Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boob Love

I originally wrote this post for BlogHer's "Good Health-a-thon."

First of all, if you don't love BlogHer for having me -- ME -- write about good health, then you are outta your head. I mean, haven't we all had enough of "good health" equaling some gorgeous, flat-chested, way-too-high-spirited super-blond woman cheering about stairmasters and "balanced diets"? Seriously. There is more to good health than aerobics and celery.

La la la.

So my post is about bras. And you better believe there are illustrations. Read it here! (Or below.)

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This is the third monthly update in a series, following the launch of BlogHer's 2008 Good Health-a-thon. Sign up (and get your blog badge) here.


BlogHer's Good Health-a-thon is not just about being healthy (duh), it's also about feeling good. Feeling good on the inside and feeling good on the outside. I've made all kinds of points about setting goals and doing things in the short- and long-term to help our bodies get healthier. But I think it's high time I launch into something a little more tangible and outwardly faced. As it were.

Yes, I am speaking of boobs. (With illustrations, too!)

Love 'em or hate 'em, you've probably got 'em. And that means you've got to do something with 'em. I suppose that "something" could be just letting them hang free, true. But while I like to think that I am supportive of my sistas who reject -- or burn -- the notion of bras, I long ago gave up on the idea that I could/would go anywhere in public without wearing one. So with all deference to those who choose a freer path, this post is about Finding Bras That Fit.

Finding a bra that fits is even better than finding the perfect pair of jeans. A good bra is like a good friend: it'll support you, lift you up when you're feeling down (ahem), know your darkest secrets but love you anyway, and make you look great in front of even your worst critics. The right bra can improve your posture, make your torso look longer, and help all your clothes fit better.

Plainly put, the right bra can change your life.

Except, from what I keep reading, most women have NO idea what size bra they should be wearing. It's practically epidemic. Women refuse to get fitted -- they don't like the idea, it's uncomfortable, they're too modest, they have been wearing the same bra size since high school -- and so now we're facing a national crisis where approximately 149% of US women are wearing the wrong size bra.

Hey, I was the worst offender. As a woman who is basically carrying around a pair of bowling balls, I have tried every kind of bra out there, and have been the picture-perfect "DON'T" many times over. In fact, I still offend every now and then when I let my guard down, and think "Oh, I can still fit into THAT bra" and then the pictures from the wedding come back and I notice that I looked less "lifted and separated" than I did "saggy and separated so far it kind of looks like my boobs are sprouting from my armpits."

So if you fall into any of the categories illustrated below, get thee to a fitting room! Every department store that has a lingerie section will also have a salesperson there willing (nay, champing at the bit) to help you figure out what size bra you should be trying. Maybe this seems uncomfortable or unnecessary, but I assure you, the results are worth it.

You Need To Be Fitted Immediately If Not Sooner If Any of the Following Apply To You

(And uh, about the drawings: I am not an artist. I draw for effect but not precision, as you will note in about .03 seconds. I also do not have a steady hand, and sometimes leave things out of drawings entirely unintentionally and don't even notice it until later. Try and roll with it.)

Example #1: Your Bra Creates Cleavage Where There Should Not Be Any

Sometimes, bra straps dig into your shoulder far enough that you get little lumps on either side of the strap.

Shoulder Cleavage

(I do not know why she has no eyebrows or chin or left side of body. Oops! Artistic license!)

What is interesting about this phenomenon is that, in addition to it looking a little...shall we say...less-than-chic, it's also painful for the wearer. Your bra strap should not be a device of torture (well, any more than it has to be). Taking it off should not cause your shoulder muscles to pop back into place. If your straps are doing this to you, they are not the right size.

The next grade of offense is when your bra is too tight around your back, and you create anywhere from one to three extra fat rolls. This happens when the bra number size is a little too small. I still personally do this all the time because my subconscious really believes that if the bra is cutting into my skin all the way around, cutting off circulation, burdening my breathing, and creating all kinds of ripples under my shirt, then surely it must be working!
normal back

Normal shirt fits normally.

Back Fat

It is not.

FAR WORSE than either of these, though, is the bra that is too small for you cup-wise. I have done this. You have done this. But the look? It is really not good. I'm talking about when the bra starts creeping down, and the top of the boob starts spilling over, and then you end up with a pair of boobs above the pair you already have. uplifted boob

Good!

double-breasted

Problematic! (Also, let us not discuss the number of issues with THIS scary drawing!)

Four breasts on one woman is simply two too many.

Example #2: The Uni-Boob (aka, The Sports Bra)

I do not know why sports bras are made the way they are, but I will resign myself to the idea that some physics was involved and there's a reason the "athletic" industry created this contraption. For those ladies who are a bit smaller up top, the sports bras seem to do everything they can to mash your goods into non-existence. Which is cruel.

For those of us with a little more top-cushion, the sports bras serve one purpose and one purpose only: to smoosh two perfectly normal breasts into becoming one, uncomfortable loaf. Sexy!

workout tshirt normal

boobloaf

I don't pretend to understand this phenomenon, but it's no matter. The point is, your everyday bra should not do what a sports bra does. And frankly, I do not know that the sports bra as such is even necessary. It is my belief that a good, supportive bra should serve your workout purposes as well. If you're super worried about out-of-control bounciness, try wearing a normal bra under the sports bra -- that should help your breasts resist spandex unification.

Example #3: The Bra That Is Super Comfortable (Because It Is Not Working)

The right bra should definitely be comfortable -- not digging in to your shoulders or back or unifying your goods. But it should not be so comfortable that it isn't actually doing...well...anything.

Here's a very scientific test:

  1. Take off your shirt.
  2. Look down.
  3. Note where your boobs are.
  4. Take your bra off.
  5. Note where your boobs are.


If there is no difference between step 3 and step 5, your bra is not the right size.


Thus concludes my overview of when you should consider revisiting your bra "settings." When I'm properly fitted and properly supported, I know I feel like I've had a total body makeover. So until next month's Good Health update, here's wishing the same to you and uh, yours!

22 comments:

  1. K, I LOVE you for this educational lesson. For REAL, some women need to be kindly led to a nice lady with the scary measuring tape. It made me cry once when I realized how far off I was (I'm not kidding, I cried in the dressing room at Victoria's Secret once), but in the end, my boobs have thanked me over and over again!

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  2. Now THAT is a PSA! ;)

    The right bra changed my life. Then I changed sizes. Damn it.

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  3. Love the illustrations - very helpful. I'm a visual learner :)

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  4. I don't know if this is true for everyone but every time I buy new bras this happens: If I find the perfect fitting bra and I buy two of exactly the same bra one will fit better than the other. Why Why Why? So the one the fits the best gets worn out faster! So I try to wear the other one thinking maybe it hasn't been broken in but still never fits the same and its the exact same bra!!!

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  5. I will say this, so that others may learn from my cowardice:
    I once went for a bra fitting, in a lingerie store, mind you, and it was HORRIBLE. She was NOT a nice lady with a scary measuring tape, she was a clearly untrained lady with mean tendencies with a measuring tape I eventually wanted to hang myself with.
    But.
    That is no excuse for not wearing a properly-fitting bra.
    You have convinced me that I need to try again, in a different store, and I'll do that.
    Other women: I will tell you that sometimes, bra fittings ARE scary-bad. But they are not the end of the world. They are just a good reason to boycott a store.

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  6. i've had several encounters with the scary bra measuring lady....they are always scary....and i have to say, very often wrong!
    I've followed scary bra ladies' advice and bought something they told me to get, spending oodles and oodles and ended up with something that rode up in the back and looked entirely frightening when i took of my shirt....very unzexy.

    as a very big-chested girl, i wholeheartedly recommend Lilyette as a wonderful bra!!!! Great fit and affordable. Boobies are in place, shapely, not stuffed up under the chin and not dangling somewhere in the bellybutton region. And cute when you take your shirt off.
    Generally, i think it's cup size we get wrong, so try different ones.

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  7. There's also the ill-fitting bra that you wear that's super hot but you know you'll only have it on for 20 minutes or so - just long enough to be seen and taken off. Those bras don't necessarily need to fit or offer support, just some lift scintillation for the 10 second view! You can't tell me you still don't have any of those in your drawer!

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  8. That was great!! Just one thing in the spirit of this PSA...

    Sports Bras

    They do and should support more than your everyday bra, particularly for higher impact sports. For those larger chested among us, I HIGHLY recommend some of the higher "barbell" bras at Title 9 which have underwires. They definitely keep the girls in place!

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  9. Boob-loaf is the reason I'm still fat. I simply can not bring myself to mash the girls for the sake of fitting into smaller pants. After everything they've done for me, it just doesn't seem right.

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  10. the bra fitting ladies aren't that scary if you go to a good professional place (not VS in the mall). and they can become fast friends... the day after i got into the "bra that changed my life" at least 5 people at work asked if i had lost weight. and that my friends, is why i will pay $70 per bra; its that good.

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  11. I feel kind of trashy throwing this in, amid the wonderfully insightful commentary above.

    But boob-loaf is my new favorite word.

    Without. A. Doubt.

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  12. Oh my god Kristy, I nearly peed myself laughing. Your illustrations are truly works of art.

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  13. agreeing with anonymous (2 above) that bra fittings don't have to be scary---i went into a little local place and the girl was super nice. basically we guessed my correct size, i tried some on, she told me which ones worked best and would help my body shape. it's amazing that so many bras that are the EXACT same size! can fit so differently. i think that's one thing that makes bra-shopping difficult. for the record, i love huit.

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  14. I'm with bzh. I will be saying "boob-loaf" about a hundred times tomorrow.
    And for the record, you WAY underestimate your artistic abilities!

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  15. i'm a 34FF (frickin' frinormous is the technical term, i believe). i work out (run, even!) with just one sports bra (no normal bra under) -- and it doesn't give me boob loaf. and by using just a sports bra, all the sweat is wicked away, which a normal bra just won't do.

    the professional fitters are a blessing.* going in, i thought i wore a 38/40DD. apparently i was wrong... 'twas great -- lost 4 inches in a matter of moments, without stepping foot in the gym!

    oh, and if the sports bra doesn't fit quite right (or any bra for that matter), it can probably be altered. seriously.**

    and miss thistle? don't work out to wear smaller pants -- work out to make your boobs looks better :) -- pec exercises will make 'em oh-so-perky.


    *for anyone in the austin, tx area -- petticoat fair. faaaaaabulous folks there, and when you buy six bras, you get the seventh free -- and and and! they have pretty bras in big-girl sizes.

    **really. you can

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  16. Wow this is a great post! I loved the illustrations, everything about it was hilariously true.

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  17. You're hilarious, but I have to disagree with the sports bra part... Have you tried running with a regular bra??? Or jumping to spike a volleyball? When you land, your boobs are out of the bra, regardless how it fit pre-jogging/jumping.

    I found an awesome sports bra from Moving Comfort that has regular straps (not racerback, so looks good if you want to wear a tank top!), keep the girls in place, and though it doesn't lift and separate, it doesn't uniboob them much, and when I run, I don't feel myself bouncing around, with the fear I'm going to knock myself out.

    The easiest way to avoid the uniboob? Use a sports bra that has bra sizes (including cup size), not just X,M,L sizes since those are guaranteed to unite them.

    But regular bra for high impact activities? Ouch. It hurts just thinking about it.

    Aside from that? You cracked me up!!

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  18. I had a bra fitting at Nordstrom that changed my life. And that's all I really need to say about that.

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  19. I feel the need to note that the "real" bra under sports bra phenomenon is called "Double Bagging".

    As in, you go to the grocery store, and the milk is so heavy you have to double bag it.

    As in, you jog on the treadmill, and your boobs are so huge, you have to double bag them.

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  20. *snickering* I loved this post. Just wanted to offer you a name for the one-boob look captured in Example 2 about sports bras. A friend of mine dubbed it the "uni-boob."

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  21. I sucked it up about 2 years ago and was measured and fitted into correct bras.. My lord. It was the best thing that ever happened to the twins - and surprisingly enough (at least to me) the ended up looking proportionate. Every woman needs to get measured, if not for aesthetics, for comfort.

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  22. Great post! BTW, Nordstrom has the best fitters I have ever seen. There was one in Bellevue WA who had ectrodactyly (look it up and be amazed) who was the best ever. You should have seen her whipping them on and off me. She'd make any 11th grade boy trying to get to 3rd base insanely jealous.

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