The importance of a well fitting bra

Today I had a really nice experience.  Last night the underwire snapped on my last decent bra, so I went down to The Little Big Bra Shop in Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, an independent and relatively new business, and had a proper fitting.

When I was skinny, I rarely wore a bra and I had my very first fitting at the age of 32 when Boy the Elder was still being cooked.  For the last few years though, having put on weight and had two children, foundation garments have come into regular usage.

I’m not very good in shops.  I don’t like trying on clothes, and the harsh lighting makes me irritable and badly behaved.  And I don’t like being measured and messed about with as it just reminds me that I’m wobbly and my chosen underwear won’t look like it does on the models..

I walked into The Little Big Bra Shop and asked for a fitting.  A charming and diffident woman showed me to the changing room and asked me what sort of thing I wanted as I took my top layers off.  She took a quick measurement across my back, stared at me for a second, then came back with a bra which fitted perfectly.  She then brought a couple of others to try for style and colour.

The best bra I've ever had

What was really nice was that she treated the bra like any other item of apparel, checking that the colour suited me and that the style was flattering as well as being supportive and comfortable.  I chose a beautiful pinkish-red bra that is, without question, the most comfortable I have ever worn and a pair of matching pants.  It cost me £24, which is more than I normally spend, but by crikey it’s worth every penny.

“Do you want to keep it on?” she asked, smiling.  “Absolutely!” I answered, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t be arrested in the street and be required to explain why I was carrying a grey and shapeless undergarment in my handbag.  On the other hand,  I was quite keen to be run over so that my gorgeous new underwear would be seen to pass muster.

It is absolutely essential to have a well fitting and comfortable bra.  Breasts become more and more subject to gravity as we get older and our skin gets less elastic – a saggy bust does no-one any favours.  A decent bra will also improve your posture because it naturally holds your back and shoulders in the right position and, consequently, will make you look slimmer.

Size is another important factor.  Today I discovered that I have been wearing a bra with a cup two sizes too small and one size too big around the ribs.  Women with large breasts really must have adequate support in order to cope with the extra weight at the front of their bodies.  Wide straps are essential as well as good structure from the sides and underneath.  Heavy breasted women can start to develop a dip in their shoulders and invariably suffer from back problems in later life if they don’t wear a properly fitted and appropriate bra for their size and shape.

Cup shape plays a crucial role in how you look in your clothes.  If the cup is too tight at the top, it can form an unsightly crease and bulge known as ‘double busting’ which doesn’t look nice and can be most uncomfortable.  Small breasted women can achieve a lovely, natural looking shape with a carefully fitted bra.

It is also important to put your bra on correctly.  You should lean slightly forward so that your breasts drop into the cup.  Once on, you should slip your hand under your arm and pull your breast forward into the cup.  Apparently a lot of women wander around with their boobs under their armpits.  Who knew?

Oh – I nearly forgot laundering.  Unless the bra states otherwise, you really should hand wash it if you want it to last.  Machine washing soon causes the material to stretch and weaken and the colour will fade, no matter how expensive your washing powder.

The modern day bra is a relatively recent invention.  Women have historically used corsetry to change and support their bodies and these corsets simply pushed the breasts upwards.  There were some garments which were suspended from the neck and attached to the corset with suspenders (garters) which must have been fiendishly uncomfortable.

Breast shape and size have also been subject to fashion over the centuries.  Breasts have been pushed up, flattened out and lumped together, and it is easy to see why feminist reformers saw the management of their breasts as political as well as practical.  The desire of women to be released from the social and physical strictures of their corsets played a big part in the development of the bra.

World War 1 can be said to be partly responsible for the bra.  Many women took on men’s work, as the men were all abroad being pointlessly slaughtered, and gender roles and ensuing social attitudes began to change.  Women were no longer pretty things mincing stiffly about in suffocating and unhealthy whalebone, they were drivers and factory workers and labourers who needed comfort and freedom.

1930s bra

Although the prototype of the modern bra had been created in 1907, it wasn’t until the 1930s that the ‘brassiere’ started to be commercially manufactured and generally known as a ‘bra’.  The manufacture of new materials such as Lycra and Elastene have had a major impact on the comfort of bras, as well as many other garments, and this has allowed the flourishing of styles and designs with which to enhance or modify breast shape.

I walked out of the The Little Big Bra Shop feeling like a different woman.  I was more comfortable for a start and I felt ever so slightly taller and thinner.  I was also thrilled to be told I had bigger bosoms than I thought I had, although there is the danger that if I lose some weight, I might lose those as well.  Oh well, you can’t have everything.


Filed under Community and shopping, fashion

23 responses to “The importance of a well fitting bra

  1. Affer

    I often bought lingerie for my first ex-wife – her size was easy to remember as she was a 14 1/2. One nicely fitted my bowler hat, and that was 7 1/4.

  2. I have to be very careful what I say here, having very recently had a massive bollocking for inappropriate behaviour. So I’ll just say I’m off to have a cold shower.

  3. firsttimehousewife

    I’ve given up. I bought a hideous but perfectly fitting nursing bra two weeks a go. It doesn’t fit now.

    • wartimehousewife

      Firsttimehousewife: Oh poor you – hang on to it though and use it for the next one! Also, at some point in the future, I shall show you all a creative and useful thing to do with old padded bras…

  4. Joy

    After fit, which is essential, I find that beauty counts a lot. There is nothing that gives me more confidence than beautiful undergarments even though I’m the only one who knows they are there. Good for you.

    • wartimehousewife

      Joy: You’re quite right, no-one will see mine either, but I will know.

    • Jackie

      Oh how I wish I could buy beautiful undergarments. But for some reason manufacturers assume that we women of above average size do not want to look beautiful or, heaven forbid, sexy! And to top it off, I can’t shop at department stores, they don’t carry my size, I have to go to the more expensive lingerie shops. Grrrr!!! OK, deep breath …

      • wartimehousewife

        I do sympathise Jackie. My friend is an LL and all she asks is the ability to remain upright in a strong wind. No lace for her unless she has them hand-made which, as you point out, is prohibitively expensive. She is actually planning a breast reduction because the strain on her back and shoulders is too much. I asked if I could have what was left over, but apparently you can’t do that! Call themselves doctors…

  5. Camilla Jessop

    I’m sure you feel much more comfortable now my dear. In the past I used Rigby and Peller for my intimate undergarments – they are very good on training their new staff, who all have to start at the bottom. But lately I have taken to buying bras on the internet from I usually buy a 5oN, and then I can use it as saddlebags when I go shopping on my motorcycle.

    • wartimehousewife

      Ah Camilla, I knew you’d have a sensible approach. I have always wanted to have a set of underwear made for me by R&P. If it’s good enough for The Queen etc etc

  6. Purely for scientific research purposes, I would appreciate a series of photographs of the new item in situ.

    • wartimehousewife

      I admire your scientific dedication, Sausage, but you have no idea what you ask. Plus the fact, I live in Market Harborough which is nowhere near Situ…

  7. Jackie

    Funny you should post this now. Just yesterday I took my best bra, purchased from a lingerie store not a department store, and as I went to put said garment on SNAP went the underwire! I believe the lingerie store makes repairs to bras so I’ll be stopping there on my next visit to town.

  8. Morag

    I have to say, “personal fittings” in places like La Senza have never managed to get me a well-fitted bra. It wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I discovered that the number equals circumference and and letter/s indicated bra size!

    I had a bra fitting at Bravissimo in London, who were dead on. They also had lots of lovely bras for me to try on. Now, I buy bras from their catalogue when I need one (which reminds me – I need a new one now).

    My late husband bought me beautiful underwear before we were married (after kids, the money ran out!), and indeed took me to his favourite shop in Edinburgh to choose my basque. Beautiful cream silk, it was. The lady made no reference to ever having met him before, which made him smile – he told me later that he did know her, but in the interests of discretion, she obviously had a policy of not mentioning previous visits by gentlemen, in case they had not been shopping for their official partner! 😉

  9. backwatersman

    I remember when they opened this shop. I happened to be in the one opposite – the rather staid one that sells riding gear and so on. They (the Bra Shop) had hired a model to throw Phyllis Diller shapes in the window in her underwear. All eyes on stalks (though not mine, obviously).

    • wartimehousewife

      They had one the other week, handing out leaflets outside the shop. Boy the Elder didn’t quite know what to make of it but Boy the Younger that it was hilarious that a grown up would be wandering the streets in her undies.

  10. Jo Halford

    Beautiful set WH, brava!
    For me underwear had been merely functional until the Intrepid One came along! Shortly after I met him, he returned from a visit to friends in Italy, not only with the most gorgeous underwear I had ever seen, but it fitted me like it was made to measure (marvellous guesswork on his behalf). We have made several trips there together since and always visit the shop, called ‘Intimissimi’ and I now own a drawer-full of the most mouth watering variety’s that not only look wonderful but are functional too. I am pleased to inform you all that there are now two branches of this fabulous lingerie shop in London (under the same name), but you cannot order online. A visit is strongly recommended!

  11. Being a welder, my bras are made from a blend of Nomex and Kevlar. But I only ever wear knickers from

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