Friday, May 10, 2013

Ask The Bra Fitter: An Intro from Veronica and Some Answers To Questions


Hey Y'all: I'm delighted to share an intro from Veronica, and responses to the first two (of many) bra-related questions posed by readers of this blog:

Veronica's Preamble:

First off, I'd like to say a little about my personal conception of bra-fitting. In my opinion the ideal fitting experience should be educational, collaborative and empowering. A good fitter will explain how a bra should fit and discuss particular features of a client's body shape that may effect her choice of bras. Involving the client in this process encourages education, which speeds along subsequent fittings and gives each woman a guideline for shopping elsewhere (i.e., she'll know if she's being hoodwinked into a bad bra).

Fitting should be collaborative because the right choice of bra is never based entirely on technical fit-points. Aspects such as comfort and aesthetics are rather personal, and a fitter can't provide for them unless she communicates with her client. I've never felt comfortable making decisions for clients, instead I prefer to work with them to find what they need. I can make sure the bra is fitting a client, but I can't tell her how a bra feels on her body, nor can I dictate an ideal shape, style or colour. The most I can do is discuss why she wants a bra to fit a certain way, to ensure that there are no obvious indications of discomfort and to offer my opinion on aesthetics. If a client feels better with a slightly looser band, prefers a round to perky shape, or doesn't want to wear a bra at all, that's her prerogative. 

I'm glad that bra fitting has gained exposure through the media (e.g. Oprah, Double Divas), but I'm always a little annoyed by the fact that these expert fitters often present themselves as infallible and that the women being fit are sometimes characterized as foolish for not wearing the correct size. Most women aren't buying badly fitted bras intentionally, they're buying badly fitted bras because they aren't being offered a full range of sizes and aren't aware that there is a whole other world outside of the conventional "bra matrix" (32-36 A-DD). Bra fitting does require the development of particular skills and knowledge (interpersonal relations, spacial awareness, detail orientation and patience), but the only difference between myself and K-line is my level of experience and product knowledge. (Ed. Note: Way to encourage my fanaticism!) I think fitters will always be necessary as they are able to draw on experience and knowledge which most laypeople don't have. Nonetheless, I believe fit education is key as it empowers women to buy well.

Now onto a couple of questions...

Courtney writes:

Hi!  Thank you so much for doing this feature!  I have a questions that's been plaguing me for years.  Where should my underwire ride?  I realized I was wearing the wrong sized bra when I noticed that my underwire was riding 2 full inches below where my breast tissue stops.  But even now that I've been properly sized and have some great bras that fit my shape well, there are still spots where it seems to be riding low.  Is it a problem with sizing, or my boob shape?  My boobs do seem to have a flat spot on the bottom, towards the middle, and that's where it's the worst :)  If it is my boobs, what do I do about it, or do I even need to do anything?

Hello! Thanks for asking. Ideally the underwires should tuck just under the breasts without any gaps. This placement encourages the maximum amount of lift and support and is usually the most comfortable. Reasons for the wire riding low include:
  • a too-loose band (because the bra can't anchor itself to your body, it is able to float around), and
  • the wrong wire shape (a narrow wire on a woman with a wider breast shape will pinch at the sides and gap at the bottom, an overly broad wire on a women with narrow breasts will usually gap at the sides). 
If the back of your bra is snug enough it will sit straight across your back and stay in place when you move around. So if the problem is the wires, I'd suggest trying some different brands. I'm not sure of your size range or shape, but for a narrower wire try Simone Perele (smaller bust) or Freya (fuller bust) and for a wider wire try Marie Jo (smaller bust) or Prima Donna (fuller bust). While there are many companies out there that cater to different shapes, there are still many many more shapes of women. So if your bra feels supportive and comfortable but there is still a small gap despite trying new styles, don't worry! In bra fitting we strive for perfection, but like all other areas, perfection is rarely achievable!

(Ed note: This table may be useful as a reference for wire-width.)

Marsha wants to know:

Burning question - why is it impossible for me to find a bra that doesn't eventually slide off my shoulders if I move around and actually perform life actions? I've been told that this happens because my bra band is too loose, but it happens with bras whose bands, if they were any tighter, would prevent me from breathing without effort. (We'll talk about uplift, minimizing, etc., some other time.) P.S. The only bra "expert" I ever knew was the somewhat flaky sister of one of my daughter's friends, who worked at an underwear outlet store and had purportedly been trained, but whose opinion I could never see myself respecting. Is there a degree or certification or something that bra experts can get to vouch for their ability.

Do you have narrow or sloping shoulders? If your bra is snug enough to anchor the bra to your body, the problem may be the bra straps themselves. I'd suggest trying a bra with inset straps. This refers to straps that are positioned more at the center of the cup (like with a full cup and some plunges) rather than off to the sides (like with a demi or a balconette). A wider-set strap on narrower or sloped shoulders will almost always fall off (except those of my beloved Empreinte which angles the straps on its balconettes so that they are more centrally positioned at the back of the bras).

As to bra experts, most bra-fitting courses I've seen are tied to a brand. For example, Eveden (they own Freya, Fantasie, Fauve, Huit, Elomi and Goddess) has a fit school, which I think is pretty well-respected. However, if they only work with their own brands, it's cutting out a range of products that might be better suited to certain women. I'm wary of stores that only carry their name brand (i.e. Change Lingerie or Victoria's Secret) or only carry a very small range of sizes (the usual 32-36 A-DD), because those fitters don't have enough sizes and styles to match to the wide variations in women. When I train fitters the process can take up to 3 months and it involves "bra math" (figuring out sizes, working out conversions), extensive product knowledge, identifying which cuts and brands of bras work best with different body shapes and a lot of practice! So rather than looking for certificates or degrees, I'd be more interested to know how extensive their training is and make sure their store carries a good range of companies and sizes. Finally, there are quite a few fitters who want to fit properly and want to help women, but haven't been provided the training they deserve (shout out to the awesome saleswomen at La Senza who send clients my way rather than misfit them)!

So there you go - first in a series of these posts designed to help you with your burning bra questions. Wait. That came out wrong.

Keep asking and pls. do comment if you've found this useful!

15 comments:

  1. Yay! I loe this series! I had a totally geeky bra conversation with my sister the other day, about Bratabase and ordering bras from the UK... and everything I knew about bras came from you, Kristin! I never paid much attention to them, but I'm getting slowly drawn in....

    So I have a question to submit: I've always worn 36 or 38 bands, but then my sis mentioned she wears a 34... and when I looked up my under-bust measurements, I'm 34inches too. For years I think I wore 38s bc I didn't want a tight band to give me horrible back fat bumps! These days I"m wearing 36s... but should I try a smaller band? How tight is right? And is there any way to avoid the back fat issue? Help!

    THanks Ladies! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love geeky bra conversations! You are so sweet to let me know you've got some useful feedback on this blog. Great question, which I'll add to the list for V. I know what my perspective is. I wonder if Veronica will share it. OK, can't keep a secret, my bias is that you should be wearing a 34!

      Delete
  2. This information is fabulous! Thank you K-Line for hosting and Thank you Veronica for educating. ---the lop-sided anonymous :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting us know you enjoy the series! I'm so grateful to V for sharing her expertise with us.

      Delete
  3. Thanks Kristin for hosting Veronica. And thanks Veronica for the bra education.. This is really very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's see how V responds to your question, Kay!

      Delete
  4. Thank you, thank you! I of the sloped shoulders have always suspected that a different position for the straps would help, but I always imagined that this would involve moving the straps toward each other in the back where they attach to the band, rather than in the front - never thought of that! So now, I'll see if I can find a full cup or plunge that has straps positioned closer together in front . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There you go. And if you're willing to spend some mega bucks, Empreinte cannot be beat.

      Delete
  5. This is great! Thanks for hosting this, Kristen, and thanks to Veronica for all the useful tips. I struggle a bit with bra straps because of sloping shoulders. I've also had some issues lately because my weight has fluctuated pretty significantly in the past year, so some of my bras don't fit quite the way they once did. It feels like a constant game of adjustment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It IS a constant game of adjustment. I just went out with a friend for the second time in 3 months. She's very slender and, this time she'd lost some volume in her upper breasts (maybe due to time of month or loss of a bit of body fat on an already slim frame). At any rate, it made it a challenge to find the right cuts in the right size. Breasts get bigger and smaller throughout our adult lives. I say, gives you a reason to have adequate numbers of bras in 3 sizes at all times!

      Delete
  6. Great series!
    Thank you Kristin and thank you Veronica!

    I really like the idea of spacer fabric bras, but they are mostly full cups or at least a lot of coverage and I need wide wires (so shallow cups, but immediate volume) and very open cups + preferably low central gore (prominent breast bone)
    But may be I just missed some bra?

    Really need for summer something less heavy molded than Parfait by Affinitas Jeanie to wear to the office.

    I'm about 30F/32E.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, let's see if V has a recommendation... As you know, I'm no expert in the molded or spacer cups.

      Delete
  7. The best answer I've ever found to the slipping straps question: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/archive/a_question_of_thoracic_shaping/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great post (I remember reading it when it came out). Thanks for the link!

      Delete