According to a few articles on the internet, like this one at Nordstrom.com, which also has a measuring guide, roughly eighty percent of women in the United States wear the wrong size bra. Considering a bra is an article of clothing most women don for several hours or more every day, most days of the year, wearing one that doesn’t fit seems pretty silly. It’s also a bit unsettling to think that the majority of breasts are not being given proper care.
I had originally specified getting fit at Victoria’s Secret because, with my minimal knowledge about bras, I figured that was the best place to do it. However, after reading a few too many blog posts denouncing the quality of bra fittings at the well-known lingerie company, and after coming across a few articles highlighting the services rendered at department stores, I decided to go to Nordstrom to find out what size bra I actually should be wearing.
While I’ve happily jumped out of an airplane with a guy named Mutley strapped to my back and a parachute on his, and I’ve cheerfully watched great white sharks swimming to and fro, where the only thing separating us was a cage with metal bars, and even backpacking to a campsite and spending the night alone in the wilderness proved to be tremendously more fun than scary, I was not looking forward to having a woman take measurements of my chest and bring me various bras to try on. Though I don’t flit around locker rooms buck naked, my apprehension wasn’t because I would be taking my shirt and bra off in front of another woman. What I was terrified about was admitting that I was nearly thirty and had never been fit for a bra, and that I didn’t really know all that much about bras or how they should fit.
In my defense, I’ve been a late bloomer—in a lot of regards. I didn’t emerge into the world until three weeks after my scheduled date of birth, I didn’t talk until I was two, and let’s just say I joked well into my college years that I (still) had the physique of a twelve-year-old boy. Though my friends often teased me for having a small chest, I had never had any issues with my lack of lady lumps. In fact, I reveled in spending less on running clothes because the built-in bras in some tank tops were sufficient enough, and I didn’t need to purchase expensive sports bras. I was also able to wear many a dress without worrying about visible bra straps, as I just went without.
Even still, I felt uncomfortable walking up to the counter, asking to be fitted for a bra, and then, once we were in the relative safety of the dressing room, admitting I had never before been fitted. It was even worse when I told her I wasn’t really sure what size I wore, and when I removed my shirt and bra, and felt sweat cascade down my back as if I had just completed thirty minutes on an elliptical trainer, I wanted to sprint to the car faster than Usain Bolt blazed his way to victory in the 2014 Olympic 100 meter dash. Luckily, the bra fitter, whose name I will change to Lucy, was wonderful, kind, patient and, best of all, apparently not deterred by my surely off-putting perspiration. She assured me that I shouldn’t feel bad because most women don’t know their real size, nor do they bother to get properly fitted. Furthermore, she seemed confident she would be able to help me get the perfect bra.
Using a white measuring tape, Lucy took a few measurements around my chest, and under and across my breasts. To my surprise, the band size she told me was one size smaller than I had ever worn. I was pretty sure my breasts had grown in recent months, so if anything I would need to increase in band size, not decrease. To my even greater surprise, the cup size she told me was appropriate for my girls was three sizes larger than I had ever worn, or had remotely considered wearing in my weirdest dreams. Lucy explained that most women do not wear a band tight enough to give proper support, and then they try to adjust the straps to make it work. I thought about the numerous bras I had worn where it seemed like every day I had to readjust the straps to make them fit. She then enlightened me about cup size, and that a decrease in band size meant an increase in cup size. Going down one band size would explain going up one cup size, but I had gone up three. I guess I just didn’t know how bras were supposed to fit.
After trying on a number of bras in various styles and by different designers, I selected two. I thought they seemed too tight at the time, but she said they would stretch and that I just hadn’t been used to wearing that size. When I got home, I wore each for about twenty minutes, and realized that they were indeed too tight—uncomfortably so, and to the point that I would not be able to wear them all day like I knew I would need to. Though the two I bought would not be my new greatest bras, or even in my drawer among the ill-fitting collection I had amassed over the years, I did learn more about my body, bras and bra sizes in general, and that I would just have to keep trying if I wanted to move into the small percentage of women who wear the correct bra size.