|maidenform vintage bra advertisement by Tricia Wang, Flickr|
Note: In a perfect world, women wouldn't need to wear bras because society wouldn't care what women's breasts looked like. You can call me when that happens. In the meantime, I'm going to wear a bra.
First, a little background. Why are so many women wearing the wrong bra size? Because retail establishments have made us believe that there is a very narrow range of normal or average sizes, and we all want to believe that we are normal. Additionally, these same companies disseminate the same flawed measuring directions. I'll admit it's possible that women consumers are driving stores to act this way, that stores are only doing this because "this is what our customers want," but I kind of doubt it.
In your typical Victoria's Secret store, you might notice that there isn't actually a ton of space devoted to bras. I'd estimate that at my local store the bras only take up about a quarter to a third of the entire merchandise space. Think about your local Target, too. Sure, they have a lingerie department, but not much selection of bras. The places where we tend to go first when buying bras are places that don't have the space to offer a ton of sizes and styles. Better choices would be large department stores like Macy's or online stores.
Okay, let's get to the sizing and my story. If you want to skip my story, here's a link for an online shop I recommend with good directions for measuring. Before continuing, I want to warn you, especially if you have a larger bust: You might not want to believe what the sizing tells you. Yes, you might be wearing a C cup when you really need a DD.
At age 26, I wore a 36 C. I was pretty confident about that. After all, I put on the bra and it stayed on my body, so what else is there? But after years of wearing sports bras that didn't do the trick, being unhappy with how I looked in clothing, and of course hearing that bit about women wearing the wrong size, I finally searched for the "right" way to measure myself.
I came across a site that gave drastically different measuring directions than all the others I had seen. Most sizing charts will tell you to measure around your upper ribcage, under your breasts, where the band goes. Then, add 4 or 5 to that number to get an even number for your band size. This site, though, said not to add the 4 or 5. Just stick with the band measurement as your band size (imagine that!) or add 1 to get an even number. From there, the directions were similar: Measure around the fullest part of your breasts. Take the difference between the two measurements. The difference tells you the cup size, and they gave a chart something like this:
1" = A
2" = B
3" = C
4" = D
5" = DD
Based on these directions, I arrived at a bra size of 32 DDD. Whoa, right? That's like Dolly Parton or something. And that's what the comments on the site said. Yet, no one said they tried it and it didn't work; they just didn't like the idea of wearing such a big cup size. I decided to give it a shot and headed to Macy's.
I swear I heard angels singing.
The underwire actually went all the way around my breasts. I didn't know it could do that. The shoulder straps rested comfortably on my shoulders. No digging anywhere. I put my shirt on to see what it looked like, and I actually looked lighter and, well, normal. I didn't feel like I had big sandbags weighing me down anymore, and my shirt fit far more comfortably than before. I snatched up a bunch in that size, and when I got home, I tried on every button-down shirt I owned and rejoiced.
It's true that the site I was reading didn't give me perfect directions, but hey, I got it on my second try. It's also true that not every 34 DD fits well. Breast size is not the only factor; breast shape is important too, and not every bra is appropriate for every shape.
Since that year, I feel a lot better about my breasts. I don't really feel like they're abnormally large or a burden anymore. They're just part of me. True, "DD" sounds enormous compared to "C," but once I understood how the measuring really works I began to see that there are a lot more of us DDs and Es and Fs out there than I first thought. I saw that there was no such thing as a normal breast size; we have what we have.
Overall, the lesson I learned and am still learning is that clothing doesn't make or break me. If I don't fit into something, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with me; it means the clothing is wrong for me.