Although I love lingerie and know quite a bit about it, I can still struggle to find the right bra fit.
Even when I do succeed in my search, the same style and brand might not be available the next time I need to replenish my lingerie wardrobe. So I asked Ali Cudby, America's #1 bra coach and author of Busted! The FabFoundations Guide to Bras that Fit, Flatter and Feel Fantastic, to share her tips and tricks with me.
E: Why do women need a book on bra fitting? Can't they just go to a store or figure it out themselves? Is it that complicated?
Ali: Part of the reason women have trouble finding bras that fit is because there's a perception that finding your size is easy - "hey, measure here, measure there do a little math and voila!" It's too simplistic for two reasons: 1) Bodies come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn't work. 2) The outcome of the measurement approach gives you a bra size, but bras aren't manufactured consistently. A woman can wear many different sizes that all fit, so if you're focused on a single number/letter combination, you'll end up with improper fit. Busted! is all about understanding how a bra should sit on your unique body, in a way that transcends the letter and number on the tag and focuses on fit. The FabFit Formula, which is the heart of Busted! isn't complicated - it's a different way of thinking about your lingerie, but in a way that will help women look and feel better, and more comfortable in the long run.
E: What are the three most important things a woman needs to know about buying a bra? What should a woman look for in her purchasing experience (e.g. sales personnel, stock, store)? Does price matter?
Ali: The most important thing to know about buying a bra is what I said already - you don't have a bra size because there are no standards for fit in the lingerie industry. The second most important thing to understand is that band and cup are interrelated. For every band size you increase or decrease, cup volume increases or decreases by one size. In other words, the cup volume on a 36B is the same as on a 34C. That also means a woman normally wears a 36B but is wearing a band that's way too big - as most American women do - she might actually need a 32D. Same cup volume, very different emotionally to be a B-cup vs. a D-cup. The third thing key fit factor for bras is this - it's all about fitting the band. The band should be doing 80-90% of the job of supporting your breasts. So fit the band first and then worry about getting the rest of the bra elements to fit.
I think quality matters - but price is not always a great indicator of quality. I go into more detail on the markers of quality in the book, and the bottom line is this: you should buy a bra that fits at any price point, but a quality bra will last for more wears, which can end up saving you money in the long haul.
E: As a bra wearer, what are your personal frustrations? What works or doesn't work for you?
Ali: Every woman has the opportunity to understand how her breasts are shaped and find bras that work ideally for her individual figure. The great thing about the current state of the lingerie world is that there are so many brands and styles out there - every woman has the right to find bras that fit well, look awesome and feel fab. At a certain age, I had to watch the line across the top of the cup, and how it lies against my breast. With less volume up top and less perkiness than in days gone by, that's a challenging area for me and a lot of women in my age bracket - especially Moms who nursed. Sometimes manufacturers, who use fit models barely out of their teens, don't take that fit factor into consideration. Again, it's all a matter of finding what works on your unique body and ultimately choosing bras that fit, flatter and feel fantastic.
What's your bra fit challenge? Has Ali's advice changed the way you'll look at bra sizing and buying?