A new stage of life, and a new fit

The following post has to do with female areas of interest, such as breastfeeding, bras, and fittings. Readers of the male persuasion may either find it fascinating to keep reading, or may wish to now toggle to your other windows, concerning cars, electronics, and music.

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I recently entered a new stage of motherhood, and started to think of something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while: new bras. Yes, I’m officially at the post-breastfeeding stage, after almost nine years. It was harder to get the Boy to wean than his sister, but we started the process late last summer, and I’m happy to say that he’s been off the breast for a few months. (Certainly no more “bitty” for him, à la Little Britain.) So with breastfeeding now over with, I can move on to the business of my post-breastfeeding bra size, and acquiring nicer bras, which I had put aside for all these years. 

With that in mind, I decided to go in for a professional bra fitting, something which apparently not a lot of  women do. According to the web site of the Toronto shop that I visited yesterday, 80% of women wear the wrong bra size. I knew for sure that my size now has changed from my size pre-kids, so I thought the trek would be worth it, to get a “professional” adjustment and see what they recommended. Besides, I knew that I would be walking into a specialty boutique where the bra prices could range from obscenely expensive to astronomically outrageous. So I had to see if the quality and styles were better. Here were some of my  interesting findings on bras and breasts:

1- The first thing a bra-fitter asks you is your name. I was slightly surprised by this (no “What size are you wearing?”, or “What are you looking for specifically?”, but, “Your name, please” right off the bat). I guess this makes sense, because this is someone who will be spending the next half-hour or so seeing you intimately and touching you. My bra-fitter was named Laura.

2- Don’t worry—a bra-fitter won’t have to see you naked. This one took my measurement over one thin layer of clothing, and always discreetly exited and entered carefully after each bra-change. In fact, at one point when she walked in on me before I had finished putting on a bra, and she caught a glimpse of too much skin, she was apologetic and backed away quickly.

3- Indeed, I was wearing the wrong size for the past couple of years. The cup size was correct, but the band size that I had worn was too large. According to my fitter, bras should be worn on the loosest hook, so that as the elastic stretches over the years, the wearer can hook in even more tightly. I had always chosen a larger band size, and hooked on the middle or the tightest hook. I mean, I wasn’t too far off my “correct” size, so I can still comfortably wear the bras that I’ve been wearing recently. Still, Laura said that wearing a more snug band on the correct hook would mean that my bras would last me for more years.

4- Even once you get the “proper” and “professional” fit defined for you, you will find that the size can still range. From brand to brand, and even from one style to another within the same brand, I found that I could fit into three different “sizes”. Note: a larger cup with a smaller band size equals a larger band with a smaller cup. I.e., a 34C is the same as a 36B.

5- It’s rare that women have both breasts of the same size; there is always a very slight variation. Laura said that we should always fit the larger breast, and if necessary, use a cup-liner to adjust for the smaller side. In my case, the difference is hardly noticeable so I wouldn’t need to “compensate” on one side, but the difference is still there all the same.

6- It’s extremely hard to find bras these days that aren’t padded or lined. Yes, I understand that padding can add definition and even lift to a woman’s shape, but I dislike too much padding in the bras because there’s something “inauthentic” about it for me. I remember years ago, when I first started buying nice, expensive bras, I found a fabulous made-in-France balconnet style that was just perfect: no lining, no heavy padding, just an underwire and the right amount of black lace and push-up to make a woman feel wonderful about her shape. Alas, it got worn out (and of course, the fit is no longer the same for me now), and when I threw it out, I forgot to note the brand and style. I went back to the department store that carried it (yes, all the way in Montreal—what can I say, I love my bras!). But it is nowhere to be found these days.

7- According to Laura, a good bra with proper care should last 1½ to 3 years (although their web site said 3 to 5 years). I must be doing something right, because I’ve had bras last more than 10 years (even if my fit has changed, and I can’t still wear them). I had been doing some things right in caring for my bras—handwashing whenever possible, and washing in a mesh laundry bag. Other things, I had been doing incorrectly, like putting them in the dryer instead of hanging to dry (and even on the few occasions when I bothered to hang them, I was doing so by the strap, which stretched it out), and not washing frequently enough. Apparently, body oils, sweat, and deodorant can all contribute to breaking down the bra’s elasticity, and according to Laura, bras should be washed after two wearings at the most (and they shouldn’t be worn two days in a row).

8- And the big finding: More expensive bras don’t seem that much better. I mean, for structured bras (meaning anything other than soft-cup and plain cotton bras), I wouldn’t buy cheap ones under $20. But the ones at this boutique in the $50 to $200 range, I couldn’t see a vast difference in material and workmanship from the bras that I’ve been regularly buying in the $20 to $50 range. Of course, after having spent an hour of Laura’s time, I felt obligated to spend money at their boutique (I have to admit, I’m that kind of obligated shopper). So indeed, I did walk out with four bras of “superior quality” (and pricing). It’ll be interesting to see if the higher price tag means that they’ll last twice as long as my other bras.

In conclusion, I’m glad that I went in for a proper fitting, and it’s something that I’d recommend for all women, from training-bra age into adulthood. Now I know how to size myself correctly, if I should change slightly in size again (which will be likely). I only wish I had gone in earlier, as I’m sure that I had years in my early adulthood of squeezing or puffing myself into the wrong size. I can add my four new expensive bras to my collection, which I realised is really much too large. When I counted this morning, I had 17 structured bras and 19 soft-cup bras. :O But I’m confident that they’ll last me another 10 years, as long as I don’t drastically change in weight or breastfeed any more kids.

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