bra zone book excerpt

The Bra Zone Book Excerpt: Why I Wrote My Book

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Today's post is for those readers who want to know more about my new book. I'm pairing this Bra Zone book excerpt with a small selection of recommended bras from our store. As you'll see, bra buying isn't always easy, even when there are many brands and styles available.

This brief introduction to The Bra Zone: How to find Your Ideal, Size, Style, and Support tells the story behind why I wrote the book. If you want to see what others are saying about the book, you can read reviews here and here

We earn a commission when you follow links on this page to make a purchase. Click here to learn more about our affiliate procedures and privacy policy.

Why the Bra Zone?

Back in the late 60s, when I was 13 years old, my mom took me shopping for my first bra. She brought me to the intimate apparel section of The Bon Marche department store (now Macy’s), where the old, intimidating saleswoman wasn’t interested in my personal likes or dislikes. She looked me up and down and led me to the back wall. That’s where they kept their stock of bras made for my 34D size -- stiff, white, matronly cotton foundations more suited to a grandmother than a budding teenager.

The saleswoman ushered us into a dusty dressing room, where she strapped me into an uncomfortable and unattractive constraint, then stood back and looked at me, proud of her accomplishment. My petite mother stared at me in the mirror and said by way of apology, “She got those from her father’s side of the family.”

The entire experience was embarrassing and depressing. I blamed my body for not being able to wear cute foundations. Even worse, I was stuck with bigger boobs when everyone else was celebrating wearing the latest braless fashions. My boobs would never draw a “Get Out of Bra Jail Free” card.

Freya Underwire Plunge Balconette Bra

Freya Underwire Plunge Balconnet Bra
Available in Bands 30-38, Cups DD-K
via Nordstrom

For most of my life, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with bra shopping. The frustrations of early puberty continued as my breasts kept on morphing. I went up and down the Cup Alphabet through weight fluctuations, three pregnancies, a cosmetic breast lift, and the hormonal mess known as menopause. Every time I thought I had my size figured out, everything changed again. And my boobs didn’t just expand and contract, they also migrated. It’s been tough trying to find bras that fit two moving targets on my chest.

Today, the journey that began with me uncomfortable with my size has come full circle. Since menopause, I’m back to wearing that original band and cup combo. However, almost everything else in the lingerie world has changed, including the bra industry.

Else Longline Plunge Bralette

Else Longline Plunge Bralette
Available in Sizes XS-L
via Nordstrom
The Little Bra Company Annika Petite Demi Bra
Annika Petite Demi Bra
Available in 3 Color, Fitting Bands 28-38, Cups A-C
via The Little Bra Company

I first noticed this in 2006, when I was researching my first book and helping my teen daughter navigate the complexities of bra shopping. The department store experience was still available, along with the hugely popular Victoria’s Secret chain, but that was only the beginning. The online shopping world was expanding, making virtual bra shopping a reality.

But beyond that, for the first time, people were thinking about whether or not their bras fit properly, thanks to Oprah’s famous “bra intervention” episode. Women realized that a well-fitting bra could change a person’s life. These televised fittings marked the beginning of a new era in bra education, opening up conversations about fit that went beyond the A through D cups.

Chantelle Intimates Wireless Sports Bra

Chantelle Intimates Wireless Sports Bra
Available in Sizes S-XL
via Saks Fifth Avenue

A decade later, today’s bra world is filled with possibility. You’ll find foundations everywhere: department stores, big box outlets, luxury boutiques, athletic shops, and, of course, online. If you don’t have access to a professional bra fitter, you can use online surveys and phone apps to determine your bra size and style preferences. Some lingerie stores now video chat with customers to help them find their perfect foundations. You can search bra wear reviews and match them to your size, body type, and age. Or you can follow any number of lingerie bloggers who test and share their recommendations.

b.tempt'd by Wacoal Ciao Bella Balconette Bra

b.tempt'd by Wacoal Ciao Bella Balconette Bra
Available in 4 Colors, Fitting Bands 32-36, Cups B-DD
via Bloomingdale's

Bravissimo Satine Green Floral Bra

Satine Green Floral Bra
Available in Bands 28-38, Cups DD-J
via Bravissimo

There're lots to recommend from -- because the global lingerie market is bursting with more bra styles and sizes than ever before. You’ll find cups from AAA to KK and beyond, depending on country of origin. There's more access to brands fitting a wider range of body shapes, with offerings spanning band size measurements from 26 to 58. New fabrics, elastics, and materials create an array of design options, from individual cut-and-sewn to machine-made molded cups. There's room for improvement regarding the diversity of offerings and models, but enterprising start-ups are working hard to fill any holes in the lucrative lingerie market.

Natori Chic Comfort Underwire T-Shirt Full Figure Bra

Natori Chic Comfort Underwire T-Shirt Full Figure Bra
Available in 3 Colors, Fitting Bands 32-40, Cups DD-H
via Nordstrom

Dita Von Teese Madame X Underwire Bra

Dita Von Teese Madame X Underwire Bra
Available in Band Sizes 32-36, Cups B-F
via Nordstrom

As a result, we now have plenty of options beyond matronly white cotton, and that’s a good thing. However, this bra-option overload can also be overwhelming. Finding a bra is still a challenge for me -- and I’m not alone. Surveys show that women own an average of nine bras, yet only wear six on a regular basis. I get hundreds of questions from blog readers seeking solutions to their bra problems. Even those educated on bra sizing and fit have a hard time locating what they want.

Why is this happening?

It turns out that band and cup size is just a starting point. An ideal bra has to factor in your age, body shape, budget, fashion style, and more. Do you take yoga or run marathons? Want nipple coverage for work and a sexy plunging neckline for the evening? Are you just developing or could you do with a new look post-baby? Maybe you’re in the market for a nursing, mastectomy, or post-surgical bra. You may be a guy who either needs or wants, to wear a bra.

In other words, there’s more than size to consider.

The bad news is that the one thing you think you know -- your size -- is no longer relevant. Why? Brands have fit and sizing standards, but they’re all different. You can’t assume that identical letters and numbers on bra labels equal the same band length or breast cup volume. It’s about more than knowing how to translate your size from one country to another, too. You need to understand the standard of measurement each manufacturer uses.

You’ve likely read that 85% of all women are in the wrong bra size. But there’s no science behind that statistic. And I’m guessing the percentage is really 100%. Why? The reason women are in the ‘wrong’ size has nothing to do with any ignorance about our bodies or bras. In truth, everyone wears more than one size across different brands and styles.

Which leaves the question, how can you navigate through all of the information out there and buy bras that work for you?

Welcome to The Bra Zone, where you will find the guidance you need to find your best bra, whether you’re buying your first or your 50th.


Do my experiences in this Bra Zone book excerpt seem familiar to you? What do you find frustrating about bra shopping or sizing? 

Featured Image: On the set of Seattle's New Day NW.

Want the latest news from The Breast Life?

Sign up below to receive our newsletter, which includes lingerie sales, featured products, and popular blog posts.