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Have you bought a bra lately?

Gold braI went bra shopping at lunchtime today. At Eaton’s. Home to gazillions of bras.

Bra technology seems to have expanded significantly since I last bought a bra, and clearly I haven’t kept abreast of new developments.

It used to be there were just sizes: the number (the circumference of your ribcage below your breasts in inches, plus 5) and the letter (the size of your cups: the difference in inches between your chest circumference measurement below your breasts and your chest circumference measurement at breast level, converted to letters: 1 inch difference=A, 2 inches=B, etc.). That’s plenty complicated enough for me, and apparently for others too, since 85% of women wear the wrong bra size.

But now the manufacturers are throwing in all these other variables like half-sizes, racerbacks, t-shirt, balconnet, convertibles, strapless, gel straps, spa straps, foam, graduated foam, microfoam, microfiber, high tech fabrics that wick the moisture away, stretch memory fabric, undercup slings, cutaway wings, wide side wings, laminated cups, demi cups, seamless, underwire, wireless, microstitched wire substitutes, full support, medium support, padded, silicone-gel padded, gel-shaped, minimizing, maximizing, push up, side push, cleavage creating, cleavage enhancing and decollette.

I just wanted a comfortable, all-purpose bra. Apparently there is no such thing. Bra technology has simply not evolved that far.

But it has evolved to the point where women have to adopt a higher standard of bra maintenance. One of my colleagues bought a bra at La Senza the other day and the sales clerk told her not to fold it or keep it in a drawer – it must be hung up on a hanger in the closet in order to maintain its contours. She says it looks weird hanging in the closet, and it takes up more closet space than a shirt, say, because it’s so three-dimensional and sculpted and perky.

The revelation that 85% of us wear the wrong bra size has led to a burgeoning career field: professional bra fitters. They measure your breasts every which way and then recommend the right bra for you. According to an Australian study, 68% of the bras recommended by professional bra fitters don’t fit either.

The good news for manufacturers is that women are so used to wearing uncomfortable bras we have developed extremely low expectations of comfort. We complain about how uncomfortable our bras are, but we complain privately to one another rather than as consumers demanding a higher standard.

My friend Kathryn and I used to meet for a beer on Elgin Street sometimes after work. We’d slide into our booth while simultaneoulsy slipping our bras off through out sleeves and stuffing them in our purses.

“Ahhh,” we’d sigh blissfully, “that feels so good.”

Anyway. I bought a bra today. It’s not very comfortable and it’s probably the wrong size.

By the way, I stumbled across this bra size calculator and I got pretty mystifying results. It said I should be wearing a 34D. Anybody who knows me knows this can’t possibly be right. Can someone else give it a try and tell me if it works for them?

11 comments to Have you bought a bra lately?

  • Gillian

    I agree with you. It certainly has given me a smaller cup and bigger surround than what I wear. The only thing is I measured myself. Having a friend measure might make a difference.

  • It gave you a smaller cup? It gave me a bigger cup…a dramatically bigger cup. The only friend who could measure me that generously would be a plastic surgeon!

  • Deb

    It gave me a 40AA and we all know that isn’t true. There is no way you are a D and I am a AA. Mind you, I guessed at my measurements because I broke my tape measure a couple of weeks ago. It will get a new one and try it.

  • Deb

    Oh yeah, did you run into our little sister yesterday…she bought a “big girl” bra too.

  • I didn’t find it helpful either. It gave me a DD cup size and that’s just silly. But I did measure myself so who knows. I usually buy a C cup when I am a little fat as I am now. When I was 20 I wore a B cup. Anything bigger bags. Plus I find that different brands fit differently and underwires don’t lie on my ribs comfortably. I agree – finding a good bra is difficult. Maybe we need to invent something new?

  • Guy

    Is there still an Eaton’s around?

  • Well that’s interesting…it’s getting everybody wrong and in all different directions. Maybe it’s a random bra size generator?

    Deb, no, it’s just a coincidence that she and I bought bras on the same day. (I took mine back today, by the way, and exchanged it for a different size. I should have done my bra-size research before buying a bra instead of before blogging about buying a bra…)

    Good eye Guy. I got it at the store formerly known as Eatons, at the Rideau Centre. I think it’s a Sears now (and probably has been for years).

  • Deb

    I just tried it again…this time using metric instead of inches and it came to my exact size that I am currently wearing.

  • I’m avoiding going into that department. Maybe that’s the wrong tack. I should be working up to like an Ironman run thru the lingerie and all these choices.

  • charlotte

    worked for me you need to put all three measurements in for it to work right

  • Great advice, i am heading over to check out your entire site now. I thought I would leave my first comment