Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A post about Boob Sizes

"To avoid booby traps, stay away from bras" Jarod Kintz

    A young girl getting her first bra is commonly understood as a sort of Rite of Passage in America. Posh mommies may take their blossoming daughter to a department store for her first soft cup, cool and stylish mothers hit up Victoria's Secret for their smallest (and least sexy) push up, and the rest of us tend to find ourselves selecting something practical from Target or Walmart that we secretly hope to not get much wear out of before we have to size up.

   I would like to propose a second lingerie Rite of Passage: when a woman finally learns about bra fit and learns her real bra size.  Somewhere around 80% of women in America are wearing the wrong bra size. It really isn't a surprise when you consider how warped clothing sizes tend to be, but at least bra sizing is fairly well standardized within countries with a few brands having their own weird exceptions. Are we just a country of ladies who don't understand how to properly use a tape measure? Not at all, but we are a country of women being pandered to by a company focused on squishing us into a narrow range of bra sizes. No, Victoria's Secret isn't entirely to blame.  I could wax poetic for hours on here about how society messes with women's view of their own bodies, but if you wanted to read that you'd be reading a sociological journal and not a blog. So VS's warped business tactics are a great (and reasonably short) thing to talk about.

I'll start with a very brief 101 on how to determine your bra size (go here for a more in-depth and accurate guide, because there is more to it for the best fit).

  1. Measure your underbust, that area around your ribcage just beneath your boobs (if your boobs are larger, make sure you lift them up and get underneath them): that is your band size.
  2. Measure the area around your chest at the fullest part of your boobs, make a note of that number.
  3. Math time! Bust Measurement - Underbust Measurement = letter value. 1=A, 2=B, etc
  4. Example: hypothetical woman has a 34" underbust measurement and a 38" bust measurement. 38-34 = 4, so her size is a 34D. Tada.
    That is bra sizing in a very condensed nutshell. I really recommend checking out the linked bra size calculator if you haven't yet, as there are a few other measurements used in finding The Size before you go try things on. So Victoria's Secret, in their desire to get more money and carve a hunk out of the boob market, decided not to use the standard way of measuring. Sure, their bra sizes are standard, but if you ask their sales associates or use their measuring guide on their website you won't actually be able to find the bra that fits you best. To find your underbust measurement, they have you measuring OVER your boobs across your chest. Huh? I decided to plug my measurements into their bra calculator and find out what size they say I should be:
  1. Measuring over the chest: 33", rounding down as instructed to 32"
  2. Measuring over the boobs: 34"
  3. VS calculator says: 32B.
Yes, that technically follows the subtraction and letter value of bra sizing, but using the weird over-chest measurement gave me a size that I am quite clearly, not. What size am I, you wonder?

I wear a 28E or 30DD.

I usually wear a 30DD because 28E is even harder to find (they're sister sizes, contain the same volume, the good bra sizing link explains it).

Let me bold this again and repeat it: Victoria's Secret's messed up bra sizing method said I am a 32B, I actually wear a size 30DD bra.

    Now why would VS do a thing like that? Create their own strange bra measuring system that puts people in too large band sizes and too small cup sizes? So they don't have to make as many sizes. VS doesn't make band sizes below 32, so why risk measuring me as that size when they can't make money off of me? And you know an easy (but uncomfortable) way to make cleavage look a lot more impressive than it really is? Put it in a cup that is too small. VS is calling it cleavage, but lets call it what it really is: a boob muffin-top.

    VS's dominance in the American market (this is why I mentioned America specifically above, I never had this hell finding proper bras in the UK) and their obsession with mis-sizing women has led us, male and female, to have a warped understanding of what a "big boobs" size really is. If you noticed when we did the proper measuring guide above, bra size is a ratio of the bust and underbust sizes, so if you just tell me a band size or a cup letter I have no idea if they are big boobs!

No idea where this picture is from, but it does accurately show people's bad perception of
bra sizes. I wonder what people would think if they knew my "Double Dang" boobs are actually
small enough that I can do jumping jacks without a bra and not hurt myself!
     Anytime I mention my bra sizes to other women online (who aren't in-the-know on bra sizes, that is, so really...most women) they're like "Wow! You have big boobs!" or they try to commiserate with my "big boob problems". I don't have big boobs, not at all. I don't have big boob problems. My sports bra isn't industrial strength and I can go bra-less without it being all that risque or painful from lack of support. But having big boobs is desirable, and it doesn't help marketing to acknowledge that it isn't as simple as "higher letter, bigger tits, sexier woman". One woman's 34DD are exponentially larger than my 30DD. I mean damn, someone who wears a 36C bra has larger boobs than my 30DD ones. Letter doesn't mean shit unless there is a band size attached to it.

    But its not like Victoria's secret actually cares about silly things like proper fit. I mean, even their models in their advertisements don't wear bras that fit properly! Don't believe me? Check out this blog write-up about some, or this blog about their model's fit. And while we're talking about blogging about fit, her is a good (NSFW!) blog entry from a bra-blogger about her experiences "getting fitted" for a bra at Victoria's Secret. At the end she also has links to other bra-bloggers' discussions about VS, their fit, and their issues.

So what inspired this rant all of a sudden? 

I lost weight!

    Yep, I lost weight and my old bras didn't fit anymore. Anytime you lose or gain weight outside of the normal daily fluctuations, you should re-measure yourself and see if your boobs and underbust have changed sizes. I lost 30lbs, going from around 150lbs to 120lbs since January, and my old bras didn't fit anymore. Which royally sucked. Living in th
e UK I was spoiled for choice of wonderful and well-fitting bras, and amassed a nice little stockpile in my easy-to-find size of 32D. 32D was annoying to find in the US, but at least most retailers had one or two in stock. I could mosey on into Victoria's Secret (hey, I hate their measuring and marketing, but their bras are decent enough when on sale) and snag one or two during the clearance sales.

    My new size, 28E or 30DD is technically the same volume as 32D, but my boobs decided to be strange and kinda reshape themselves, so I can't even really "make it work" as Tim Gunn would say.  Sadly, living in redneck nowhere-ville, our department stores are a bit lacking in the outlier sizes and had exactly zero size 30 band bras in stock (forget 28, they don't ever carry those. That one is even a bit rougher to find in the UK!). After much crying and many days of wearing sports bras in lieu of a real bra, I found an independent boutique that had a few size 30DD in stock!

Huzzah! I present to you: My new bras!

Top: " B.Wow'd" by b.tempt'd
Bottom: "Ciao Bella" by b.tempt'd
    I ended up buying two bras from Wacoal's young adult line called b.tempt'd. I owned two of their bras, including the B.Wow'd, in a 32D so I know that they have a quality that will stand up to a decent amount of wear. I really didn't get a choice on the colors because this is all that they had in stock! I didn't care, I would of gone with any color as long as I had a freakin' bra that fit. I don't even care that they have pink accents. And I hate pink, but I love them just because THEY FIT DAMMNIT!

    I love little independent stores because they often have little amenities to help them compete with the often more affordable big chain stores. The sales lady at this store threw in a free cookie for me. Not the edible kind, but the bra kind. A little padding insert you can use to give yourself lift on one or both sides. I need one on my right side, because that boob is just a wee bit smaller due to me being left-handed.

If you want to know more about boobie sizing, get some help finding bras, or are just bored and wanna talk bras, go check out A Bra That Fits on reddit! I'm going to go cuddle my bras and eat ice cream now.

1 comment:

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