Women come in many different shapes and sizes, which is becoming more openly celebrated in our society. Consequently, the bra industry is booming with options that offer comfort, support and the perfect fit for every unique body type. It also means that getting properly fitted for a bra is more important now than ever before.
“Getting fitted for a bra means taking the time to find the right bra shape in the correct size — something that’s hard to do without a lot of research and knowledge of what is available,” says Belinda Durham, Certified Fit Specialist, Certified Mastectomy Fitter (CMF) and co-owner of A Fitting Place. “We are trained to fit each bra type and help the consumer understand what a proper fit feels like.”
Heading into the fitting room with a fit specialist for the first time can be a bit intimidating; it can make you feel vulnerable. However, you wind up reaping the rewards of renewed body confidence and a flattering silhouette, from a bra that’s also comfortable. Put simply, you’ll never go back to buying off-the-rack bras at your local department store.
“Due to the respect, knowledge and experience our fitters provide, our clients fall in love — not only with their new figure but also with their fitter and store,” says Janet Scheuner, Certified Fit Specialist, CMF and co-owner of A Fitting Place. “We often say the dressing room is a therapy session for both the client and us. We cry, we laugh, and we listen. It is truly remarkable how many ‘thank you’ notes, gifts or tips we receive from our wonderful customers.”
Belinda smiles, adding, “We are tickled when we see them walking out of our dressing room and exclaiming, ‘Thank you for a bra that fits! This is the first time in my life that I have felt and looked this great.’”
We sat down with Belinda and Janet to get the inside scoop on finding the perfect fit. From rookie mistakes and bra types, to what to expect in the fitting room and even post-mastectomy fittings, here’s your ultimate guide to finding the perfect bra.
Your Ultimate Guide to Finding the Perfect Bra
Washing your bras in the machine and placing them in your dryer is a cardinal sin in the world of fit-to-size bras. “Washing lingerie in a machine may cause damage to the bra straps, hooks and underwire,” says Belinda. “The heat from the dryer damages the elasticity.” The best way to protect the support and comfort of your bras is to hand wash them with a specially formulated lingerie wash. Air-drying is best.
Band and cup size
“Another common mistake we see is that many women increase the band size when they are trying to get the cup to fit,” says Janet of this nuance that’s second nature to a fit specialist. “Bras also have ‘sister sizes’ — bras where the cups are the same but have differing band sizes.”
Belinda and Janet say you shouldn’t wear the same bra multiple days in a row, as doing so reduces the life expectancy of the bra. “We think it is crucial to have a variety of bra styles for your wardrobe: three everyday bras, a strapless and a sports bra,” explains Belinda.
Janet agrees, adding, “We emphasize the need for more than one ‘everyday’ bra: one to wear, one to wash and one to rest.”
Bra Parts: 101
The band should fit snugly around the rib cage and be parallel to your waistline. It should feel like a hug or embrace. If the bra band is too big, it will ride up your rib cage and cause the breast to rest on the abdomen.
Strap adjustment is one of the most forgotten items when it comes to fit. A bra is made to support and lift. Allow a bra to work for you by balancing the weight between the straps and the band. Shoulder straps should be tight enough to hold your breasts in place, but not so tight that it puts undue pressure on your shoulders.
Your breast tissue should be inside the cup and should not spill over the top, back or sides of the bra. A bra should fit snugly; if you feel as though you are not wearing a bra, it is probably not supporting your breasts.
Questions to Ask Your Certified Bra-Fit Specialist
The most asked question is: What is my bra size? Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer. “Not every size in a bra will fit every person the same,” says Janet. “U.S. sizes differ from U.K. sizes, for instance, and this can be very confusing for the consumer.”
The better question might be: Which styles work best for my breast shape? It’s better to communicate your preferences and desired outcome with your bra specialist, so she can help you find a shape and style that complements your body and wardrobe.
Styles for Various Body Types
The best lingerie for one’s body type is ultimately what makes them look and feel their best. A fitter can marry a client’s desires to the brand and style that helps achieve that result. For instance, a demi or balconette bra might not be the best fit for a woman with a fuller cup or more dense breast tissue, but a more supportive bralette or a plunge bra could do the trick.
Similarly, women who think underwires are uncomfortable might be surprised to learn that they are likely wearing the wrong size. Almost every woman should be able to sport a flattering and comfy underwire. The breast shape determines the width and height of the underwire — and they come in a dizzying array of sizes: full cup, stretch cup, plunge, plunge stretch, bandless spacer, molded, balconette and strapless. Needless to say, a fitter can help you navigate these details to find your ideal fit.
What to Expect at Your Bra Fitting
Once in the fitting room, your fitter will take a close measurement of your rib cage (band size) and the fullest part of your bust (cup size). Based on what you’re looking for, she will bring you bras to try on. “Our fitters know the products they are fitting, and which lines and styles will best fit which body type,” explains Belinda. “Our goal is to find your perfect fit without you becoming distressed over the process.”
The fitter will work with you, trying different styles and sizes as necessary, to make sure the bra is comfortable and supportive. Then you’ll both assess how the bra looks under your everyday garments, to ensure it creates a flattering silhouette that makes you feel your best.
Given the nuances in bra sizing, re-measuring your dimensions at each visit might be wise. “We recommend you get fitted at least once a year,” adds Janet. “As women, our weight may or may not change. But our body structure will change in both musculature and bone.”
Maternity & Nursing Bras
“It is important to be fitted during your pregnancy, as our fit philosophy is different for women who are expectant mothers,” says Belinda. She notes that most women increase by at least one band size, and one to four cup sizes, during pregnancy. With that in mind, they require bras that offer support, growth and comfort.
“As for nursing bras, it is impossible to predict how your breasts will respond to milk supply, as each woman is different,” says Janet. “We prefer to measure and fit nursing moms once the milk has regulated.” Non-underwire bras are preferred by lactation nurses, but there are still other effective options. Janet adds, “Nursing moms’ breasts are fuller and heavier, and need to be supported 24 hours a day. She may choose to wear a leisure bra at night and something more supportive during waking hours.”
Post-mastectomy bras are available in many styles, colors and textures and help in recreating symmetry following breast surgery or radiation. There is a pocket to hold the breast prosthesis securely against the chest wall. It’s designed to support the weight of both the breast prosthesis and the natural breast and also assists with avoiding irritation at the surgical site, also known as the port-a-cath. Post-mastectomy bras are built up at the apex of the breast to provide extreme support.
“With post-mastectomy bras, special attention is given to the support, fit and feel,” says Belinda. “When we help a post-surgical woman who has just been making-do and stuffing her bras with socks or cotton … What a gift for us to see the tears of joy when we have helped restore her self-image.”
Janet adds, “We are truly blessed to be able to help women find their perfect fit.”
When you arrange your fitting session with a Certified Fit Specialist, you’ll walk away with your perfect bra, a renewed sense of comfort, physical support and body confidence.
A Fitting Place is located at 6150 Poplar Ave., Suite 111, Memphis, Tennessee 38119. Learn more at afittingplacememphis.com.
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