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.
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.