Tuesday, 4 June 2013


What do you do when your boobs don't match?

Well, first off, stop giving yourself a hard time because most of us have "odd" boobs. They're sisters rather than twins and they're rarely identical!

If you have uneven or asymmetric breasts you may have considered or even tried padding the smaller side. But, a couple of clever tricks could save the day and make life easier....

You do not always necessarily have to pad the smaller cup to balance the bra out. Differences of a couple of cup sizes can be balanced out, but the trick is to choose styles that can disguise it well.

The hardest styles to get working tend to be soft, balconettes that slope rather than sit almost horizontally across the top of the cup. The shape of these mean that if you have uneven boobs the bra will tend to wrinkle and bag at the top where the strap joins.

To balance the smaller side, hoick the smaller breast diagonally towards the top and centre of the cup, as if trying to pull it towards a pendant on your necklace, whilst simultaneously pulling the bottom of the cup in the opposite direction. Try to push any excess fabric towards your body with your fingertips while you are holding your breast on your chin out of the way. In many cases, the material at the bottom of the cup will gather/pucker allowing the breast to sit on it when you let go, thus filling the top of the cup like the fuller side. The empty part of the cup is now at the bottom and so will not show once you are dressed.

Adjusting the straps can also give you a little more room to manoeuvre - keeping the strap on the smaller side shorter can make that cup a little smaller, and vica versa for the larger breast.
Cleo Juna and many slightly padded half cup styles are often good for such disguise. They're also great for loss of volume post weight loss/breastfeeding. Pull the smaller breast forward as before, but in a more horizontal direction away from the armpit.

T-shirt styles that work include Freya Deco, Bravissimo Purity and the Panache Porcelain. These styles are not all so good at gathering under the cup because of the foam, but look fine once dressed.

Fuller cup styles are good, particularly Panache Andorra and Melody full cup. Fantasie side support styles such as Elodie, and non padded Cleo styles such as Meg and Marcie sit particularly well if you need a deeper cup.
Newer Panache styles that are performing spectacularly are the Jasmine and Idina, as they have some stretch lace on the upper part of the cup.

Overall, aim to start off fitting the larger side as closely as possible without any overflow, then fine tune. Firmness in the band is essential to avoid slipping about within the cups - so no sizing up to try and dodge backfat!

Nearly every woman has an obvious size difference but with these tricks it is rare to actually need a filler. If you have a very noticeable difference and feel you need it then still use the tricks above so you are padding as lightly as possible which will be much more comfortable. Some companies like Ewa Michalak produce bras with removable pads designed to help even things up.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A double review - Ann Summer and SimplyBe fitting FAIL

Ann Summers

I approached the lady at the counter asking if they could fit me for a bra. She was very nice and polite, led me to the changing rooms where I undressed my top half down to my bra. I was wearing, at the time a 36E. I showed the lady how the band was too big by pulling it away from my body very easily. I also showed her how I had overspill on the cups. She got out her tape measure to take measurements and declared me to be a 40C. When I questioned this, partly down to the size I was already wearing and also because I have recently dropped a dress size, she responded by telling me that the band on my current bra was clearly too small and that the cups were far too big which was why they were digging in and overspilling. I was very dissatisfied with the service she offered as self measurements put me at around a 34F/FF

Simply Be

In much the same manner, I approached the girl at the counter asking for a fitting. She took me to the fitting rooms and once I was ready, she came in and declared my bra that I was wearing to be the wrong size. She said it was clearly too small in the band and that it was a good job I had come for a fitting as did I know that most UK women are wearing the wrong bra size? As with the Ann Summers sales assistant, I showed her how easily I could pull my current bra from my body and how I had overspill on the cups. In the same vein as the AS sales assistant, she also declared my current bra to be too small in the band and too big in the cup. Once the tape measure came out, she also declared me to be a 40C but proceeded to tell me that their store did nothing in my size and that I would be better off trying other stores in order to find a bra that 'fit correctly'. She did tell me that a 40 back may prove hard to find in a non specialist shop as a 40 back was larger than most Uk women would need. I felt this was rude and unprofessional. I was rather upset by this attitude, especially when I told her about taking my own measurements. She scoffed and told me not to follow advice from the internet and that she was an expert and should be trusted.

Bra Guru Comments

Dire service at both of these companies. I'm not sure what is worse - "you're getting overspill because your cups are too big" or " you can pull the band away so it must be too small." This shows that, even worse than just being trained to add 4/5" these are fitters who have no idea what a good bra should look like.

But the final nail in the coffin for SimplyBe is making rude comments about customers being larger than average. In a retailer which specialises in size 14+ telling a woman who measures around 34" underbust that she is too big for a non-specialist bra is APPALLING! Bra fitting is a very personal experience where you are stripped to your bra in front of a stranger. Any negative comments about her shape or size are simply not acceptable. Based on what we know about this reviewer, she probably needs a 34FF. 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

M&S Truro...the trend continues

"I went for my fitting and had a very nice fitter who I'll call Faith. To start she asked me what size bra I was currently wearing, how long I've been breastfeeding and how long I plan to continue. My answers were 36 J, 9 months and a long time yet. She then told me that the highest cup size they do is H so she may not be able to sort me out but that she will do her best. I was advised that I need to be in non wired bras as I could change size with the breastfeeding.

She measured my underboob but didn't pull the tape particularly tight and then went to get some bras for me to try. I was pleasantly surprised that she didn't measure the overboob as I was expecting her to.

Faith returned with a 38G and a 40G. The only reason she brought a 38 was because I said I was currently wearing a 36. She apologised and explained that although they do up to a H cup, they don't currently have any in stock for me to try. I was asked if I wanted to put the bra on myself or if I wanted her to assist and fit it to me. As I'd never been asked this before, I said I would have her help to see exactly what this entailed. Basically this means facing away from her and she puts it in front of me to put my arms though and boobs in the cup. After pulling the band down to be horizontal and adjusting the straps she said it wasn't a bad fit but it was digging in a bit so she suggested trying the 40 because that is what I measured as. The 40G was too big in the cup so she went to get a 40F. This ended up being a different bra and the cup really gaped. Each bra I tried, I was asked to lift my arms up to check that the band wasn't moving.

Faith apologised again at this point for the lack of stock currently and suggested that I am between 40F and 40G and that I could order some in to try.

I was told to do the bra up on either the loosest or the next set of hooks in to allow me to tighten the bra if I lose weight. "

So, shall we sum up where this experience went wrong? Yet again sounds like a very pleasant fitter but....

-nothing available above a G cup (which isn't even a G really as M&S don't seem to do FF)
-a 36 back put in a 40
-if the band "digs" you need a bigger band (erm, no, look at the backfat blog page)
-you mustn't wear wires if you are breastfeeding (they're fine if they fit properly actually!)
-no scooping
- told to use loosest hooks in case of weight loss (no, it's because bras stretch!)
- a new bra should NOT be on the middle hook (recurring M&S theme this one)

Friday, 8 March 2013

La Senza fitting review

Today I visited La Senza (Plymouth). Wow, what a lot of neon and padding. Most of the rails seemed to only contain 34Bs so I asked the assistant what cup size they went up to. She (let’s stick with the ‘J’ theme and call her Julia) informed me that they stock up to an E cup and asked me if I thought I might be bigger than that. I played a little dumb and as I was wearing my 32G (band fits like a small 30!) Ewa Michalak Karmelki said that I wasn’t sure of size as this was a ‘foreign bra’.

Julie kindly offered me a fitting to see if I could possibly fit into their range. I was asked to remove my top (so far so good, as I had heard stories about people being measured over their clothes) and then she took my under bust measurement. She held the tape fairly tightly (much more so than in M&S) and I could see it was at 30”. However, she then turned to a chart on the wall and proclaimed that I fell between sizes and that I was a 36D or 36DD. I felt the bra gloom descend upon me.

Julia bought me a Cotton Lightly Lined Plunge in white in 36DD to try. It was absolutely massive in the back, just as bad as in M&S which surprised me a little as I’d heard that La Senza bras came up very small in the band. Obviously, the cups didn’t really cover me at all and I had some cracking overspill. Julie came back in and asked me how I felt. I said that the back was very loose (it was really riding up) and the cups were too small (bulging and centre gore not sitting flat). To give Julie her due she said that I could try a 34E but that the cup would still be too small. She very kindly suggested that I try HoF or Debenhams for a bigger range of sizes.

Julia was very pleasant and helpful and to be fair she agreed that the cup was too small for me. However, I didn’t really get the feeling she knew much about smaller band sizes and how they should fit properly. Logically, I don’t know how she could have any experience in good fitting as their size charts are totally skewing everything.

If La Senza stopped adding inches and stocked an realistic size range (e.g. 26A – 38G) they could be a really good source of bras for the younger customer. Adding inches is preventing them from offering what could be a great service. Their staff are extremely pleasant and are being let down by bad training and wrong information.

Marks and Spencer strike again

And, in another "isolated incident" it's another epic fail from Marks and Sparks!

A 30HH goes in....

I went to the fitting room and asked if it was possible to be fitted for a bra. The helpful and friendly lady on the desk said that the fitter was with a customer but I should wait in the cubicle, strip down to my bra and she would send her in. First fail! I waited for a good ten minutes sat in my bra. I heard another customer come in after me who was also waiting.

When the fitter arrived she did not introduce herself or apologise for the wait. She looked critically at my bra (I was wearing a Panache Tango 32H, slightly big in the back but otherwise a good fit). She told me that the red marks caused by the band were a bad sign and meant the wire was digging in, and I should not wear an underwired bra until my skin had recovered. I said that I felt that my breasts were too big to wear a non-wired bra and so she agreed I could try underwired.

She then measured me. She measured around my ribs, but clearly didn’t pull the tape measure tight as she declared me a 38” band. 38”! I measure 31 inches around my ribs. Apparently M&S don’t add five, they add seven!

The bra fitter went on to do the cup by eye. She advised me to try a 38DD or E. She then went off to measure the other customer leaving me to get dressed and find my own bras. I asked if she would come and look at the fit when I found one and she agreed.

I found a very pretty bra from the Limited Collection in both sizes and took it to the fitting room. The bra fitter was still there and she advised me to start with the E. I put it on and let’s start with the positive, the cup was not a bad fit. The band was completely hopeless and I could have put a friend in it with me. However, the front view was initially not bad.

The assistant came in and had a good look. She checked along the top of the cups where there was a small bit of gaping and said this was down to the shoulder straps. She paid a lot of attention to these and explained that I should grab each one with the opposite thumb, and that my thumb should move freely under the strap but not be able to pull it away. She adjusted the straps just so and told me that they should sit just inside my shoulder bone as if they did not, the top of the cup would rub.

All of this took a good five minutes and not once did she check the band size. Given that I had told her I needed to be fitted because I had lost weight, and I had gone in wearing a 32, 38 was insane. I asked if the band was ok and she said it was ‘a good fit’. I asked if it mattered what hook it was fastened on (I had put it on the tightest) and she said it should be the middle one, but didn’t really matter. She then waffled about the wires and how they should not be close to your skin (??). I asked where the bulk of the support came from in a bra and she said the wires, and again confirmed that 38E was the size for me.

I also heard her fitting the poor girl who came in after me (about a size 12, and noticeable breasts) in a 36B. Wrong again!

This was really the worst kind of fitting because the bra didn’t look tooooo bad, and if I didn’t know what kind of support you can get from a properly fitting back I would have thought it must be the right size. The fitter talked a lot about technical sounding things to do with the shoulder straps but didn’t do the basics like check the band fit or make sure the wires sat flat (which of course they did not), or even ask if it was comfortable. It was also pretty disappointing to have to dress and fetch my own bras, and to wait a while with no apology. And this adding inches business is nonsense!

Another isolated incident?

Mothercare fitting review

Now, if there is one time in their life when it's especially important for a woman to be wearing a good bra, it's when they are pregnant or breastfeeding, right? Expanding, sore boobs and a back that is already taking the strain for a growing bump mean it's really important to have great support. So, time to check out Mothercare...here's our review:

The shop was quiet and as I looked at the bra display I was approached by a friendly lady and asked if I needed any help. I said that I was interested in a fitting for a maternity bra and she asked now far along I was. I said nine weeks and she said I was likely to grow again, probably around twelve weeks, but she was happy to fit me now and if I had changed size I could come back. I said I had heard that I should not wear wired bras during pregnancy and asked why this was. The assistant explained this was because as I changed size they were likely to dig in and be uncomfortable.

I was asked to go into the changing room and strip down to my bra. I spotted a fitting guide on the wall including ‘add four and five’ guidance and my heart sank! The very helpful assistant measured around my ribcage and declared me a 36 back size. I measure 31 inches so I presume she added five. At least she pulled the tape tight! She then measured over my boobs and declared me a 36C. I was wearing a Panache 32H which was slightly too big in the back but other than that a good fit so 36C was quite a change!

I was brought a ‘support bra’ in a 36C to try. Oh my word, it wasn’t pretty. I could have got both hands under the band and I had boob escaping from top, sides and bottom. Amazingly it wasn’t that uncomfortable thanks to the sheer stretchy uselessness of the bra! The assistant agreed that it was too small in the cup (ya think??) and brought me a 36D. There was hardly any difference and she then advised me to go straight for an E.

Well the 36E was an improvement in that it did cover most of my breasts. The band was very loose of course. I asked the assistant what she thought of the band fit and she put two fingers under it and declared it fine, although she also said she would be happy to bring me a 38 if I was finding it uncomfortable! I said the bra did not feel as supportive as the one I had been wearing and we agreed that it was probably because it wasn’t underwired. In fact the bra made no difference to my boobs at all- I may as well not have been wearing one.

I said that I would take the assistant’s advice and come back after 12 weeks in case I grew again. She said not to worry as they went ‘right up to a 42’ and had all back sizes available ‘even up to G’. I didn’t bother pointing out that I was wearing a H and ‘up to a G’ was not going to cut it.

I must say the assistant who fitted me was absolutely LOVELY and couldn’t do enough for me. She didn’t give me any hard sell and she made me feel comfortable in an intimate situation. She admitted at the start that she hadn’t done a fitting for a while, which didn’t fill me with confidence, but she did her best. She was just using outdated methods and clearly didn’t know what to look for to get a good fit.

Mothercare- not recommended!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Bad bras - a real pain in the neck!

Bad bras - a real pain in the neck!

..and the back, arms, ribs, shoulders and boobs for that matter!

There's no denying that changing from the wrong bra to a bra which fits you perfectly can make you look a whole lot better - perky, uplifted, slimmer, younger...choose your happy boob description. But, when the topic of bad bras comes up many people have a "so what?" attitude. So what if retailers are fitting women in the wrong bra - it's just an item of clothing? A case of vanity - right? 

Well, no, it's not.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the sartorial benefits of a good bra. But it's not the only reason for this campaign. Bad bras hurt - sometimes a lot. Over the last few months I have helped a lot of women find their real bra size, and the problems they report from bad bras are awful. 

Here's one lady's story:
"I had an appointment with a physio for my back pain this week and was told that my badly fitting bras had caused poor posture which had caused my problems. The difference now that the bras fit and are not constantly pulling my shoulders down and forward is life changing! I have parathesia (numbness), neck pain, headaches, back pain. The neck pain was so severe it was causing vertigo and vision issues. The shoulder straps digging in caused me to hunch my shoulders so much that I have given myself a shelf where my neck and back meet. As a consequence I was only moving half my neck which was causing such bad neck and shoulder pain that I have spent most of the past year on strong pain killers. I also had bras that rubbed so much that caused bleeding. All professionally fitted sad

A better fitting bra has taken the weight of my shoulders. It's only been a month, but I can exercise again, my back pain is improving and I'm able to start retraining my posture so that eventually I will hopefully be completely pain free eventually. I'm also not longer desperate to take my bra off as soon as I can, or covered in deep red welts.

It is so so much better... it's not even been a whole month since I got the bras that fit- in fact it's only been a fortnight! I just cannot imagine how I lived with it before." 

Back pain is a huge problem. The British Chiropractic Association found that 47% of women have suffered from back pain which they attributed directly to the weight of their breasts. They go on to explain "Bras are like
suspension bridges, you need a well engineered bra so your shoulders don’t take all of the
strain and end up doing all of the work; spreading the load is important. Bras that don’t fit
will affect the shoulders and chest and may cause back pain as you get older. It is so
important to make sure a bra gives you enough support as possible."
The support from a bra needs to come from the back - and that means a firm, well fitting band which 
does not ride up and can support the weight of your breasts. Take a look at our fitting guide for help 
on getting this right. 
When your bra is too big at the back your shoulders take the strain. You end up tightening the straps 
more and more to get support, which then makes the straps dig in. The straps hurt, and you end up 
hunching your shoulders to try and make it hurt less. Suddenly, you have a bad posture, your shoulders 
hurt and now your back is joining the pain party too.  Your neck may well pop in to say hello as well. 

Of course, it's not just the back pain. Women often say they hate their bras. Digging in, rubbing, 
itching,blisters, even bleeding have been reported...from bras which retailers have fitted. Your bra 
shouldn't be wriggling around and moving. If it does, you end up with sore patches as it rubs against
the skin. Too small a cup size means the wire ends up sitting on soft breast tissue which is very tender. 
So it digs in, and you end up with incredibly sore bits. 

I've also seen ladies with huge deep grooves in their shoulders which stay for hours after their bra 
comes off. 

For some women, bad bras can be a source of headaches - overtightened shoulder straps dig in and 
press on delicate nerves leading to nasty headaches.

This just isn't right.

And don't forget about breastfeeding. A lot of retailers will tell pregnant women to never wear an underwire because it's "dangerous" but in a well fitting bra, it's not. However, when any bra fits poorly - especially when the cup is too small - then that puts pressure on the tender breast tissue, can block ducts and lead to mastitis. If you are pregnant or feeding it's really important to make sure that your bra fits. If you wear wires, it needs to sit outside the breast tissue, and if you are wearing softcups make sure it is big enough and isn't just squashing/compressing you.

We need better bras. We need proper fittings. And we need the 
retailers to get this right