The Ironic Ta-Ta Discovery

The most ironic discovery I was to make on my return to the States, to date, occurred under seemingly normal circumstances. Need new bras, go to department store, buy new bras. Seems simple, no?

No.

No?

No.

Considering how attached the image of Daisy Dukes, all ample-hipped and generously-ta-ta-ed, is to America, one would think that there would be clothing designed to not only encourage this shape, but to flaunt it where it already exists. After all, it’s practically pushed in our faces (don’t get excited, boys) every day in the form of ‘breast enhancement’, Wonderbras and cleavage in dental ads. Bearing this in mind, and also how relatively simple it was to obtain larger cup sizes in the UK, I mosied innocently along to Department Store A, and thus began my adventure.

After thoroughly exploring Department Store A and not finding what I seek, I decide perhaps they are simply low on stock. A fluke. A one-off. After all, I’m not the average size, being a larger cup size but with a smaller band size. But, this being one of those occasions where I’ve forced myself to do something normal women do, like shop for lingerie with female friends, I feel a little disheartened.

Department Store B. This one suggests more variety, and so I begin to have more hope. This is of course a mistake. Instead, I begin to uncover the finer mysteries of the task at hand. I notice that the larger cup sizes are rarely featured on normal/smaller band sizes. I still cannot see my cup size anywhere, but what I do discover is the vague ‘DDD’ – my brain begins to tick with a rising sense of unease. What the hell is this? Does it mean simply extra large? It still doesn’t look my size. Does it mean DD in UK terms? Does it mean E? Surely women have bigger ta-tas than this – I’m fortunately/unfortunately one of them, and the dental ads…how do these mythical women take care of said ta-tas?

Deciding Department Store B is Stepford Wives meets Twilight Zone, I move on to Department Store C. It also suggests variety but in fact reveals itself to be otherwise. I’m very anxious by this point; ideas of what will happen if I don’t find an in-country bra supply, or how much trickier it will be in the event of me using certain birth control, start to run rampant. I wonder if I will have to get a huge band size and get out the needle and thread. I start to furtively look around at the other women, trying to judge their size and if they might know the location of the stash I seek. Maybe there’s a secret Bra Battle Royale going on that my mother failed to tell me about, where you have to stalk and hunt down similarly-sized women and kill or maim them for their bra because there’s only so many to go around.

As well as not being a good shopper, I am also the stubborn kind, and have not resorted to asking for help yet. This notion disintegrates by Department Store D.

At this point, I feel like I’m going crazy. Maybe ta-tas larger than a D-DDD don’t really exist; maybe mine are imaginary. Maybe I wasn’t in the country around the time all women have surgery to go down a cup size, and I’ve misinterpreted America all along. Tired of scrabbling around on my hands and knees among the back of all the lower racks, regardless of whether they’re the style or color I want, I flag a sales assistant. She confirms my suspicion that everything they have is on display. I want to tell her that everything I have will be on display if I don’t find something that fits, but I bite my tongue.

Then comes the point where it is confirmed – as sometimes happens – that there are reasons why the universe holds back certain ‘common knowledge’ / “useful” information from me: the sales assistant introduces the notion of ‘sister sizes’ (that if one goes up a band size, one can go down a cup size). Turns out the universe was actually protecting me. I’ll be honest, the concept of sister sizes seems counterproductive to say the least. I want to tell the sales assistant in graphic detail the consequences of wearing an incorrect size, particularly for more ‘blessed’ women, but instead I smile, thank her for the important cultural lesson, and leave, deciding to resort back to my online UK supplier.

While I’m sure many of you won’t have the above scenario and indeed are happily-fitted, it is a sad fact that many women wherever they live are not. Just as when the UK was surprised and delighted to learn the average woman’s size was a 14 and a D cup, likewise it is said in varying sources that 70-80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Indeed, America seems to be in denial of sizes above a D cup.

Because I feel strongly about taking care of one’s ta-tas regardless of size – verging on candid, though happily I recognize the kind of company that I should not be candid around – I want to encourage understanding and sympathy and help similarly-sized women avoid the above.

The first thing to understand are the consequences of wearing the wrong size, that I alluded to. These vary from the cosmetic to the potentially more serious:

  • Too small a band size could mean underwiring digs in, and that your lymphatic and vascular system is constricted. While certainly uncomfortable, this could also lead to more serious issues. I’m not saying go bra-less, and they’re still doing the research, but it’s another reason to be more careful.
  • Too loose a band, and the straps have to do more work (see next).
  • Straps that are digging in not only rub and chaff, but they cause shoulder and neck tension, which can even lead to headaches.
  • Both of the above equate to a lack of proper support, which for curvier ladies, means our posture can go to pieces. How are you sitting right now? We slouch, slump, everything. We get back pain. The ta-tas themselves hurt. Did I mention stretch marks and sagging?
  • Not to mention, the wrong size is plain uncomfortable! And who wants to go around being irritable and self-conscious all day when you could feel and look fantastic? The right size will slim and define your silhouette as well, helping your clothes to fit better.

So, what do you look for to tell if you’ve got the right size or not? This may seem like common sense, but please, indulge me. I heartily recommend being fitted by a professional, but if you’re like me and self-sufficient/squeamish, you can look out for the following yourself:

  • Band size. Your band should be at the middle of your back, horizontal all the way around, with the front center lying flat against the breastbone – it should all be firm, with you able to fit two fingers underneath it at the back and one in front, for comfort. If it’s riding up, go down a size.
  • Cup size. Beware the Evil Four-Ta-Ta Effect, or, as more genteel websites like to call it, ‘spillage’. Yes the cup coverage will vary between styles of bra, but the tops or sides of the cups should never cut into the ta-tas. Conversely, if there’s any puckering/wrinkling of the cups, your cup size is probably too big.
  • Linked to both of the above: straps, underwiring. If you’ve tightened the straps as far as they can go, and you still have to keep hoiking the ta-tas up every so often throughout the day like they’re in a sling, your band size is probably too small – the primary support comes from the band, the least from the straps. Likewise, if the cup underwiring keeps shifting to sit on top of any breast tissue, you probably need to go both down a band size and up a cup size to ensure everything stays in place. Straps and underwiring should be firm.

The following places are currently my online sources for my larger-cup, smaller-band bras. I recommend Panache and Freya as brands I’ve tried and found true-to-size (though there is some variance in brands/styles, it’s not that great when it comes to size). Bear in mind that your bras will wear out as all clothes do – your size should fit comfortably on the innermost hook to allow for stretch over time. Replenish thy stock.

  • Bravissimo (UK-based). Where I discovered the signs of a wrong fit. Very pretty things, great customer service. Also kudos for having clothes specifically tailored for large bosoms, from sleepwear to swimwear to work blouses. Delivery to the US is $12.95 right now but I think it’s worth it.
  • Marks & Spencer’s (UK-based). Good ol’ Marks & Sparks. Good for the basics.
  • Figleaves (UK- and US-based).

Speaking of true-to-size, how about a handy conversion chart across countries? Of course, the best way to be sure is to try the thing on, as always.

Remember, take care of the ta-tas. Otherwise, you may wake up one morning when you’re fifty, thinking they’ve miraculously become an A cup, when in fact they were hiding in your underarms the whole time.

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One Response to “The Ironic Ta-Ta Discovery”

  1. Hey sweetie. I laughed so hard at parts of your post. You are an awesome writer. I felt like i was there with you. Now I am going to be spending all day catching up on what I’ve missed.

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