If Ali Cudby’s name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve fangirled her a few times before. Namely here, when I reviewed her book (Busted! The FabFoundations Guide to Bras that Fit, Flatter and Feel Fantastic) shortly after starting Sweet Nothings and basically loved the hell out of it, and then here, when I met her at Curve and she had on awesome stockings and we talked about Bravissimo. I was absolutely thrilled when she announced the launch of The Fab Fit Academy, and I didn’t have to think too hard before signing up as a charter member. After writing Sweet Nothings for a year, I know now more than ever that I want to work in the lingerie industry in some capacity for the foreseeable future. I love writing my blog, and I love the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met, but eventually I’m going to want to do more, and part of the more will involve bra fitting.
I’ve read A LOT about bra fitting in the last six years, and Ali’s approach is the one rings truest. As lovely as it would be, there simply is no single method, no one system, no perfect “algorithm” (who can’t let it go? Is it me?) that will spit out the perfect bra size for each and every woman. It would be swell if buying a bra was as easy as buying a t-shirt, but it’s not that simple, because bodies aren’t that simple. If my identical twin sister and I, who share something like 99.89 percent of our genetic makeup, wear different sizes and generally prefer different kinds of bras, the likelihood that we’re all supposed to wear 34C padded t-shirt bras is pretty low. Size guides, calculators, and fitting charts will only ever be more-or-less helpful guides; it’s usually impossible to know exactly how a bra will fit and feel until you try it on. This is why it’s so important to focus on FIT, not on SIZE. We may all in fact wear a few different sizes depending on different brands and styles, and unless we know good bra fit criteria, it can be hard to know where to start.
For someone who cares passionately about helping women find bras they love that make them feel wonderful, Fab Fit Academy is the answer to a prayer.
It’s a very exciting time in the lingerie industry: there have never been more brands offering beautiful, supportive bras and lingerie in a vast range of sizes. It’s great for me as a blogger, because I want to see All the New Things! and stay on top of all the new developments, and it’s great for customers, who have never had more options, but with so much conflicting, out-of-date fit advice and inconsistent sizing from brand to brand and country to country, it can be bewildering and overwhelming for many women to figure out what brands, styles, and sizes will feel the best and suit their lifestyles.
The Fab Fit Academy will change that. Offering bra fitters, boutique owners, and bra educators an enormously comprehensive overview of bra sizes, bra styles, bra fitting fundamentals and more advanced topics like breast anatomy and age or lifestyle-related breast changes, FFA reinforces the concept that size doesn’t matter; it’s fit that’s most important. Students get immediate hands-on experience, putting each lesson into practice in the fitting room as quickly as possible and returning to the class with any questions or feedback. From a lingerie industry novice to women who are great at fitting themselves but have never worked with others, the experience is invaluable.
In FFA, Ali outlines the B.U.S.T.E.D formula, inspired by her book:
Begin with your Band
Understand your Underwire
Smooth your Cups
Tack your Gore
Ease your Straps
Determine your Shape
I know I said above that there wasn’t a “magic formula”, and it’s true: the B.U.S.T.E.D. formula doesn’t really let you punch in numbers so it can spit out a bra size. However, understanding each component of the formula not only clarified and refined my understanding of fit, but it’s also helping me break out of my size-oriented approach to things. I have a really hard time coping with any personal size fluctuations. For a variety of fun and awesome reasons (need sarcasm font), I sometimes fall into the trap of attaching an enormous amount of weight and judgment to my clothing and bra sizes, and if something in “my size” doesn’t fit me well, it can really shake my body confidence. FFA gently helps us break apart the components of good fit to show that there’s way, way more going on than just band + cup, and that the size on the tag isn’t nearly as important as the bra on the woman.
That psychological and emotional response to bra fitting is one of the most important topics Ali covers. Students will leave each class with an enhanced understanding of the emotional aspects of bra fitting, and they will have tools to help the women they fit who may struggle with body image, self-perception, and insecurities. Some women may be confident in their bodies and bra sizes and therefore averse to trying new things. Others may have insecure or vulnerable feelings about their breasts, their bras, and their bodies. You never know what sort of negative past experiences have shaped a woman’s view of herself, and Ali teaches, by instruction and by example, how to be sensitive to and understanding of a client’s physical and emotional state, and how to use your knowledge to help her find not only a good fit, but also how to boost her .
Ultimately, by offering comprehensive, consistent training, Fab Fit Academy will solve my number one disappointment with in-boutique fitting and shopping experiences: inconsistency. Many women have experienced wonderful, life-changing service at a boutique, only to return for a second visit and receive indifferent or even poor service. Boutiques and local businesses who follow the Fab Fit curriculum will be equipped to offer the kind of service that engenders happiness, loyalty, and praise in their customers. In an age where savvy shoppers can find whatever they want online, FFA gives brick-and-mortar boutiques a tremendous advantage over their web-based counterparts.
Is the Fab Fit Academy for you? Well, obviously I think it’s for everyone who may, one day, find themselves in the position of helping clients with their bras: lingerie (and wedding!) boutique owners, fitters, clothing designers, and perhaps especially stylists (think of the gift you could give your clients, by showing up armed with some amazing bra know-how). If I had to give you any advice before signing up, it’s to make sure you allow yourself some time. Homework involves both written and hands-on assignments, and they are time-consuming, especially for those of us who aren’t currently employed in the lingerie industry (classes assume you have access to a certain number of “customers” every week, and after a while I felt like I was running out of friends to pester). I’ve scheduled and rescheduled appointments, traveled to stores, spent hours in the fitting room, sent follow-up emails, researched, researched, researched, and that’s all before tackling the written assignments. My “real” job has been very demanding so far this year, and I have Project Wedding Cake and Sweet Nothings and lots of other commitments in the rotation right now, and I realize now that I dove into FFA headfirst without really making a plan and budgeting my time. So . . . yeah, you guys, I’m still turning in my homework. Fifteen-year-old me is horrified.
I would love, one day, to walk into a NYC lingerie boutique and see a little “Fab Fit Academy Certified” badge of honor in the window. As a customer, it would give me the comfort of knowing that the store and its employees care about their customers’ fit and well-being as much as their sales (and of course ultimately helping your customer is one of the best ways to make a sale– see Erica and her amazing work with A Sophisticated Pair). I’m also so glad I (will, once I finish my homework) have my certification as I begin to figure out how I want to build my career, because that certification means that I have completed a certain number of hours, have specific expertise, and have been evaluated by a third party as Knowing My Stuff. Sure, I knew a lot about bra fitting from the many excellent resources available on the internet. I could fit myself pretty well. But I now feel confident about going out into the world and helping any woman who might come to me for a fitting. I may not have all the answers for every situation, because of course you learn more over time, but I would know how to find the answers, how to ask questions, and how to treat my client with dignity, support, and respect. My tremendous thanks to Ali for making such a fantastic resource available to us all.
Registration is now open for the second session of the Fab Fit Academy.