I got fitted for 11 disappointing bras so YOU don’t have to
Lily braved a series of bra-fittings to see if it would solve her bra-busting problem (spoiler, it didn’t really help all that much.)
I’m a bra-slayer. A serial lingerie killer. A brassiere butcher. An over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder destroyer.
In the past three years, I’ve snapped six underwires in half. This has cost me just over £120. I might as well have sewn six £20 notes together and worn them as a make-shift tata torture device.
I’m sick and tired of wasting money on bras that break, don’t fit me properly and dig in to leave angry red lines all over my back and shoulders. I’m going to be a big brave woman, and expose myself in public. That’s right – I’m going to get fitted for a bra in three different high-street establishments, and see if they’ve got anything that can withstand my tough titties. Let’s introduce them.
Marks and Spencers
The classic! The place your mum probably buys hers from.
A fancy place for fancy breasts. This is where you might buy special occasion bras.
A brand which specialises in plus size clothes. Practical, although not always hot on the fashion train.
I’ve got a confession. Although I spend a lot of my free time performing in burlesque shows, I find the concept of allowing bra-fitters – women who spend their working hours discussing breasts – to appraise my Bristol Cities quite daunting. What if they take one look and start laughing? What if they release a stream of hysterical giggles triggered by the sight of Grant and Phil? (Yes, they’re named after the Mitchell brothers. Don’t @ me.)
I cannot allow my fear to overwhelm me. I am a proud owner of a pair of powerful melons. They must be housed in comfort.
After taking off my blouse, Emily the bra-fitter gave me one quick scan and agreed that yes, this bra wasn’t the one for me. After talking over my sizing, she went and got me some more to try on. She suggested I go up a back size, stay the same cup size but also change the style.
I swapped out my 44C t-shirt bra for a ‘plunge’ 46C – Emily was right about changing the style, as it fitted so much better.
I enjoyed my experience at Yours. Emily was friendly and informal. The fitting room was quite large, so I didn’t feel too hemmed in with a stranger while we discussed the annoyance of an ill-fitting bra. After a conversation with Emily and fellow bra-fitting legend Paris lamenting the lack of plus size shops in Bristol, I left.
I’ll be honest, I was most concerned about M&S. I knew from doing some research online that there wouldn’t be any in my current sizes available to try on, but I went in anyway with my head held high.
When I got there, Sally, who was very kind, produced a tape measure and placed it around my underbust. However, the measurement was never discussed and it seemed to play no role in the final outcome of choosing a size. An empty gesture, but one that made me feel like she knew what she was doing.
Sally, bless her, tried her hardest to find a bra that would fit me. She found just a few that were in a 42, and most of them without padded cups (which is the opposite of what I need. Padding is life!) but even at the top end of their sizing chart I needed an extender, which only helped the bra fasten in the first place and not elevate discomfort from the tightness of the band. Despite having nothing that would fit me, Sally persisted, but she had to eventually give in to the limitations of the shop. In the end, with a sorry look, she gave me a piece of paper with 44E written on it – a size unavailable from M&S with a padded cup.
Debenhams was going to be a long shot. In my heart I knew that there wasn’t going to be a bra that would fit me, not in their entire store. Nothing would even go close.
Wendy took one look at me in my bra, started nodding and heading onto the shop floor, only to return with a 40E. I had a sinking feeling. I knew it wouldn’t fit me, I could tell that there was no chance of this bra even getting anywhere close.
I was right. The band was digging in, and although I enjoyed the sudden appearance of having had a breast augmentation, it wouldn’t have been practical for doing anything except staring in a mirror.
Wendy tried again, and oh gosh did she try! Yet, my large back eventually proved too much for Debenhams’ range of bras. She even recommended that I try a 40FF and tried to convince me that it fit just fine. I’d had enough. It was my eleventh bra of the day and I was getting elastic fatigue.
I left Debenhams slightly crestfallen, as the mirrors and the bright lighting had done nothing except highlight what I feel are my body issues. To cheer myself up, I went and stared at Mac lipsticks before slinking out the front door.
After visiting three shops, trying on eleven bras and being told to wear three different sizes… I’m still fairly clueless about bras. I can’t fault any of these shops for their customer service, as I felt I was treated well by everyone I interacted with, but I can fault them for their oversight in catering for larger bust sizes
Should you go and get measured for a bra by somebody in a shop? Yes, absolutely. Wearing an uncomfortable bra is so very miserable, and for a mildly awkward fifteen-minute period you could eradicate that discomfort from your everyday life. I think visiting more than one shop is also recommended, as you can do what you learnt in secondary school science – two for testing and one for control.
My prediction that I would come out with a beige bra and two Twix bars was incorrect. I left with no bra, a confused look on my face and a bag of Percy Pigs instead. For now, I think I’m going to have to grab a tape measure and a VERY good friend and get up and personal with Grant and Phil.
Do you have a strong opinion about bras, or maybe you’d just like to air your grievances about painful bands or underwires that poke you in the side? Comment below!
Support more young people to have their voices heard
Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.
We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.
In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important.
Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.