A quick Google search will tell you that between 75-85% of women wear the wrong sized bra. Oprah did a series about it. While buying a bra to wear to her mother's funeral, Sex and the City's Miranda discovers she's been wearing the wrong bra size her whole life. Considering this is a garment that most women wear every single day, so close to their hearts, the state of things in the lingerie department is very sad to me.
That's because, ladies (and gentlemen, because I don't care who knows), I am proud to be among the 1% on this one. It's truly a position of privilege, but I want everyone else to have what I have.
My personal bra-wearing history begins in the fifth grade, when, despite having skipped a grade and become the youngest person in my class, I still managed to be among the first unfortunate gals to develop. Bra snapping became a favorite pastime of male and female classmates alike in our small rural school, where being able to keep up with the boys playing freeze tag was favored over anything with a tiny rose sewn onto it. The misery had begun.
When I was in high school, some boys asked my dad(!) -- a teacher(!) -- if I stuffed my bra. (Why they thought he would know this, or want to talk about it, is a problem set I never solved.) A modest young thing, I found it hard to find clothes that made me feel comfortable with my ever-growing assets; plus I always felt I looked fat, which I now realize is because the bras I wore did me no favors. (And I also didn't really watch what I ate, but I never was really as fat as I thought I was.)
In college, I gained access to better shopping and a more tailored wardrobe. I figured out by trial and error that my band size is a 34, not a 36; and, as time and puberty wore on, I got acquainted with the letter D. College boys assumed I was slutty and were sadly disappointed.
Though I had started learning the secrets of a better fitting bra back then, it was not until I was pregnant with Johnnie at age 27 that I got my first professional fitting. That trip to Nordstrom was the first time I had been bra shopping in 10 years that didn't literally result in tears in the fitting room. I put on makeup and made sure I smelled nice. I drove an hour. In the fitting room, the kind lady whipped out her tape measure -- 34H. (H????!!!) We went back out to the rack where all the big girl bras are, all in one welcoming place. She helped me try on each one to ensure it fit just right.
It was the best bra shopping experience I could have imagined, even though my size was comical and I spent over $120 for only TWO bras. Two bras that fit me like a hug from a friend.
There's nothing like a bra that fits. Sadly, from my experience the ill-fitting bra epidemic stems from a four-fold problem:
- Poor advertising. The underwire is not supposed to come in contact with any soft tissue; it should lie flat against your ribs, all the way around. Yet the majority of bra ads feature women who are literally busting out of their cups.
- Lack of measuring. Bra sizing is a complicated mess, yet few women get measured.
- Sizing is not standard. Even the "brassieres" page on sizes.com says, "There is no way of determining with a tape measure what bra size a woman needs. The only way of determining whether a bra fits is to try it on. Nevertheless, a tape measure can be used to get an approximation to the size as a starting point for fittings." Gah.
- Lack of access to the sizes that women actually should be wearing.
Some article on Yahoo! says the average bra size in the US is up to 36DD. This is surprising, considering the selection at the stores where the average American shops. Even when I was a 34DD (all my adult life until pregnancy), neither Wal-Mart nor Target carried my size. (Kohls was the only common store that didn't think I was a freak of nature even back then.) As I would scour the racks, already beginning to tear up, I would lament that there are always myriad adorable, affordable options for small-busted women who arguably don't need to wear bras at all. That said, it's hard to even know what sizes most stores carry, because the selection is almost always organized by design and color--rarely by size.
No wonder 80% of women just buy the one that looks the least lumpy under a t-shirt.
Now that I'm rocking the H cup -- I mean, really, have you ever heard of an H cup? have you ever seen one at the store? no? well I'm willing to be there are more H-cup girls in your life who just don't know it -- I don't even bother, even at maternity stores, whose selection is the most disheartening of all.
I know what I have to do. I drive an hour, duck into the fitting room at Nordstrom and find that sweet lady with the tape measure. Then I plunk down an astronomical amount of money, and instead of crying... I hug her.
Any ladies out there have anything to add? Any other elusive H cups out there? How can we correct this retail injustice?