Want to talk about Bras?

Eric Gill
Eric Gill sculpture

When I was at school we were much amused by the notion of an “Over shoulder boulder-holder”, and amazed at the impact that mammary glands could have on the opposite sex. But as we grew up, we persuaded our mums to buy us  our “first bra”.  You may never have seen a girl’s (as opposed to a woman’s) bra. Bras for girls look like a pair of Y fronts – rather vile and slightly medical.

My first bra
Junior bra

When we had finished giggling, and got used to them, we came to value our bras. We soon realised that one of the most important items in a ladies wardrobe was the brassiere.  Worn everyday, working tirelessly, and usually unseen, a good bra provides

  • support
  • comfort (I feel cold without one)
  • a good shape under clothes
  • modesty (have you noticed that nipples have been banished by today’s thicker bras?)
    1970s advert
    1970s advert

I spent some of the 1970s braless, and I was a vegetarian too. But eventually I found that running for the bus was both uncomfortable and unnecessarily attention-seeking, and I did what everyone did. I went to a department store to be professionally measured.

This is not a pleasant experience. To have a middle-aged lady – “June? Are you free for a fitting?”  – come into the dressing room with you and whip out her tape measure, and measure you over your jumper, was somewhat strange. Then she would pronounce the verdict -“Hmmm, 34C, or maybe a D? I’ll get a 32D for you to try too.” And you shiver in your undies while she wanders around the shop looking for a bra, any bra, in roughly your size. She re-enters triumphant with a crusty black number with thick straps, or the baby blue Cross Your Heart number, or something with guipure lace and lots of padding, or an item with wire that digs in horribly. The ones you try on seem to have a cage built in, or they make your breasts pointy, or the filmy nylon itches you like crazy. And some of the offerings are so high cut that you believe they will show under a low cut top. But you are too embarrassed to ask for something more youthful, or frankly sexually appealing. So in the end you just more or less grab an inoffensive beige one and make a quick dash to the till.

If you are still buying bras in supermarkets, and popping approximately the right size into your trolley without even trying it on,  please stop.

1977 advert for bras
1977 M&S cycling bras

There is another way. You need to be quite grown up and confident to do this.

Go to a specialist shop, where they don’t sell anything else other than brassieres (and possibly swimwear). The women who work there are properly trained and spend all day, everyday, fitting and selling bras. They are experts.  They know what size of bra you need without touching you, or measuring you, although they do take a look.  Listen to their  advice. Try on the proffered bra.

A good bra doesn’t dig in. It doesn’t divide your breasts into an in/out category. The flesh under your arms and on your back will not seep out. Your breasts will sit perfectly inside the cups like the bra was made for you. It will feel comfortable, but firm. Like someone nice is holding your breasts up for you. You should be able to run comfortably in a good bra, although if you do run get a sports bra too. Put a T-shirt or jumper on over the bra and check how it looks. The outline of your bra will definitely not be visible – everything will look streamlined.

This is the bra that was chosen for me. A good bra, like a good haircut, is expensive, but a decent bra has, in a small way, changed my life for the better.

Marie Jo Avero
Marie Jo Avero

8 Responses

  1. I remember my mother’s bras – the kind with the cups that resembled the tail lights on the Cadillacs of the 1950s!

  2. A Frenchman walks into a brasserie and asks for a brassiere… The waiter looks at him and says ‘this is not an underwear shop, you fool. We sell soup.’

  3. Oh the memories of teenage bras. Growing up in a catholic household, to have a beautiful bra would have been sinful. Only the ugliest bra was allowed in our house. A fun post which I enjoyed reading.

    • Same goes in my catholic household, white cotton, plain and definitely not lacy and racy and sinful was the order of the day until I got married. Now I tell all my clients that wearing a proper bar will make their clothes look so much better and get the nipples to sit where the darts end instead of somewhere near their waist.

  4. Actually you are so right. I had done the super store bra measurement and felt increasingly that it was so wrong. I was a total no bra except for work back in the day. (now retired) I went to a big store in Manchester, recommended, and got a fabulous service. Walked in a 36 B walked out a 34C. She felt that I was a 32d but also that I needed things to be vvv comfortable. Result, I have breasts a good 1 inch higher and a completely different shape. Feel good and look good.

  5. Ahem – on a serious note I have heard good things about this method, but have yet to try measuring my leaky milk machines properly so can’t attest to it’s usefulness or otherwise:

    http://thebetterbracampaign.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/bra-fitting.html?m=1

  6. You are so funny (and I see that your daughter is as well). I remember the misery of my first bra shopping as a teenager…oy! It took me years to find my correct bra size, which I did on my own. I then went to a fancy shop and was retro-fitted (sounds like home renovation!), to confirm my analysis, and now I finally buy bras that fit. I used to be so frustrated before, feeling as though bras simply weren’t made to fit me, particularly as my true size is outside of the typical array of sizes here in Canada.

  7. Had a similar experience. Wore a 34B as it seemed to fit and was easily available. Got fitted and went to 32C. Amazing how much better it feels.

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