We here at SP are a buxom bunch. Kate, of course, has her Rack of Doom; FJ and I, pseudonymous as we are, have not shared our chestiness with you, but rest assured, our bosoms are as big as our brains. A lot bigger, actually, if you picture that literally. If any of you Shapelings out there are in the same top-heavy boat, please do yourself a huge favor — make a resolution! — and get a free professional bra fitting as soon as possible.
There are lots of places you can get a free, excellent fitting. Lingerie specialty shops are always a good bet (and extra points if they’re woman-owned); I’ve heard that Nordstrom is also consistently good. If you’re here in Chicago (or in NY, Atlanta, or Boston), you can go to Intimacy (aka That Place Where They Send Chesty Ladies on What Not to Wear). I’ve been there twice now, and both times, the experience has been fantastic. The first time I went, I was, like many women, wearing a bra size that had nothing to do with my body (warning: link to Oprah) but was easy-ish to find in non-specialty store. The second time I went (yesterday), I knew that because of various bodily changes, my bras that fit beautifully last time weren’t working for me anymore. Each time, I was committing one of the most common bra fit errors: wearing a band size too big (usually accompanied by a cup size way too small). This, dear Shapelings, is another arena in which the selling of the beauty ideal does not conform to real people’s experiences in their bodies; because places like Victoria’s Secret and your average department stores don’t carry above a DD cup (and often not above a certain band size), most women who should be wearing E or larger don’t know that — how would they, when they’ve never encountered an E in the store? Instead, they go up a band size or two, hoping that the DD cups scale up enough with each interval to hold their racks of doom. Just as we hurt each other when we lie about our weight because we skew expectations of “normal” weights downward, bra sellers who insist that a 38DD is the biggest size imaginable hurt women, most of whom have no idea what a good-fitting bra feels like. Furthermore, those online bra size calculators you see? Are total crap. (Hmm, what other online calculator does that remind you of?) To give you a sense of just how much crap they are, before I went in for my first pro fitting, I ran my measurements through several calculators and got a range of sizes spit out, including 36DD, 38C, and my personal favorite, 40A. The size that fit at Intimacy? 34E. Thanks, internet!
Here’s what my experience at Intimacy was like (this is mostly a description of the first visit). The first thing that impressed me when I walked in was that the employees were women of many different body shapes, including more than one fabulously dressed fat woman. (I cannot remember the last time I saw a fat woman working at Victoria’s Secret — can you?) I had to wait around for a few minutes, but then I was paired with a fitter (I’ll call her F, though her name was not, of course, Fitter) who was really friendly and encouraging. We went into a dressing room, and she explained Intimacy’s fitting philosophy to me, which basically boils down to this — they don’t use measuring tapes. Instead, they analyze how you look in the bras you try on (and the one you wore in) to see how the bra is fitting you at different points of your body. To me, the lack of measuring tapes is a great, size-positive strategy — it’s not about finding out exactly how big you are; it’s about finding what works with your body.
After looking at me in my current bra and showing me where it didn’t work for me, F went back into the store and brought back a bra for me to try on just to see if her ideas about size were right. It fit beautifully, so then she basically served as my personal shopper, bringing me several different styles and brands to try on — ALL OF WHICH FIT. I could not believe it. For years, when I’ve gone bra shopping, I’ve been lucky to find a bra that fit *enough* to drop money on; this time, I tried on at least a dozen bras, all of which looked and felt amazing. My breasts looked great; my back felt better; and my whole figure aligned differently. It ended up being great fun to try on all these beautiful bras, including styles that I never though I could wear (balconette! plunge! demi!), and see how great they looked. It was like a bra dress-up party! It’s not cheap — the bras I liked ranged between $50 and $80. But you could also get the free fitting and then find a place like Nordstrom Rack (har har) where you could hunt for a bargain in your size. Online shops that have a wide range of sizes include Figleaves and Bravissimo.*
I am wearing one of my new bras as I type this, and let me tell you, it feels amazing. My back and shoulders are suddenly worlds less tense. My tits, if I do say so, look awesome. And I feel confident that in one more area of my wardrobe, I let my body dictate the way my clothes should be, and not the other way around. Remember, if an item of clothing doesn’t fit your body, there’s something wrong with the clothing, not with your body. Be good to yourself and find out what does fit you and wear that, numbers be damned.
*If you have stores to recommend to other Shapelings — or to warn us off from — let us know in the comments! Also, we’d love to hear your bra success stories — I know several people who’ve gone into a fitting wearing a D cup and come out wearing a G. Exciting for everyone!