The Mythological “Perfect Bra”

Last week I wrote about boobs and how frustrating it can be to walk around with them attached to you. Breasts can be a constant burden, and in order to deal with them, somewhere along the line, the bra was invented. Compared to its predecessor, the corset, a brassiere would appear to be far less constricting and vastly more comfortable. Unfortunately though they’re still a constant source of torture for most women.

The way I see it, there is a holy triad of awful-to-shop-for items; jeans, bras, and bathing suits. The only reason I find bra shopping the least painful, is because I’ve pretty much given up. No, I haven’t been going bra-less, (though I would if I could) I’ve just settled for a brand that’s alright, and I deal with it. I’m sick of everyone from shop assistants who are toted as “miracle workers”, to Oprah telling me what size bra—and what kind of bra I should be wearing. Especially when after spending way too much money, and way too much time obsessing over it, I still haven’t found a bra that works for me. I’ve tried Victoria’s Secret, Olga, Bali, Natori, Calvin Klein, Wonderbra, Wachoal, Lilyette, and dozens of others. I don’t expect miracles (it’s underwear for god-sakes!) but I would like ample support, and not to feel like I’m wearing a torture device everyday.

I’ve been measured for bras three times. Once it was in Paris, which resulted in a purchase of one of the prettiest bras I’ve ever seen, but also hands down the most itchy and painful. Maybe in France you’re just supposed to suck it up and deal with it, or go bra-less. I’ve been told I was a 38B and a 32DD and neither of them were anywhere near comfortable. The variation in those sizes has led me to believe this whole thing is just a ploy to make money. I’m not sure if Oprah is in on it, but I’m disappointed in her. It’s not easy to find a good bra, and it’s not cheap either. I’ve found myself very frustrated while watching Ms. Winfrey expound the wonders of getting your bust measured, because it used to bring me hope, now it just pisses me off. The 32DD that I purchased actually bore welts into my back, I couldn’t believe it. I knew I wasn’t a 32, I had never worn less than a 34, but I let that saleswomen convince me that I had been misguided all my life and that with one $45 purchase everything would change. When you get measured, I swear they always tell you you’re a dramatically different size than you’ve always been, that way you get excited and buy a new expensive bra—it’s devious. I’ve learned my lesson and now settle for cheap, comfortable bras that don’t fit perfectly and require many wardrobe adjustments and, forgive my language, it’s a total pain in the ass.

The perfect bra is elusive, maybe you’ve never found one and are constantly in search of it, or maybe there was a bra somewhere in your past that seemed so flawless you constantly seek to find its match. It’s depressing that in order to appear “decent” women have to invest large amounts of money in a garment that is both painful and difficult to find, wouldn’t it be nice if they were subsidized? The real problem is we’re just all too different, no two breasts are ever the same, sometimes even if they’re on the same body.

My breasts are two different sizes, that’s a very personal and uncomfortable thing to admit, but I’ve learned that as women, we don’t talk about this stuff enough and if we want our voices to be heard (yes, even if it’s about bras) we need to speak up. So I’ll admit, one of my breasts is a C/D and the other is a D/DD, it’s not even noticeable, but it effects bra shopping and I know for a fact there are other women who have this problem. Tons of people have two different sized feet, so yeah, some of us have the same problem with boobs, that’s life. It’s also just one of many problems women encounter in search of a good brassiere. Some of us need a bra with extra padding, or thick straps, or generous coverage, or maybe we’d like one that actually managed to look somewhat attractive and didn’t make wearing scoop neck tops impossible—and heck, maybe some of use would like all those things at once.

A bra has to be form-fitting, it has to be precise or you get pinching under your arms or spillage over the cup, and then there are straps that slip or bands that rub. After years of wearing bras, and trying them on and being measured for them, I’ve come to this conclusion; we needs bras in more sizes, and those sizes need to be more available. I know it’s expensive, I know it’s hard, but I also know there is an enormous market for it—North American women spend $16 billion a year on bras, for real. I know so many women (myself included) who have sunk at least hundreds of dollars into the search for a perfect bra without success, so someone needs to start researching (any architects out there?) and come up with a new system, because I think this one has failed.

Bras distribute the weight of the breast in such a way that the pressure ends up on your back and shoulders. Even if you don’t have large breasts a bra can contribute to shoulder and back pain, there’s also research which shows wearing a bra may actually make your breasts sag faster, because the pectoral muscles atrophy from lack of use—I don’t know if I buy that one, but maybe I’ll start working my chest muscles more often, just in case.

Wearing a bra makes me feel more pulled together, I feel rebellious if I leave the house without one, but I’m not sure whether that’s because I’ve been wearing them so long, or that it actually feels strange to have my boobs out there with no restraint. I often feel bad for my breasts, all smooshed into a skin-tight garment, tucked and squeezed until they fit a shape utterly different from their natural appearance, it seems unfair and I think they deserve better.

Do we need bras, or do we wear them to appear appropriate? I understand the need for modesty in everyday situations, but why do they need to be so painful? I’m still waiting for the solution. I currently have the same bra in several different colors, and most of the time I feel like I’m popping out of it, but if I go up the next size (either cup or band) it’s way too big. I’ve worn supportive bras that lifted and separated my breasts until they were no longer recognizable, and no longer looked sexy or attractive with the added bonus of making it impossible to wear even modest necklines without bra peek-age. On the other side I’ve had bras that made my breasts look great, but also looked risqué even under a t-shirt. The search for the perfect bra may never end, but I continue to hope for that miracle invention, a bra that supports, pads, and comforts, while also appearing attractive. It shouldn’t be that hard, because boobs are pretty damn sexy all by themselves, and maybe we could work with that.

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7 Comments

Filed under acceptance, health, shopping

7 responses to “The Mythological “Perfect Bra”

  1. mkz201

    I can never get the straps to stay up unless I use some sort of extra contraption. I think I have slippery shoulders.

  2. Wilberthe

    Maybe it’s just cause my boobs are on the smaller side, but I’ve never felt very constrained when I wear a bra. In fact, I consider a bra to be an important part of my outfit even though (or maybe especially because) I’m the only one who’s going to see it. It’s weird, but I always feel better about an outfit if I know I’m wearing a pretty bra underneath. I think bra shopping has never been very stressful for me because I’ve always thought of bras as fun accessories for my girls, instead of as tools to shape and squish them way beyond how they naturally look. Just try to have fun with it! :]

  3. haren

    I think bras are absolute torture. In my life I have ranged from a 34 B to a 42 D and they have all been torture. And… there is some evidence that bras keep your lymphatic system from draining and cost breast cancer. Why are we wearing these?

    I have an email from Victoria’s Secret today advertising the most comfortable bra ever. Can I sue them if it isn’t true?

  4. sheila

    It’s so true: the pinching, poking, and prodding—it needs to end! One horrible memory burned into my brain features an underwire that poked through its fabric and gave me no choice but to wait hours to fix it. Awful. Most of the time I spend maybe 60 percent on any given day in a sports bra (and that’s strictly for comfort purposes). And no matter what bra I wear, when 6 p.m. rolls around, it’s bras-off. Cooking dinner in just a t-shirt, then eating, hanging, doing chores, spending an evening at home—my standard is to be au naturel. I will give one hot tip though (just don’t lump me in with your Oprah hate!): There actually is a bra out there that I own, that I love, that is actually comfortable, and that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It’s the “Bra-llelujah! All-Hosiery Bra” by Spanx. It’s like a sports bra without the uber-flattening; just a soft, comfy garment to wear under most shirts. It’s my go-to.

    I might even work up the courage to try other styles out. I like the idea of ordering online and trying them out at home, with different shirts, in favorable lighting, lacking any sales-lady pressure, like you mentioned. The search continues!

    • I definitely might have to try that Spanx bra. I was just thinking I wish someone would make a bra that was more like a sports bra without the bulky coverage and the flattening. I also lose the bra pretty much as soon as I walk in the door; it’s like, drop the bag, kick off the shoes, and take off the bra—there is no reason to wear one in the comfort of your own home!

  5. Robin

    I opened a bra boutique in my home two years ago for women with bigger breasts. I ended up also buying for smaller women.
    In the summer all bras will bother you, because your tolerance is down.
    I was surprised to find that many of my bras fit all types of women, because it is important finding the right bra for your shape. It’s not just shape, it’s how good of a shape your bust is in.
    A young girl whose breasts are standing up cannot wear those European bras that push the breasts forward – it is shocking.
    A woman who’s posture is bad or is humped over is not going to be able to find a bra that fits. Try doing it at home with a bra that fits. hunch your shoulders together and you will see that your bra that fits suddenly doesn’t fit.
    Your are right. Those European bras do rest on your chest and fit perfectly, but those underwires really dig into you, especially if you are sitting and leaning. They will leave marks on you.
    I wear a sports bra from Glamorise that also doesn’t fit 100% perfectly, but it does a good job of lifting, there is no underwire, and I am somewhat comfortable with it. They also have a cotton underwire (I think it is 9065). I thought I was a 36DD and that they didn’t make bras to fit me. This Glamorise bra I wear in a 34F. It is the best fit I ever had. It isn’t seamless, but at my size I can look like a grandmother in seamless bras. It also isn’t Marilyn Monroe pointy. Also, Aviana has a minimizer bra that comes in a variety of sizes. It is comfortable and flattering.

    There are some women, doesn’t matter what size, that walk into a store and it seems bras are made for them, and then others that can’t find anything.
    It doesn’t matter if the bra is pretty or not, it is how you feel when you wear them.

    Good luck.

  6. Simone

    I am 28 nearly 29 years old & for most of my life I too had this problem.. I have nearly always been a “C” or “D”, since putting on weight I am now a 40DD.. They are big suckers to cart around all day, and nearly always annoying & uncomfortable – I say nearly always being when I don’t have my Intimo bra’s on! I was introduced to Intimo about 4 months ago & now own bra’s that are so comfortable I can fall asleep in them! They are supportive, comfortable, practical & some are very pretty! Yes I pay $95 for my support bra’s, but am happy to do so seeing as I don’t actually feel like I am wearing one! These bra’s have given me back some body confidence, and the ability to wear different outfits – namely more colour because I am no longer “ashamed” or “embarrassed” by them:)

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