Undressed to Impress

Understanding my boobs

on March 21, 2012

It’s been about a year since I discovered the world of properly fitting bras, and after my ‘there’s such a thing as a 28 band?!’ revelation I thought that the label in my bras was pretty much all there was to it.  At first I thought my bras were still uncomfortable because they just needed breaking-in, but before too long I began to realise there was a whole host of things I had yet to consider.

I’ve always preferred plunge bras, because the wires on balconettes tend to dig in between my boobs. I thought this was because I’d been wearing the wrong size, so I branched out into balconettes in the right size and thought my troubles would disappear. Unfortunately, I still have this problem with most bras with a centre gore higher than about an inch. I tried bending the wires away from my body, which helped a little but didn’t make a big difference. And then about two weeks ago, I realised something so incredibly obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before: my boobs are really close together! At the top the distance between them is smaller than my little finger. This means the wires in my bras are sitting on breast tissue, which is not at all comfortable.

The two bras in this picture are a Curvy Kate Thrill Me, which digs in, at the top and a Masquerade Rhea, which doesn’t, at the bottom.  Notice the big difference? Even the Rhea is slightly too wide at the top but it doesn’t cause me pain like the Thrill Me. I’m going to try altering the centre gores on bras like the Thrill Me, but because of the width of the wires I will have to make them overlap, and I’m worried this may cause them to dig in for a different reason.

Which brings me on to my second problem. I’m quite a small person, wearing a UK size of 6-8 in most of my clothes, and my underbust measures 25-26 inches. 28 bands are, a lot of the time, too big for me and hence don’t provide me with as much support as a bra should. But when they do fit, they’re often so painful I can’t wait to get it off at the end of the day, just like back when I was wearing the wrong size. So the next realisation was that sometimes the right size bra hurts. This is because I don’t have much natural padding on my rib cage, and when a bra band doesn’t have a lot of stretch, it digs in and causes angry red marks.

Here are two bras in a 28 band. The first is the Curvy Kate Thrill Me again and the second is a Masquerade Lula-Mae. The bands have fairly similar measurements at rest. But when I stretched them, it was a different story. The Lula Mae would only stretch to 27 inches, while the Thrill Me stretched to a whopping 33 inches. I probably don’t even have to tell you that the Lula Mae has a very supportive band for me, whilst the Thrill Me does not. But I still love and wear my Thrill Mes (I have three!) because they are so comfy that I’m willing to compromise on support. I suspect this is a decision a lot of women, particularly smaller ones, make when told they need to be wearing a tighter band. In my case, I just try to alternate them with my more supportive bras.


I should also mention that it’s a bit unfair of me to use the Lula Mae in this example (it was just the first one that was at hand), because it actually is still pretty comfortable. I can just feel it all day when I breathe, which isn’t always what I want!

Another realisation I’ve made is that not all bras are created equal. This was a pretty dumb thing to assume, especially as I do a lot of sewing and I know what clothing constructions suit my body best, but I’d never really considered bra construction before. Back when I wore a 32E/34DD and I could shop on the high street for my bras, I bought the pretty ones in the £5 La Senza sale. I never thought about what they’d look like under clothes because they all looked the same: unsupportive!

Nowadays, as the bras I buy are far harder to find and hence more expensive, and I can rarely try before I buy, I am far more picky. That’s partly why I started my blog and read so many others, because the candid, detailed reviews that other women give have been my bra-buying guide for as long as I’ve been in the right size. I know that my boobs are fuller on the bottom, so I can’t wear bras with shallow cups at the bottom. I know I like a rounded shape and bras with vertical seams are good for this. I know my shoulders are quite narrow and wide-set straps will often dig in. And yet, I’m sure there is still more for me to discover about my boobs, as the recency of the first discovery I talked about shows!

What have you discovered about your boobs as you’ve got to know them better? Has this changed what you look for in a bra? Let me know in the comments!


13 responses to “Understanding my boobs

  1. Oh, I’ve been thinking about this same issue lately and have thought about writing a post on it, too! You wrote it very well, so I’ll propably write from a different perspective and link your post to my blog. 🙂

    I have the same issue with close-set boobs and have just discovered that myself. I, however, do have a lot of padding on my ribcage but STILL find most bras pretty uncomfortable. Not in the same way as the wrong size ones, though. The wires dig in my ribcage sometimes, and I can always feel the bra on me. It just doesn’t hurt the way it used to. I still couldn’t dream about wearing a bra at home or at night, even though I would want the support…

  2. MiaRose says:

    Laura, if you decide to fix the center gore in a way that necessitcates the overlap of the wires, could you upload the results? I tried that once, and it really was not pretty.

  3. Marie says:

    I’ve been altering center gores (and back bands) ever since I found my real size. It will mess with the fit of the cups a bit, especially if you were “fudging” the fit as it was (oh the joys of being poor student).

    I’d still give it a go if I were you. It’s made my bras a lot more comfortable.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for your comment Marie. Do you have any methods you’d recommend? I’ve tried altering a few back bands but I’m still yet to find the perfect method!

      • Marie says:

        The best way I’ve found so far is to make darts. The center gore dart can face either the inside or outside, depending on the width/depth of the center gore (I find that higher, deeper gores need to have the dart on the outside of the bra, because if the dart gets to big, it’ll dig in itself.)

        Darting the backs can be tricky, but the benefit is you can let it out again if you make it too tight. The alternate to darting the back is cutting and resewing (http://braslessinbrasil.blogspot.com/2011/09/desperate-times-calls-for-desperate.html), which I find makes it easy to take too much off. If you use the cut and sew version, remove the hooks/eyes and sew them to the band where you think you’ll need to move them to. Try it on. If it feels tight/loose, rip out the stitches and move the hooks/eyes. Once you’ve got a good placement, then cut off the excess band, but leave some extra fabric (about 3/16inch) after the stitches.

  4. Shenice says:

    Just wanna say, I think its great you are doing this and sharing your experiences with us. Women can now say put to rest that they’re the only one having problems. I never knew the differences varied so much in bras! :O Your findings have certianly helped me. Im a size 5’3, curvy size 8 and I struggle with clothes a bit. However, recently I brought a “Freya Light blue fuller bust ‘Nieve’ longline balcony bra” from Debenhams in a 30F and its now my fav bra as I adore the snug fit and the shape it gives me. How would that fair with you I wonder? 🙂 I dont think I know my boobs that well… I know that I need a decent bra ! But when I was younger, I was measured wrong at M&S (32D/DD when I was a 28FF) and the full cup bras used to irritate my breast tissue right in the centre, though I dont seem to have that problem now… But all I know is that a 28 makes me feel super supported 🙂 I just wanna see more pretty bras for younger people in bigger cups and smaller backs in the shops 🙂

    • Laura says:

      I’m so glad you’ve found a bra that really works for you! I adored the longline Nieve, but as Freya runs big in the band and the smallest back size was a 30, it never would have worked for me 😦
      M&S really frustrate me, as they are the fitting location of choice for SO many women in the UK and yet they’re so bad at it! If a girl gets measured there for her first bra, she’ll probably end up wearing the wrong size her whole life and hate her boobs because of it. I agree, it would be great to see more pretty bras in smaller backs on the high street – then women would know those sizes existed and wouldn’t think anything bigger than a D is freakishly large. If only the lingerie industry was run by us…

  5. IHateBras says:

    The bra problem has been bothering and hurting me for years. I never had a proper fitting until a few months ago and I’m 22years old! I’ve been assuming i’m the smallest size i could find in highstreet shops which is usually a 32A. However after being measured in La Senza i found out i’m actually a 28D(1st time i discovered there is a 28 back) and the cup size i’ve been wearing is too small. So i bought the Freya bra in 28D but the wire hurts my ribs so much(i dont have much natural padding on my ribs either) and the band feels very tight and has left red lines on my skin. I might try a few different sizes or even resort to padding the wire with something soft. If you have any solutions for the wire against the ribs problem let me know.

    • Laura says:

      I’m glad to hear you’ve finally found well-fitting bras – I was the same age as you when I figured out my bra size and learned that 28 backs exist. I am sorry you’re not finding them comfortable though. There’s a couple of things I’d recommend you try. The first is to try bending the wires. Most bras are made with wires that are completely flat when you’re not wearing the bra, so if you fasten it when you’re not wearing it you’ll get a triangular shape. Since your ribcage isn’t triangular, this can be really painful. Try carefully bending the wires into a more curved shape to match your body.
      Secondly, padded bras are worth a try (so long as you’re sure of the size, as it’s harder to spot fitting issues than in an unpadded bra). I often find that padded bras have better padded underwires than unpadded bras do, but it’s a bit hit and miss as it’s quite dependent on the fabric used.
      Some bras can just take a few wears before they become comfortable, like a pair of new shoes. My Masquerade Rhea was one like that and I wore it at home in the evenings for a while before I wore it for a full day. If your bra is still uncomfortable, you could try sewing some felt over the wires or just in particular spots where it’s uncomfortable.
      It may just mean the bra isn’t for you. If you have any good bra stores near you that stock your size then go in and try on as many as you need until you find one that feels good. And just because you’ve been measured as a 28 doesn’t mean you have to wear that size. If you find a 30 back more comfortable then wear that. It may be slightly less supportive but comfort is the most important issue here. You might find as you become accustomed to a slightly tighter back that you can move down to a smaller size. When I first started wearing a 28 I wore a lot of Curvy Kate Showgirl bras (you can always get them cheap from Amazon with free delivery and free returns if they don’t fit) because they have very stretchy and comfy bands. Now I’m used to a tighter band so I don’t wear them very often, but if I’m wearing in a new bra that’s a bit uncomfortable I often wear one of my Showgirls as a bit of relief the next day. Wider back bands can also make a difference as the pressure is distributed over a larger area.
      I hope my suggestions are some use to you and that you find some comfort! Good luck and do let me know how you get on.

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