Posts Tagged ‘bras’

Despite the title, Oxfam’s ‘Big Bra Hunt’ is for bras of all shapes, sizes and varieties. The ‘Big Bra Hunt’ aims to collect a million bras in the month of April. They’ll be taken to Senegal where they won’t only help women who can’t afford to buy or make their own bras have a degree more comfort but they’ll also provide career opportunities.

As bra manufacturing is a complex process, very few developing countries have the facilities to make their own. Second-hand bras are therefore a valuable commodity and one of the most desirable items of clothing in West African second-hand clothing markets. Frip Ethique meaning ‘ethical second hand clothing’ – is a unique project run by Oxfam in Senegal that sorts and trades unsold second hand clothes from the charity’s UK shops. The project provides essential employment for disadvantaged women in the area and generates profits which can be invested in the charity’s work in West Africa.

So if you read my blog on wearing the right size bras and have realised you’re not, take your old ones to Oxfam and not only will you clear drawer space but you’ll also be helping women in Africa in more ways than one. (And buying new lingerie will be even sweeter.)

My maternity bras went to Oxfam this morning. The closest one to me is a bookstore so the 70+ year old man behind the counter looked a little frightened when I upended my carrier bag on his desk and announced loudly, ‘they’re for the bra amnesty!’ To his credit, he didn’t blush.

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One of the things that I get a bit fanatical about with my friends (though actually I think the last of them saw the light on this about 5 years ago-hence my new mission to convert the Internet) is the importance of a well fitting bra. Here’s what most women do in this country:

Age 13-get measured in M&S by a nice, matronly lady who measures your ribs, adds 4 or 5 depending on whether it’s an even or odd number, sticks a letter on it and sends you out into the world wearing a 34B.

Age 16-buy some slightly more risqué 34Bs.

Age 20/25/30/35-have a baby and buy some 36Bs, non wired for the pregnancy/breast feeding bit, wired for the toddler bit.

Age 50/55/60/65-go back to non wired and buy some 38Bs.

Here’s the secret. M&S cannot measure women for bras FOR SHIT. If you want to be properly measured there are very, very few places that will do it properly, particularly if you are large of bosom. I recommend Rigby and Peller, Bravissimo, Leia Lingerie or an independent retailer who has been suggested to you by someone who knows what they’re talking about. A good example is Kathryn Rolfe Lingerie in York, though for some reason I can’t link to her website. The thing that all these people have in common is that they know that a) if you’re a pro you probably don’t need a tape measure and b) adding 4 or 5 inches to your rib measurement to get your back size is ludicrous as bras are all now elasticated! It may have been necessary pre war, but it honest to God is not necessary now.

The problem with women believing the nice ladies in M&S is that if they wear a back size that is too large it will ride up their backs, rather than sitting in a nice, straight line. This will then mean their boobs aren’t supported by the bulk of the bra, so they sag. These women then have a choice-they can tighten the shoulder straps as much as possible to hoik their boobs back into the right place, thereby giving themselves painful and unsightly red marks in their shoulders, and meaning their shoulders take all the weight rather than their (much stronger) backs, OR they can leave the shoulder straps loose, let their boobs hang free and pretty much negate the point of wearing a bra in the first place.

What they SHOULD be doing is wearing a back size that is actually their back size. A tape measure comes in handy for this bit if you’re starting from scratch and doing it yourself. Measure round your back, under your boobs, in inches. That’s your back size. If you come out on an odd number the chances are you should go down an inch, though this will depend on the make and fit of the bra. So if you measure 30″, you are a 30″ back. This blows lots of people’s minds, mainly because M&S seem to only stock 34s and 36s, with the occasional nod to a 38. However, the chances are that if you are a size 6, 8, 10 or 12, you are much, much more likely to be a 28, 30 or 32 bra size.

To put this in perspective, I am now a size 10 or 12, depending on the shop and the item of clothing, and I wear a 30.

Now to balance this out, (as my giant boobs balance out my hips, ha ha!) I am a 30G. Or even a GG in some brands. This is huge but not as huge as it sounds. It’s roughly equivalent to a 32FF, a 34F, a 36E (sounding more like what you’re used to?) or a 38D. I could wear any of these sizes and my boobs would fit in the cups. BUT, without a well fitting back band, my boobs will be round my knees, unsupported, and swinging free. Also, my silhouette will be crap. So if you’ve merrily been wearing a 34B since you were 13 and I’ve convinced you it’s not right for you, try a 30D, or a 28DD. You may be amazed.

The trick with cups is to find your back size and then try on a variety of cup sizes in the bra you like. To do this properly:

a) do up the back and put your arms through the shoulder straps
b) lean forward
c) hoik each boob from the outside into the cup
d) stand up and observe
e) press the middle bit so it’s flat between your boobs and check it stays there. If it bounces forward it’s not fitting properly.
f) turn round and check the back band-it should be dead straight. This will feel tighter than you’re used to if you normally wear ill-fitting bras.

If you have the dreaded 4-boob effect, try the next size (or sizes) up. If there’s excess fabric, try going down a size.

The other lie that the M&S ladies peddle is that when you buy a bra it should do up comfortably on the middle hooks. This is rubbish-and I can’t even think of a good reason why they might think it’s true! You want it to do up on the loosest hooks because bras-like all clothes-stretch with time. In order to get longevity out of it you want to be able to periodically move in a set of hooks and get the same level of support. If you get to the tightest hooks and the support isn’t there anymore, it’s time for a new bra.

Yesterday I bought this in two colour ways from Leia:

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It’s gorgeous! Fantasie, Freya and Fauve are all great brands for big boobed ladies. There are many more, particularly in palaces (not a typo, I love it) like Rigby and Peller, but they cost quite a bit more. They’re worth exploring though. No price is too high for boobs that sit high so it’s obvious you do have a waist after all, make you look slimmer, make clothes fit better, and generally are worth showing off.

Glad I got that off my chest.

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