Not too long ago I found myself in need of new, ahem, foundation garments. I am going to be on TV in the not too distant future, thanks to DS’ ballroom habit. When we got the date for the film crew to come to the house, I decided it was time to purchase some serious suck-it-in-and-push-em-up underthings. As you know, I am a firm (pardon the pun) believer in Getting Properly Fitted for a Bra. This time, I headed to the local Nordstroms. And here I found some interesting things that may help you in your quest to look good.
I worked with a very nice young lady who measured me. Now here’s interesting factoid number one: every store has their own fitting measurement “standard”. For instance, at Lady Grace, to get your bra band size, they measure around the upper chest, also known as the high-bust. At Nordstroms, they measure around your ribcage right below the bust. I find this interesting because my band size varies slightly with these different measurements. With the high-bust, I fall between a 34 and a 36. Using the ribcage measurement, I’m squarely in the 34 size. This isn’t entirely surprising to me. I work out 4 times a week and I have pretty large shoulder and upper back muscles thanks to that.
After getting the bra band size, the nice lady at Nordstroms then took my full bust measurement (Lady Grace does this too) to determine the cup size. Then she went off to get some bras for me to try on. Which brings me to interesting factoid number two: bra size is just a number/letter combination. Case in point: she brought me several different styles of bras. The 34 DD in the Natori fit me well. The 34 DDD (what???) in the Chantelle fit me well. In Felina’s world, a 36C fits me better than a 34 DD. My favorite Lise Charmel bras, which fit beautifully, are 34D. Go figure (oh man, I am just full of awful puns today, sorry). The serious point of this is that each manufacturer, like RTW clothing manufacturers, uses their own fit model, and sizing is not consistent between brands.
Once I found a couple of bras that fit, the nice lady at Nordstroms went out to get a tee shirt to try on over them. I like this approach; it lets you see how the bras look under clothing, and it takes some of the incipient humiliation out of the situation. I tried on the bras with the shirt and noticed something which brings me to interesting factoid number three. Different bra styles/manufacturers lift and separate differently. Here are a couple of examples. When wearing the Natori, I measured my shoulder to bust apex. 12 inches. It’s a minimizer, and we’ll get to that later. With my Felina, that same measurement is 11 1/2 inches. With the Chantelle: 10 1/2 inches. Sign me up for the Chantelle, babies! It’s like I never had kids.
Interesting factoid number four is that different manufacturers/styles also move you around so the distance between your bust apexes is different. Back to the Natori. As I mentioned, it’s a minimizer. So what it does is it pushes them down and apart. In commercial sewing patterns, the bust apex is 4 inches from the center front. With the Natori minimizer, it pushes that out to 4 1/2 inches. I have another bra, a cleavage building balconette style from Felina, that brings that measurement down to just about 3 3/4 inches. This is important because if you sew a garment without taking these things into account, you’re going to get wrinkles on your garments where you don’t want them.
So the moral of this story is to try on lots and lots of styles and lots of lots of manufacturers to see which one fits you and your body the best. Also, and I know we’ve all been told this before, but it bears repeating, wear the bra that you will be wearing underneath a garment when you do the fitting adjustments. The right bra really does make all the difference.
Happy sewing and fitting!