On Breasts, Bras, and Why I Hate Victoria’s Secret

Note:  This was originally posted on April 3rd, 2012 to thepreppypanda.blogspot.com

Let me begin by saying that this is a topic very near and dear to my heart.   

I started wearing a bra regularly when I was in the third grade.  Yes, it was terrible.  Grown men were looking down my shirt when I was 11 years old.  I was a C cup by sixth grade and a DD by the time I entered high school.  The girls in the locker room, with their little boobs and cute bras, filled me with envy.  I wore two sports bras to soccer practice and that still wasn’t really sufficient.  Bathing suits were painful- literally.  I was insistent upon wearing halter bikini tops, which really hurt my neck.  If you are full-busted, you know what I mean.

My mother told me that I needed an “industrial strength” bra every time the topic of bras came up.  “Industrial strength”?  Was I to feed an army of infants?  Or become a professional, full-time flasher?  What exactly was my “industry”?

I entered adulthood with the understanding that my chest was abnormally, unattractively, and disfunctionally large.  These feelings subsided in part when I got a bra that was properly fitted- more on this later.

But I recently had a revelation: my boobs are fine.


This revelation occurred after seeing this picture.

My boobs look fine!  They don’t look like they are consuming me.  They don’t look pornographic. They don’t make me look middle-aged.  Most of what I had spent my life believing about them wasn’t even true.

So what had me tricked?  Well, two things.  The first is that I developed at an age when other girls either had no boobs or small boobs so I began to define them as being “way bigger than everyone else’s”.  However, as a full grown woman with full grown peers, everyone else has really began to catch up to me (although I do still lead the pack in most circles). 

The second thing, and the focus of this post, is the bra industry. 

I think that the general American public thinks of bra sizes in this way:

  • AA cup: You have the chest of a little boy.
  • A cup: You have tiny boobs.  You should probably feel insecure and want a boob job.  If you get a boob job, don’t be surprised when people criticize you for being fake
  • B cup: Sufficient by some standards, too small by some standards, perfect by some standards.
  • C cup:  This is an attractive and sexually appealing, but still respectable, size.
  • D cup:  Your boobs are officially sexy.  And they are sexualized regularly by the media.
  • DD cup:  YOU SHOULD BE A PORN STAR! (I was told that I was well qualified for this occupation as a pre-teen)  Your boobs are huge and are overtly sexual.  Either this or they are too big and gross and have you thought about getting a reduction?
  • DDD cup and larger: Not hardly real thing.  Only great grandmas who shop in the full-figure section wear this size.  It is only available in band size 40 and up.

Let me reiterate, this is not what I think and it is not what anyone should think.  It is my perception of general cultural attitudes.  And they are wrong.

I would say that the only cup sizes I listed that are not viewed as “problematic” (too big or too small) are sizes B, C, and D. 

So wait.

In order to have”normal boobs”, you have to be able to fit into one of only THREE cup sizes?  This is like saying that in order to have a normal looking body, you need to be a size 4, 6, or 8.  Size 2?  Way too skinny!  Size 10?  Fatso!  And unlike the rest of our bodies, you can’t “work off” your boobs through cardio (extremes aside).  You also can’t bulk them up through resistance training like you can your butt.  So unless you were born in the magic B-C-D range, your boobs are a problem.

 Now, band sizes.  Here is what people generally think about band sizes:

  • 32: You are skinny.  Maybe too skinny.  You are likely a teenager still who will grow more in the next few years.
  • 34: This is the normal size.  You are slender but not too thin.
  • 36: You are a bit thicker, but probably still attractive.
  • 38: Okay now you’re fat.
  • 40: Okay now you’re really fat.

 So according to cultural ideas about bra sizes, I think I would be a 36D-38DD (me being overweight with huge boobs).  This is what I wore for a long time. 

Now, get this.

I wear a 34G.  That’s bigger than a DDD.  That’s bigger than an F.  That’s a G.  (Ain’t nothin’ but a G thing, baby…)  Before I was enlightened on this issue, I would have thought that someone with a 34G bra would look like two oranges on a toothpick.  Nope.  She probably looks more like this:

I had to go bra shopping at Nordstrom’s in order to learn how wrong I had been.  My first properly fitted bra cost $95.  (I have been able to find less expensive ones, but never less than $65.  It is worth it though, since I wear my boobs every day.)

Let’s play a game!  I will post a link to a picture of a girl in a bra.  Your job is to guess her bra size.  Ready?  (WARNING:  These really are pictures of girls in bras.  They’re not suggestive, but they are girls in bras.  If you don’t want to play, I understand.)

Photo One

Photo Two

Photo Three

Photo Four

Now for the answers:

Photo One: 28FF

Photo Two: 30E

Photo Three:  30G

Photo Four: 28DD

How did you do?  Comment and let me know!

I hope I have made myself clear:  People really are wearing the wrong bra sizes.  And why?  Well, when was the last time you saw a 28FF hanging on the rack at Target?  Or at Macy’s?  Even Nordstrom’s doesn’t carry many if any bras in this size in their stores.  All of these bras were probably expensive and made my companies that specialize in “special sizes”.  The problem is that these women have perfectly normal and perfectly attractive bodies.

A Bra-Fitting Guide That I Like

And now, the most villainous entity in the bra world:

 Okay, so they’re not really any more villainous than any other bra manufacturer, but I know of no other entity that has more power to define ideals of normalness and desirability in regards to bras in American culture.

You know the Victoria’s Secret Angels you see in the fashion show on primetime TV? The ones on the 10 foot posters hanging in the store window at the mall?  The ones  that fill the catalog that your roommate gets every month? 

I think these women are beautiful.  They have beautiful bodies.  But their bras don’t fit.  The backs ride up.  The straps dig in.  Their boobs spill out ( I don’t mean in a sexy way, I mean in a quad-boob way).  The center gore is inches away from their breast bone (an indicator of a too-small cup size).  That girl wearing a 32C should probably be wearing a 28E.

Victoria’s Secret does not make bras that fit their own models.  These are women who have what is thought by many to be the “ideal” body type- the body easiest to fit and easiest to clothe.  If their bras don’t fit, how can their be any hope for the rest of us?

I went to Victoria’s Secret today to do some “blog research”.  I was planning on having them size me and try to sell me a 38D bra so that I could tell you all about just how ludicrous the experience was, but I chickened out.  Instead i just looked around.  They sell 32-38A-D. in store, with maybe a few extended sizes in certain styles, but nothing smaller than a 30 band, and nothing bigger than a DD. 

Many women do not fit into their bras.  I would venture to say that most women don’t.  But we try to, because it’s all we have.

We deal with the aching back, the straps digging in, the boobs spilling out (sometimes the boobs even falling out…) and the boob loaf (UD it) because we don’t have much of an alternative.  Correct sizing and sizes are not widely available, and when they are available, they are expensive.  Plus, pervasive culture attitudes surrounding bra sizes keep us from feeling that going bigger than a DD should ever be an option.

Girl, I’m begging you, take off that 38D.  You are not a 38D.

 I don’t really hate VS (although their body spray isn’t that great either, IMO), but my distrust and dislike of the mainstream lingerie industry gets funneled towards them because they are an easy target.  Women continue to buy their bras in the sizes they currently make, so I can’t blame them for continuing to do what pays the bills.

But I can encourage women to place a greater demand for more variance in the sizes of available bras.  And the only way to do that is to help women recognize the need.

If you have small breasts, this all may be meaningless to you.  You are probably wearing the “wrong” bra size, but it doesn’t really matter.  It’s comfy and functional. But if you are in the big boob group, getting  properly fitting bra can change your life. 

My back doesn’t hurt.  I don’t have grooves in my shoulders where my bra straps used to dig in.  My boobs stay in their own cups where they belong.  And they look good.  And I feel good about them.  None of this was true when I was wearing that terrible 38DD (terrible for me- it might be perfect for you).

If you are wearing a DD but don’t feel like your bra is totally awesome, I highly recommend you get fitted at a shop carrying DDD+ cup sizes.

I want to make it clear there is nothing wrong with any bra size.  I talk a lot of trash on the wearing of the 34-38B-D range because a lot of women are wearing these sizes when a different size would fit them better, but I’m not talking trash on the bras, breasts, or women whom they adorn.  The only “wrong” bra size is the one that isn’t working as well for a woman as a different size would.  (And each woman gets to decide what “working” means for her).  And you might be one of the 3 in 10 women in America who knows her correct bra size (that is a made up statistic, but whatever, we’ll go with it). 

You deserve to be in a bra that works well for you.  Finding this bra often takes work, but it is worth it, especially if you are well endowed.  If anybody is interested in more resources, contact me- I have plenty.  I am also happy to have bra talk and try to help you work out any concerns you may be facing.

I basically love any excuse to talk about boobs.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “On Breasts, Bras, and Why I Hate Victoria’s Secret

  1. Pingback: On Breasts, Bras, and and Why I Hate Victoria’s Secret (Part 2) | The Preppy Panda

  2. tina

    their bras are made properly the cataloge girls may wear ill fitting bras for clevlage sake

  3. Alli

    Hey, as a member of the small-breasted community, let me just say that properly fitted bras make a difference for us too! I wore the wrong size bra for years and had to deal with straps that fell down all the time, uncomfortable underwire poking, and just general discomfort. Sure, I probably had less back pain than some more “well-endowed” women, but improperly fitted bras are still an issue for those of us with smaller chests. This post was so great, but saying that smaller women don’t need to worry about wearing the wrong bra size is patently false. The wrong sized bra is not “comfy and functional” on any woman. When I traded in my 34As for my true size, 30C, I noticed an immediate difference in comfort and fit. My straps stayed up, the breast tissue fell properly between the underwires, and though my breasts still look small, they have a much nicer shape. All women deserve comfortable and flattering underwear, whether they are busty and beautiful or members of the itty bitty titty committee.

    • Silly Willy

      I TOTALLY agree with you, and was tempted to comment something similar. I am currently stuck on trying 32-A in every style bra. But I am now at the point where I feel helpless! Nothing seems to fit! Either they slide out the bottom gradually or spill out the top – well, during parts of the month, anyway. I definitely have small breasts that are not where they used to be (after having a child who is now 8). I wear a dress size 2-4 depending on how they run. I am at my wits end. I need help, bad! I wish I could have a conversation with you about this! Thanks for saying what I wanted to say (except that I have not found my true size, yet). :-)

      • MIchelle

        Silly Willy — Without knowing where you live, it is hard to recommend a store. But check online for a store called, “Intimacy.” It was my first fitting store, they have them in major cities. In the Southeast I found “The Fitting Touch.” Both stores have bra fitting experts who do not just rely on the dreaded measuring tape (unlike VS!) and they carry UK bras of high quality, with a wide range of sizes. They will fit the bras to you :)

  4. inkedupgril

    where do you buy your DDD+ bras? I find the larger the bra, the uglier and more uncomfortable they are. I also dread the thought of being fitted. ugh. anxiety inducing for sure. I am probably not wearing the right size myself. and even when I could fit into VS sized bras, they fit horribly.

  5. I am a larger breasted woman (32 DD sometimes DDD) and I just wanted to say I really like Victoria’s Secret.
    If I were to go to a store that has the “specialized bra sizes” that you mentioned they never fit properly and they are sooo expensive. I always shop at VS and yes, I always have to try on their bras before I buy them but I do find bras that fit me well. Most of the bra specialists that are employed at my local VS are actually very well informed. They know about the dreaded quad boob and about how a proper fitting band size should be. Now, this has not always been the case. I used to shop there when I was younger and it was terrible. They had me in a 34 D because it’s a “sister size”. The band was way too big and the cup was too small but they used to tell me that was a good fit. They have become much more educated in the past years and now carry sizes 30 DDD – 38 DDD in most bras. I understand that is still not sufficient for some but honestly it’s a lot better than most lingerie stores.

  6. Kate

    Hi, I would love to know good places to buy bras, I have never had a bra that was comfy or fit right and I have been wearing bras since 3rd grade also (19 years wow!), I am on a mission, to find something hopefully kind of cute (sexy would be awesome), and also something that I won’t have to dig in my shirt to adjust my boobs every time I move even a little bit! Any help would be much appreciated!! Thanks :)

  7. Pingback: Fashion, Function, and Faith: My Cyclical Journey Towards Buying a Swimsuit | The Preppy Panda

  8. Z

    Im a bigger boobed girl… And im slowly starting to dislike victorias secret.. I have been measured several times, by different sales associates there, & i am always told i am a 34 DDD… Somehow, a 34 DDD bra at victorias secret is cut too small. My breasts fit a 36 DDD (full coverage style) which brings me to believe they make their bras for the “look”, & for the woman that cares for having pushed up cleavage… And NOT for support, which is what i thought bras were supposed to be made for.. This blog was funny, and i can totally relate. Thank you.

  9. N. Gellhaus

    Where is the best place to get fitted for a proper bra of a big chested chica??? Whenever Victoria secret measures me they place me in a 34 DD or DDD. Please help

    • MIchelle

      Look for a store online in your area, try searching for “bra fitting” if you can find a store called Intimacy or The Fitting Touch they are great examples of this.

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  11. Nai

    I was lucky and after only a year of wearing crappy bras from target discovered Soma. Sadly they are discontinuing the bra style I wear, the “Rachel”. Most amazingly comfortable bra ever! no uncomfortable under wire poking, the straps are amazing and wide, with a nice little bit of padding. I am a 34D and I could probably run a mile in just this bra and be comfortable. My biggest pet peeve with bras when you ave a larger bust size is how awful the straps tend to be. Does it tick anyone else off when you find a super cute comfy bra and the straps are just pathetic strings that don’t function?

  12. Nads

    I totally agree – I’ve worn an Australian size 10DD (US 32E) as that’s the best the mainstream stores stock here. I have since found that there are brands out there like Panache (who do a great “Cleo” range), Curvy Kate and Freya who do a variety of really cute, not-grandma-like bras and bikinis. Only since going to an independent retailer who stocks “fuller bust” bras did I find out that my true size is a 6FF (US 28H). Now that I know this I can safely buy online through sites like ebay and figleaves and feel confident that my boobs aren’t going to flop out – plus it’s heaps cheaper :) Yay for big boobs and online shopping!!

  13. Oh, cry me a river. I have a broad, strong back – sometimes, and I mean after breaking them in for about three months, I can fit in to a 36B. My waist is about 28 inches. Am I as hard bodied as I was when I was swimming many hours a day? No. That means that any of the pretty little frilly bras out there DO NOT FIT and make my back look terrible! Indeed, I was told by a snotty, TINY little wenchita that they did NOT have my size, as in, no 38B’s in a lot of their nicer, trendier brands at Nordstroms. Wacol sometimes has some good stuff, so does Donna Karan and Calvin Klien (awesome push up bras for chicks like me, by the way, that occasionally work) I was welcome to look at the Spanx stuff by that same little tomata at Nordstroms, though, which didn’t work, either. So I have two options – wear bras that don’t actually fit my boobs but fit my back, or bras that fit my back but don’t fit my boobs, such as they are. My other option, I suppose, is to get a boob job (and I have been asked a few times on dates if I have ever considered that – my rebelliousness and being allergic to most pain killers tends to keep me out of the operating room as much as I possibly can) Spare me about the agony of having your boobs looked at, or suffering through the whole sizing thing for your big bazoongas. I was walking through Dillards today and saw many, many rows of pretty, lacy, larger sized with wide straps. I hate it when big boobed women tell me how lucky I am to be a B cup.

    Interestingly, LaPearla had THE NICEST sales ladies and the MOST comfortable stuff that was really, really pretty with out my back overflowing or my boobs looking like after thoughts. At $450 a set (on sale), well, it’s not something you necessarily want to pick up to wear every day.

    If I sound bitter it’s because I am!

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