Why must Bra shopping be so painful?

Fair warning, this is a rant. A rant where I’m gonna talk about lingerie (gasp!) and the annoying things women have to put up when purchasing said items. And I might even write words like bra, and boobs, and cup size! Okay, there are no “mights,” I’m gonna talk about that stuff. Turn back now if you are choosing to be pre-offended!

The truth? I have a large chest. No, I’m not going to tell you the exact cup size because that’s none of your biz. But let’s just say I long for when I was a single D. That seems like many moons and many bras ago.
And bra shopping is torture for those of us with a large rack. I was shopping with one of my besties, K, once and we were at a high-end department store. I told her I needed a new bra since I was done nursing a baby and wanted a bra that didn’t unsnap at the front for easy access. She decided to go look at other things while I perused the lingerie section.
This is why I shop in high-end department stores for bras…someone actually helps you! The nice sales lady came over and offered to measure and fit me. (Tip #1 – Have yourself measured and fitted for a bra at least once a year. Weight change, hormones, babies, etc. can make your cup size fluctuate. Just because you’re a 34B now doesn’t mean you always will be).
I swear she and I spent about 45 minutes in that dressing room together trying on every larger bra that they had. We finally found a perfect (and comfortable one) and I was on my way. Some time during that K texted me asking me if I was still alive and still trying on bras. She went with me up to the register where I proceeded to drop about 80 bones on that sucker. K said that she had never spent more than 15 minutes shopping for bras or more than $25 on one in her life. Oh the sting of jealousy!
The truth? I buy expensive bras because they’re more comfortable, they last longer, and I just don’t want to let the girls sag. It’s not an attractive look. At least, it’s not one that I’m comfortable with.
And that’s because, I worked with a girl at a retail store who insisted that she was a perfect size 36C. Well, I tried to gently suggest to her that she should go in for a bra fitting because 70% of women wear the wrong cup size. And yes, I knew that before Oprah enlightened me with her bra knowledge. Well, this girl was droopy, and the front of her underwire poked out when it’s supposed to be flush against your skin, and yet she clung to the ideal of a 36C. Nothing I could say could get her to change her mind! I hope she was able to get a bra intervention from someone who was willing to me more direct with her than me.
To me, I’d rather spend the money not to droop and maybe admit I’m a size I’m uncomfortable with just so that the girls look right. Don’t hang on to a number if it’s not the right one! Just like it’s not better to squeeze yourself into a size 4 when you really should be in a size 6. The right size makes you look smaller and better. Just sayin’.
So another thing that makes shopping for a bras painful is the styles. I’ve noticed in department stores all the cute, sexy bras only come in smaller sizes. All the bras my size looks like something my grandmother would wear. I don’t think it’s wrong to want a cute, sexy bra in my size!
That is why it was a literal miracle when my friend introduced me to Bravissimo. (Tip #2 – Find a store that caters to your size and style. It will save you a lot of frustration). They specialize in bra sizes for women from a D to a KK cup. I can’t even picture what a KK looks like. But I digress. And their bras are cute. Really cute! And they’re not sad grandma bras. Total liberation. The downside? They are based in the UK and the shipping fees to America are rather steep. But darnit, I’m willing to pay for a cute, sexy, well-fitting, comfortable bra.
I also like that they are linked with Pepperberry that specializes in clothing for curvy women. Most standard manufactures cut shirts for a B cup. That means a lot of pulling in the chestal region and the number one reason I stopped wearing button front shirts a long time ago. It’s hard to find a shirt that fits me in the shoulders and the waist while being big enough for the girls. And I refuse to wear potato sacks or mumus. There is nothing wrong with wearing clothes that make you feel attractive and show off your shape. There is also nothing wrong with wearing clothes merely for function and not giving a sack of crab apples about fashion.
And as much as I love a helpful sales staff that can help fit you and find the right bra for you, it is a little awkward being expected to take your shirt off for a total stranger in the dressing room. (Tip #3 – the awkwardness of being topless with a total stranger should not deter you from getting a fitting. Besides, every sales staff person who has fitted me has been extremely professional). I twice had a funny experiences at a great little lingerie boutique on the Upper East Side in Manhattan called Linda’s. My NYC bestie took me there on my second trip to NYC to buy a perfect fitting bra. Linda was there and insisted she measure me first before I was allowed to purchase a bra. Having not prepared for this moment I did not know what to do. I’m a garment wearing Mormon girl, which is not a problem when I step into changing booths with sales staff in Utah. It is a problem in New York where some people don’t even know what a Mormon is. This was our conversation.
Linda: Take off your shirt.
Me: (Awkwardly taking it off while muttering “um”)
Linda: I’ve never seen anyone wear their bra over their t-shirt before.
Me: (Contemplating all the multiple ways I could respond to this, decide on the truth). Actually, it’s religious underwear.
Linda: What religion?
Me: Mormon
Linda: (with a disgusted look on her face) Oh.
Then she proceeded to tell me I was bigger than I thought and how could I ever think I was the size she was because it’s so clear that she’s hecka smaller than me.
Gosh, I love New York.
Linda did help me find a really good bra. And I’m pretty sure I wore it out.
Between my first trip to Linda’s and my next (roughly 3 years) I discovered Bravissimo. But I wanted to go there again to see what I could see, so the NYC bestie took me there once again.
This time I prepared ahead of time and did not wear my garment top. Instead I kept it in my bag so I could put it back on after bra shopping. I don’t mind talking about my religion, but not while I’m topless with a stranger trying on bras.
I asked the sales girl to measure me again because the bra that I was wearing from Bravissimo felt a little small in the cup area. She confirmed that the bra I was wearing was one cup size too small to which I groaned. She said, “It’s a good thing, work it girl.”
Then she proceeded to find me a couple of really cute bras. But not before she lectured me on wearing a white bra. You see, at Linda’s the worse sin you could ever commit is wearing a white bra. It just isn’t done. She told me that white bras were aesthetically undesirable and it was better to wear a nude bra. Normally I’d agree with her. And if I wasn’t a garment wearing Mormon girl I’d probably be all nude bras all the time. But it looks pretty silly to wear a nude bra over a white garment top. Talk about bringing more attention to the girls than necessary.
But I knew the white bra lecture was coming. Linda had given it to me 3 years prior. And I didn’t really feel like I needed to justify my white bra wearing decisions to a girl that wasn’t going to get it. Again, explaining your religion when you’re topless with a stranger…not appealing!
So I bought two bras that were not white because Linda does not carry white bras in her store. Never will a white bra ever sully the threshold of her store! Well, that is until I go back again.
So, it’s annoying when buying bras that you have to be topless with a stranger while they lecture you on their own personal biases in lingerie color. When else in life does a total stranger get a say in the color of your underwear?
Another traumatic thing about bra shopping? Sports bra shopping. (Tip #4 – A good sports bra is your best friend. Spend money on the best. Saving yourself from whiplash is worth it). Even my sports bras have underwire in them. They have to, otherwise I’d be the most popular treadmill user at the gym. And I can’t just go and buy something off the rack. I’ve never seen a sports bra in a department store that actually comes in a regular bra size. They all seem to come in S, M, L, and XL. I can’t just buy an XL because it will be too big around my rib cage. So I even special order my sports bras from Title Nine. They are a great little site that only features the best in women’s sport wear attire. Because I can’t trust the girls to just any old piece of cotton and elastic while I’m getting my Zumba on.
It sucks not being able to just walk into Target and buy any old cute bra I see there. They don’t come in my size. I know. I’ve looked. And I have to lay down a hefty chunk of change just to get a bra that fits and is comfortable that doesn’t make me feel like an 82 year old woman. And if I have to look to a great company in England for that, by golly, I will. And yeah, dealing with opinionated sales clerks so you can be measured and have a right fit can be annoying, but very, very necessary.
So, all you women out there who have complained to me about your small racks all my life in an effort to show me that the grass is greener in my bra, you just spent a few minutes in my world. Sound fun? I promise I’d trade the constant knots in my shoulder blades any day for a smaller rack. What I wouldn’t give to be a 36C without a surgical intervention.
Man, all this talk about bras makes me want to take mine off and sleep. The restful sleep of a woman with good support.
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2 thoughts on “Why must Bra shopping be so painful?

  1. I can so relate to this post (but you knew I would)! I remember before my surgery going to the one specialty bra shop in Ogden with Mom, trying to find something that would support and contain me. The shop girls looked at my physique with deep sympathy. They understood how much pain my upper back was in.After the surgery I started out at a very full C. 22 years later (can you believe it!), two kids and several dress sizes later, I am now in multiple Ds as well. I refuse to imagine what my life would have been like without the reduction.I really need to try a Bravisima bra – I love their catalog. I'm just afraid to buy a bra without trying one on.I've found that Lane Bryant bras work for my every day needs, but I know the bands are too big for your narrow frame. The bands tend to be too wide, so they bunch up and roll on me, but they're affordable and they actually contain and support.I've found some lovely bras as Nordstrom that fit my physique as well. They have incredible customer service, of course.In order to make my bras last longer, I've taken to hanging them in the closet between wears, and never wearing them more than twice in a week. It seems to keep the bands and straps from stretching out as quickly.

  2. Nordstroms is a wonderful place to buy a bra. There staff is very knowledgable and capable and you will walk out with the right fitting bra. It's funny, I won't drive to SLC for a bra from Nordstroms, but I will make multiple trips to NYC and stop at a lingerie boutique there. Silly of me.

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