a grey bra with small birds printed on it on a white background
a grey bra with small birds printed on it on a white background
The cups in this bra are two different sizes, and the band is modified differently on each side.

It isn’t fake news, it’s the truth about the bra you’re wearing. Or the one you discarded as soon as possible the moment you walked in your house. If you’re wondering how, in a world full of technological innovations, you still can’t find a mass-produced bra that fits, I’m here to explain a few of the reasons why.

The myth of symmetry

That bra you’re wearing? It is based on the assumption that you are an identically symmetrical creature. Humans, at least on the outside, are basically bilaterally symmetrical – you can draw a line down the centre of our bodies, and what you see on one side, you see on the other. Arm on one side, arm on the other. Eye on one side, eye on the other. You get the idea.

The problem is, while you have TWO of something, it doesn’t mean those two things are identical. As you grow and age, your body changes. You develop muscles on your dominant side, you change your posture based on your work, you get injured, you get diseases…there are multiple ways in which your body changes differently.

The bra you’re wearing? It doesn’t account for that. One of the downfalls of mass production is that garments are identically symmetrical – otherwise, a company couldn’t afford to produce them at a low enough cost to appeal to you. So it has two wires the same side, cups the same volume, straps the same length, and band pieces the same size.

Mass production in factories allows manufacturers to provide us with a large and varied wardrobe, but it fails spectacularly at providing us with close fitting garments like bras, swimsuits, and even shoes. Why? Because we aren’t symmetrical. We, as a society, have chosen lower price and higher quantity, mass-produced goods. As a result, we’ve sacrificed the ability to account for asymmetry in our bodies. That’s not a judgment, but an assessment of the fashion and consumer industry at this time.

The myth of purpose

a beige bra with lace upper cups
This custom-fit bra has two different sizes of cups and underwires.

Over the past 100 years, bras and underwear have morphed from practical garments meant to support women into fashion pieces. If you’re paying under $50 for a bra, it’s likely been designed for fashion.

That isn’t a problem in and of itself. Breasts, however, are getting larger, and women are living longer. We’re also active, on the go individuals.

Bras are not fashion pieces, they are architectural supports.

When you have a great bra, you forget that you’re wearing it. You forget it’s there when you’re lifting boxes into your vehicle, when you chase the cat down after it bolts out the door, when you put on a button-down shirt and aren’t straining at the seams, when you can sit at your desk without pain, when you fearlessly jump at the gym without crossing your arms. You live your damn life just like all those men around you who don’t have to spend hours shopping for bras that end up dragging you down.

When we treat bras as a fashionable piece of clothing, we are holding up the patriarchy, folks. Those arches and cables on that suspension bridge may look nice, but they serve a damn important purpose.

The myth of proportion

the centre of a lace band bra with smooth cups and a bow
You won’t often find a bra in a store with a band size larger than 40 and a cup under C.

When you mass produce clothing in factories, you get really good at sizing clothes up and down. There are industry standards for the difference between certain sizes (which no one really pays attention to, or shopping would be so much easier!!) Take your cup size, for instance. Every letter indicates increasing 1″ differences between your full bust and rib cage measurement. A is a 1″ difference, B is 2″, and so on.

What you may not realize is that your bra band, cup volume, and underwire size all shift proportionally as well. In general, as a band size goes up, a cup volume goes up, and a wire size goes up. Makes sense, right? Well, yes and no.

You could assume that as a person grows in diameter, their breasts also grow in diameter and volume. When you do, however, you immediately make your product unavailable to large breasted, small ribcaged women, and large ribcage, small breasted women. You also make your product painful for any women whose breast diameter doesn’t match up with your incremental scale.

The myth that two measurements are enough

This bra was made for someone post-surgery, which means the breast root is wider that the proportion for the volume.

Your bra size in traditional sizing is based on two measurements – the distance around your rib cage, and the distance around the fullest point of your breasts.

That may work when you’re making a loose garment like a shirt, but it fails spectacularly when attempting to make an underwire bra. Your bra has negative ease – it is smaller and stretches to fit your body – and is worn repeatedly, under great stress.

Why? Because it doesn’t take¬† your breast diameter, volume, or tissue distribution into account.

I have had clients with identical rib cage and full bust measurements that wear completely different bras. This is particularly an issue for women who have had lumpectomy or breast reduction surgery – the volume of the breast changes, but the diameter does not. As a result, the wires in the bras they buy are often too large or too small, and cause pain.

We busted the myths – now what?

I know we all can’t afford a drawer full of custom-fit bras (though wouldn’t that be nice!) Many of us can and have been functioning quite well in mass-produced bras – you just have to pay attention when you are shopping!

This post was written to get you thinking about how your clothes are made, how they fit your body, and how you invest your time and money in selecting good ones. I wrote it so you will pay attention, the next time you’re shopping. Is this bra made to work, or to play? Is it going to stand up to what I’m going to throw its way? Does its design support my body and what I need? Do I know what a good fitting bra actually feels like?¬†

If you’re curious about the process of a custom made bra, get in touch! I’m also happy to do a $25 consultation fit for you – get your measurements, along with information on how to go bra shopping, the types of styles you should look for, brands that meet your needs, and more!

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