Need a Lift?

It was only a matter of time. After several years of sewing and a decade and a half struggling to find ones that suit me, I have finally started sewing bras! I have been thinking about it, reading up on it, and planning to do so for a few months now, and at last this week I got started. But before I share my initial creation, a few thoughts on bras in general:

The more I sew, the more frustrated I become with the limitations of ready to wear clothing. I am increasingly aware of FIT and how a garment should properly sit on the wearer’s body, and therefore increasingly aware of how incredibly POORLY ready to wear does this. I am also increasingly aware of what an impossible task it would be to mass produce clothing that truly did accomodate the millions of truly unique body shapes out there. I know they have to pick standards. I do wish they hadn’t arbitrarily picked a body type smaller than the average American (wouldn’t it make the most sense to pick the *actual* average?). But I digress.

Bras are the worst problem I have personally encountered for fit. I’ve heard over and over again lately that the vast majority of American women are wearing the wrong sized bra. My initial thought every time is “DUH!” How in the world could we all wear the right bra when most stores carry a very small range of sizes?? Personally, I know how to measure myself, and lately I have taken to remeasuring before I buy bras (since weight gain and loss, a pregnancy, 21 months nursing, then weaning, have meant fairly frequent changes in my bust size over the past 3 years or so). Despite this, most stores I’ve tried DON’T carry my size. I am big busted, yes, but I’m not freakishly large. There are many women in this world (several of whom I know personally) who are quite a bit bustier than I am, some of them on smaller frames than mine… and yet most stores, even lengerie shops, just don’t carry my size.

I think in many cases, women wear the wrong bra because it’s the best they can find. If a store doesn’t carry a 36DDD, for example, a women might be inclined to believe the salesgirl who claims “A 38DD is the same thing!” But it’s really not. Truth be told the CUPS should be the same size for those two bras, and hold the same amount of breast tissue, but moving up to a larger band size WILL mean the bra is not supportive. And frankly the bigger breasted you are, the more you need that support. And heaven forbid you are bigger… at this moment in time, I wear a 38G. To accomodate my bosoms with the “down a cup, up a band size” method I’d have to go to a 40F (not in your everyday stores), 42DD (maybe in stores) or 44D before I had cups that fit right. At by that band size, you can pretty much expect the bra to fit like a belt.

(On a lovely side note though, I found some instructions for altering that bra so that it does fit right, by taking in the band, here.)

So, I have alternated between buying slightly too small bras, or shopping at the special bra shop that carries non standard sizes. (If you’re in Tampa, the Pennyrich bra shop has a huge range of sizes, as well as specialty bras such as masectomy and maternity bras).

This brings me to my next rant. If a woman has the know how to size herself (good articles on that here and here) and finds she isn’t a standard size, but takes the initiative to drive an hour from her home to the specialty shop (yep, it took me an hour to get there, with my baby in tow) so she can wear the correct size, guess what she’s greeted with? $80+ bras that come in her choice of beige, beige, or beige. Am I alone in my distate for beige? Personally, I find it to be unsexy, boring, and an absolute magnent for dinge. Is it too much to ask that the bra I paid $80 for at least **attempt* to be pretty?

And in addition to all of these issues there are still challenges finding the right shape (I prefer rounder cups rather than pointier ones) from such a small selection of correctly sized bras, not to mention COMFORT and hopefully a good value. From what my friends tell me, and what I’ve seen now that I’ve looked, it is equally challenging for small breasted women to find their correct size – how many AA bras have you seen lately? And of course maternity bras, masectomy bras, etc. have painfully few options available.

Personally, I think there are many, many women out there who would get in line to buy the right bra if such a thing existed.

My own wish list for my dream bra would be: a properly sized bra with a snug band that has a wide elastic at the bottom of the band for the best support – but not the picot elastic since the little decorative bumpy bits tend to irritate my skin after a while. I want SOFT fabrics and properly finished seams, round cups, relatively full coverage but not so much so that I have to buy a whole new wardrobe of higher-necked shirts (something halfway between a demi and a full coverage bra would be my personal ideal). I want a very thin bit of padding in the lower half of the cup just to reinforce it and add more support, but not so much that I’m noticeably larger; and I want this padding under a layer of something soft like tricot. I do want underwires, and I want them to sit where they were meant to, right under my breasts, without creeping down and pressing into my ribcage. I want broad straps that sit in the right spot on my shoulders where the weight is best carried (but of course with the fabulous band on this bra, there shouldn’t be too much weight held by the straps) and I want the strap adjusters, if any (better still would be straps that were the right length to begin with) in the back because the hard plastic pieces and the seams attaching the adjuster tend to hurt if they lie on the top of my shoulders carrying weight. To finish the wish list off, I want my dream bra to come in a variety of pretty colors, with coordinating panties available in my size, and I want the bra at a reasonable price.

I honestly don’t expect ready-to-wear to have quite exactly this, because it never has. But I can certainly make my own.

And that will be our next post. 🙂


1 Response to “Need a Lift?”

  1. August 17, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    i took a class this summer on making my own bras. fabulous!! it was such a shock to wear a bra that fits. i was amazed at how comfortable it was. bramaking is not that hard…and it is cheaper than RTW, especially if you were a weird size.

    yes, i was in the totally wrong size because it was the closest thing i could find. went from a 32B to a 29D….yeah, try to find a 29D at the mall. 🙂


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