I have always been well-endowed. I have a line of Sicilian women and their genes to thank for my ample bosom. It seemingly appeared overnight sometime between the ages of nine and 10. I remember skipping right over the ‘training’ part, and the first several cup sizes, and picking out a brassiere that looked suspiciously like my mother’s.
As a little girl, I shoved paper cups down my shirt to pretend I was grown-up. Yet now that my cups overflowed, I found bra shopping somewhat underwhelming. There wasn’t a lot of choice: white — maybe beige? Sports bras were non-existent, or else they were hidden somewhere with the also scarce sexy black lacy bras. (When I ran competitively in school, I learned to double up on bras and just put them on the tightest hooks possible to minimize the taunts from testosterone-charged spectators.)
These days, there are a LOT more choice (and thankfully sports bras). Would you like a Demi-cup? Full bust? Racerback? Strapless? Padded? Gel insert? Convertible? Lace? Wire? Nursing? Push-up? Minimizer? Sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming, especially when you’ve birthed babies and fed them straight from your body. Our breasts do not stay the same shape or size throughout this insanity, and one day you might find yourself looking down at your own chest in horror, wondering where THOSE came from.
In the early baby days, my husband found me on the spare bed with my shirt completely off, trying to nurse our child. I stared blankly out the window and declared, ‘I’ve gone native!’ I hadn’t yet found a bra that fit my milk-filled chest, and more to the point, I hadn’t managed to figure out how to get it off in time to feed my screaming child.
Going topless just seemed easier. I knew I’d need to leave the house at some point though, and although it was easier to shuffle from room to room in our small apartment without a bra, going out in public kind of required a little support, at least in my book. Warehouse Row had a glorious lingerie boutique back then, and while the Peanut slept, I wandered in, explained my postpartum predicament, and left the shop having ordered several new bras for my changing body.
And let me tell you something…wearing a correctly fitting bra was a GAME CHANGER.
My girls and I have been through a lot together over the years, especially since becoming a mother. Let me share some bits of wisdom they’ve taught me.
1. GET MEASURED
At least once a year, get measured by a professional. No matter what stage of life you’re in — whether you’re losing weight, gaining weight, having a baby or nursing, or none of the above, get measured at an actual bra shop. You can measure yourself too, but having someone else do it at a store means you’ll have the chance to try on various styles. Not all styles are created equal and some work better for certain breasts. Push modesty aside and allow the salesperson to help you.
2. GET FITTED
Once you know your measured size, you need to actually make sure that IS your size by trying on a few bras. If your cup size measures D or larger, there’s a good chance that your ‘measured’ size is not your actual size. (But get measured anyway! You still need a starting point.)
I theoretically now measure at a 34DD, but even after a recent professional fitting, I couldn’t squeeze half my boob into a bra that size. After an hour of trying on items, I finally walked out with a bra that actually fit AND looked good. The size? 34G.
So don’t get hung up on the numbers, but do be sure you actually buy the size that fits you correctly. I’ve heard people say they refuse to buy a larger bra because they don’t want to be bigger than a C cup. Well guess what friends, now you have four boobs instead of two, because your bra doesn’t fit you properly.
3. INVEST in a GOOD BRA
Small, perky women, you can skip this section and get yourself to the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale. Larger busted ladies, don’t you dare walk into Vicky’s. Focus. I’m talking to you: Once you know your actual size, you need at least one good bra, and chances are, you won’t find it at VS and it won’t be cheap.
There are not many department stores or even lingerie stores (I’m looking at you Victoria’s Secret) that sell bras with band sizes smaller than 32/34 and larger cup sizes together. I don’t know why. Thin girls can have large breasts and plus-sized women can have A-cup ones. It’s easy to understand why many of us end up wearing the wrong size — we’ve been programed to believe that a 34G or 46A simply can’t exist, since Target doesn’t sell it.
Even if you are breastfeeding (and changing size constantly!), I still believe it’s better to have one or two really good bras that fit correctly, than a whole slew of cheap ones that fall apart or dig into you. I swear by Cake Maternity bras. This bra was amazing and lasted me YEARS. In the end, the investment of that one good bra saved me more money than if I had purchased a bunch of poorly constructed ones.
4. SHOP AROUND
Don’t settle for a poorly-fitting bra just because you can’t find one in your size.
Soma carries a fairly wide variety of sizes, and if they don’t have the style you want in your size, they can order it.
And although I have yet to go there, I have heard wonderful things about LiviRae in Georgia.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BRAS
Depending on the structure and material of your bra, laundering even on delicate may cause it to stretch, bunch and be misshapen and then you’ll be kicking yourself because you just washed a ton of money down the drain for a bra you now wear around the house. (Ask me how I know…) Get a plastic tub at the Dollar Tree, fill it with water and some Woolite and hand wash your bras. It’s not that difficult. They will last you far longer.