Pre-baby, I had oodles of bras. My delicates were one huge tangle of lace, wire, and satin, and they were the first things to spring out of my underwear drawer. I think I only wore 4 of them on rotation, but all 20 or so of them were there for show. In the mornings after my shower, I’d stare at them with a kind of strange retail-mired ‘these are mine’ pride and sometimes toy with one or another knowing full well that I was going to abandon them in favour of the simple ‘no-lines-under-my-shirt’ bra, or ‘the-one-that-makes-them-look-bigger’ bra.
Pregnancy magnified things. My chest went up 2+ sizes, and I dropped a bundle on nursing bras –sports nursing bras, satin nursing bras, padded nursing bras.. I got used to them as I expanded and then lived in them day and night while I nursed. (Just so you know, I’m not even going to go into the whole esoteric epiphany I experienced that all of a sudden I was my baby’s food. I’m going to stay shallow and material.)
After I finished nursing, I started my inevitable deflation. As one of my friends said: “Say goodbye to the boobage.” Part of me was sad to lose this newfound stature of womanhood and motherhood, and part of me was a little relieved to get back to the body I inherently knew as my own. But that moment never fully arrived.
First, my proportions had changed. My rib cage, my hips – everything was and is still a little different somehow. I may be just a few pounds heavier than my pre-baby weight (Ok, fine! I still have a bit to go) but things that used to work on me at any weight just.. don’t. Second, I could swear I’m back to a 34 B, but somehow not one of my frilly, happy, bras fit. I’ve got air pockets, puckers, pulls, and weird shapes going on. It’s quite sad really.
So what do I do? I have two businesses and a baby. I don’t exactly have time to run down to the nearest negligee salon and spend an afternoon being fitted, as awesome as that sounds. I also don’t have time to change a million times before a meeting because my bra is making it look like I have sandwich bags stuffed under my shirt. As a compromise, I am turning to the experts and passing on some helpful DIY post-baby bra-fitting and buying advice!
Our expert is none other than my favourite Go-To stylist, Jacquie Severs. Jacquie has been featured in Chatelaine Magazine, and among her many talents and creative projects works for Secrets from your Sister as a writer, style consultant, fit model and bra enthusiast.
B&H. Jacquie, can you give us a refresher on how to get fitted for a bra? (DIY would be awesome as between work and baby, we don’t always have time to go to the pros.)
JS. A bra is always best fit by a professional. A professional may measure you but will actually judge the fit of the bra based on how it fits your body, not a measuring tape. A pro will take you through the fitting step by step, and explain why and how the bra should fit, and help you find styles that will work for you. A pro will offer you a variety of brands (so the fitters sponsored by one company are best avoided).
If you are a 34B in one bra from one brand, that does not mean you will be a 34B in all styles from that same brand, nor will you necessarily be a 34B in other brands. What a fitter will teach you is what to look for in fit, so that you can then shop on your own and know if the bra fits well or not. They will also explain the ratio between cup and back sizes. When I say ratio I’m referring to the ratio of back to cup. IE: A 34D and a 36D are two different cup sizes.
If you are unable to go to a proper boutique that carries all of the sizes (28-44 AA-L) then here’s a basic guide to fitting.
Ideally someone else should measure you. Lifting your arms and twisting around to do it yourself will alter the measurement. In any case, while wearing a bra, measure very snugly below the bust, with yours arms as much at your sides as possible. Note this number. IE: 27″. Convention says to add 5″ to this measurement, but in general I find adding 3″ is more accurate. Measure very snugly above the bust. IE: 33″. When you add 27″+3″=30″. The above bust measurement is 33″. Take an average. That should be approximately be your band size. Now you know you should be wearing about a 32″.
The next measurement is around the widest part of the bust. Let’s say you measure 35″. The difference between a 32″ and 35″ is 3″. Or 1″=A, 2″=B, 3″=C. By this measurement scale, you would be a 32C.
At this point you should head to a shop and try on a 32C. Not all stores carry all sizes so depending on what you measure, you might have to shop around. But what is most important about all of this, and I can’t highlight it enough is: The most important part of a bra fitting properly is the band size, or the “32”. When you go to the store, try on the 32C bra. If it is too small, but you can still do it up, but you are spilling out of the cup, try the 32D. Do NOT try the 34C or you are heading the wrong way and will get confused. Stay in the 32s, and try different cups.
IF you can’t put on the 32 at all, and the 32D you still can’t put on, then try the 34s, but only then. At that point, referencing the original measurement, you would try the 34B. That is the same cup as you measured (32C) but with a larger back. The back fitting snugly is the most important part. And it should fit snugly on the loosest hook. This way as it stretches out, you can make it tighter, thusly getting a longer life from your purchase. This is why there are three hooks.
For those out there who think “But I’m 8″ between the band and cup, what cup am I!??” you are likely above a DD. Don’t panic. DD is a LOT smaller than the media and most companies will have you believe.
Bra sizes go: AA A B C D DD E F FF G GG H HH J JJ K L so there’s loads of room to go in the scale. Don’t ever feel that there isn’t a bra for you – there is. Don’t let someone tell you they don’t make it – they do. You might need to shop in a different store but there is a great bra for everyone, regardless of size.
What to look for:
• The band should fit snugly around your body, level to the floor (horizontal) and not riding up at the back.
• It should be very snug, but you should still be able to get a finger or two between it and your rib cage.
• The wires should fit flat against your body, enclosing your entire chest under the arms around to the front, without any pillowing out the top (aka “doubleboob”)
• The Fabric should not wrinkle or pucker in the cup.
When you buy a brand new bra, it should feel a little on the snug size. It will loosen up, and soften up. Like a good pair of jeans, if you buy them fitting perfectly in the store, in 20 minutes of wear, they will be too big. You don’t want a muffin top! But you want a snug fit.
Tips and fitting solutions:
Raise up your arms. Do you fall out the bottom? Band is too big/Cup is too small or both
Straps falling off your shoulders all the time? Likely the band is too big. If the band is very snug, try a full cup style.
Constantly pulling at the band? Feel as if the bra is pinching or rubbing? Band is too big. A too-large band will allow the bra to move on your body. Like a pair of shoes that is too large that gives you a rub on your heel, a bra that is too big will give you a ‘pinching’ feeling.
Cutting into your shoulders? Cup too small and also, band too big.
Puckering in the cup? Cup is too large and/or band is too big.
See a theme? The band size being too large is the most common fitting error…If I had a dollar for every gal claiming to be a 36C when she’s actually a 34D or 32DD or 30E, I’d be a very rich woman. (Those are all the same cup size, with progressively smaller backs).
B&H. Is there a specific bra type that is popular with postpartum boobs? Let’s say a little saggier, flatter on top, maybe more of a ‘mature’ shape?
JS. Yes. All boobs are unique, and there are various styles. Try different ones to see what works, and keep in mind you might wear slightly different sizes in different brands and styles.
If you find you are less full on top a full cup bra with a central strap is probably the best for you, though in the right fit, you should also be able to find a balconette or demi cup that will work. A full cup is a bra that is more a teardrop shape and comes in both seamless and seamed styles, and are available in basics as well as pretty styles. Generally an unlined style will fit more easily than a lined or molded cup. Shaped, lined and molded cups might be harder to fit as they are defined shapes, whereas an unlined bra, the shape is defined by you. Tshirt bras are available without the molded cups so look out for those. Any bra that is seamless can be called a ‘tshirt’ bra. I should note that loads of bras that have seams are also invisible under tees, and not to rule them out right away, if this is important to you. Try a tank on with the bra and check out the shape and seams.
B&H. What 3-5 bras would you suggest for a mom who was going back to work, and starting her lingerie drawer from scratch?
JS. Oh! 3-5. That’s fun. I’ll stick with the three basics to get first:
1.Skintone. This should be your first basic. It works under everything, hides under white, and is the go to for everyday. It should be incredibly comfortable, supportive and close to your skin in tone…so beige, light pink, chocolate…. A bra that is white will reflect against the skin and show through your clothing. Nude will hide under everything.
An example is Empriente’s “Melody” in Caramel. This is a great basic full cup in beige. It’s lovely lace so it’s pretty but as you can see, the straps come up from the middle of the cup, this is a quick way to tell if it is a full cup style. This bra series is available in beige and black, lined and unlined styles, multiway…and a huge range of sizes. A best seller because it’s pretty, fits well and offers excellent support.
2.Sports. A good sports bra is essential no matter what your size. I put this at number 2 because while lots of women know they SHOULD have one, they don’t, and make do with their everyday bra, thus wearing it out too quickly and not getting enough support on weekends, at the gym, running around after baby….
(B&H. Cringe. I am totally guilty of this!)
Here’s Anita Sports bra in “Galactique”. This bra can be worn as a sports top on its own or as a bra. A good sports bra offers bra sizing (not just sm/m/l sizing), a thick band below the bust, centrally placed straps and is never 100% cotton, because those bras stretch out in no time!
3.Fun Basic. It’s important to still feel great, so pick a fun basic. It might be black, hot red, navy blue or polka dots but this one should be comfortable and pretty. It is possible! Colours can be substituted for black in your wardrobe, and it will give you an option when your lighter bra is in the wash. Try not to wear beige or light pink under black or dark clothing as the dyes will wear off. Wear your fun basic instead.
Finally I’ve included Chantelle’s “Rive Gauche” in a lovely plum tone – this is a lined balconette style. In a balconette style the strap appears more like a demi cup – more like it will lay to the edges of the shoulders but in fact is more centrally located on the bra. This style is a fun basic. It’s pretty, but it’s also seamless and works well under anything that is opaque or darker in hue. It’s a comfortable, supportive, every day bra, that also looks great…all on its own!
This is a basic bra wardrobe. Other options include strapless/multiway, plunge for under low cut tops, push up (for Friday nights when the kid is at the sitters), white for under light colours that are opaque, funky patterns, wireless, nighttime….but these three will get you through just about any situation.
Care: I know it is hectic with baby around, but try to handwash your bra in cold water and hang to dry, every time you wear it. Sweat breaks down elastic so wash after each wear, or two wears at most. If you must put it in the washer, place inside a lingerie bag with the clasps done up and wash delicate in cold water. Whatever you do, don’t put it in the dryer. This is instant death for elastic and bras. Tip: Coming from the gym? Wear your sports bra into the shower, rinse with soapy water, hang to dry. Presto!
Use a mild soap like Soak Wash, Woolite or even Shampoo or Dove but do NOT use Tide or another heavy detergent. Be sure to rinse well.
We love Jacquie. Quick as a flash, she had also cleared up why I was having so many issues with my own bras- I was wearing the wrong size to begin with so it was impossible to fit ‘back into’ something I never fit into in the first place. Now I’m snug and much happier in my 32 C, and strangely, feeling even more buxom than Christina Hendricks. Moms, take this expert’s advice to heart and you’ll see in no time that the cup is way more than half full.