I was raised with conviction that bras are uncomfortable by design and simply stupid. Well, most made in USSR bras were hideous and uncomfortable, imported bras were very expensive and you couldn’t just go to a shop and buy them*, so all the women who raised me gave me that conviction for a good reason. Perestroika came, then lihie (this can’t be translated in English without loosing meaning, it’s reckless and really bad at the same time) 90s came when bazaar was the only source of new clothes. Can you imaging buying bras from a stand without trying on and not being able to return if it doesn’t fit? Add there that quality was usually poor, fabrics scratchy and itchy and even being cheep those bras weren’t free and my family month income (rather unstable btw) was something like $100-150 and I had two small brothers.** So, I spend my youth having enough reasons to think that going braless whenever you can is the best option you can think of.
When I was in my early twenties I identified my bra size should be 80C (36C) using underbust measurement taken loose and bust measurement, but wait! my BFF wears C and her breasts looks much bigger, then I must be B. I found a job as a programmer and had relatively good salary, so I went to the shop and tried 80B… it didn’t fit at all, it felt very tight in the band and I’ve got a slight gaping in the cups and it was painful, so I decided that I should be 85A, but there was no such size in the shops, that’s why I started to buy convertibles for low back dresses. I was going braless most of the time and used bras as a nipple cover with tops made from fabrics that have some transparency and no strategically placed embellishments. And believe me I tried really hard to avoid tops for which bra were a necessity. I ignored nipple shape showing if it wasn’t super obvious.
It worked just fine until recently. I got a promotion and three male subordinates. Then I had a feeling that it’s a kind of unprofessional to go braless to work.
About that time I was searching to some clothes solutions for hourglass shape (I knew a lot about it, but it’s never enough) and then I came across Thin and Curvy blog. Oh Gosh… my mind was blown! This lovely girl explained a lot to me. All my struggles with bras made sense! 80 (36) bands felt tight on me not because I needed 85, but because underwires were cutting about 1/3 of my breasts on the sides! And of cause my breasts were in pain from the regular bras! And they are not that small as it looks, especially if I’m wearing tight cotton top and a baggy cardigan without a bra.
After that I found more lingerie blogs (Braless in Brazil, Bras I Hate and Love, Boosaurus!, Hourglassy, Fussy Busty, Invest In Your Chest to name a few) and it was like a new world full of information essential for any woman. I’m very grateful for all this wonderful girls and women, I would never figured what can work for me and what not if they weren’t there making posts about shape and fit, bra reviews and spreading the word of support, hope and body acceptance.
Online calculators*** give me something around 30FF/G (I’m 30.5″ underbust take or add 1″ for very tight/very loose measuring tape and amount of air in my lungs). I have very skinny ribcage, so I definitely prefer 32 bands, if we are not talking about that superstretchy ones. And I have size down in the cups, because of breast shape (they are almost conical, I have very little fullness). So I came to 32E/F (which is more close to E)****.
The main idea is: “hello, bands are much stretchier now than they used to be when bra sizing was introduced, forget about old methods, to get a bra that fits you normally shouldn’t add inches to your underbust measurement (and you should subtract 10sm if it’s European system), cup should encase all your breast tissue, without cutting in anywhere and central gore should be flat against the sternum”. There are a ton of nuances in finding perfect fit, but hey! right starting point means a lot!
I didn’t find my perfect fit in bras yet, but even kind of ok fit is much better than what I had before. I dream of custom made bras, but I haven’t find anybody locally and the only place I know is 350 miles away. So I saved this option for times when I’ll have some extra money and there won’t be freezingly cold (I hate to travel in winter).
*Most goods in USSR were imported in not enough quantity to satisfy demand, so people who worked in distributive trade were selling most of them not from the official shops, but from their own distributive chains at much higher price. That was illegal, but very profitable. And because it was illegal you should have made some contacts to be able to buy. The smaller portion of import which made to the shops were bought in hours usually and lines were usually tremendous.
**As you can guess for us 90s were really bad. They were really bad for the most people in USSR who hadn’t entrepreneur talent or were a part of the criminal world. It was very dark time for many and time of endless possibilities for some.
**Good ones, not Playtex or Victoria Secret sort. Good calculators are: Butterfly collection Calculator,(nice online shop, free Skype fittings and excellent blog btw), A Sophisticated Pair Calculator (Erica, the shop owner, is a real sweetheart and a brilliant blogger).
**** You can be suspicious how I can get away braless with this size, well I have mixed blessing of very specific breast shape and ribcage shape. My breasts have very wide base and are almost conical, as I mentioned, and I have deep flared ribcage. So base of my breasts isn’t perpendicular to the ground, my much more lightweight then you can expect breasts are laying on my ribcage rather then hanging. That makes me look much smaller than I really am especially without a bra and combination of wide base and lack of fullness makes finding bras really hard.