Monday, January 31, 2011

Bra Shopping: Triumph or Tragedy?

** Boys, feel free to skip this one.  I'm going to talk about bras, shopping and body-image.  You've been warned**

I set aside a few hours this weekend to do some serious shopping: I needed both bras and a bathing suit for an upcoming trip.  This deserves a little back story though, as shopping for bras has always been a nightmare for me.  In case you're unaware -- and there's no cute or polite way to get around this -- I have large breasts.  Every woman thinks she wants bigger boobs (or at least every man designing bras assumes every woman buying them wants bigger breasts).  I know this because it is increasingly difficult to find bras without inner padding, push-ups, gel inserts, cushions, and now there are even "double push-ups", which are basically foam filled falsies on a band.  I don't want bigger boobs, or the appearance of bigger boobs.  I just want something to hold 'em in, strap 'em down, and keep 'em in place.

Not only do I have larger-than-average lady parts, but I have them on a petite frame.  I have narrow shoulders and a small ribcage, so I need a bra with large cups on a small band and straps that are close together.  I like the idea of crisscrossed straps or a racer-back to keep the straps in place, but now I'm being picky.  Shopping for a decently appropriate bra is like searching for the holy grail, and at times I wonder if such an item is the stuff of fantasy.  I frequently leave stores empty handed, frustrated and sometimes a bit emotional.  On one memorable occasion I even managed to bring a sales associate to tears with me.

Up to a few years ago I was wearing a 32DD, but I'm not quite as slender now and am in a 34DD.  Thank goodness, because the 34 is a bit easier to find.  I know I could easily find a well-fitted bra at a specialty store, but I just can't justify the specialty price.  Why should I have to pay $150 - $300 for something the rest of the world pays $30 - $50 for?  If it's needed for a special occasion and there's no getting around it, sure, I'll shell out the dough, but I'd really rather not.

Most mall-variety bra stores (and I'm talking stores that sell only or primarily ladies undergarments) do not carry my size, or carry it in one or two styles only.  When I ask for my size I often get a stunned look, questions about whether I've been fitted properly, or offers to try a different size that "might do the trick".  I've been told it's an unusual size, it's a popular size that sells out too quickly, and once that it's a "European size."  Well thank you very much.  How silly of me to think my European sized body would work over here in North America.  My mistake, I guess.

Well this weekend I lucked out at Sears, of all places.  I tried on more than a dozen bras, of which about half were actually 34DD.  Not only did I find some that fit nicely, I walked out of there with not one, but FOUR bras.  Two were on clearance (one of which was a minimizer -- the opposite of a push-up!), and they were also having a buy-one-get-one sale on boxed bras.  I was only able to find one boxed style of bra in my size that didn't look like something my grandmother might own, so I grabbed two of them.

Challenge one complete: on to bathing suits...

I'll keep this short, but after some searching I found an amazing, flattering bathing suit for a reasonable price.  It was nothing fancy on the hanger, but once I got it on I knew it was The One.  It's green, teal and black in a 60's style silhouette.  It looks like something Joan Holloway would wear.  I picked it up at Bikini Village for under $100.  I was amazed!  I did also try on what may have been only the second flattering bikini I've ever tried on in my life, but at $200 for both pieces I thought I'd better stick with the one piece.

Looking for clothes that flatter my body can be the most frustrating, awkward, embarrassing experience imaginable.  And I don't even really have a problem with my "European" body type -- I'm just really tired of not fitting the mold that retailers are catering to.  I'm tired of hemming, buying a size up so I can have something taken in, and trying to make something that doesn't fit "do the trick".  That said, finding (and wearing!) properly fitted, flattering, comfortable, stylish garments is such a confidence booster!  What's sexier than wearing something you know you look great in?

And that's why I love/hate shopping.


  1. I feel your pain and experience the same thing with my European body. Some great things for me have been companies called wacoal, felina and shock absorber for bras, body glove for bikinis, and Betty paige clothing if you want to embrace some retro style! All much better prices than regular specialty shops that are too expensive or the dreaded 'grandma' style bra! Happy and proud shopping, my hourglass friend!!

  2. I hear you, sister! As someone with a large chest and small waist (and ribcage), it's frustrating to find shirts let alone well-fitting bras. I remember sobbing in a La Senza changeroom when I found out they were discontinuing my 34E bras -- the only ones I was able to find for less than $100 a pop. Glad to read Sears may be able to help a girl out!

  3. Amen! This may or not be helpful, but I've found these European sizes at the Bay as well.

  4. Thanks for the shopping ideas Miranda! I'll check them out.

    Kat, I feel your pain. You will very seldom see me in a button up blouse.

    Knitty Kat, I have had some good finds at the Bay, but it's been hit and miss for me. I've also found the lady working in lingerie at the Bay Masonville to be discouraging - it's like she wants me to look somewhere else!