There are about 3.8 billion women in the world, the majority of whom wear a bra on a daily basis. But ever since the Journal of Chiropractic & Osteopathy published a study in 2008 stating 80% of women wear the wrong bra size, people started to question the staple piece of clothing that is meant to make life a little bit easier.
Over the past decade, women have been moving more toward purchasing lingerie that is actually comfortable, rather than buying an item based on its look, according to data from the NPD Group, a research firm based in Port Washington, New York.
“There really aren’t many sizes available in the retail market,” says Sarah Wiener, owner of Vienna lingerie shop Trousseau. “Major manufacturers like Victoria’s Secret tend to put more stretch into the bras, too, which is giving you space but not where you need it.”
While fitting is a technical process, the gist is this: the number is body frame size, and the letter is the cup volume, which refers to the difference between the size of your breasts and your rib cage. If the straps are falling off your shoulders, the band rides up or you feel like you’re showing too much of the top of your chest, you’re wearing the wrong bra.
Companies like Trousseau, which is celebrating 20 years this fall, offer custom-fit consultations and complementary alterations, and they are popping up all over the country as the need for real-fit bras is realized. Trousseau, for example, offers over 160 sizes and carries over 4,500 bras on the floor at all times.
What many people aren’t aware of when they come into the store, according to Wiener, is that women rarely fit into one specific bra, especially now that there are so many varying styles in the world, like underwire, demi and bralette, to name a few.
“Women often come in and they want to know what size they are so they can buy multiple of our bras in that one size, but that’s just not how it works,” Wiener explains. “There are many different shapes of bodies and tissue densities, so depending on the person, three, five or even eight sizes may work for them because it varies from manufacturer.”
Nanette Parsons, owner of Best Rack Around in Leesburg, carries cup sizes from A through M, and works with women who have or are having mastectomy surgery, young girls who are still growing and everyone in between.
“I really think we overthink it as women, because there isn’t the right bra,” Parsons says. “It really needs to be about you and not the bra. So, you may be more comfortable in a bra that technically isn’t your size, but that’s because none of us are just one.”
With market bras that offer sales, for example two-for-one or buy-one-get-one-half-off, the quality is typically designed to be that way, according to Wiener. When you buy a quality bra, it will fit better and last longer, too. At both boutique shops, most products are purchased from Europe.
“You’re supposed to be comfortable in the bra,” Wiener says. “Most women don’t realize that you should be able to put a bra on in the morning and not want to rip it off by the time you get home at night.”
- Wash your bra every three or so wears
- You should have at least three bras in your closet for optimal wear
- Hand-washing is always best
- If you do use a washing machine, cold water and a linen bag are suggested
- Alternate which bra you wear so the elastic has a chance to rest
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