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!”

“Thanks!”

“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.