Monday, December 7, 2015

How to Change the Lingerie Industry

There are undoubtedly bra styles missing across every size and shape range. I've written about the full bust bras I wish were available and there are lots of people who need sizes and styles not readily available. I recently saw an online petition asking full bust brands like Panache and Bravissimo to manufacture 24 and 26 band sizes. Small band sizes are desperately needed for so many people, especially young girls who need bra support from an early age.

Unfortunately, petitioning manufactures for change is not going to bring about lasting and effective change. Why? Because manufacturers rely on retailers to buy sizes that they make and retailers will only buy sizes if their customers spend money on those sizes and consumers can only demand those sizes when they're educated about bra fit. This is a vicious cycle that can only be tackled with education and consumer dollars.

If anyone measures over your boobs like this then run for the hills, they have no idea what they're doing.

Five years ago when I started writing about bra fit the majority of retailers were still trotting out the +4 method of bra fitting which doesn't work for most women. Since then there has definitely been a shift in more retailers educating themselves about the availability of 28-32 band sizes and cup volumes over a DD. But (and it's a big but) there are still thousands of stores in North America that don't carry bands below a 34 or 32 band and don't carry cup volumes over a DD cup. These stores will still fit women into bras that basically don't fit them. These stores will NEVER buy a 24 or 26 band to sell in their store until a shift happens in their customer demand which prompts them to get better educated about bra fit and sizes. I know it's backwards that the 'professionals' need to be incentivized to be better, but that's the reality.

I would hazard a guess that most women in North America don't know that they should be wearing a band size close to their ribcage measurement or that cup letters over a DD exist and would give them a better fit. Butterfly Collection has been part of the wave of bra educators dedicated to bringing bra size liberation and education to women in North America along with groups like Reddit's abrathatfits, online services like Bratabase and bloggers like Sweet Nothings. This movement is really only in its infancy compared to decades of unchallenged bra fitting techniques that have left generations of women in the wrong fit. Educating consumers about the bra fit they need and deserve is the first step in bringing about the change in demand that uneducated bra retailers need in order to change their buying habits.

If a store's customers never know that they need a wider range of sizes then they'll never ask for them, the store will never order them and the manufacturer will never be able to produce them.

In order to bring about real change in the lingerie industry I think we need to apply more pressure to the retailers than to the manufacturers. If you are an educated bra consumer who wants change then speak to the retailers you deal with and tell them about the size you need. Then tell your friends to demand better service from their bra retailers if they're being given poor service (telltale signs of bad retailers can be found here). We have to stop spending money on bras that don't fit us in order to prompt retailer awareness and urgency.

Change is definitely possible but I think we have to affect that change at a more grassroots level of the bra industry. The consumer has ultimate power once they know what bras are best for them. When I first started blogging a large and well established retailers got in touch with me to say that I should stop giving out free fitting advice because only bra fitters should have that knowledge. I wholeheartedly disagreed because keeping consumers in the dark about their own bra fit is what allows lazy retailers to get away with selling a fraction of bra sizes. Let's not allow that to continue for another generation. xx

Monday, November 9, 2015

Taking Time to Overcome Letter Phobia

I can measure almost anyone for a bra and tell them technically what bra sizes and styles they should wear to get a text book healthy fit. The reality is that the technical aspect of fitting means nothing if someone is not mentally ready for a new bra size, especially if the thought of a cup letter over a D makes them recoil.

I've written before about Letter Phobia (here and here) and how it's a very real block that keeps women from even trying on a bra in a size that distresses/worries/upsets them.

I have some clients who spent years in bras that made them uncomfortable, unhappy and self conscious but then finally took the courageous step of facing their letter phobia. I say courageous because letter phobia is the result of layers of dialogue that tell us boobs are wrong, big boobs only translate to sex, cup sizes over a D are for exhibitionists, big boobs and intelligence don't co-exist etc. It's brave to take a step out of that quagmire of ignorance that gets heaped on women from commercials, movies, ads, TV, blog comment sections (AKA the Devil's diary, whichever you prefer) and trust that you could find empowerment on the other side.

A recently new client told me this week that she was disgusted the first time she saw our website because we were trying to normalize big boobs and that went against everything she had learned at home, through her social groups and through the media. Over a period of three years she had read my blog posts and started to wonder whether she was being kept in a cycle of shame about her body and breasts without really knowing it. In September she purchased her first bra in a cup letter that would have been unthinkable to her just a year earlier. This week she wanted to let me know that the difference in her health, posture and self-worth has transformed in just 2 short months. So much so that she has made a verbal promise to her daughter that she will always give her physical and emotional access to bras that fit her.

When you work so much by yourself it's hard to know sometimes if you're making a difference so this woman's story meant an awful lot to me. I would love to think that fewer women of future generations will have to wade through the emotional mud before they feel empowered and deserving enough of a well-fitting bra. It's not just about getting the best bra fit, it's about freeing up the mental capacity of a remarkable gender to apply their time to something other than ensuring their bodies conform to an arbitrary social preference.

Getting over letter phobia does not happen over night but it can happen and the results can be so much more than just getting the right bra. Be kind to those women you know who are afraid to try a cup letter over a D and be there with helpful resources when they're ready to face their letter phobia.xx

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bras Missing from the Full Bust Market

Almost every week I have to tell someone that the bra they need simply doesn't exist. It's awful to have to tell someone that but the reality is that the full bust market does not yet have a full compliment of styles compared to the A-D mainstream sizes. Here are some of the bras that are missing from the full bust market.

Plunge Bras Over an H Cup
The versatility of a plunge bra is something a lot of H+ cup women would like but that's not the key reason I'd love to see an H+ cup plunge bra. Lots of my clients have a protruding or concave breastbone that makes medium to tall gores difficult to wear. H+ cup bras tend to have quite tall gores and this makes sense because you're trying to support a 10 inch circumference difference between the ribcage and the fullest part of the bust so you want good scaffolding! However, if that gore creates too much pressure on a protruding sternum or can't take to a concave one then the fit is lost.

There is the germination of H+ plunge bras appearing in Freya's Deco Vibe GG cups and Panache's new fashion style Fontaine. However, there is enormous scope for more styles that offer support with strong seaming and fabrics while offering the flexibility of a lower gore.

A Variety of Wire Lengths
Full bust manufacturers tend to get stuck in a wire length rut. It makes sense from a manufacturing point of view because it's expensive to change production settings for the wire length, however, brands are missing out on a ready and willing audience. Panache is a prime example of a brand that could quickly rack up more clients if it offered a variety of wire lengths. So many of our clients love the designs, Cleo in particular, but the wires are just too long for their breast height or torso length. They're ready and willing to part with their dollars but can't because Panache doesn't offer enough wire lengths.

One of the most overlooked sectors of our clientele is the short busty woman. She's generally under 5ft 3" with a 32H+ bust and most of the bras available in her size come with incredibly long wires. Just knocking off an inch or so from those wire lengths or offering a short wires version would result in a swathe of new customers.

Strapless Bras Over an H Cup
Again it would be nice to have more strapless options over an H cup but currently there is only Curvy Kate's Luxe bra widely available and if Curvy Kate's wire width doesn't work for you then you don't really have anywhere else to look.

More Gore Width Options
Large breasts come in many shapes and sizes and sit in a variety of different positions on the body. If your breasts sit far apart then you need a bra with a wide gore. If they sit close together then you need a narrow gore. Currently the narrowest gore options also live on bras with long wires so if you have a narrow bust and high breast root it's tricky to find a fit. More gore width options within a brand would cast their customer net that little bit wider.

If you have a full bust bra that you simply cannot find or a fit feature that seems to be completely missing then please share it in the comments. xx

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bra Fact and Bra Fiction Quiz

In five years of talking about bras I've had to debunk my fair share of bra myths. There is a lot of great bra information out there but there is also a lot of bra nonsense that is keeping hundreds of thousands of women from their best fit. How many of these bra 'facts' are actually rubbish and which are the real deal? (I'll post the answers in the comments in a couple of days!) xx

1) Your bra band should be parallel with the ground

2) It's normal to get some back fat with a well-fitting bra

3) After you measure round your ribcage you should add 4 inches to find your band size

4) Not all bras in your size will fit you

5) Straps falling off your shoulders is a normal part of wearing bras

6) You should be able to lift the band away from your body so you can see the bottom of your breasts

7) The direction of the seams on a cup changes the shape of the look of your bust

8) The gore should lie flat against your body between your boobs

9) If your bra leaves red marks on your body it's the wrong size

10) Wearing a bra at night stops your boobs sagging

There are many, many more but if you can sort the fact from the fiction in this list then you've got a great handle on your bra fit! xx

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Day in The Life of a Badly Fitting Bra

You'd be forgiven for thinking that your bra is out to get you as it pinches and pokes you and leaves your breasts in free fall. But in reality the reason your bra hurts you is that it's desperately trying to fit and it just can't. To give you an idea of what happens when you put on an ill-fitting bra here's a short day in the life of that bra...

Beginning of the Day...
Bra: "OK everyone, it's a new day and today we're going to keep her boobs in one place. Is everyone with me? Straps, Band, Cups, are we ready?"

All: "Yes(ish)!"

Bra: "Band, can I get an elastic report?"

Band: "Elastic cooled to room temperature but stretch damage at 90%. I'm reporting majority of elastic fibers broken or maxed out, Commander."

Bra: "Let's put that 10% of working elastic to the test then Band. Engage band support. Straps, status report."

Straps: "We are reading a 75% degrading of our surface resistance. Likelihood of sliders loosing grip at 80%, Commander."

Bra: "I don't want any slacking on this watch so keep those straps in place soldier. Cups, what's the situation with you?"

Cups: "We appear to have sustained some damage during the last aquatic drill, Commander. We are reporting some increased volume and weakening of the surface tension."

Bra: "I need you to hold it together cups, stand fast. OK, this is it. All stations engage support."

Not Long Later That Same Day...
Bra: "All stations we are loosing support integrity; immediate emergency reports."

Band: "Elastic has heated up to body temperature and we're loosing tension at a rapid rate. We are reporting a 15 degrees increase in altitude up the spine."

Straps: "We also detect the increase in altitude, Commander, and can no longer maintain strap stability. We have lost functionality in the right strap. Strap down, I repeat, strap down."

Cups: "We are loosing altitude, Commander. We are reporting major tissue spillage in left cup and wire malfunction at the gore. We appear to have increased tissue pressure at the sternum. Please advise next steps."

Bra: "All stations, we appear to be having a catastrophic function failure. Advise one of us learns how to write a note for her to get a bra fitting and put us out of our misery."

So the next time you find yourself cursing your bra spare a thought for how hard it's trying to contain your breasts against all odds. If you don't know where to start figuring out what size and style features you need in a bra then our Free Size Consultation is a great place to start. xx