Springtime is one of those occasions when we make a broad (if sometimes gradual – hello sub-freezing weather forecast this weekend) transition from one set of clothing to a different set. Such occasions are good excuses to take at least a passing glance at that other part of your wardrobe that you wear literally everyday. Friends, if you are a person who wears a bra on a daily basis, let me encourage you to check up on your bras. Not just the condition they are in (they DO need to function as support garments, after all), but if they are in fact the size you need to be wearing.
(If you’re not a person who wears a bra, then by all means feel free to gleefully skip this post and I’ll be back next time with more project chatter. Please enjoy this procrastination moment on me!)
There are a lot of statistics out there about how most of us bra-wearers are not actually wearing the right size bra. This is largely a by-product of the fact that we are incredibly captive to the mainstream retail environments available to us and selection is very limited in a lot of the large scale undergarment producers – a lot of the most commonly available brands don’t come in the full range of band sizes and cup size combinations, so as a result we end up finding one that sort of works pretty well but isn’t necessarily a reflection of our actual body.
For similar reasons, a lot of us are walking around in shirts that aren’t the right length, in pants that are too loose in some parts but tight in others, and basically full outfits purchases more out of defeat and despair than out of factual relationship between garment size and body size. But shopping is so fun, right? Anyhow, the main difference with bras is that we wear them on a daily basis. That one shirt that doesn’t fit right can be ignored most days, but not so much the bra.)
An important first step is to measure yourself. You can get this done by a professional at many specialty stores and also some department stores. Ask around! You can also do this at home yourself. I like this quick and easy visual guide. The main consideration here is that you want to know:
- Your body measurement around the body just under your bust
- Your bust measurement around the fullest part of your bust
- The difference between the two measurements.
The first one gets you your ideal band size, and the difference between the first and second gets you a reference to find your cup size. You may well come up with a measurement that surprises you – you may find yourself thinking you were an A or B cup all along but in fact you are more like a D or DD. Cup size is very relative – a 32D is not the same D as a 40D. (For the curious: I was walking around wearing 38A for years, then I measured myself, and I am actually a 32D. MIND BLOWN, PEOPLE. However, my upper bust measurement is in fact 38 ins around, which is not too far off from my full bust measurement, which is why I’d been so easily taken in by a 38-inch band size. I’m broad-shouldered. It’s also why I gravitate towards sweaters with a finished bust size of 39 inches around, because that’s a nice small amount of 1-2 inches positive ease for my upper bust AND my full bust.)
Take caution as well, in the fit instructions you’re looking at. Chances are, if someone immediately tells you to add 4-5 inches to that 1st measurement to get your band size, then that someone is a bra company trying to sell you a bra in the limited size rang they sell. Make the bras fit you, not the other way around.
The next step from there is to go find some bras to try on that are a better match for your true size. This may or may not be very challenging and/or very expensive, depending on the size you are. I personally lucked out and found some in my local department store that matched up for me, but your mileage may vary considerably. Exert the expense and effort you are comfortable with.
There are a lot of good reasons to seek a properly fitting bra, not the least of which is that you will feel comfortable and your clothes may fit better as a result. As knitters, though, it is good to be reminded of this because there is a persistent assumption that your bust size is the same as your bra band size, and this is rarely actually true. Maybe it IS true, for you, depending on your body shape, but if it’s not, that’s a heck of a piece of information to get wrong. If your full bust and upper bust measurements differ considerably, you will also need to consider short row shaping or other fit modification steps to construct your ideal sweater fit. This is a larger conversation topic than will fit in this blog post, but please do Google for more information on that – there is a wealth of it out there.
Happy knitting this weekend, blog friends, and may your bras always fit just the way you need them to.
Pictured: My Brightwood pullover sample for Twist Collective, purely because it’s on a dress-form (handy reference for when we chat about body shape), and also because it’s a spring sweater design of mine that I like. Surprisingly enough, I don’t have a lot of handy stock photos about bras. 😉