It’s STILL a Girl Thing

It’s more than two and a half years since I first posted the words below but as a couple of readers mentioned the frustrations of shopping for bras (in response to my post about tights), I thought I’d repost it for the benefit of those who weren’t following thisissixty back then.   At the time I sent a letter on the subject off to the newspaper and it was printed as the lead letter of the day. A journalist got in touch asking me if I’d like to do an opinion piece for the paper but it never came to fruition as they found someone more willing than I was to be pictured in her underwear. I missed out on the opportunity to have the newspaper pay for bras from both Rigby & Peller and another specialist, but my dignity stayed intact!

You’ll see at the end that I thought I’d cracked the problem but, of course, the style I’d found that suited me was discontinued and ever since I’ve been trying to find a ‘just as good’ alternative. I’ve bought several but none match up.  I called the post ‘It’s a girl thing’. It still is.

What I said back then……….  I know that there are at least a couple of men who regularly take a look at my blog and in the interests of equality I have to say that you are most welcome to continue reading this post, indeed it may even interest you, but I’m just warning you – it’s a very girly subject and I don’t want to upset anyone’s sensibility . It’s so girly in fact that I’ve even borrowed my friend Leigh’s blog name for the title of this post because it really is a girl thing.

BRA

I am SO fed up with buying  trying to buy bras. I have friends who pick up bras from M&S or similar, choosing a colour and a style that they like the look of  and barely looking at the actual construction, and they just know they’ll fit. I have other friends who buy from a specialist lingerie shop and again, seem to have no problems. I even have one friend who picks up bras from supermarkets in packs of two, throws them in her trolley (you know who you are) and says ‘they’ll do’.  But when you are, let’s call it ‘generously endowed’, buying bras is nothing short of a nightmare. It seems that if you’re a B or C cup, you’re catered for pretty much anywhere. There’s not a great deal to accommodate and it’s a lot easier to adjust the bra you’ve chosen so that it fits comfortably. There are other advantages – you can buy shirts and blouses in unforgiving materials and so long as they’re your size, you’re sorted. Not so if you are a little larger: if it fits your bust it’s too large on the shoulders and doesn’t sit well around the neckline ; if it fits correctly on the shoulders, the buttons won’t fasten. And it gapes – it always, always gapes. A small accolade for M&S here – they invented a double button style which has additional buttons that do up on the inside and this does help but it’s limited to only a few garments each season. I digress – back to bra buying.

For around twelve years, maybe even fifteen,  I bought repeated versions of the same bra which was sold by Ballet. It wasn’t glam but neither was it ugly and it came in black or white. Unfortunately the company went bust – pun intended. As soon as I heard this was happening, I bought up the entire remaining stock in my size from my usual store (five or six of them) and, having several already in use, was OK for quite a while. But one by one they went by the wayside and I struggled terribly to find anything which felt as comfortable or, in my opinion (and after all it was me wearing it), fitted so perfectly. I needed to find a suitable replacement style. For some time I bought all kinds of bras, some better than others but none fitted like my faithful Ballet ones had.  It was time to heed the advice and ‘get properly measured.’  Have you actually tried getting properly measured? I tried it. The results were, to say the least, interesting:

In John Lewis the recommended bra was excruciatingly tight around my back, though the ‘expert’ pronounced it a perfect fit. Apparently I was too used to ones that didn’t fit properly and was wearing them too loose. I trusted her, after all she was trained, so I handed over a small fortune and wore it the next day. By lunchtime I was back in the store to show her the deep red weals in my skin.

So I got  ‘properly  measured’ again, this time in Bravissimo (curiously a different measurement to the proper one in John Lewis) and again parted with a not insubstantial amount of cash.  No red weals this time but the wire came so high under the armpit that every time I moved it felt as though I’d been stabbed.

The lady in Debenhams measured me differently again (The size matched John Lewis, the cup matched Bravissimo). I felt as if I’d been put in a straight jacket; I could barely breathe! The larger size, whilst far from perfect, was certainly more comfortable even though the assistant adamantly told me was too big and would allow me to “fall beneath the wire!” I bought it and I didn’t fall beneath the wire but it soon be came clear (the first time I wore it) that the cup was too small. I may not have fallen below but I certainly rose above!

My final excursion into the world of expert bra fitters was an independent lingerie shop. Again I felt that the recommendations were too tight around my back but we eventually found one which seemed to be reasonably comfortable in the cup though once again rather tight at the back.  I was assured however that it was a ‘perfect fit. I can’t bring myself to tell you how much I paid for the prettiest bra I’ve ever owned. Suffice to say it would have paid for a very sizeable shop in Waitrose. But it was to wear with the dress I’d bought for a very special occasion so I felt it was justified….until I’d been wearing it for a few hours. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable I went to my hotel room and discovered not only red weals but BLOOD! It had rubbed my skin so badly that I was bleeding!

No wonder so many women (or so we are told) wear the wrong size. Not only is measuring inconsistent but bras vary so much in size that it makes the whole thing completely pointless. What fits in one make doesn’t necessarily in another. What’s even more frustrating is that different bras in the same make don’t even fit the same. M&S please take note; your inconsistent sizing is probably the worst of the lot.

I gave up and decided to return to the trial & error method and trust my own judgement. I’ve found bras that fitted but none that are particularly comfortable and the shape of some is just plain weird.  I’ve given up trying them on in shops.  I now order online. I can try them at my leisure and with a variety of different clothes. Before Christmas I ordered four from M&S. None fitted well and I returned them.  Last month I sent an order to a specialist bra manufacturer for £350 worth (£70 each) . Again, they were returned  – too large, too small, too scratchy AND too tight, or too oddly shaped…..who wants Madonna-style conical breasts? Not me!

Even more desperately (and fast running out of time before I ended up with nothing in my bra drawer at all),  I returned to the M&S website. I ordered seven. At least the prices are reasonable. Despite all being labelled the same size, two were too tight at the back, one had straps so thin that I can’t imagine they’d have supported a 32A never mind me, one fitted at the back but the cup gaped, one was too large at the back and the sixth was just utterly hideous. The seventh looked curiously like the old favourite Bally bra. A little bit of stretch in the cup, comfortable at the back, straps that are just slightly wider than standard and not unattractive.

I tried it on… I smiled… I wore it the following day – all day…  I ordered four more of the same.

But as you’ll have read above, they stopped selling it and now we’ve come full circle.

18 comments

  1. You’ve summed up everything about buying bras. I revcently measured myself, got my cup size and sallied off to kmart to buy a bra. I bought two. The one in my size, the wire stabs me in my breast. Good one – not. The other is both a cup and back size down, the wire stabs my armpit. Surprisingly, both do up on the innermost hooks. I’m going to have to get the wires out of both, for safety reasons. But the worst of all time was done at a lingerie party. I was bulldozed into buying a padded bra with gel in the padding. The bra cut into my skin, and the cups were so stiff and big that they didn’t move with my body. They gaped so much that you could have had a family of borrowers living in there. I complained. Apparently I wasn’t putting it on correctly -phhtt. Of course I was doing it right, she just wasn’t going to refund my money.

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    • Lol, you know of The Borrowers, a great favourite when I was a girl. I understand your frustration…..been there so many times. Women are half the population and we all buy bras so why in heaven’s name is it so difficult for so many of us. I could scream with the sheer frustration of it all.

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  2. I feel your pain. When I was still working I bit the bullet and went to rigby and peller. The wonderful assistant measured me with her eyes and gave me a selection to try after which she selected the one she said was the right size which I felt was too tight but she assured me it was correct and I took her word for it and she was right I did get used to it but as you pointed out the additional pain was the price. I now wait for the company to have a sale and then buy one, consequently I have some unusual colours but heyho I don’t parade in my 32 H cup bra.

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  3. Please tell me the style number of the M & S bra which fits best. I am at the end of my tether trying to get a comfortable 36DD underwired style.

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    • Unfortunately Carol, not long after I wrote that piece back in January 2018, the style was discontinued. I am still searching for somethingwhich suits me as well as that one did. I spent nearly £80 on one in an independent shop last year but it still wasn’t a patch on that particular M&S one.

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  4. I was measured at M & S some years ago and bought 2 of the recommended bras. Then I asked for a sports bra in the same size but it didn’t fit. The fitter said all bras are different. So what is the point of being measured? I now mainly wear pull on sports bras. I can’t wear underwired as they really hurt. I find normal bras irritate me where they do up. I now have some front fastening which are better but still not 100% comfortable.. I can never understand why anybody would have their breasts enlarged.

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    • I’ve never understood the media’s obsession with telling us to get measured when they all fit differently. Even the same style and size in a different colour doesn’t necessarily fit. It makes me furious. As for breast enlargement….I have a friend who always says she’d like a bigger bust and I remind her that dresses don’t fit unless their stretchy because if they fit on the bust they’re too big on the hips, clothes gape over the decolletage, and you can’t wear sleeveless tops because the armholes are too big and gape. As for jackets and coats, it takes an age to find one where the shoulders fit because, if they are in proportion to the bust size, they’re too wide.

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  5. I feel your pain! I finally gave up on Department store bras a few years ago and went to an independent shop recommended by a friend. I have to say that my experiences has been excellent. But I will say this – in the beginning a new bra is usually rather tight around the band – but – what this shop recommends is a “bra extender”. This hooks on to the loosest hooks and gives you another inch or so for those first couple of months. After a few months of wear things do stretch a bit and the extender can be put back in the drawer and everything now works perfectly. I was sceptical to start but now I’m a believer.

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  6. Your story is so similar to mine. I’ve had to buy from the internet this time And despite all being a 34FF and “identical”, only one is comfortable and gives the support I need. I also found a great fit in M and S about two years ago and of course it was discontinued shortly after!

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  7. I am not particularly well endowed but neither am I without and I feel your pain! I am coming to the end of half a dozen extremely comfortable M and S bras, discontinued of course. I dread the thought of trying to find replacements. Last time I tried everywhere including the famed Rigby and Peller before finding something suitable (and well-priced too) at M and S. M and S just do not understand their shoppers – we are often repeat purchasers and often just want to buy without trying. I had the same experience as you with some jogging recently. I found a super pair (after a marathon trying on session) and ordered three other pairs in the same style but different colours, Only one pair fitted, one pair too short and another pair too big! We complain, but they do not listen. I hope you and your new bras will be happy together – might be as well to try them all on when you get them in the light of our experiences!

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    • Oh Margaret – if ONLY they’d listen. The customer counts for little and yet without us they would not exist. It’s so frustrating that they keep changing the ranges. I’m all for something new, but why can’t they stick with a basic range for repeat buyers?

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  8. I feel your pain. I have never ever bought a bra successfully from M&S. Always a disaster. I like to be measured as I have a narrow back and a large cup size. In fact 18 months ago I was a 30FF. And I had 3 comfortable bras of that size all bought from Bravissimo. I love the really nice big-breasted young women they have to measure you. But along came Covid and long story short I put on 5lbs and gosh they were tight across the back. Luckily I had an older special occasion balcony bra in a slightly bigger size 32FF that was also really comfortable and have bought 3 more of those, so I’m looking really perky these days! However, I think the cup is beginning to get slightly too small. I believe Bravissimo will do a measuring consultation on the phone so think that’s what I’ll do when the bras don’t fit anymore.

    But oh yes, am totally with you on the different sizing of all these bras and the difficulty in getting a good fit if you’re not the ubiquitous size 36, which is probably wrongly sized anyway.

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    • And I feel your pain too, Penny. I’d love the opportunity to sit down with the boss at M&S and make him tell me why sizing is allowed to be so inconsistent. I recently bought a lime green balcony bra which I love to look at but it’s only comfortable for the first hour or so before it starts to irritate. Oh, the frustration of it all !

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  9. Eloise, I have the same problem – well endowed, most wired bras hurt (or the wires break out), non wired ones have little support or shape. I recently found a bra group on Facebook, it’s called BooborBust (BoB for short), it’s a private group, you have to apply to join and be approved. It’s run by a group of ladies who’ve done extensive research on bras and bra fitting and are extremely knowledgeable. They show how to measure yourself properly (it’s unlike anything I’ve done before) and give the size bra you should be…And believe me, initially you will think ‘what the hell? I can’t possibly be that size!’. But I gave it a go, bought a couple of bras in the size recommended by them and, wonder of wonders, they actually fit, comfortably. Try them.

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    • Thank you for the recommendation Sue! I shall certainly look it up. My biggest gripe (and not only with regard to bras) is inconsistent sizing. I just had some pants delivered and, although supposedly identical to the ones I bought in store at the start of the year, they are an inch bigger all round. It infuriates me.

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