Why “nude” bras shouldn’t be called that

I just sent this email to Eveden, who makes Freya, Elomi, Fantasie, Fauve, and Goddess. I made a similar request to Panache, and I plan to ask the same thing of other bra companies. I realize that “nude” is an industry standard and almost everyone does it, but come on, didn’t we have this conversation with Crayola and “flesh” in the 1960s?

I see that Eveden sometimes uses descriptive words like mocha, blush, cream, and caramel for skin-toned bras. That is great! However, they do still use “nude” for beige bras, and I wish they didn’t. “Nude” is only nude for white people. My shop is in Oakland, and I’m going to have lots of African-American, Indian, and Hispanic customers, for whom the beige “nude” often isn’t. I’d like to see Eveden make the change complete, and drop “nude” in favor of better color terms, like biscuit, beige, tan, or caramel. Thanks for listening!

I posted the same thing on the Reddit group /r/abrathatfits, and it generated excellent comments, including several that explained the issue much better than I did. If you want to write to bra makers, here are some addresses:

Eveden (maker of Freya, Fantasie, Wacoal , Fauve, Goddes, and Elomi):  info@eveden.com

Panache (Cleo, Sculptresse, Masquerade): http://www.panache-lingerie.com/en/corporate

Curvy Kate: sales@curvykate.com



On the philosophy of bra fittings

The shop is HAPPENING and it’s going to be BEAUTIFUL. I’m buying the paint today and it’s going on the walls this weekend.

The space isn’t just about the colors on the walls and the wallpaper I pick. Aesthetics are important, but It’s also about creating a body-positive space. Since bra fitting is so intimate, it’s important to do it in an atmosphere that’s comfortable and welcoming and makes you feel good.

In her testimonial, Emma talks about her early bra-fitting experiences as shaming. Every week on the Reddit group /r/abrathatfits, I see more stories from people who have had humiliating or frustrating experiences shopping for lingerie. People talk about being blamed for having the bodies they have, about getting forced into sizes that don’t fit, about not being listened to. I’ve seen stories of people leaving bra shops in tears.

It’s of paramount importance to me that Revelation is a welcoming space. One way I will accomplish that is by approaching bra fit as a collaboration, not a pronouncement from On High. If you are getting a fitting from me, you are using my expertise, but you know your body better than I do, and I will listen to you.

Another way is language. There are plenty of negative words about how people are shaped and I don’t see a reason to use any of them. I’ve seen online fit guides about what to do if you are “saggy” or “oversized” or “abnormal.” Better to use positive or neutral descriptors like “full on top,” “shallow,” or “projected.”

If a bra doesn’t fit you, it’s the fault of the bra, not your body. When you visit Revelation, I hope you will feel supported in more ways than one.

Victoria’s Secret: “That’s the best-fitting bra I’ve ever seen!”

Yesterday, I took another friend bra shopping to find her one that fits.  Emily has a whole collection of bras from Victoria’s Secret and other places, and none of them fit. They were mostly 34C – too big in the band and too small in the cup. She says all her bras ride up in the back or shift around in the front, and she spends all day adjusting them.

I measured her at 30F or 32E, so off we went to Nordstrom, which is the only local place that has a chance of carrying those sizes. The fitter introduced herself and measured Emily at 34 or 32DD. When she suggested 34 bands, Emily pointed out that 34s are too loose on her, the fitter said, “Okay, you like a tight band.” She returned with a pile of bras, mostly American brands (Natori and Betsey Johnson) and mostly molded cups. The Natori wasn’t too bad, although the 32DD was far too small in the cup. The fitter went out to look for more in 32DDD, and meanwhile I searched for British seamed bras. Nordstrom does carry a very small selection of Freya, Panache, and Fantasie. The Fantasie bras were too matronly, but I was very happy to find some cute Cleo by Panache (my personal favorite) and Freya bras. I pulled out every 30F, 32F, 32FF, and 30FF I could find. I didn’t see any in 32E.

My original plan was to sit back and let the fitter do her work, but it soon became apparent that it would take far too long, so I ended up jumping in to help. After trying on about a dozen bras, she settled on a longline Freya in 30F. Victory! It’s totally cute, the padding is minimal, and it looks great on her. I wish it came in my size.

Afterwards, we went to Victoria’s Secret to look for a particular bra that Emily had seen a few months ago. We were in a big, fancy mall, and the VS was bigger and fancier with more rooms than any other I’ve seen. A clerk soon offered to measure Emily, and since I was standing right there, she measured me, too. Of course, she did the classic and useless VS measurement under the armpits and over the top of the bust to get the band size. She measured Emily as a 34, although revised it to 32 when she asked what size she normally wears, and explained that the numbers are only a starting point and many bras are different. “Hmm,” we both thought.

“What size do you normally wear?”

“I’m not sure,” I lied. “I usually cut the tags off, but I think the band is 32.”

“When was the last time you were fitted?”

“Oh, it’s been a while.”

“Well, we recommend that you get re-fitted once every six months, because things change.”

She was extremely polite and clearly wanted to be helpful; it’s not her fault that the company makes such a limited range, and she was doing her best to work with what she had available.

For the record, my VS-style over the bust measurement is 36 and my full bust (over a bra and over clothes) is 42. That would, in theory, put me in a 36DDD. To her credit, when I mentioned that I usually wear 32 bands, she re-measured at my actual underbust, which measures 31 loose. I think she knew that a 36 would be too big, so she wrote down 34DDD on the little pink fitting tag.

After failing entirely to find the bra that Emily wanted, we went forth into the fray. The fitting room setup at that VS is elaborate; there’s a sort of antechamber that sets it off from the rest of the store, and a large pseudo-Victorian chest of drawers dominates the middle of the main fitting room, which is where they store the fitting bras. Everything is, of course, pink. My fitter handed me a “Body by Victoria” molded cup bra in 34DDD and said that this was just to check the size, and she’d be back to check the fit and bring me styles I liked. I put it on, knowing it would be a disaster, and it was. Not only did the gore stick out a good three inches, there was no way it could possibly have lain flat, since the bra smooshed me together so there was no room for it at all. On the side, the underwire reached about halfway as far as it needed to go, so it was just resting on breast tissue. I wasn’t falling out the bottom, but it wouldn’t have taken much to come out on top. Comedy, I tell you.

Meanwhile, across the way, they were putting Emily in 32DD and 32DDD. I couldn’t do a full analysis since I wasn’t close enough, but it didn’t look like she was having much luck.

Eventually, my fitter checked on me, and she was pretty appalled at the fit. She asked for help from another fitter, who said that I needed a bigger cup size, and she didn’t think going up in band size would help. (Correct on both counts!) She asked what size I was wearing and if I’d been to Nordstrom. I said I wasn’t sure, and said that a friend had measured me and helped me get a bra from England. She checked the tag on my bra, and said, “Wow, I’ve never heard of 32HH.” She tried to work out what size equivalent that would be at Victoria’s Secret, but she wasn’t sure how English sizing worked, and eventually came up with 32DDDDDD. They suggested I try Nordstrom, and I thanked them for their help. I put my own bra back on and poked my head out to ask if my fitter wanted to compare. When she saw me in it, her eyes got big, and she said, “That’s the best-fitting bra I’ve ever seen!”


“Do you mind if I show my coworker? That is so cool… look, the gore is totally flat! I’ve never seen that!”

“Sure, bring her in here.”

The other fitter was also super impressed, and pointed out the gore and how smoothly it fit over the top, and how I wasn’t spilling out the sides. She immediately wanted to know the brand and where to get them so she could point other busty ladies in the right direction; she checked my tag and wrote it down. (It was a Cleo Melissa, for the record.) They called in their supervisor to also take a look, and she was just as excited as they were.  They told me I should definitely stick with what I had.

I will, Victoria. I will.

An In-Depth Fit Analysis

I’ve been talking about what makes a good fit and what doesn’t, but all this is so much easier to see with pictures.  One of my friends has graciously granted me permission to post photos that clearly illustrate some fitting issues.

We’ll start with one that she’d been professionally fitted into by Victoria’s Secret. (I believe it’s a size 36C.)


Not too bad, right? It looks like it’s about the right size. There aren’t many obvious problems; she’s not spilling out of the cups, it’s not obviously too large, and doesn’t she look cute in it?

Let’s take a closer look.


Now some problems are coming into focus. We can see that the gore (that’s the center front in the middle between the cups) doesn’t lay flat against her chest, which is a sign that the cups are too small. We can also see that while the cups cover her, they don’t contain her breasts that well. It’s not a good fit.


From this angle, we can see that the top of the cup cuts into her breast instead of making a smooth silhouette. We can also see that the lower edge of the cup is nowhere near the underside of her breast; it’s basically hovering in front of her chest instead of providing support from underneath, as it’s supposed to do.


This is a strange angle, but I really want to show just how far off that gore is. It’s supposed to meet her chest, but there’s quite a bit of space there.



Check out how far I can pull the band out. Now, the support of a bra should come almost entirely from the band; you shouldn’t need to use the straps to compensate for support. People who wear larger cup sizes may need to have some strap support, but I’d say it should be no more than twenty percent, at maximum, with the other eighty percent coming from the band. The straps are there to shape and support the cups, not your breasts directly. If you make the straps do all the work, it will be very uncomfortable; you’ll end up with red marks and dents in your shoulders, and it’s terrible for your posture. With a band as stretchy as I’m demonstrating here, it’s clear that she’s getting no support from it. This band is way too big. Couple that with the hovering gore illustrated above, and we have a bra that’s too big in the band and too small in the cup – which is very, very common.

On to the next bra!


This one is another 36C that she was professionally fitted into by Victoria’s Secret. Again, from a distance, this doesn’t look too bad. Up close, though…


Whoa! Look how far that gore is! This is definitely not a good fit. (Note that I’m not pulling the bra at all; it really is that far from her chest.)


From here, you can see that the cup doesn’t make a smooth line with her breast. In fact, the cup looks too big – but we know from the gore sticking out that the cup is actually too small. What’s going on here?


A couple of things. This bra is both the wrong size and the wrong shape for her. The absolute cup volume is correct, but since it’s a different size, the shape of the cup is different. This is why it’s possible for it to look too small and too big simultaneously. Her actual size is 32DD and this bra is 36C. Since cup size is relative to band size, the absolute volume of 36C = 34D = 32DD. Even though the volume is the same, the dimensions of a 36C are different from a 32DD. Not only that, this is the wrong type of bra for her shape, and even if this was a 32DD, I don’t think it would fit her. It’s a molded cup bra, and the cut of the bra simply does not match her shape. My experience with molded cups is that you pretty much already have to be whatever the shape of the mold is in order to fit it, which is pretty rare since breasts come in all sorts of shapes.

Next one! This is another Victoria’s Secret bra that she doesn’t wear much (and hasn’t worn it at all since she got proper bras), but it’s useful because it illustrates a really common problem.


Okay, pretty much anyone can see that this is a bad fit. It’s not supporting her at all and it’s obviously too small. How can we fix it? Well, one easy solution is to tighten up the straps as much as possible.


That’s much better. It doesn’t look perfect, but at least she’s getting some support and coverage out of it, right? Well, maybe.  The strap-tightening has side effects.


Remember how I mentioned that the support should all come from the band? Yeah. That’s not happening here. The band should be completely level all the way around, but it’s riding up her back because the straps have been called into service to give support, and they simply aren’t up to the task. A band that rides up is uncomfortable, and you’ll be fiddling with it all day. The band simply can’t provide support if it’s pulled higher than the cups.

I see bands that ride up all the time because people who need cups that are larger than DD – which, let me emphasize, is an average cup size, not a large cup size – compensate by buying bras with larger band size. This sort of works because cup size is relative to band size, so if you move from 32DD to 34DD, you’re increasing not just the band size but also the absolute cup volume. Unfortunately, if you do this, then your band size can be far off. For instance, my actual size is 32HH (UK). If I tried to sister-size to a bra that is available in American stores, it would go like this: 32HH = 34H = 36GG = 38G = 40FF = 42F. The equivalent American size of 42F is 42DDD (usually – American sizes are inconsistent), which is ludicrous. That’s five sizes too big in the band; there’s no way it would fit me. I would have to tighten the straps to an inch of their lives, and the band would end up so high that I might as well wear it like a collar.

Let’s move on to a bra that actually fits.


This is her actual size – 32DD – and look how much better it is. Everything is smooth but not too tight, and she’s properly supported instead of just being covered. If you’re wearing a bra in the first place, you want it to give you support, not just act like a vest for your boobs.


Take a closer look. The gore is tacking (that’s bra-fit jargon for “lays flat against your chest”), the wires neatly define the underside of her breast, which means they can do their job of providing support and shape, and the top of the cup makes a perfectly smooth line with her natural shape. This is a really good fit.


From this angle, you can see that the underwire follows the shape of her breast. If the wire were too far forward, it would be sitting on breast tissue, and if it were too far back, it would be cutting into her armpit. As it is, it’s exactly where it needs to be.


Compare this shot with the same angle from the teal bra. See how the gore is completely flush instead of standing out in space?


This is a much better amount of band stretch. It’s perhaps a little too stretchy for my taste, but it’s snug enough that it provides good support (and this is a Victoria’s Secret bra, which are notoriously stretchy anyway), and in any case I’m not the one wearing it.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about bra fit.

Special thanks to my lovely model!

The Monoculture of Molded Cups

Recently, I took my friend shopping to find her a bra that fits, and I’m appalled at the general state of American bras. It has been 13 years since I went bra shopping myself, so while I knew it was bad, I didn’t know it was THAT bad. (As discussed in my previous post, I resized myself in 2000 and I’ve been ordering bras from England ever since.)

My friend is not an unusual size! I measured her at 32DD – she’d been wearing a 34C, which isn’t too far off, but was definitely too small. 34C is equivalent in volume to a 32D, so she was only one cup volume off. Still, the center front, also known as the gore, on her 34C would not lay flat; she could easily stick a finger through the gap. That usually means that the cup is too small. The solution in American stores is to size up the band, not the cup, because we have such a small range of cup sizes. Sizing up in the band does increase the cup volume, because cup size is relative to band size, but it doesn’t solve the problem of a floating gore. It’ll just create different problems, such as the band riding up and forcing the wearer to shorten the straps in order to get any support.

We went to the mall to visit JC Penney, Frederick’s, and Kohl’s, and good god the selection was awful. Molded bras as far as the eye can see! I had to really dig to find bras made of fabric, not molded foam, and a lot of those were full-cup matronly styles which don’t work for my friend. Every single molded bra was terrible; she is full on bottom, so even when the cup volume was mostly correct, the top of the bra gaped badly. I don’t understand why molded bras are so popular! It seems like they’d fit only a small number of women who happen to have breasts that are already the shape of the molded cups.

Also, there were zero bras in a 32 band, let alone 32DD. I may have seen one 32A, but that was it. Kohl’s doesn’t even carry anything in a 32. ARGH. There are so many people who need 32, 30, and 28 bands! I wear a 32, and there are lots of people smaller than me. By far the most common bands were 34, 36, 38, and 40. You could find 42 and 44 in the “full figured” section, but even those are rare.

I would have loved to put her in a 32DD, but it was nonexistent, and she doesn’t have a Nordstrom nearby. We even considered going to (sigh) Victoria’s Secret on the theory that they might go down to 32, but we were pretty tired at the end and it was on the other side of town. She did find one bra in 34D that fits pretty well; the center front is flush against her ribcage, which none of the other couple dozen bras were. It’s a proper seamed bra, not a molded cup, so it conforms to her shape and there’s no weird gap at the top. It’s boring and beige and not pretty like a lot of the molded cup bras, which have attractive false corset seams and exciting colors and trims, but it fits, which makes all the difference. Still: ONE BRA out of more than two dozen. How does that make sense?

Seriously, this should not be that hard.

In which I chronicle the state of the American bra industry

Spoilers: it’s bad.

I mean, I knew it was bad. I’ve known it was bad since 2000, when I found an English bra calculator online and decided to stop putting up with the awful matronly “minimizer” bras in 34DDD that I could only find at distant outlet shops and made me feel dowdy and terrible. I don’t remember what caused me to look online in the first place, but I do remember being shocked at two things: my new size (30G), and finding multiple bras in my size. Bras in exciting colors! Not white or beige! Heady with all the options, I went for the one that was most unlike anything I’d ever worn: a super sexy plunge bra in gold. It had flames on it, people.

Hang on, I think I still have it. Lemme see if I can dig it out for you.


...but why pads?When I tried it on, it was a revelation in fit. Up until that point, I had no idea that bras could fit and feel good. It stayed put all day, without the band riding up. I didn’t have to shorten the straps so much that they dug in painfully. Most surprising of all, the center front was perfectly flat. All my other bras stuck out a good three inches at the center front. I didn’t know that a flat CF was even possible.

Since that first proper bra thirteen years ago, I haven’t set foot in an American bra shop. (With the exception of Nordstrom, but they are expensive and even though they carry British bras, their range isn’t great. I’ve been all of twice, I think.) I’ve done all my lingerie shopping online, first through Maple Drive and then through Bravissimo. I’ve learned a lot about style and fit, and what works and what doesn’t for my particular shape. (More on that in another post.)

Recently, I took a friend shopping to find her a bra. This was my first real experience trying to find a bra that fits in brick and mortar stores in over a decade. As I said at the top, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad. I’ll tell that story in my next post.