Expert Bra fitting – for a Cure

BRA FITTING TIPS FROM THE PROFESSIONALS!

(Reprinted by request from Oct 15, 2007 – because you still need all of this info and you can still find these great items online!)

Fit for the CureFor Breast Cancer Awareness month, Wacoal is having bra fitting events in various lingerie departments nationwide. Receive a complimentary fitting in a Wacoal, DKNY or Donna Karan Intimates bra from a Wacoal fit specialist and Wacoal will donate $2 to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation. An additional $2 donation will be made for every Wacoal, DKNY Underwear or Donna Karan Intimates bra purchased at one of these events.

I went to the event at Dillard’s in the mall nearest me. The ladies in the lingerie department were all wearing pink and had special pink Wacoal measuring tapes. A party-like atmosphere was created with complementary pink cookies, pink M&Ms, pink lemonade, coffee and an Origins consultant sampling body products. Pink ribbon pins were available and special prize drawings could be entered as well.

Jenny and LauraI had a great time meeting 2 bra experts: Laura Shifflett, a Sales Consultant with Wacoal (right), and Jenny Barreto, a Dillard’s Corporate Body Fashion Specialist for the state of Florida (left). Laura was assigned to fit me, she called on Jenny now and then for advice, and they were both kind enough to answer some bra related questions over lunch during an afternoon break.

Laura immediately led me to a dressing room and asked me to take my top off. She could tell by looking that my bra was too big in the band. She was able to pull the band about 2-3 inches away from my back and said my bra should fit much more snugly. I mentioned that I had recently lost weight and dropped a cup size, and a quick flip of her measuring tape told me I should have gone down a BAND size and stayed with the same cup size. This is a common mistake women make.

“36C is the most common bra size, but it’s also the most incorrect bra size,” Laura said. “Everyone thinks they are a 36C. If your bras aren’t fitting properly, try going down a band size and up a cup size if no one is available to measure you. But really, you should get professionally fitted.”

I was measured in 3 places. First Laura measured under my armpits and around my back. Surprisingly, she pulled the tape measure very tight, NOT so the ends were just barely touching. When I was measured last month (by Jeff), he did not pull the tape measure tight enough. Basically, let the air out of your chest and pull till you can’t pull no more.
bra fitting tape measure

“Your bra support comes from your band, around your chest,” Laura said. “When the band is too loose, there goes your support!”

She also measured around the largest part of my chest (from nipple-height around my back) and just under my breasts, where you typically add 4-5 inches to find your band size “I don’t do math, so I trust the top measurement where you don’t have to add anything,” Laura explained.

Laura also said many women wear their bra band a bit too high on their back. Your bra band should be straight across your body horizontally. Most women wear theirs about 2 inches too high. In other words, your band should be parallel to the floor and if your bra band arches up between your bra straps near your shoulder blades, you have the wrong size bra on or your shoulder straps need to be adjusted.

Laura also taught me the Elbow Test.

bra elbow test
After trying on a new bra, bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle. The bulk of your breast should sit halfway between your shoulder and elbow.

She encouraged me to try on 32″ and 34″ bras instead of the 36s I had been wearing. She brought different style bras into the dressing room so we could make sure her fitting was accurate. The first bra I tried on was a beautiful, black, Swiss-dotted lace and nude DKNY Sensual curves push-up contour bra. It fit great and looked sophisticated and sexy. The DKNY Modern Classics Stretch Foam Contour Bra in chocolate felt great to the touch, but I overflowed out of the top of the D cups. Most of the 34s I tried on fit snugly, most of the 32s were too small. Some 34Cs fit great, some 34Ds were necessary to provide full coverage.

Next we paired some Dillard’s dresses that create “bra trouble” with the right bras. Sometimes your favorite outfit needs just the right bra, or you can’t wear it. Laura helped me solve these bra dilemmas:

Halter top
green halter“Avoid the double bubble!” Laura warned. Some people call this quadro-boob, when the top of your bra cup pushes into your breast (because the cup size is too small) and when you put a thin shirt on you have 4 bumps under your top instead of 2.
If you are wearing something low cut and your plunge bra still shows a littleĀ  (like the nude bra cup you can see under the green top), you can use a bit of fabric tape to close the gap between your bra and your clothes. The bra that worked with this top was the Wacoal Custom Contours convertible bra with clear straps. I converted the strap to a halter. It had a slight push up and plunge in front. The center between the cups (gore) had criss-crossed fabric so the bra can move more easily with your body.

Deep plunge halter dress
plunge bra
Under a Jagger grey halter dress from Dillard’s, the best bra was the Fashion Forms U Plunge Brafashion forms u plunge bra. The padded cups do not provide full breast coverage, so they would take some getting used to for me. There are pockets on the cups so you can insert pads for added cleavage. It has convertible straps and can be pulled down in back as shown with this low-back option.
low back halter bra

Strapless dress
Wacoal stretch halo strapless bra The first bra I tried under a cute, belted brown strapless dress from Dillard’s was a Wacoal Comfort Strapless Halo bra (shown, right). It was made of seamless, pretty stretch lace, but it was not the right bra for me. My breasts looked squeezed into a narrow 2-inch section stuck to the front of my body. “We call that banana hammock,” Laura laughed. She did say stretch lace bras are a big seller in Florida, where we are, and other hot weather locations, because they are lightweight and the fabric breathes easily.
I tried a Cassandra strapless bra that had a unique square shaped center gore with its own piece of wire that separated the 2 pieces of underwire in the cups. This center bit of metal dug into my ribs and was uncomfortable on me. If your underwire digs into your body, it’s the wrong bra for you!
strapless bra dress I tried a 3rd strapless bra, the Modern Movement strapless in black. It fit great, and Laura explained that it was made with a fuller figure fit. The wings (the 2 separate pieces that make up the back band) are wider and there was an extra ‘bone’ or metal piece running vertically under my armpits, behind the cups of the bra. It was perfect for me.

strapless black dressSpaghetti strap dress
For a cool, cotton, pleated black dress with low cut front and spaghetti straps; the Felina Emily strapless bra in 34D gave me the secure feel I needed that I would not fall out of the dress if I bent over. It had a high center gore that still did not show from the front of the dress, and had clear, removable straps. There was one removable strap missing from the bra I tried on, and Laura told me that Dillard’s usually has extras by the register. Felina also makes a laser cut Hint of Skin bra that is tag-less, seamless, lightweight and cool.

When I asked Laura and Jenny about their training and how they entered the lingerie industry, Jenny said Dillard’s has one of the best programs in the business. For about 6 months women take exams, practice fittings and file reports before they are certified. Laura was also trained through Dillard’s, but when she started as a Wacoal specialist, she went on buying seminars and had on-the-job-training fittings.

New Wacoal product lines are introduced in spring and fall, as new fashions come out. Laura flies to New York to learn about them. There are a much larger number of new products introduced at the spring shows, and the items that sell well stay on for the fall lines. Wacoal has ‘fit’ models they use to size bras, showing how their products fit on normal size bodies instead of twiggy runway models.

I asked Laura the worst bra mistake she had seen. She remembered a woman coming in with a bra that was already too big in the band, and she was adding an extender to the back to make it even larger. What she really needed was a smaller band and larger cup size. Women being in denial about their cup size seemed to be the theme of the afternoon!

We also spoke a bit about bras for women with breast implants. Because the day’s event had a breast cancer focus, some women were coming for a fitting post-mastectomy and concerned they would not be fitted correctly. Jenny and Laura both knew about proper fitting and styles for women who had breast surgery. “If you’re between 2 cup sizes or have implants, a stretch bra is often a good idea.” The problem most women with implants have is that the U-shape of a bra’s underwire is too wide for them. “Natural breast tissue starts back under your arm, but a breast implant is all in front of the body,” Jenny explained. Women with implants need a narrower cup shape and longer band for this reason. “There is one bra on the market for augmented breasts, but it will be improved upon and copied and soon there will be a lot more bras for breast implants,” Jenny said, referring to the Le Mystere No. 9 bra. Both Jenny and Laura advise women with uneven breasts or one prosthetic breast, to always fit the larger side or natural side correctly. “You can always add a pad on one side to make things bigger, but a bra can’t make a natural breast smaller.”

I wondered if a Wacoal rep could see things in a dressing room and take first-hand knowledge back to the company for improvements. Laura said she makes corporate level suggestions all the time. She said the Wacoal ibra “the first one piece laser cut seamless smooth bra” was made from 2 pieces of fabric heat seared together. Women wearing the bra found that when the convertible straps were crossed in the back, parts of the fabric flopped over. Due to customer feedback, Wacoal improved the bra, but it was no longer convertible. “Not every bra can be everything to everyone,” Jenny said, apologetically.
2 strap holesLots of women complain about bra straps slipping off their shoulders. This could mean the wrong bra size, or straps not adjusted correctly, but if your best fitting bra still does this, Wacoal offers another solution. Some of their bras have removable straps with 2 places to insert the straps – so you can pick the spot that works best for you (shown in photo.)

We also spoke about how often women should get fitted for the proper bra size. “At least once a year, but every 6 months is ideal,” Jenny said. And don’t trust your fitting to that little lingerie shop in the mall with all the hot pink puppies in the window. Some shops train their girls to fit through a one-time video. Jenny clarified with one simple statement. “Salespeople are trained to sell. Fitters are trained to fit.” Laura also added that you should get fitted if you gain or lose 5 pounds or more. “We get fitted because our bodies change, our posture changes, and our needs change.”

I read recently about breaking in a new bra, like breaking in a pair of leather shoes. This sounded odd to me. I asked if a new bra should feel great when you walk out of the dressing room. “That depends,” Laura said. “If you were wearing the same size and type of bra, your new one should fit great. But if you got fitted to a new size or are trying your first seamless or underwire bra, or if you were wearing your bra with the incorrect placement and suddenly you’re wearing it correctly, that will take some getting used to.” And Jenny added that bra fabric has ‘sizing’, similar to the starch in dry cleaned clothing, to keep shape during shipment and in the store. As you wash and wear a new bra a couple of times, this sizing relaxes out of the fabric, and it will feel different than the first time you wore the bra.

We spoke about bra no-nos. One is being close-minded about new bras. “Women come in the store and say ‘I only want seamlesss’ or ‘I never wear underwire’. And because they have tried on one bra of a certain type that did not fit them well, they won’t try it again.” Some women who dislike underwire bras go so far as to wear sports bras all day, all the time. “I don’t attack them at first, even though I want to,” Laura joked. “I bring them in the dressing room for a fitting, and then take the bra I think they should be wearing – the right style and size – and have them try it on and tell them it’s ‘just for size’.” More often then not, customers end up buying the bra Laura has chosen, even if it is their first underwire in years. Her expertise is just that good. “I’m like a doctor, I’ve seen everything and fitted everyone, even sweaty women at the gym. Don’t be shy, just try on a new bra and see what works.”

Jenny said she owns too many bras to pick a favorite. “I like seamed bras. They give a more tailored shape than a seamless bra and I need a lot of support,” she says, pointing to her zaftik boobies. And right there in the middle of the mall, she pulled down the top of her camisole to give us a peek at the pretty, embellished bra she has on.

For 2007, Wacoal will make a minimum guaranteed donation of $250,000. Available at the Wacoal event were Self Breast Exam instruction cards. You can also sign up at any Fit for the Cure event or online for a complimentary email reminder to do your monthly self exam. Find out more here.

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4 Comments

  1. Laura says:

    Thank you so much for putting my knowledge and my passion for what I do into words!
    Laura

  2. Ginger says:

    Hello, I am a high school senor and am writing a thesis on bras and bra fittings. (more specifically prosthesis and the effect a mastectomy has on a woman) I have done lots of research, but I was wondering how far should the band be able to be pulled from the back of the client. 1 inch? half inch? Please contact me. Thank You!!!

  3. Rachel says:

    You should be able to run a hand underneath the band flat against your back, but if you can then turn your hand 90 degrees (so the pinky is against the back, and the thumb is against the strap) then the band is too big.

  4. Laura, I remember this! And I remember this girl/the writer. She was petite. 32 or 34 something… Its been 5 years already. Think about all that has changed since 2007… Unbelievable. We’re mommy’s. LOL! but one thing that’s hasn’t changed is we’re still fitting! We’re still rockin’ women’s lives! Rock on! #BraGirlsRule

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