of wearings, steer well clear of that line in the future!  That being said, you shouldn't wear the same bra two days in a row.  Elastic needs time to rest and retract.  Your bras will last longer and wear better if you rest them between wearings.
  • Bra sizes are a joke.  Did you know that while band size is fairly standard, CUP size varies by manufacturer AND by band size?  That's right.  An A, is not always an A.  The volume of breast that a cup holds will vary depending on who makes the bra and what band size it is attached to.  This stunned me!  I had no idea.  I know many women who think like I did until recently, that their cup size is pretty consistent but their band size can vary.  In actuality, the reverse is true!  Just like you should disregard clothing sizes and buy what fits and flatters - the same holds true for bras.  It's best you learn to laugh at the sizes and search for what truly fits. (We'll discuss the fine art of bra fit in the next post.)
  • Fitting "experts" can be anything but!  When I started this quest I'd read on many blogs the horrible experiences other women had had with "expert bra fitters" and I must say, I ran into some who took the term "pushy saleswoman" to new heights.  One was so unabashedly condescending I had to remind her I was not the scarecrow in search of a brain but a woman in search of a bra.  And the bras she put me in fit terribly.  The bra quest is not for the faint of heart!  You have to be prepared to strap a pair on!  Boobs, I mean.  And not be afraid to question the fitter.  Armed with the right information you will be able to find bras that fit you properly - you're just going to have to break a few saleswoman's hearts in the process.  Collateral damage is often unavoidable. 
I love the video clips from Cold Comfort Farm I presented at the beginning of this post.  The fact that it was just as crucial in Elfine's makeover to get her "a bit of uplift" as it was to get her educated.  Once you learn what to look for in a great bra, it'll be easy to weed out the sagging from the supportive.  You won't waste money on bras that just sit in your drawer and you'll look much leaner, shapelier, and more youthful under your clothes. 

Please share your experiences and advice!  How did you find your great bras?  Or are you still struggling against the sag?

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Throughout this series I'll be posting links to other useful or humorous bra-related sites.  Here are today's:
1.  An absolutely hysterical and informative look at breaking out of the Bra Matrix! 
2.  A rant against the fitters!