In a very short span of time, I received three unrelated comments on my blog from women convinced bra fitters consistently put them in the wrong size bra. It was such an odd occurrance. My first reaction was to think said women were resistant to their true size.
This got me thinking. Who knows more: the people fitting the rack, or the people with the rack? So I decided to ask the experts. I will tell you now the results were not at all what I expected. I have been happily educated.
Being in the wholesale bra business in NYC, I have access to some of the most experienced and knowledgeable retail operations and bra fitters in the country. Hugely successful businesses. I am also happy to call them friends. Their insight led me to my own. Buying a bra is a completely subjective, personal, intimate (pun intended) experience. Even the fitter’s approach will vary from store to store – to the point of some contradictory beliefs. No wonder women are mystified.
Let's start with what's agreed upon and unanimous:
- Your Bra Band Must be Snug
- Go to a Specialty Store
Of these two points, there is complete consensus. Your bra band is where the support comes from. Without a snug fit, a firm base, so to speak, there can be no lift. If your band is riding up in the back, it’s too big. Your band should draw a horizontal circumference around your torso. Determine bra size by band first, then cup.
Develop a relationship with a specialty shop. The art of fitting is based on experience. Like any other professional in your life (i.e. doctor, haircutter) you are best served when an intimacy is established. Department stores, while there will be scores of bras, rarely have experienced fitters, save for a few of the high-end establishments. In some cases, the sales people were in Small Housewares the week before.
While there is industry standard on these two points, that’s where the agreement ends. Some points of personal preference are:
Tape measure or no tape measure. Advocates for each were clever in their perspective: Those in favor say ‘No tape measure? What are you, psychic?’ Those against say ‘Never a tape measure unless you’re going to wear a tape measure’.
Buy bra on loosest/middle/tightest hook. Some believe buy snug on the loosest hook so, as bra stretches, you will have somewhere to go. Others say buy on the middle hook so as body fluctuates, you can adjust either way.
When asked what’s the most common mistake made, a near-consensus: Not trusting the fitter. This can be based on resistance to changing size, or being in ‘bra denial’, as one store owner calls it. Another owner cites two categories that are hardest to fit: 1. Those who believe they’re hard to fit, and 2. Lingerie bloggers. Those who believe they’re hard to fit can be converted.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master something. The 4 fitters I spoke to, collectively represent about 142 years in the business. That fulfills the 10,000 hour rule nearly 30 times over.
The takeaway from this exploration is very different than I expected. Bra fitting can be challenging because of the many different variables at play, be they physical, emotional, or scientific. Best answer is to trust the professionals. Or not. But, if the latter is the case, realize the source of your discontent.