Health and Beauty

I Can’t Buy American Bras

Or, Why I Have a Grudge Against Victoria’s Secret.

I may have mentioned before that I was quite underweight as a teen. The result is that for quite a while my breasts were rather small, which is uncharacteristic of women in my family. Ah, genetics. Skeletally, my ribcage is also quite small; I have a high ‘waist’ because it’s the thinnest part of my torso. So, the bras I wore were small, teen bras.

Once I climbed up near a healthy weight, those genetics persevered and suddenly it was a big problem if my bra didn’t fit right! I started to safety-pin the back of hand-me-downs, to make both the cup and band fit.

I quickly realized that American bras use a weird system for sizing; they make the band shorter but use the same cups. However, this makes the band become proportionally smaller as the ribcage shrinks or the cups grow. This is a big problem! I’m sure you’ve never seen a busty petite woman with boobs in her armpits, but I’ve sure worn bras with an underwire digging in there.

Let me give you a quick rundown of how bra sizing works: the band is how many inches around your rib cage is, and the cup size relates to how many inches around your actual bust is. The cups go up based on how many inches difference there are between those two measurements: one inch difference is an A cup, two is a B, and so on. But get this, an A cup on a 30″ band isn’t the same as an A on a 40″ band. This makes sense in a way, but it gets weirder. Bands go up two inches at a time, and a B on a 30 is the same size as a 32’s A. So, shrinking the band two inches moves the cup size up one step. A 40A’s cup is a 38B’s is a 36C’s is a 34’s D. Theoretically, if we got those four sizes in the same style, we could stack them up perfectly like soup bowls, with the bands extending to the sides at varying lengths.

Sizes 34-40 don’t seem to have a big problem with this systems, but when you go to the extremes…

Almost two-thirds underwire. From here, which discusses bending these since humans aren’t triangular

The peak of my difficulty was when I was a 28E. The store clerk would find the equivalent cup, I would be given a 32C, and the option to order a 32D, which were the closest sizes Victoria’s Secret carried. The band was too big, and the cups spanned too much of the front. Don’t spend $50 on a bra that barely fits on the tightest hook; it’s just sad when it stretches out and doesn’t fit anymore.

What did I do?

Went braless forever! Just kidding! I went to Taobao and Rakuten and looked at Asian bras, since Asian clothes are typically smaller than western clothes. Using some calculations, I ended up with the approximate size of 65F. The band is in centimeters, and before you’re scandalized by the F cup let me remind you that it’s the same size as a 34C (and, the average size for American woman is 34DD).

F cups are a plus size in Asia, so I didn’t exactly have my pick of any bra I wanted, but I was still happy with the number of options. Actual clothing lines tended to have better size options, compared to bras made by wholesale manufacturers. The brands are hit or miss; The cheap, fancy looking ones seem to be more likely to be uncomfortable. Of the ones I’ve tried, Risa Magli (also called Lisamarie?) seems to make good undergarments, and my favorite bra is by this brand.  Pug had very cute clothes, but some are more comfortable than others. These are both Japanese brands, by the way.

There is one thing; almost all Japanese bras are decked out to the nines. Tons of removable padding, decorative straps, rows of trim and ruffles, brocade and lace overlays, the works. Can you simply wear one under your shirt without the lumps from your chiffon roses showing through? No. But you can wear an undershirt to smooth it out, and that seems to be what most Japanese girls do.

Chiffon roses

I happen to enjoy these garments that are disgustingly cutesy by many American standards (so sue me). I just check how the neckline lines up and how thin the shirt material is, and if it’s not too eye-catching I wear it anyway. I recently reached new height of not giving a fuck, you know.

What’s your bra saga?



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