For Happy Boobs

Birmingham Weekly | February 16, 2006
It was the day of my sister’s wedding. My hair was carefully piled atop my head in that “I-just-woke-up-looking-like-this” fashion, and my makeup expertly done. All that was left for me to do was change into my bridesmaid dress, which had already been altered.

At this point, it seemed like very little could go wrong. The top was backless and strapless, and my mother, armed with my cup size, had very generously offered to pick up a specialty bra for the occasion. I wanted a NuBra, but at the time didn’t know what it was called, so I tried to describe it over the phone.

Instead, she picked up a couple of packs of sticker cups. You know what I’m talking about – those

u-shaped stickers that are supposed to support each bosom the same way a bona fide bra would? They had stuck a clasp to connect the two “cups,” as if that would magically support two heavy breasts.

But I didn’t want to mess with

finding a replacement, and all my

previous experiences with strapless bras have been disasters, so I optimistically (read:

stupidly) decided those would be just fine. I guess I had hoped that the stickers would accomplish everything they promised on the package, as illustrated by the svelte model with not an ounce of unwanted fat visible, much less any spillage from the side of her stick-on bra.

So into the bathroom I ventured, expecting to emerge mere moments later with a perky, well-supported rack. I peeled the first sticky off the panel, only for it to immediately curl up on itself and stick together. After some maneuvering, I managed to uncurl it and carefully sealed it onto my left breast.

Looking into the mirror, I sobbed in horror. Not only did the sticker NOT support my entire breast, it didn’t even cover half of its surface area.

There was a timid knock at the door. “Sarah?” my mother said. “Is everything OK in there?”

“NO,” I whined, my face growing hot. I was fanning at my eyes to keep the tears from ruining my makeup. Just then, adding insult to injury, my boob popped out of its pitful “cup”.

“Can I come in?” my mother asked. I opened the door, stickers dangling from my boobs like melting pasties.

“I HATE MY BOOBS!” I screamed.

But, my ever-patient mother and I eventually combined two separate stickers onto each one, making for a satisfactory, if not terribly attractive, pseudobra, which (barely) lasted the entire wedding.

Here’s the thing: I had prepared to open up this column by using the above story to illustrate that all women, at some time or another, have been let down by their breasts. But, after spending one afternoon with expert bra fitter Janet Holcomb in her Vestavia Hills boutique, The Fitting Touch, I realized that it was I who was disappointing my mammaries, and not the other way around. I needed a serious attitude adjustment, not to mention brassiere size adjustment.

For starters, did you know that most women are probably wearing the wrong bra size? This is not our fault, however, but that of the American bra industry. Don’t get me wrong – they try, but there is a much wider range of band and cup sizes than most U.S. makers provide.

At The Fitting Touch, for example, one can find bras with a band size from 30 to 52 inches, and cup sizes ranging from AA - JJ. Finding out your correct bra size is important for comfort and appearance, not to mention general breast health.

Even more important than wearing the proper cup size is getting the band size correct. “About 80 percent of the support should come from the band,” Holcomb says.

“Even if the cup size is correct, you won’t get the right support from the wrong band size.”

European brands such as Fantasie, Simone Perele or Chantelle (all carried by The Fitting Touch) tend to have a more technical and complex grading system, which results in stronger band support. Furthermore, European brands tend to remain true to sizes, whereas many American bras stray from brand to brand – meaning one manufacturer’s 34A may differ from another’s.

So how do you know if your bra is working for you? The correct bra will keep your breasts separated from each other. When standing straight with arms down by your sides, your breasts should be lifted to halfway between your shoulders and elbows. Also, on an underwire bra, the wire should reach up to your armpits. A big red flag that you are not wearing a properly fitting bra is if your breasts spill out over the top of the cups even a little bit.


Much like jeans, bras come in different cuts and shapes to be worn with different types of outfits. “Every woman should have a wardrobe of at least three, but ideally four or five bras,” Holcomb says. “Keep your bras in rotation. Never wear one bra two days in a row. A single bra should have at least a full day to ‘rest’ before being worn again.”

Here are some of the different types of bras, including the basic (for everyday use) and the specialty (for special occasions).

- The DEMI refers to a brassiere with “half” cups, cut straight across. This bra generally looks sexiest and should provide nice, round cleavage. Women with larger breasts, however, might want to avoid demi cups: in my experience, I fall out of them if I so much as lean forward. Of course, I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra for years, so maybe I’ll give it another try.

- The BALCONY cup creates what Holcomb calls a “sweetheart” neckline. This type of bra is so-named because it is like a regular cup with a lacy fabric “balcony” sewn atop the cup for extra coverage.

- The NUBRA is an excellent choice with a backless or strapless gown, and consists of two self-adhesive silicone bra cups connected by a clasp. However, Holcomb warns that the NuBra really only works for cup sizes A - C. In fact, those are the only sizes NuBra makes.

- A WING BRA is the solution for women with D+ cups. It is much like the NuBra, but has two clear “wings” which adhere to the ribcage to provide more reliable support for heavier chests.

- BRA DISCS, which Holcomb says “are the best things since sliced bread,” are reusable, smaller than the palm of your hand and can be slipped into a bra or swimsuit to provide fail-proof nipple coverage.

- For smaller-busted women, try the ADD-A-SIZE bra by Fellini. This bra provides light-weight padding that is thicker on the bottom of the cup and tapers up, making for a realistic-looking enhancement.

- The Fitting Touch also provides beginning bra “trainers” for young adolescents.

Taking proper care of your brassieres is equally important to finding the right fit. For longevity, always hand-wash them in cold water and lay flat to dry. Throwing them in the wash makes them “work” harder than they need to, and a dryer will stretch and misshape a bra.

By the way: After a personal fitting session with Holcomb, I realized that my true bra size is a 34E, whereas I have been wearing a 36D for about five years. After trying on a 34E bra by Fantasie, I knew that none of my other bras would ever be good enough – this one actually lifts my breast so that it does not overlap the underwire, and there is no spillage. Thus begins bra number one of my lingerie wardrobe makeover and, I gotta tell you, my boobs are much happier.

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