The time I went for my first bra fitting and got felt up

Back in May, I wrote the following paragraph about bra fittings:
"If you are a woman, and you are wearing a bra, you are probably wearing the wrong size one. That's what they say. According to "experts"  and "surveys," anywhere between 70% to 85% of women are mistreating their breasts, either shoving them into too-small cups or allowing them to flop freely in stretched-out, ill-fitting bras. Even worse, in 2008 Jezebel referenced a study by "esteemed" U.K publication The Daily Mail which claimed that wearing the wrong bra size can permanently damage breasts. "Eighty-five percent of American woman are wearing the wrong bra" is the "more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married" statistic of the new millennium."
Oprah herself lauded the importance of the professional bra fitting, proclaiming it "the beauty secret that literally produces miracles." Squees Oprah, a professional fitting culminates in a bra-ha! moment, that magical experience where your boobs are lifted and supported and exotic white doves burst forth from the dressing room in a double rainbow display of ecclesiastical joy.

According to experts, wearing the wrong size bra makes you look old, fat, and will permanently masticate your breasts. AND YET bras are my most dreaded item to shop for. There's too many complicated straps and hooks and pokey underwire and it's so cold in the dressing room that my nipples might poke someone's eye outcould cut glass and OH MY GOD WHY CAN'T I JUST BIND MY BREASTS DOWN LIKE THE FLAPPERS DID THIS IS TORTURE STRESSYTIME AAARRRGGGHHHHH!!! Just the THOUGHT of some other WOMAN prodding my delicate ladybreastesses with her sure-to-be-freezing hands makes me break out in hives.

Nevertheless, this week the time came when I absolutely needed to go for a bra fitting. I could no longer put it off. So I slunk off to Northpark Center mall in Dallas for a professional touchy-feely session with a bra specialist. I started at Nordstrom's, which I had heard is the best place to find a bra fit specialist to measure me and offer multiple styles and brands to try. A bra fit specialist can help not only determine your band and cup size, but also the best type of bra to gives you optimum shape, support, and style. In addition, Nordstrom's has a huge selection of bras in every style, fabric, size and color option imaginable.

A lovely salesgirl named Panna assisted me. She led me to a large, bright dressing room equipped with a tape measure, and gently and matter-of-factly measured me underneath my rib cage, sans shirt, over my bra. Then she brought three different bras in from the racks for me to try on. I didn't look at the brand; I didn't know the size. I just tried one on. I immediately noticed I appeared taller and leaner. My breasts looked smaller, firmer, and much more lifted. And I felt infinitely more comfortable.

I have been wearing either a 34A or B for years - ever since high school. When I was pregnant my bra size went up, but post-pregnancy seemed to return me exactly to my original size. But the bra that fit me the best in the dressing room was a 32 DD.

A 32 DD.
D as in Dumbfounded.

How could that be? I was in absolute disbelief that the bra I had been wearing was so mismatched to the one I tried on. This bra was the perfect fit. It was so comfortable that I almost felt like I wasn't wearing a bra at all. Panna informed me that the straps shouldn't be doing the lifting (which is what I was doing, tightening the straps in an attempt to lift) and the band should be sitting low and snug on the back and not up near my shoulders, which helps with support and keeps skin from spilling over. Furthermore, because bras tend to stretch over time, your bra should fit on the loosest hook when new.

A proper fitting, high-quality bra is not cheap. You truly do get what you pay for. Here's what I ended up leaving with:
  • Calvin Klein Seductive Comfort T Shirt bra in dune: $44 - Super comfortable, lightly padded bra that is completely invisible under a tee shirt.
  • Chantelle Intimates 'C Chic' 3582' bra in black: $68 - The most money I have ever spent on a bra, period. But this one is pretty and fit so well that I felt both sexy and comfortable.
After my glorious Nordstroms experience, I walked over to Victoria's Secret to see if there was any difference in service and selection. A harried salesgirl rushed to me, launched into a sales pitch for their newest triple push-up bra (despite my telling her I was looking for a simple tee shirt version) and measured me right there in the middle of the store. It was humiliating and uncomfortable and bizarre. She then announced that my Nordstrom's measurement was wrong, and that Victoria's Secret bras are sized differently that anywhere else, elaborating that I was likely a 34 DDD. I slunk out empty handed.

An Intimacy store was located close to Victoria's Secret, and I wandered there as well. The store was bright and sparse, with matching bra and panty sets displayed like artwork. A saleswoman offered to measure me, but after my disappointing Victoria's Secret experience I wasn't in the mood to complicate things further. I did notice that Intimacy's bras are extremely expensive - their cheapest sale bra was nearly $70 - but that they offered a wider range of sizes than Nordstrom's, especially in those hard-to-fit.

Here are some final tips for those planning a bra fitting:

  • Try on bras before buying: It is absolutely essential to try on before buying. Sizes and comfort level range both from brand to brand, and styles within the same brand. I went to Nordstrom Rack to find some more affordable options, and discovered that I'm a 34 DD in Betsey Johnson bras. Lesson learned.
  • Store your bras flat to keep the cups in their proper shape.
  • Hand wash your bras in mild detergent and dry flat. Never put your bra in the dryer - the heat can damage the elastic.
So I survived my very first bra fitting, and now I feel more comfortable  and confident than I have in a long, long time.

Have you ever been to a professional bra fitting? What was your experience like? Do you have any favorite brands? Are you a hard-to-fit size?


  1. From conversations with my online friends on our forum, I reckon a lot of women are wearing the wrong size bra. Hell until a friend of mine pointed out that there was absolutely NO way that my chest band was bigger than hers and I really should think about getting measured properly, I was wearing the wrong size bra. Since I had a proper fitting at big breasted women's UK favourite Bravissimo (they only start at D cups, I never imagined I'd be in there!) as a 34DD, I don't feel my bras. I'm also quite judicious about my underwear now - if I can feel it when it is on, then I don't want it. I don't feel like the most voluptous woman on the planet, but I feel a hell of a lot better with the right fitting bra!!

    Bravissimo have a great tutorial on their website for all those who are unsure.

  2. I was wearing 36B and I am actually a 32C - I was told by my fitter that *everyone* wears bras too big in the back and too small in the cup until they're measured.

    I'm not surprised you walked out of VS...

  3. I don't know that I'd say I'm "hard to fit", but I'm between sizes, so a bra-shopping expedition is always frustrating as I feel I need to take half the bras in the store to the dressing rooms with me.
    I try to also make sure that, if a bra fits, I put my shirt on over it to see if there are any weird spillage/shape issues that aren't obvious when wearing just the bra. It usually works, although the security tags are usually in the way of seeing what it really looks like or how comfortable it is.

  4. What the Victoria's Secret saleswoman meant was "Our bras are extremely gratuitously sized so small-busted ladies aren't embarrassed for having to get an A- or B-cup"... which means sometimes even average women have a hard time shopping there because they stop at DD. I remember being sized at VS when I was in high school. They told me I was a 36C, which I definitely am not (I'm a DDD/G). When she brought me a 36C to try on... well, my cup runneth over. That was my first and last attempt with them. Not to mention they're grossly overpriced for the quality.

    I've always had great luck with bras at Dillards! They carry a collection called "Lunaire" -- very pretty bras for larger busts, and most are around the $30-40 mark!

  5. WooHoo! Yay for finding a few good bras, and a sales person that made you feel comfortable. This is a great article.

  6. Thank you for the tips, I'll surely use them! I'm a cheap bastard, so for a long time I used my mom's hand-me downs and wore the wrong cup size. I'm a DD to DDD so bras are tricky and I avoid shopping for them, too...

  7. I had my first fitting not long after my son was born. What. A. Revelation. The bra-wizard at Dillards works magic tricks, I swear. My experience was similar to yours. She gave me full attention in a locked fitting room (not out in the store like at VS-eeeppp!!), measured me sans shirt, with bra, asked lots of questions, and returned with several options that were amazing. I went back recently for a strapless to hold in my large girls. She took one look at me, made no measurements, found the PERFECT convertible bra, fitted the back, and poof! I now have purchased a few new dresses so I can wear the bra more often. Ladies, get fitted. Properly. Spend the money for a good bra. Take care of them. They are worth their weight in gold.

  8. I am on the other side of the curve, so to speak - small breasts, flat-chested (oh gawd I hate that term) - and most bra lines simply don't size that low. I make do with the girls' line of bras at Target.

    One of my worst adolescent memories is that of my mother taking me to a lingerie department and the middle-aged clerk announcing, "Oh honey, we don't have them THAT small."

    Once I get my courage up I will make it over to my local Nordstroms and see if things have changed over the past three or four decades. It would be nice to have a bra that fits.

  9. I swear by Intimacy - I was finally able to swing by on my vacation (we don't have a location at home) & they still had my records from 2004.

    It's expensive, but I've always gotten what I've paid for. My bras from Intimacy generally last 2-3 years, even with 3+ weekly wearings.

    I'm a 34 F (or DDD, depending on brand) - and have an extremely difficult time finding that size anywhere else. I've just had to make do with ill-fitting, cheaper bras for the past few years, but the difference now that I'm back in my size is incredible. It's as though I can't even feel the weight of my breasts anymore.

    And VS lost me back when I first starting investigating my "real" bra size - they measured my friend and I as the same size - a 36C. I am a 34F - and my friend? She has truly difficult to find size - a 28G.

    When they told us we should be wearing the same size bra, we took one look at our chests, one look at the salesperson, politely expressed our disbelief, and left the store.

  10. That's amazing - I guess I should get a fitting done...or just live in denial that my 32 B fits fine :).

  11. I think its the way they word it. Its flippin confusing! I get confused with cup size and inches. Not to mention I've been trained to measure and its about the most retarded way to measure ever. Or I think so, considering I'd measure myself and always get a formula and then others would measure me and get the same formula and THE BRAS NEVER FIT! Out of them all VS comes the closest. I never understood why anyone would pay 40 plus for a bra until i bought one. Not only do they last for years they make you look fantastic! So VS it is. Girlfriend, a/b and your a d? That takes the cake for the farthest off I've ever heard and I worked in the lingerie department of Macys!!:)

  12. This is a great post - yay for good bra fittings and wearing the correct size! Many women don't realize how "normal" D+ sizes are, and stores like Victoria's Secret don't help. I usually recommend Nordstrom to friends for fittings, and Dillard's to a slightly lesser extent (the ones I've been to carry a smaller size range than Nordstrom, and usually only carry U.S. brands). Intimacy seems great (only been in one once), but expensive!
    Currently none of the above stores carry my size (the woes of being a 28 band in the U.S.), but I'm hoping to gain a little weight to get back up to my usual 30, which a few Nordstroms carry.

  13. I always see these articles about wearing the wrong size--so I'm wondering--if you were getting an A or B before and really are a DD--well I guess I just can't figure out that big of a discrepency--were your other bras very ill fitting, uncomfortable, tight? I've been a 34/36B my whole life and I just can't imagine someone saying I was a DD--I mean..i just don't have a 'lot' going on LOL!

  14. Mary - I've never, ever had a proper bra fitting. I have no idea how I started in a 34B, and for all I know I might have been wearing the wrong bra size all along. I knew the cup size was too small because I had a lot of spillage, which is why I finally went in for the fitting. Frankly, I always thought this was normal until I started doing research on bra fit and discovered it wasn't. Go for a fitting - chances are there's a discrepancy, though probably not as dramatic as mine!

  15. Mary, band size has a lot to do with it too - if you're wearing a band size that's too big, say a 36, and you go down two band sizes to get a band that actually fits, you'd also need to go up 2 cup sizes to stay the same cup volume. So, a 36B has about the same cup volume as a 32D, for example.

  16. Oh, and sorry to be a comment hog! But while the Nordstrom you mention has a relatively great bra selection overall (I've been to that location several times), and they do offer many sizes, they don't by any means offer every size imaginable. Nearly all the bras they carry stop at a G cup size (I believe I've seen a couple GG's before), and they only carry a very few bras in a 30 band, and nothing below a 30. Thus, anyone a 30 band or below and/or a GG cup and above is going to be left out!

  17. I haven't been fitted since I purchased my last nursing bra. Mine have shrunk considerably, but I too thought as I was a 34B...perhaps I need a fitting.

  18. I can second Bravissimo - I always go to them and will never go anywhere else (unless I end up leaving the UK!) I went in a 36D and left a 30GG and I have never felt better about myself! I'm really glad your experience left you feeling happier, the importance of a well-fitting bra cannot be underestimated :)

  19. I finally got a real bra fitting when our local lingerie specialist (shout outs to Sylene DC) ran a LivingSocial special and I had no excuse not to go.

    I wish I could say they magically found out I was a larger cup size, but no, I was exactly the size I thought I was: 34A.

    However, I was at least able to find two very nice 34A T-shirt bras there, to replace the Target teen bras I've been making do with since department store 34As never seem to fit me (waves to @Miss G'berg).

  20. I will have to try a fitting the next time I'm near a nordstrom and see what they say. If anything I have extra room in my cups since I've lost a bit of weight.

  21. I find this hilarious and charming. I had this experience about 4-5 years ago...I'd been wearing a 36B and, after a painful fitting at VS and less-painful fitting at Nordy's, discovered I was really a 36D. (Along with the bogglement of "are my boobs really that big??) My problem, however, was that my breasts had gotten larger in my early 20's but I didn't notice because I was wearing stretchy, unstructured bras. (Unlike most women who are wearing the wrong bra size, I really am a 36!) When I decided it was time to give the ladies some more support, coming to terms with my real bra size was weird. It's breasts weren't actually any bigger than the day before. Why did it feel so much different to be wearing a well-fitting bra?

    Then I kind of became the "ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE WEARING THE CORRECT SIZE BRA?" crusader among my friends. I literally had to drag a friend to Nordy's after she complained of a horrible bra-shopping experience that left her sobbing in the fitting room. When I asked if she was wearing the correct size, she paused and said..."I don't know. I assume so...they've always fit!" Then I found out she was wearing the same size as me, which I knew was wrong, as her girls may have been about the same size as mine, but she's quite petite. She ended up getting measured at a 32DDD, which I'd been convinced was her correct size all along.

    I felt very smug. :)

  22. Great post!
    I was just reading another blog about the process that was pretty funny too--some similar experiences.

    How did you decide where to go for a fitting. So many places seem to do it...but you never know what you're gonna get.


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