In middle and high school, I attended an all-girls Episcopal school. It was very small, everyone knew everyone, and at some point you were going to have had a sleepover with almost everyone else. Not at once, obviously, no one lived in a castle, but still. We got around. God, that still sounds wrong. Writing: I Am So Good At It.
ANYWAY, you’re at someone’s house with your girlfriends, getting ready for the middle school dance. Everyone’s makeup and pajamas and shoes and nonsense is everywhere, and Britney and N’Sync are blaring away, and we’re all buzzed on Twizzlers and Starburst, and you’re already at a disadvantage in the fun “let’s swap outfits!” game, because the only other person as freakishly enlarged as yourself is your sister, and she’s not sharing her shoes, because they’re hers and you’ll “stretch them out”. Makeup’s flying, hair’s curling, outfits are changing, and . . . yep, there they are. The awesome, awesome bras are coming out. They’re neon and striped and dotted and leopard-printed and lacy and your classmates look all young and adorable and cheerful and teenagery and your bra is beige and stupid and old-lady-y and you want one of those pretty bras sooooo badly.
So you decide “hey, I have boobs. Victoria’s Secret = Sexy Big Boobed Models, right?. I will be great.” So you go, and then you cringe, as the “fitter” insists that you should totally be wearing that size; that’s how it’s supposed to look, as you stare at the flattest, worst cleavage ever, boobs spilling out from under and over, tiny straps digging into your shoulders. And then you feel like something is wrong with you and you are broken and you want to die because everything is terrible. Your teenage hormones might be contributing to these feelings. Maybe a little.
There are several things that bug me about Victoria’s Secret. I hate the pants with words on the butt. I hate that they promote one uniform definition of sexiness: no hips, long legs, flowing hair, flat abs, gravity-defying boobs, contorted poses, tan tan tan. I hate the sequins and neon, stretching on for days without interruption. I hate that girly = pink, and pink only. I hate that VS says that underwear is about being SEXAY for the MENFOLK, instead of about the woman wearing it and how she feels. I haaaaaaate the way the models are BLATANTLY wearing ill-fitting bras. Like, come on. Y’all can now totally tell these bras don’t fit, right?
Most of all, though, I hate that through VS and some of our other department stores, we come to believe that the only bra sizes in the world are 32-38 A-D.
You guys, an unbelievably small fraction of the female population should actually wear one of these sixteen sizes. Unbelievably small. “But Sweets, those are the only sizes that are sold! I have to fit in one of those, or something is wrong with me!” Untrue. But it’s a confusing issue, and the media and the more mainstream retailers further muddy the waters. On the one hand, we have reports that say “boobs are growing! More women buying Cs than Bs! Women getting bigger/fatter!” to make us paranoid and ashamed of larger cup sizes (or we have aggressive campaigns to convince us that smaller cup sizes are unattractive). And if your retailer is only offering a small size range, you’re going to cram yourself into the wrong size or let yourself swim in the wrong size, and that’s the size that’s going to sell that’s going to show up in the report, so saying “C cup so huge!” remains acceptable (and wrong). If your retailer educates you on proper sizing and provides more options, hells yes you’re going to buy larger cupped bras if you need them (just a reminder: Bravissimo offers around 80 sizes of their Alana bra. Isn’t that inspiring? Fit perfectly calibrated to fit 80 different kinds and shapes of women). But realistic size ranges are still in woefully short supply over here, so the facts are hopelessly skewed.
Speaking of sizes, remember that whole measure-your-underbust thing and work based on that number, without adding inches? You know what kills me, and makes me want to dive into the internet to unleash some learnin’ on anonymous women? Online clothing reviews that read like this: “I’m 5’3”, size 0, and busty at 34C.” Oh my DARLIN. You probably do not wear a 34” band. If you fit into a size 0 dress, you’re wearing the wrong bra size. But guess what? They carry 34Cs at the Gap and Vickie’s, which are in every city in America everywhere, where the prices are affordable, the bras are out on display, and you can grab a bra off the rack while you’re picking up some other clothes (credit where credit is due: a friend of mine who has been properly sized DOES wear one of the “standard” sixteen sizes, and she says Gap bras lately have been outstanding). So that’s what this young woman buys, because that’s what she sees. It’s so much more likely that she wears a 28E and doesn’t know it, and that she’d be horrified and confused if she did: “But . . . where would I find that? Does that size even exist? It costs how much!?”
So many women, myself included, get fitted into a cup size that’s higher than a D, or higher than a G or whatever they’ve been told the “acceptable” threshold is, and they’re heartbroken. Please don’t be, ladies. We need all those letters, not because we’re “getting fatter” (ugh, media) or “we’re all getting boob jobs” or whatever, but because bras work best when the size is finely calibrated. The more numbers and letters we have, the better fit we’ll get. Also, you are not your boobs, and you’re not the size on the label. You are wonderful, no matter your size, and you deserve a bra that fits your boobs and fits your style.
Here’s another thing: more women need 30, 28, 26 or even 24 band sizes than retailers realize. Several bloggers reported that at one of the most recent lingerie buyers’ conference, they were stunned to hear that there was “no demand” for these sizes, or that the sizes were for juniors only. As a full-bust customer; it delights me that full-bust brands are coming out of the woodwork and bringing their sizing sanity and delightful designs across the pond. But clearly there are still so many naturally slim and petite adult women who are suffering in bands way too big for them. Vickie’s is letting them down, too. In response, these same bloggers have started the Bra Band Project, encouraging all women who are slim of frame and full of bust to submit their pictures and share their bra sizes and ages, to prove to manufacturers that smaller bands aren’t just for juniors (and, also, come on, there are some juniors that need them too, and wouldn’t it be great to establish customer loyalty early? Duh. Sweets: Good At Business Since Never). Y’all, go take a look at the photos and the amazing range of sizes. They’re pretty awesome. It’s another great illustration of why we need to stop assuming all D-cup bras are huge, or that all slim women wear small cup sizes. Knowledge is power, ladies. If you know your size and you have trouble finding it, speak up. Loudly. Frequently. Make them hear you.