Monday, September 24, 2012

Phat

When I was reading Steph's latest post (talk about moxy), I was reminded of this informative post, wherein I note a similar theme.

That theme is, and I hate this term: back fat. Egad! What is the world coming to when we can't find a more elegant name for such a thing? I'd settle for simply avoiding the topic!

In truth, though, it is a concern for many women. I know this because they email me about it. Or they talk to me about it over a drink. Or we discuss it at length when I'm goading them helping them to find the new bras that will undoubtedly improve their lives. (No, I'm not being bourgeois or glib.) People have the same kind of horrified response to "back fat" as they do to cellulite. Apropos of which, let me tell you a little story:

One day, a long time ago, I learned about a new cellulite product, purported to be revolutionary. Of course, the marketing grabbed me. (I am so at the mercy of good marketing and green potions with "microbeads".) Anyway, I went to the store and came home with this ridiculously expensive product, which was essentially caffeine-laced goo. It was a total pain in the ass to apply (pun intended). Before using it, I needed to exfoliate in the shower, then I had to wait till it soaked in or it would wreck my clothes. It smelled weird. About 3 minutes after I began my "slimming regime", I was reminded that I DON'T FUCKING CARE ABOUT CELLULITE. I have never once observed it on someone else and pitied her. It has never undercut the inherent sexiness of anyone I've ever met. Dammit, I'm half inclined to like my cellulite. I mean, it's hard won. BTW, I have slim legs. I'm known for my slim legs. And I exercise them daily. So if I have cellulite under these circumstances, who the fuck doesn't?

Anyway, I threw that shit in the garbage and started wearing short shorts. The Man's not gonna smother me. The end.

Which leads me, in a very round about way, to my next point:

So-called back fat can be the result of a number of factors, many of them out of your control. Some people just store body fat there. Others don't have fat, so much as they lack tone. It stands to reason that women who have large breasts as a result of weight (vs. those who are genetically predisposed) are more likely to carry flesh around the entire torso, not simply the breasts. The phenomenon seems to be enhanced by fluctuating hormones (pregnancy, peri-menopause). Short waisted women seem especially prone to it. And, one of the things that seems to pull said fat right out of the air, is a firm bra band. (You'll recall from 8 zillion previous posts, firm bra bands are de rigeur as far as I'm concerned.)

Alas - and here's the rub - women with large breasts (all women really, but this is pronounced amongst this subset) need a firm band to provide the support (along with good underwires and cups that fit and secure straps) required when they're carrying around quite a few pounds on the fronts of their chests. I'll go one step further. Depending on your tits and your overall shape, you might actually need a tight band. (Not cut-off-your circulation tight, but a couple of steps removed.)

Unless it is extremely observable - and, trust me, it generally isn't - I'm going to notice (and judge, let's tell it straight) your unsupported boobs 8000 times faster than I'll notice your back fat.

Why? Because I'm apt to see your tits first. Because saggy tits are unsightly and avoidable. And because I recognize that women have flesh on their torsos made somewhat more visible by the compression of specific parts of that torso. By contrast with the part of your back compressed by the bra band, your back below your bra band may have somewhat more profile than you'd like. But it's not wrong and it's not unattractive (unless it's excessive, let me reiterate. And "excessive" is generally the result of a poor fitting bra.)

I did an experiment recently on my mother. The woman's gonna smack me when she reads this but, as she's on the Camino for the next 5 weeks, I'm going to take my life into my hands. My mother is - sorry Ma - a total wuss when it comes to supportive bra bands. Lord, it's thankless shopping with her. I won't get into the details but she really can't get with the "I can feel my bra band and it's ok" philosophy.

When I visited recently we went shopping for new bras. (Despite the fact that she doesn't appreciate my methods, I'm the only one she'll bra shop with. Go figure.) We found a few that fit really nicely - uplifting, nice shape, attractive - but my mother was unconvinced. For starters, the band was so "noticeable", said she. She was also unhappy that we sized up in a cup and sized down in the band on the premise that she didn't like the new letter. It didn't matter that I explained how cup size is volume based and is always linked to band size. Smaller band = smaller volume in the cup, which is why we have to size up in one when we size down in the other.

Anyway, I couldn't stand it anymore. I made her put on her old bra (loose band, stretched to hell), took out a pen and marked the point at which her breasts abutted her torso. Then, I got her to put on the new bra and I marked the spot where her breasts abutted in it. The bra with the band that fit had her breasts up 4 inches higher than the other.

This isn't rocket science people. It's simple engineering. FYI, she bought the new bra.

(BTW, don't you think that was a smart way to prove my point?! Pictures speak louder than words.)

OK, back to back fat. If it comes down to elevating your breasts by 4 inches vs. seeing a bit of differentiation between the part of your torso covered by a bra strap and the part of your torso above and below it, I'll let you decide which you prefer.

Now, I'm not all: back fat exists, deal with it. I do have ideas about how to mitigate its appearance and to improve smoothness under clothing by choosing the most appropriate undergarments. And I don't mean Spanx.

This is the subject of my next post so please stay tuned.

And do let me know about your thoughts on this topic. I sense it brings up a lot of strong feelings so I'd like to know which of you are on my side of the fence (it's no big deal) and which of you shiver at the thought of it.

47 comments:

  1. Love this post! I have actual back rolls, only partly caused by my well fitting bra and partly by too much chocolate. It does, in fact, horrify me into exercise. But it won't be the first thing people notice about me, because a) i normally cover it up with clothing, b) i normally greet people face first, and c) if i happen to be seen from the back, it won't be my back fat that draws attention but my ample rump.
    I totally agree that a well fitting bra is the best thing. I thought Steph looked great in her pics, btw, and it was really interesting to see the different fits.
    And, thank you for the new word. Being over 40 i had to look up moxy.

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  2. Let me say how much I admire a woman who has rolls as a result of chocolate consumption. Way to enjoy your life!

    And I totally agree that Steph looks great. More to the point, her willingness to put it all out there will result in so many women wearing better fitting bras, I'm sure.

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  3. Haaaha... Moxy. You're such a 1940's gangster. :)

    Thanks for that, and for your email help and support with all of this... I didn't realize it was such an interesting topic!

    As for back fat, well, I think you are very sensible. Very sensible. But you're so right about the elevation and support, now that I know "tight bands" are a thing and how great they are (thank you for introducing me!) I'm all about the tighter bands.

    Also, thanks for the permission to have a bit of squidge. It really, really helps. :)

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    1. I really am! (40s gangsta AND sensible) :-)

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  4. So interesting! I noticed my back fat last year when I had just made a top that sort of made it so you could see it a lot better. Oh well! It's back fat and it's really not that bad. I've always been in the camp of having a tight band - for those of us with small chests we have what seems to be the opposite where the blasted band will ride if not tight enough. I've seen so many women with ill-fitting bras and its so sad! You are so right! Great topic. I look forward to your follow up post with great anticipation!
    xoxo, Sunni

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    1. I think the loose band / ride up scenario is universal. It's just so much more noticeable on the large breasts :-)

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  5. Yes. I've always been on the side of the band needs to be tight to hold things up. I refuse to get "help" fitting bras in most stores since most of the sales associates are trained in the "add 5 inches" method. Then nothing fits, and I feel bad not buying a bra after they went to all the trouble to "fit" me. Then again, I carry my most prominent rolls in other places, like my front after having had 3 kids in 5 years. I don't have the time or energy to worry about back fat, and if someone else is looking there and critiquing me for it, I don't have time or energy for them either.

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    1. First off, OMG - 3 kids in 5 years and you blog and make clothes. Pat your self on the back! And I too carry the prominent roll elsewhere. Just below my naval actually. So much camoflauge! :-)

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  6. Mua-haha. Thank you for making me laugh today. Well, since I have been making what seems like a hundred test bras and talking to friends and my husband about them (and my dear friends are really starting to worry about me) I can "see" a bad bra fit a mile away. It's a terrible disease. I once bought a bra that claimed to remove unsightly bra back lines (what's the bra version of vpl?) and squishy squishy. And all it did was ride up my back and fall off the front. And I don't have much to begin with. I'm curious, though, because I'm wanting to make some custom bras for friends who I know are well over a D and in denial about it, do longer lines help with this? I notice a lot of my larger friends wear such small bra bands and I wonder if it'd feel more comfortable if the band was longer. Perhaps this helps with the bra lines too?

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    1. Thank you for laughing here! I know what you mean about spotting bad bra fit. I have to stop myself from taking women aside to have a little chat. Cuz, let's face it, it's none of my business how they hoist their boobs. I think you should keep in mind that I have not had success making my own bras (as yet) because the materials I've been able to find are not supportive enough. Good RTW brands for large breasts are VASTLY superior. I continue to search for a good long line bra that works on a small back with deep breasts. The only brands that are making them are Panache (Cleo) and Freya. And those bras are more midline and they also have padded cups. The really great longline bras are only in the 34-38 D range (for the upper sizes). That's very limited.

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  7. We have already had this discussion so I won't go on at length... But I have to say, I wish I lived near you so we could go bra shopping together - because we diverge on such a minor point that I've suddenly realized is entirely subjective. I'm curious if what I consider "too tight" is actually what you consider "just right"... or if you would agree that there is indeed such a thing as too tight? Something we could only determine in person!

    For the record, I totally agree with the logic that optimal fit shouldn't be sacrificed for fear of back fat... and you know I agree with the importance of a well-fitted bra. But because I'm currently suffering through breaking in several bras that I bought tighter than I prefer in the band, which I CAN'T WAIT to rip off every evening (a truly miserable experience I've never had before), I do feel the need to state again for the record that I can't abide the idea that an uncomfortable or painful bra is a well-fitted one.

    (Of course recognizing the distinction between discomfort that occurs when something is new/unfamiliar and fades with time, vs. inherent discomfort that lasts.)

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    1. Katy: I thought of you when I wrote this because I didn't want you to think I am in any way dismissive of our conversations or your perspectives. Of course, whenever I shop with someone, I recognize that bra fit is about more than lift (though not much more :-)) It's about feeling comfortable enough to wear the bra for long periods of time. I've been doing a bit of research and I think the reason we differ in our perspectives (aside from the fact that we're both allowed to have our own opinions) is that you are quite young, lean and probably muscular in your torso. See the latest post on the Butterfly Bras blog for why tight bands can be a challenge for that body type.

      If your fat to muscle ratio changes in middle age (as it might)and/or gravity takes hold, you may find yourself in my camp. :-) (BTW, that makes me sound like a troll, which I am not!)

      Till then, know that what you're wearing is probably very nicely fitted (knowing you) and suitable for the shape you have right now.

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    2. Oh gosh - please, please, never think of censoring yourself on my account - it's your space, and I only reveal my opinions because I know that you invite discussion. I don't flatter myself to think that anything is directed at me :-)

      (In truth, the only reason I ended up clicking post on that comment was due to the adrenaline of squirming under that damn bra all afternoon... I figured perhaps there would be some humour in it, lol.)

      That's such an interesting point that you make, about age/body composition... I have to admit I don't generally consider myself lean (and I'm certainly not muscular in the torso - at least, not at the moment) but I suppose in the grand scheme I am moderately so, and just shy of 30. (Do we consider that quite young? If so, I'm glad... I've been getting a lot of "you're not a spring chicken anymore" kind of talk lately... in jest, but still.) It will be very interesting to see how this whole subject evolves for me with time.

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    3. We definitely consider that quite young. And consider that we are 13 years apart in age. I've had a child (when I was your age). The combo of 13 yrs of gravity plus size fluctuations associated with having a kid are not negligible. Furthermore, while I'm generally quite toned in my back, I've been woefully remiss with my yoga since my sewing and knitting takes up most of my time. That makes a difference too.

      I'm not knocking my own shape. I think I look great! :-) But there are differences that come with age and stage and life/fitness choices at any given moment in time.

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    4. Just thinking - maybe one of those expanders (just a mini mini extension) might make the breaking in process more bearable. I'm trying to 'break in' several non bra items at the moment and barring the jeans I'm starting to think its all lies! grr the frustration! But bra band pain is too distracting and too uncomfortable to put up with for long.

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  8. Really interesting - thanks for all the thought you've put into this!

    My two cents worth... I definitely agree that the band is what holds you up (otherwise it's the straps - ouch!). Any jiggles you might have at the back can also be mitigated by wearing tops that suit. For example, tops that *skim* rather than stretch over your curves.

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  9. It's a very interesting debate and I think you get a point here: sizing is a delicate subject to handle as many women will get worked up simply because of numbers (me first, I'm trying to get over it but it will take a long time to forget all these years of wrong advice and poor body image).
    I totally agree with you about tight bands: I discovered it very simply a few years ago: it's either tight and it supports my small breast or it's not on my band ends up halfway on my shoulder blades. So tighter they will be! and to hell with the back fat, I'd rather not have any but at least it means that I wear a bra.

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    1. Those numbers can be so affecting - which is crazy cuz they're also so misleading!

      You're corroborating Sunni's perspective that, on a small chested body, the tight band is equally important to you. Thanks for your perspective...

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  10. I like the girls to be well supported for the same reason I try to keep my shoes polished- I think those are the first couple of things I notice about people. (well, women for sure. I would definitely notice if a man was wearing a bra, no matter how supportive it was. )
    I am looking forward to your next post and I am hoping you feel inspired soon, for selfish reasons of course. I was planning on going bra shopping tonight. :)

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    1. Oh, so right! I'll do what I can to put up the next post soon. It remains to be seen if that will be tonight or tomorrow...

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  11. Sometimes it seems our enculturated self-hatred knows no bounds. . . .so it's encouraging to see you and many of your commenters here refuse to take on the nonsense about back fat. I'm with you on the cellulite as well -- it's an either/or genetic thing, I'm pretty sure. I have scarcely any, yet my girls have it in their 30s, taking after their paternal grandma. Yes, they wonder why I couldn't have figured out how to pass those genes along and skipped some others, but it would be ridiculous for them to spend any bucks or emotional energy trying to get rid of what Mother N put there for whatever reasons.
    When I get to To, someday, we're going bra-shopping as well, right?

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    1. I know. Yet another thing to worry about.

      And of course we will go bra shopping! I just hope I haven't oversold my talents :-)

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  12. I have only recently come into the land of back fat, so I have no idea how to feel about it. It is back there and I don't have to look at it everyday, so I can ignor it most of the time. I have historically been thin and flat-chested so much of the bra fitting is also foreign to me. This has been compounded by the fact that I came of age in the no-bra era. I have added weight through the years and now have what I would call a "medium sized" bust. I have tried the tight band philosophy you and Steph support, but I can't breath. As for underwires, I have never found any that are comfortable. (That may be due to having the wrong size band.) What is the trick for being able to breath? (Or do I just need to "suck it up" and get used to it?)

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    1. Thank goodness I missed most of the no-bra era! Not that my era was much better.

      There are certain women who really struggle with a firm band (they perceive it as flat out tight). Who am I to undercut that? I'd suggest that you read the post I suggested to Ms. Modiste, above. It might speak to you.

      I will say that I think there's a certain degree of acclimatization. If you've never worn a firm band, starting now may be tough but you will likely come to appreciate it - or at least be unbothered by it.

      Intriguingly, my own kid (who recently started wearing a bra) was very reticent about firm bands at first. I persisted and, recently, when I was only able to find a couple of unpadded options with less firm bands than she'd previously worn, she countered with: These bras aren't particularly supportive, are they? So it didn't take her long to jump on the band wagon and she has very little fat on her torso (which is muscular) and not much to hold up.

      I have always really like the suction a very firm band provides. Maybe that's cuz I'm not sensitive. Maybe I'm just so bamboozled by the way my boobs look, that everything else fades.

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  13. ok, this post made me laugh. back fat is a fact of life. sadly i have MORE than back fat to contend with, but i do what i can.

    like you, i think the front view of the boobs is of PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE. the rear view might not be as good, but if the front view looks great i think it is worth it. one can always wear sweaters, vests, and jackets to camouflage the back fat problem.

    now what to do with this muffin top???? lol! i am pretty good at disguising the less-than-lovely parts of this old body, but then the boyfriend complains that i should wear tighter clothes to show my shape. argh! i think he means SHAPES, as this formerly chubby hourglass-ish figure has is morphing into something less appealing!

    p.s. i can't stand spanx. i just can't do it. they HURT!!!! if you have other undergarment tips, i would love to hear them!

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    1. OK, J, one body camouflage issue at a time! And I think you should indulge your boyfriend occasionally :-)

      I also loathe Spanx.

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  14. For sure as I've gotten older, I've gotten more squishy. So a tight that would have been uncomfortable when I was younger is less uncomfortable now.

    That said, I'm gonna stand with those who say that clothes should be comfortable (as defined by the wearer!) Let me add this voice to this conversation: love your beautiful breasts that were once full and wealthy with milk and are now gentle, wrinkled, and sweet with age.

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    1. aww..

      wondered if I was stepping out a little far with this one ...

      but, dang it, if we don't SAY that our natural bodies are lovely, we'll never believe it.

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  15. I picked the wrong couple of days to get swamped with work.

    I really couldn't care at all about a little softness at my back. My clothing cover it, my bathing suit even covers what needs covering, and my husband finds me sexy. We dress to look our best and the kind of picture Steph was taking wasn't intended to look her best, which is why it's freaking scary to take pictures like that. She's a brave girl.

    Now to read the more current post...

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  16. your cellulite cream story slayed me. every time i see serena (or hell maybe it's venus, i suck at remembering which goddess i'm watching) on the tennis court, with her amazing legs that have cellulite, i'm all WOW. it's something women have. we need to get over it!

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    1. Oh, I should have mentioned that! I mean, if that woman has cellulite, everyone else has to STFU.

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  17. Fat, shifting, sagging, cellulite, it all happens although some get plagued with one variety more than another. It seems there are a million ways to hate our bodies. Getting a well fitting bra and wearing clothes that fit in a flattering way does wonders though, for the figure and the confidence. Someone needs to keep beating on that drum long enough for people to hear the song.

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    1. Honestly, it seems that the older I get, the more I like the way I look - despite how everything is supposedly falling apart. I have no time for it. I'd much rather spend the effort learning how to sew and knit gorgeous things that highlight what I've got going for me.

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  18. Suddenly you are my new girl crush. How did I miss this post the first time around? I wear a 38F (I have to special order my bras) and back rolls are absolutely unavoidable because of it. But hell to the no on saggy breasts. Saggy breasts make you look more fat than anything else! And cellulite is noticeable because there's muscle underneath, plain and simple.

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  19. Yay! I love being a girl crush! Do you order online from Figleaves or BraStop or Large Cup Lingerie? They'd have awesome options in that size and LCL doesn't even charge shipping.

    Good point on the nature of cellulite. I forgot that. Makes it seem that much more desirable still!

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    1. My husband was all "get the long line bra from figleaf!!" so I'm gonna. Who's gonna argue with their husband on that score?

      I will check out the other ones, thank you.

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    2. When your husband is helping with the bra choices, it's all good!

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  20. Ok. You have just shamed me into putting in a bra order. It is long overdue.

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    1. NO SHAME ALLOWED! Only the fun of online shopping which leaves you with a gorgeous profile in your outfits :-)

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  21. Love love love this post! Pity you couldn't take pictures if your mum to illustrate (like she would have allowed you to!)

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    1. Wow, Imogen, that's high praise coming from you! And my mother may yet disown me, so I don't think pics are in the cards. :-)

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  22. I love the story about buying the bra for your Mom. Remember when you convinced me (January 2010) to buy some decent bras? That one change changed my entire attitude about style.

    As for back fat, that's where my fat goes so I look forward to this series!

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    1. How could I forget! It's so much fun to help people find their happy-making bras :-) xo

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