Note: This was originally posted on April 3rd, 2012 to thepreppypanda.blogspot.com
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.
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.
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 a lot like me.
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.)
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.
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.