Thursday, October 9, 2014

Low Down

Rather oddly, over the past couple of weeks, I've heard three people refer to their "low set busts". It's not like I've never heard that phrase before. I mean, I am a girl who reads and talks a lot about boobs. But I wonder if we're about to have a moment wherein that's the popular boob complaint.

I really hope not. And let me tell you why...

In the biz, the low set bust refers to the relative position of the breast root on the chest wall. I highly recommend this post for more info on the topic. What you'll note in the article, is that the impact of the breast root position is not as simple as mere height. The horizontal position of the root impacts whether one's breasts are wide-set, for example and symmetrically placed. To further complicate matters, the length of one's torso is germane to the appearance of one's breast height.

The fact is, we tend to think of breast placement as a kind of static, one-size-fits-all scenario. In fact, there are many "types" when it comes to how the breasts sit on the body - and just as many outliers.

Getting back to breast-root height specifically: The average person's root sits about 5-7 inches below the armpit. If yours are higher than that (and my root is), you may be one of those peeps whose boobs are up to her chin, especially if you're full on top and petite in stature. If your root is lower than this, you may feel like you've got one of those "low set busts" - especially if your waist is short. Really, these are the peeps (when the breasts are projected and relatively large) who are most likely to feel boobs at the navel.

The average bra is designed for a breast-root of average height (it's all about the sales). So the high-set ladies often struggle with under wire poking into their armpits and digging at the centre gore - not fun. This can be a tricky issue (again, depending on how wide-set the bust is and other factors). My bust is very close set and narrow, so wire height is rarely a problem for me despite a high root on a short frame, thankfully.

But back to the low-set ladies. A low-set breast root is NOT the same thing as a low bust. A low-set breast root can contribute, with other factors, to the potentiality that the breasts will not sit as high as one might prefer. But I'm going to tell it straight: 95 per cent of the ladies complaining about this condition don't have low-set roots to any deleterious extent. They have bad, often super-old bras with bands that are way too stretchy (like often 4-plus inches) and cups that are shaped or sized incorrectly.

An 80-year old woman, who's had 4 kids, can easily look uplifted in the correct bra. A 25-year old, prone to sag, with low breast density and a projected breast shape can look terribly matronly in the wrong bra. And yes, low-set. Add a kid or two, significant or fast weight-loss and gain or other hormonal shifts and the look can be less than youthful.

Here's the thing: You don't have to look like your boobs are at your waist when you're wearing a bra. (When you take that bra off, all bets are off - that's when genetics are unmoderated.)

Kristin's Guide to the Non-Surgical Breast Lift:
  • Figure out your true size. Do that any way that works for you: Visit A Bra that Fits for a pretty sound methodology; go to a well-respected boutique. Figure it out.
  • Determine how your breasts are positioned on your chest and how you're actually shaped. Do you need shorter wires because your breast roots are high? Are your breasts wide-set? Is your waist long or short? Look at yourself as a technical drawing. Don't judge. Learn.
  • Pay particular attention to the optimal tautness of your next bra band: 
    • If your breasts are large and projected, chances are you'll need a tighter band to account for the required cantilever. 
    • If the ratio of back circumference to breast circumference is on the high end of the scale, you will also likely want a tauter band, breast size notwithstanding.
    • If your breasts are shallow or your back is muscular, band tautness is less of a requirement to ensure bust lift.
    • Please note - and I regret to be the one to tell you this: It doesn't really matter if that taut band is uncomfortable (from the vantage point of the job it's got to do). If you need it, that's how it goes. Initially, required band tautness to achieve liftedness can be very notable, even uncomfortable, for many women. The sensation tends to dull over time. I, for one, have never minded tight bands - I love the feeling of compression on my rib-cage. But that simply makes me lucky in this respect. Cuz I'd have to do it whether I liked it or not as I do not intend to walk around with breasts that appear to be low-set.
  • Tighten the straps adequately - though not to cause pain. Yeah, most of the lift comes from the band but there's a reason that bras with straps provide a more uplifted silhouette than those that are strapless.
  • Note where the straps sit relative to the edge of the cup. If the straps are too wide for your frame at the outer bust or the shoulders, lift will be compromised.
  • Make sure you have enough bras to rotate. Those that have stretched out in the band or cups (which is what happens quickly when you wear the same 2 bras day after day) are no longer useful. 5 bras in regular rotation will last much longer than 2 bras. In the end, with more bras, it will be less expensive to maintain a lifted silhouette.
  • Unless your breasts are on the small end of the spectrum, do not wear padded, seam-free bras. A three-piece cup provides optimal lift for many breast shapes because the fabric can conform to your shape (not the other way around). Shape mismatch (whether the bra is seamed or not), which produces gaping at the base or upper cups, implies that the breast is not adequately supported in the cup. That's going to contribute to a lower look (and probably other unattractive fit issues). See bullet point 2, above. You have to know your shape to know how to find a cup that fits it perfectly (and looks great, of course). That cup is out there. It's your job to find it - and to make peace with it if it's not the kind you have always envisioned is the perfect one for you.
  • Four-piece cups with vertical seams tend to provide maximal uplift. If your boobs are deflated in the upper bust (something that I often note in the women who insist that their busts are low-set), then a vertically-seamed demi-cup might be just the thing, especially if you're evenly-shaped / small-moderately-sized.
I'm almost ready to promise that if you do everything suggested above, your perspective on low-set boobs will become a distant remnant of the past. But of course, there's always going to be someone out there with extreme tendencies at all ends of the spectrum (and even that woman will look infinitely more lifted having followed these guidelines).

Today's questions: Have you gone from a place of low-setness to lovely liftedness by implementing any of these suggestions? Do you have any additional advice on how to achieve a lifted profile? Care to disagree with my perspective? Let's talk.


  1. Very informative and thought provoking article. For the first time I'm noticing a lowness I find pronounced in a wrap style top and I got my first push up bra. But the band and straps are so uncomfortable! I appreciate hearing that maybe it's something to get used to because I certainly like the look of the lift. Thanks for the post!

  2. Great summary (as always, with you and boobs)!

    It's interesting how many people seem to believe that a moulded/padded cup will give them boost that a "flimsy" cup will not (has marketing caused this??). Even when their band is riding way up in the back. I've lost a LOT of breast density during my weight loss, and I still look my best with a very firm band and a soft, seamed cup.

    As a side note, at all weights/densities I've had stabby underwires. My breasts naturally grow just south of my collarbones, and this sometimes leads to unwanted cleavage and small wounds in my armpits. I've never found a great solution, other than being open to wearing many different styles and brands.

  3. I like a more snug band too. And agree that it's something you can quickly become used to. It's not unlike wearing a ring on a finger that you normally don't. The first days you are very aware of it, but it quickly becomes normal to a point that it feels un-normal when you forget to put your ring on in the morning.