Your boobs, man. What they are all about? Are they noncompliant or are you doing it wrong? Why are they so hard to literally pin down to your chest? Because they are boobs and you are you. Good news: There is a company working on that, and they may have cracked this boob conundrum wide open.
Likely for years now you've been reading articles about how you're wearing the wrong bra size. Stories such as, "New Study Proves That 80% of All Women Are in the Wrong Size Bra" with alarming subheads such as "Results Give Additional Insights on How Bad it Really Is." Then, "O's Bra Intervention" told us that 85% of women were living lives in error, their boobs carelessly arranged on their chests.
HuffPo has dutifully let us know that women continue to make bra mistakes every day. EVERY DAY we are living a boob lie. They quote a piece from Women's Wear Daily that says it's actually only 64% of women who are in the wrong size, but the upside is that 29% of them know it. THEY ACTUALLY KNOW, like some kind of bad bra Stockholm syndrome.
But a piece at The Cut protested all this bra-ha-ha. Maureen O'Connor writes in "Stop Telling Us We're Wearing the Wrong Bra Size":
The system was not invented to confuse. (The disparity between a band's inch measurement and its numerical size is a vestige from garment-construction practices. The size corresponds with the inch measurement of the area above your breasts, like so.) But its opacity aids sales nonetheless. Victoria's Secret hosts regular bra sizing events to get shoppers into their stores. Women describe their new bras as revelations. "It can change your life," Jezebel exclaims. Getting a new bra size "literally performs miracles. It can reverse aging. It can make you look ten, even twenty pounds lighter," Oprah says. We are told that the moment a sales girl instructs us to discard every single bra we already own to purchase all news ones is, in fact, liberation.
That is ridiculous.
Yes, a bra that fits is better than one that does not. Yes, a good bra can make elements of your life more pleasant. Yes, some women have great difficulty finding bras that fit, and when they do find them, it makes them really happy. Good for them.
She goes onto write that if a bra looks and feels good, it fits fine but does not need to be an orgasmic revelation of correctness. But for many women that is simply not the case, and a combination of not knowing how bra sizing works or feeling pressured to be a 36C has probably really left a lot of women in an ill-fitting bra lurch they are desperate to remedy, if only someone would give them the real 411 on how to hoist.
Consider all this as you gaze upon True & Co., an online bra shop we told you about back in 2012. A new Fast Company profile catches up with founder Michelle Lam, who is determined to simplify the process, if any process that has identified 6,000 distinct female body types can be called simple. She takes user feedback on the ins and outs of bra fit, and, with a handful of questions, delivers a sample of bras that should come startlingly close to what you'd get with a professional fitter. It's being called the Netflix or Warby Parker of bra companies. Writes author Jillian Goodman:
Bra shopping has never been a very satisfying experience for women, who are often faced with oversexualized advertising, inexperienced bra fitters, and harshly lit dressing rooms. But the problems begin with the way bras are sized. "It doesn't matter if you are a 32C or a 32B; the band and cup size tell only half the story," Lam explains. What neither metric accounts for is the curvature of the breast (shallow or full) or the weight distribution of the breasts (where they sit on a woman's chest). This is where the biggest variation occurs among women, meaning that even a bra in your size might cause you to spill over or have fat rolls under your arms or straps that won't stay up—and in ways both physical and psychological, make a woman look less attractive.
Right on. The takeaway here is that "in your size" means nothing. Hell, can I just reiterate that I'm blown away that Lam says they've identified 6,000 different female body types. There are not enough fruits in the known universe to cover that. Also: Not at all surprised that "Dark bras outsell light bras by a ratio of three to one."
I think for some women bra fit is probably a no-brainer. But not for me. Not for a lot of us! I've bought many a tried-on bra that seemed to look and feel good in my "size," only to wear it a bit after adjustments and so on and discover that I can't ever bend over without my left boob falling out. Or that throughout the day it shifts in such a way that goes from totally desirable coverage to weird, overly lascivious cleavage I have to stuff back down on the reg.
Of course, I should note that all of this heinousness has largely occurred after nursing a baby. Well, before nursing a baby I had the left boob problem always, but since then, every day is a left boob day if you get my meaning. But reading all the science on bra fit has me realizing that I have literally not understood exactly how fit works best.
Fast Company breaks down some terminology I wasn't familiar with until recently, like "center gore" — where the underwire meets in the center of the bra and "banana pad" — the push-up part of the push-up bra. Also, as you already knew, contrary to what every bra ad on TV ever looks like, less than half of women want more than a modest padding.
All this reminds me of a wildly popular blog post over at sameatschildren that still circulates in my feed sometimes from over a year go about how to get your true bra size. It is extremely specific and detailed, and outlines in clear loveliness and moxie what a bra should fit like, including the center gore and quad-boob avoidance, like so:
I like it because it tells you things like:
ALWAYS SCOOP AND SWOOP BEFORE ASSESSING WHETHER IT FITS OR NOT. What does this mean? This means bend over, hike up your bra so that it sits right under the root of your breasts. Then, start smooshing all your back fat and armpit rolls or any loose tissue thats underneath or to the side of the cup, INTO the cup. All that stuff is breast tissue that got pushed around from your shitty bras, no I am not bullshitting - after a few months of wearing better bras, many people end up having to get a bigger cup and sometimes even a smaller band too, as all the smooshed breast tissue migrates back to the boob, where it should be. Not kidding. So get everything in there and make sure the wire is positioned perfectly under your boobs. Then stand up and assess the fit. If it seemed to fit before scooping, it won't fit now.
But does not try to make it seem so piece-of-cake:
THIS IS JUST A STARTING POINT. Try on your starting size and work from there. You may need to go up or down a band size, or up or down many cup sizes. Not all brands or even models in that brand are made the same way, and the shape of your boobs also helps determine the size and fit, so don't try on JUST the size you calculated, say "it doesn't fit", and then give up and go back to your 36Cs. You aren't doing yourself any favours. If you don't feel comfortable in your 'starting point size', go ahead and try a size up or down in bands and/or a size or two or even three up or down in cups as needed.
I also just enjoy instructions that are kinda shouty for some reason. Anyway, there's other great advice, as well as extensive troubleshooting tips. Maybe no one will ever solve everyone's bra issues, but this is a fantastic start down the right path. And taken together, all this EXTRA SUPPORT feels really supportive in a good way. Like, the kind that will hold my boobs up right and let me face the world better.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby