In her former life, our online editor Hannah Delaney was a bra fitter. Here she outlines the reasons to get fitted each and every time you need lingerie.
No matter what your size, when shopping for a bra there is only one rule: get it professionally fitted. When it's professionally fitted you'll save time, money and your posture.
When I was a bra fitter, I saw every day the difference a bra fitting made to a woman, not only in terms of confidence, aesthetics and health but also in terms of her wallet.
The lingerie boutique I worked in sold the same bras and brands as department stores. It was staffed by young but experienced fitters and fittings were free yet it was with great trepidation that many women crossed the threshold.
“Just looking!” they’d snap as they walked in.
Their hostility could generally be explained by one or all of these concerns: price, embarrassment, pressure to buy.
But once they bit the bullet, they soon realized their fears were misplaced.
Think for a minute about all the bras and underwear currently overflowing from your wardrobe or cupboard drawers. How many of these bras do you wear every day, every week, every month?
If the majority of them stay tucked (or stuffed) away for most of their lives, there’s probably a good reason: poor fit. And even though they don’t fit it’s hard to part with them because, god damn it, you paid A LOT of money for those suckers. But suck they do, if their greatest legacy is to pinch, rub, ride up or fall off your shoulders.
But, if you got your bra fitted every time you needed something new, it’s likely you’d have far fewer bras and they’d be worn far more often. Your return on investment would be greater than the sad drawer full of ill-fitting lace and wire you currently have. The hot pink and orange ones you snagged for 25% off in a department store sale. The lacy numbers that look horrid under t-shirts. The bras that work under no dress or shirt in your wardrobe. The deep-plunge bra you bought for a J-Lo inspired dress back in 2002. The cute triangle bra with crystals on the straps that you used to be able to wear. When you were 12. Before you hit puberty. Yep, those ones.
Rule 1: just because it’s on sale, doesn’t make it fit any better. It’s not a bargain if it doesn’t fit. It’s not a bargain if it doesn’t work under your everyday clothes. One full price, perfectly fit bra trumps 5 bras that NEVER get worn. (or drive you to insanity every time you wrestle them on)
Step 1: Clean our your drawers. Give all of the bras you no longer wear to charity.
Men’s idea of a bra fitting goes something like this: dark lighting, disco balls and Barry White playing softly in the background. The scenario is all very sensual.
Many women’s idea of a bra fitting goes something like this: standing butt-naked in front of a crabby old woman who peels back the curtain unannounced, measuring tape in hand, beige pointy bras at the ready and hands wrestling your breasts into said beige bras.
The reality? Firstly, a good fitter will ask you what bra you’re after and why, what clothes you plan to wear with it and then will give you some options. During the fitting you’re NOT entirely naked. All a fitter needs to see is the bra on you – how it fits from the front, side and back – so except for your top, remain fully dressed at all times.
And if that’s still a bit confronting, think of being on the beach in a swimsuit: it’s not that different. Like any doctor or beautician, they’ve seen it all before and THEN some, so relax. The only thing they judge is the fit of the bra. They don’t care about– they don’t even see – your muffin top, stretch marks, cellulite, pot-belly, back fat or veiny legs. Why? Because bra fitters are women just like you and it’s likely they share at least one of those body issues.
Most good bra fitters don’t even use a measuring tape. Because of the varying shapes and sizes between brands and different material types, the naked eye and the customer’s opinion of fit make for a more exact assessment. However, if your fitter feels more comfortable fitting this way, then go with it – it’s merely a starting point and a good one too.
It can take some time to find something that fits: you’ll vary between brands but it should never be more than a cup size. You’ll vary also because of the shape of your breasts, the distribution of weight in them (whether you’re right in front or if they seem to start under your arms) your back measurement and the corresponding cuts that suit them. Like A-line skirts that do nothing for a woman with hips, so too does the cut of a bra determine what breast it best suits. For example, if you always ‘pop’ out the front of your bra, it might be as much the cut of it that is wrong as the size.
RULE 2: Calm down. They’ve seen it all before.
STEP 2: If you’re particularly nervous, take a friend for moral support.
Due to their lower buying power, boutiques sell at the recommended retail price but can’t consistently sale like the behemoth department stores. It’s no crime to get fitted for free and not make a purchase but if you’ve no intention of purchasing from the outset, get a quick fit and move on to allow the fitter to help another customer. Keep in mind that boutiques often have a broader range of sizes compared to department stores and you may not find what you’re after in a larger store. Ask the store if they have a price-match policy or layby. Stores can also order in hard-to-source sizes for you to try free of charge.
A fitter is as aware as any that the pressure to buy something quickly is the reason so many women have ill-fitting bras in the first place. So if you’re still not sure – or are confronted by how different your bra size is from the one you thought you were (it happens) simply explain that you need time to think. A good idea is to return to the store a few days later with those items of clothes you never wear due to bra issues. Try the bra you like with these items and check the fit (and look) again. After all, bras are expensive in Australia so it pays to make sure you’re buying something you’ll wear as often as possible.
RULE 3: Try as many different shapes, sizes and brands as you can. Don't act on impulse.
STEP 3: Take your time. Return with clothing if in doubt. Whether you’re an AA-cup or a K cup, finding the right bra is just as difficult. For A- G cups, try brands like Elle Macpherson, Fine Lines, Berlei, Calvin Klein and Triumph who deliver consistently good fit, fashionably.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK: For D-G cups, try EVOLLOVE, a new and exciting brand especially for smaller frame ladies with big cup sizes - think, 8F, 12G and the like. It’s available in Myer or online.
Canberra: Lin and Barrett Lingerie; Colleen's*
Sydney: Lin and Barrett Lingerie
Queensland: Big Girls Don't Cry (Anymore)
Melbourne: Brava Lingerie
Adelaide: Burnside Plaza Lingerie*
Perth: Four Seasons Lingerie*
* Provides mastectomy fittings.