There are certain statistics that are frequently quoted in relation to bra fit. One is that up to 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Another is that around a quarter of women in the UK have never had a bra fitting.
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Does that mean that an awful lot of women have had bad bra fittings? Not necessarily, although the varying quality of the high street’s fitting services is a subject that has received a lot of coverage. What it is more likely a sign of is a fundamental misunderstanding many women have about bra fit and bra fittings in general.
If you were fitted once ten years ago, you are probably in the wrong size. If you have lost or gained weight since you had a bra fitting, you are probably in the wrong size. Our bra size does not stay the same throughout our lives. Age, lifestyle and health changes can all affect our bra size, and if you’ve never had a bra fitting it is more than likely you are in the wrong size. In fact, it’s probable that you are wearing a back size that is too big and a cup size that is too small, as this is the most common mistake women make.
What stops so many women from having a bra fitting? In a lot of cases they just don’t realise they need one, and their 34B bra is fine, thank you very much. But for other women it can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re not body confident or worried about just what happens in the fitting room.
But a bra fitting needn’t be daunting, says Sandra Dyke, expert fitter for Chantelle Lingerie who has fitted Team Fashion Bust on many occasions. A good fitter will always make you feel as comfortable as possible. Moreover, you are in control the whole time. ‘If you’re not comfortable about anything, just say so,’ is Sandra’s advice.
What to expect
Some stores like Rigby & Peller fit you without a bra on, but most places won’t ask you to take your bra off – a worry that puts many women off going for a fitting. ‘A fitter will take you to the changing room and ask you to go down to your bra while she waits outside,’ explains Sandra, ‘and she will ask you when you are ready for her to come in.’
Then comes the process of determining your size. Some fitters will use a tape measure, but don’t be worried if yours doesn’t. Many are trained to fit by eye and only use a tape measure as it reassures their customers. She will usually also ask you what size you are currently wearing and if you are looking for anything specific – so if you’re shopping for an everyday bra or a bra to wear with your new dress that has a plunging neckline, this is the time to say so.
Now you wait comfortably in the fitting room while the fitter brings a selection of bras for you to try. ‘The fitter can stay with you and help you try on the bras, or she can wait outside while you do it yourself,’ says Sandra. ‘If you feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to have her stay with you and show you how to put on a bra properly, as so many women don’t understand how do this. You need to ensure that the whole of the bra tissue is inside the cups, and this can sometimes mean you need to do a bit of rearranging yourself.’
Once the bra is on, the fitter will assess how it fits, looking at the position of the back band and fit of the cups, and adjusting the straps as necessary.
‘Give feedback during this process,’ says Sandra. ‘If you don’t like the bra, say so, but be open minded about trying different styles. Your fitter can advise you on the bra styles that will suit your shape as different bras suit different women and it’s important that your bra gives you the right support as well as the look you want. A bra also needs to give you shape, so try on a few and see how they look.’
For more information on how to tell whether a bra fits, read our bra fitting guide.
Don’t get fixated on size
This is probably the biggest issue fitters face, says Sandra, especially with women who may have been wearing the wrong size their whole lives. ‘Sometimes I don’t tell my customers the size of the bra I’m giving them to try on, as it is so different to the size they have been wearing.’
It’s important to be open-minded about size and allow yourself to be guided by your fitter. After all, it is only a number and a letter, your boobs are still the same ones you walked in with. ‘Most women don’t understand bra size, and they think they can’t possibly be an E cup as it’s so big,’ says Sandra. ‘But the average cup size in the UK is a DD/E – these are not big sizes. It’s not about the letter, it’s about the fit, and if a woman has been wearing the wrong bra for years, getting fitted in the right size can be life-changing.’
So don’t freak out if your 34B bra is replaced with a 30E. Concentrate instead on how it makes you look and feel – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Sandra advises taking a white vest top with you to a fitting so you can slip it on over the bra to see the shape it gives you. And if you are shopping for a bra for a dress that has a low back or low cut front, mark where it sits on the back and the front so you don’t have to take it shopping with you.
She also suggests that brides think about their underwear before they buy their dress. ‘If you are considering a strapless dress and you have a big bust, make sure you can buy a good strapless bra in your size before you spend all that money.’
Do you research before going for a bra fitting. Ask your friends for recommendations and look at fitting reviews online.
If you want to buy a bra from a particular brand and you are in a department store, ask if they have a brand consultant as they will be an expert in the fit of that brand’s bras.
Finally, Ask questions during the fitting process. Your first proper fitting can be an interesting experience, so make the most of it, and it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what a good fit looks like on you.
What shouldn’t happen
Never get fitted over your clothes. It sounds hard to believe, but we’ve heard of this happening, and there is no way you will get a good fit over clothes. Don’t ask for it, and don’t let a fitter do it.
If your fitter takes multiple measurements and starts doing calculations, make your excuses and leave. A good fitter should be able to tell whether your bra fits by looking at it, not by maths.
Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded to buy a bra that is genuinely uncomfortable or clearly does not fit you. Go for another fitting elsewhere if you are unhappy with the service.
Chantelle Lingerie has fit consultants in a number of department stores including Peter Jones, John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods. To book an appointment with a Chantelle fitter, call 01483 300880.
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