Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Boulder holders

Today ladies (and gents), I'm going to wax a little lyrical about brassieres.

This post is prompted by a visit I made to Bravissimo, the underthings shop aimed at the curvier lady, whose bras start at 28D and end up at a KK cup. I can't even imagine a KK cup. Except that it would probably be bigger than my head.

I did get a free set of underwear out of this visit, as the aim was to introduce me to the brand and their (unique) way of fitting: by eye and using a seemingly different sizing scale to most other companies. But there's an impending can of worms about to be opened when the results of a recently conducted bra sizing survey, commissioned by some British retro lingerie brands (notably What Katie Did, Kiss Me Deadly and Ayten Gasson), is published. With (hopefully) some interesting results. I shall keep you apprised of that.

But let me state for the record, that though I do enjoy beautiful undercrackers, both modelling them and writing about them for my fabulous client (the aforementioned What Katie Did), I am not as enamoured of expensive lingerie as many girls. I have never been bought it as a present, I don't often buy it for myself; and only rarely have I ever bought any for the benefit of others. Plus, when I have, it's generally just been some shiny, new and pretty but otherwise inexpensive pieces. Usually from that bastion of British pants production, Marks and Sparks. I'll go a step further with the honesty, and confess my everyday wear consists of these pants (which often come in jazzy patterns in-store) and these bras (which I've just noticed they've put up by two English pounds! The swine!). I often just stick with white, so they always match, but I'm not averse to wearing patterned knickers with a plain, coloured bra that tones. I know! I am so daring! ;)

But I have been wearing the same size bra for a number of years now - 34D. I have always been completely satisfied with the support and fit of my favoured style of bra in my standard size. The cups fit with no gaping or 'triple boob' effect, the band fits without cutting in and causing unsightly bulge. Therefore, I'd not felt any urge to get remeasured. But when the email came from Bravissimo, I was very intrigued. I don't know of a single woman who's been to one of their shops, been fitted, and come out the same size. They always, always, get sized down at least one band size, and up a cup size accordingly. I could only conclude from this, that they were measuring people differently; since there is no way, I thought, someone who is two or three dress sizes larger than me could be the same back size. So, consumed with curiosity about both their sizing and the measuring-by-eye malarky, off I trotted to their store in the West End.

I was shown to my fitting room and greeted by a very friendly girl called Sam, who chatted to me briefly about my size, preferred bra styles and also about all things vintage (since she was curious about my look). But when we got down to the tricky business of sizing, with Sam pinging my bra strap (more gently than the boys at school used to) and studying the fit; I was proved right in my theory... instead of a 34D, she declared that I was more like a 28FF: the band should be very snug, she said, and not have almost 6 inches of give like my old one. Though i could see her point, I was extremely sceptical about this, not least because this size doesn't even exist in good old M&S! But I gamely tried on the bra she brought over, and blow me, if it didn't fit like a glove! Well... I couldn't breathe very easily, but breathing is overrated! A double-F! Corrrr! ;)

Chatting to Sam did confirm that the sizing that Bravissimo use for their bras and the other brands they sell is indeed different to that of most other companies. Actually, it makes more sense: because instead of measuring the band and adding 3 or 4 inches (so a 30 inch measurement is a 34 band size), they measure and simply use that number. And it's easy to see why their method proves so popular... who wouldn't rather say they were thinner than they thought, and a FF cup instead of a D? Well, not everyone, but many would! The trouble is, you can only then buy your bras from selected brands, and small shops like What Katie Did get a lot of headaches from women insisting they are a certain size and thus buying a standard-sized bra they don't have a hope of fitting. But it does mean Bravissimo have a lot of dedicated (and satisfied) customers.

Back at my fitting, I did actually ask to be downgraded to a 30F to make respiration a bit easier; but in all honesty, I actually quite like the fit of the bra I eventually took away, which is aptly called the Retro Plunge Bra, made by Freya. When faced with all the lovely lacy, coloured, patterned and pretty bras on offer, I had a total crisis of indecision and instead went the practical route...being in sore need of a new black bra. And it is very nice (if not remotely retro). I really cannot fault my experience there - it was a pleasure from beginning to end. But I don't think I'll be switching to Bravissimo permanently... sizing restrictions aside, they are just too expensive for my cheap and cheerful undies habit!

The moral to my story is what I believe the bra size survey will prove: that a universal standard of bra sizing is probably needed (as well as clothes and shoes... whether this will ever happen seems unlikely). But also that if you want a bra fitting by helpful and competent staff who really know their brand inside out, as well as an ego boost and a bra size that you can feel quietly smug about, Bravissimo is a really great shop to pay a visit. And it is important to get those assets measured, and correctly lifted, ladies. Have you been measured lately, and if so, how did you find it?

I leave you with some smashing pictures of my favourite pieces from all the brands mentioned above, and hope you're all having well-supported and perky weeks ;)

Bravissimo Sally (wish they'd had this when I went in!)

Bravissimo Carly (and this too. Wasn't my season to go in!)

 Kiss Me Deadly Cherie Teddy

Kiss Me Deadly Vargas Girdle

Ayten Gassen Elizabeth


Fleur xx


  1. my fave brand is La Perla, it's not vintage but it's amazing, economy for me is what katie did....there is a whole world of underwear out there for everyone... and to be honest the good old Wonderbra is tops!

    Thanks for your review, I think everyone needs to get measured each time they buy a bra!

  2. I adore Bravissimo and don't buy bras from anywhere else now. I would be a super happy customer if they branched into retro styling.

  3. I hate getting measured for bras! They always tell me a size I know I'd pop right out of! But seeing as I've only ever gotten measured at stores one can find in the mall, perhaps that is my problem. I think I'd like the sizing system at Bravissimo, particularly since I'm a curvy gal but not plus sized! My last bra shopping was a total failure. :( *sigh* So stressful. I've been putting off another go since I still need some new bras... Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and go somewhere pricey.

  4. Whilst my Mum absolutely swears by Bravissimo, in fact last visit she refused to take the bra they fitted her into off so the girl snipped the tag off and bagged up her old one!
    They are for not for everyone because as they state, they are for curvy girls, size D upwards. No use to those of us with much smaller curves :-(

  5. I must admit I refuse to shop in M&S, as they slavishly obey the band+4inch rule... which, to me, can't make sense if 2 women of the same torso size have different boob sizes (which we all know can happen). I was once told by an M&S fitter that 'size 8 girls don't get bog boobs'. Grmph. For my affordable undies I use Debenhams, who happily do a 30 with a large - ie D+- cup (in vintage and designer I'm an E+ but not bigger round the torso- their cups always seem smaller and I've found some actually advertise this as part of the 'evidence' of their designer/vintage status- thank goodness shoes don't eh!?!).

    Having purchased bras from Asda to Agent Provocateur, I have to say the best fit I've had is from Bravissimo and Debenhams. ...and my golden rule is never buy without a try!

  6. Just a tip from a long time big-bra wearer, Freya, Fantasie and Rigby and Peller are made by the same company, and their shapes are all exactly the same. If you fit one size in one of their bras, chances are that size will fit the same in any of the brands or designs.
    So once you know your size, you get onto eBay for the slight seconds at about half the retail price, or Brastop.com for last season's undies.

  7. I will never shop in Bravissimo. I asked if one of their bras came in a 40DD and the girl said 'no' as she stifled a laugh, and I have a friend who was told 'our bras are for women with big boobs, not fat girls' in the same shop.

    I'm sure this isn't the case for every branch but just some particularly reprehensible staff in one shop, but it was enough to put me off. The last thing a woman needs, especially a bigger woman, is to be humiliated when shopping for intimate clothing.

    Whereas their sizing method does make sense I suppose, it creates havoc for every manufacturer using the traditional system, and seeing as the rest of the world uses the same old system I don't understand how so many women can fail to understand it.

    What should make you feel good about your body is a bra being well fitted and supportive, not an artificially Jordan-esque vanity size on the label.

    My favourites are M&S, What Katie Did and I've had some lovely stuff from Debenhams too.

  8. By the way, I have a friend who is a KK cup... an actual KK, not a Bravissimo KK... and yes, they are bigger than your head! ;)

  9. If you are happy with your Freya bra, there are plenty of places to get them for less than retail. I got fitted in a high end bra shop and ended up in a 36JJ in Freya. I haven't been happy with another brand since. There is an eBay seller that typically has Freya bras for around 20 pounds. http://stores.ebay.co.uk/BELLE-LINGERIE/SAVE-on-Freya-Lingerie.html

  10. I am getting so curious about the bra survey! :)

    It might be uneccessary to point out, but it is completely possible that a person two or three or many dress sizes larger than you can wear the same or smaller band size. If their boobs are large enough, they have to, although the clothes may not fit anywhere else.

    The brands Bravissimo sells, are also sold by others with the same sizes listed(for instance figleaves, brastop or lembrassa), 28 and 30 bands and such, the brands websites also have those sizes listed. So I do not think it is something Bravissimo has done to keep customers to themselves. WKD says their bras are tighterin the band than most, on their website. If the customer doesn't know bras can vary, and that you might wear severall different sizes, that is a problem to do with them not knowing enough about bras.
    Many places says their bras are supposed to be sized by adding 4-5" to the underbust measurment to get your band size right, but the bras sold are often not actually that tight. I always question it when that method is used, because most often, you can not rely on it to be correct. Of course for some maybe you are comfortable in the size you get that way, the same method doesn't work the same for everybody. Also, you might not feel the need for a very tight band, if you are not very big in the cup.
    I believe the WKD bras are at least one band size tighter, from reading about other peoples experiences, I usually pay more attention to that than what the brand websites says, but it has happened before that a brand which almost everyone agree is very tight, I end up being the most comfortable in my regular size. I do not know how I would find the WKD bras myself, I wouldn't fit into one because they do not make large enough cups, this is a good reason why Bravissimo has a lot of dedicated customers. Not a lot of places sell all the sizes that they do.

  11. I see what you're saying Lillefix, but that isn't what I meant. I meant girls who are bigger all over than me, not the same size everywhere but the chest. And this was proved by my being a 30 in Bravissimo vs a 34 in M&S, and them being a 34 in Bravissimo and presumably a larger band size in M&S.

  12. I thought that might be what you menat, I mentioned it in case it was not :)

    I do have something to add. There are some comments above suggesting the smaller band size is something Bravissimo is doing all by themseleves, there are other places out there too that also do not support the add 4" method. It is not a "Bravissimo thing", but bravissimo is probably better known for it than others, and so it makes sense to describe a size as a "Bravissimo size" only because people will understand what you mean without having to explain everytime, but they are not alone in sizing that way, or similarly.

  13. Now I'm really curious to go bra shopping while I'm still living in the UK. All of my bras were bought in America. My band size on all of my bras is the same as my under bust measurement. I've never heard of adding 3-4 inches to get my band size. I wonder if there is just a trend of wearing looser bands (I definitely don't have 6 inches of ease in my bras) or if the bras are sized dramatically differently.

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  16. I suddenly realized I made a poor job of explaining some parts of what I meant. So I feel the need to clarify slightly. In parts of the first comment I made, I talk about that other places sell bras that are labeled with the same kind of sizes, 28 and 30 for instance, that most places advocating the add 4" method usually ignore, and that those brands also name the sizes the same way.
    In the second comment I made, I am talking about other places that fit the same way, or similar to Bravissimo. So not about what it says on the bras, but about their advice.

  17. Hi ladies! I'd like to note that Bravissimo don't use a different method to what you're supposed to use. They use the correct method, like most - if not all - specialty stores do these days (who know what they're on about... M&S, in my experience, don't). It's not a specific "Bravissimo" method -- it's just the correct method (which I personally used before visiting Bravissimo). It's not because they're trying to make women think they are bigger in the cup than they are. The traditional method is wrong, and severely outdated.

    Kally, you said - "Whereas their sizing method does make sense I suppose, it creates havoc for every manufacturer using the traditional system, and seeing as the rest of the world uses the same old system I don't understand how so many women can fail to understand it... What should make you feel good about your body is a bra being well fitted and supportive, not an artificially Jordan-esque vanity size on the label. "

    It's not about an artificially Jordan-esque vanity size on the label. It's about a good fitting, proper fitting, bra. The traditional system is actually incorrect, and because of the fact that the 'rest of the world uses it', over 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. I measure a 29 underbust. According to the traditional system, that makes me a 34 band size. A 34 band size offers absolutely no support whatsoever for my 28/30 HH/J cup breasts. The band needs to be tight, particularly for larger cup sizes, as most of the support comes from the band and not the straps. Put me into the 'traditional' 34 band, and I'll have indented marks on my shoulders, the back band will ride up, my boobs won't be uplifted at all and I will be in pain. You aren't supposed to add 3 - 5 inches to your underbust measurement, and typically your underbust measurement in inches is roughly what band size you're going to take. That's not Bravissimo trying to skew standard practice, but that's just how it is supposed to be. I was a 28/30 HH/J before I visited Bravissimo (because I went to stores that knew how to fit previously), and I came out the same size.

  18. I'll start this post by saying I love and swear by Bravissimo, everything I've bought from there fits so well and is super supporive (and lasts me years!)
    On the bad side, and this is not a bad reflection on Bravissimo, but a reflection on all bra manufactures and suppliers. When I started going to Bravissimo I found it confusing as I'd been shovelled into so many differently sized upper topper flopper stoppers by different stores (2 different M&S's put me in varying sizes within a week of one another) I feel that sizing should be standardised as, let's be honest, it's gone tits up! (Pardon the pun!) Even some bras in Bravissimo I've had to buy in a larger back and smaller cup (or vice versa) as the assistant has said the manufacturer cut differently... why do they cut differently? Can't there be a boob mould for each size and distribute it across all bra manufacturers, just to regulate things? (In my mind it would be like a jelly mould but better!) It's great that the shop assistants know thier product and can tell you about varying sizes... but they shouldn't have to. If you're buying online these size variations make it very tricky... and if you're buying in a different shop altogether then it's a minefield!
    That's my opinion anyway... now don't get me started on woman's clothing sizes. I may be wrong, but it appears that men have a standard, universal sizing system... why can't we?

  19. My sister have a KK-cup. She teases me for my small breasts as I am "merely" HHH...

    I have bought my bras in speciality shops for years, just because ordinary stores don't have the larger cup sizes. Especially if they are paired with a smaller measurement around the ribcage. Nowadays I fit a bra once a year and then buy the rest from Bravissimo, as it is cheaper for me to boy over the Net from UK than it is to go to a store in Sweden.

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  21. I went to Bravissimo a few years ago and I found them great, didn't buy though because I didn't have the time to properly make a choice, just wanted to find out what size they made me out to be. I have to make do with M and S... at over eighty miles away, they are the closest to me!...but find them rotten, I never feel I have been given the right size.
    I have a large bust for my height, very hourglass shape and small rib cage, always detested having large boobs.. never happy are we? I wish it was easier to find a good fit, I need underwires but sometimes they cut in under the arm pit on me.
    The time I went to Bravissimo I tried on one of their jackets and I was amazed at what a difference it made to my shape. I looked like I was corseted! It fitted perfectly, the right proportions and no gaping or any of that nonsense. Had it been in a different colour I would have been awfully tempted.
    I recently e mailed them to ask them if they ever planned to set up shop in my nearest town but they said their biggest problem is finding the correct premises, they need a big space for fitting and then stock and show floor.

  22. "Except that it would probably be bigger than my head." ha ha ha ha! FACT!

    I am facing a similar dilemma at the moment and need to get me some decent hammocks to support my lumps. I dread to THINK what size I would come out if I went there - do they go up to a T?

    I have been thinking of steering away from M&S *gasp!* for a while now and splashing some cash on something that is going to do what it says on the tin. Fab review - and worth keeping in mind.

  23. As someone who's pretty much always been a bigger cup size, my first bra was a b, oh dear! I can say that I have used Bravissimo and they're ok, but honestly nothing can't be Rigby & Peller, I'm not rich and it's a huge stretch for me to make my twice yearly visit there but if you're a larger cup size, go, just once, you'll never regret it. I've taken many friends there and they have never failed to be impressed.

    mmm I should be on commission!

  24. Anonymous (why?!): Just because you proclaim it to be 'correct' (though indeed it makes more sense) doesnt change the fact it's different. Othr manufacturers use a different method. That is a fact. I also measure 29 in my underbust and yet a 34 band is relatively and doesn't ride up at all. OK I don't need as much support, but that doesn't change the fact that it fits me. Perhaps though the measurement is the same, probably our shapes are different. Everyone's anatomy is different, isn't it.

    And to the person criticising me for wearing cotton pants, there's nothing glamorous about thrush, which is what I would get if I wore retro pants (always synthetic) every day. The vast majority of my incredibly glamorous girlfriends wear M&S pants, and big pants at that. We all think different things are pleasing to the eye and I believe mine to be as well. So perhaps it is you who needs to think differently about what is important.

  25. I'm still struck by the fact that I should be expected to wear expensive retro underwear every day. If this was the 40s, which it isn't; I would be wearing authentic but very unsexy, baggy french knickers, not right fitting high waisters consturcted from satin and powermesh. Besides, M&S have been making pants for over 100 years, so it doesn't get more retro than that.

  26. I remember the days when M&S didn't do bigger sizes! I also only recall my first bra being a 36C at 13...I must've been in denial up to then in my vests and smock tops! LOL!

    I've never "got" the whole bra measuring malarky...my friend who thought she was quite comfy in a 34C was measured in La Senza and they told her she was a 32F! Now I'm a FF and if you compare my bazoomas to hers there is a ginormous difference...so how could she only be 1 cup smaller?!?!

    I used to shop in Bravissimo but they seem to have stopped doing my fave Fantasie bra so now I go to Figleaves. I'm just too fussy as I always have to have balconettes...if I go for a full cup I feel like the boobage is escaping sideways past my armpits!
    I begrudge having to pay at least £30 a pop though.

    As for pants...good old big knickers from places like Asda do me!! LOL!

  27. Oh and I've also heard that black and white bras can be slightly different sizes to each other. It could be the same style but the white will be roomier, something to do with the dying of the fabric?

    Don't know how true this is though...someone could've been fibbing!! LOL!

  28. I had a similar experience at Bravissimo when I went along for BitchBuzz. Went in wearing a 36C and came out with a 30E. The set I got is gorgeous and fits really well, but I still hevn't got round to replacing all my worn old basic bras as the thought of splashing out that much money fills me with dread.

    Really looking forward to the boutique brands' sizing survey results too. I wonder when we'll find out about that?

  29. Just wanted to pick up on the idea that Bravissimo are doing something different.

    They *are*, but it's in their fitting advice and not in the manufacture - they don't manufacture most of their bras.

    The rationale I have heard is that the old 'measure-and-add-4' idea made sense when fabrics with less stretch were prevalent, but most bras manufactured now involve stretchier fabrics. So, a 36 band ends up having more give than it would previously done and therefore a smaller band size is likely to provide better support.

    Bravissimo fit with that in mind, but they use fit as a guide rather than tape measures. I have found them to pay great attention to fit and comfort, and generally inclined to recommend particular styles that suit particular breast shapes, which is what really matters when it comes down to it.

    That said, I'd love to be able to shop in a wider variety of places, but until there's some sort of standardisation of approach I guess we all have to go where we can find something we find comfortable!

  30. (Oh, and Lori? Have a nosey at Amazon's lingerie section and at Brastop - there are much cheaper bras to be had if you're not for some reason super keen to have the latest season's styles! :))

  31. Sandy, in relation to your 32F friend seeming much smaller than you than a cup size, she probably is. It's all got to do with the band. A 28F is going to be 5 cup sizes smaller than a 38F. A 40DD is going to be quite big, whereas a 28DD is going to be very small. It's all relative to how small their ribcage measurement is. :) A 32F is the 'sister size' (i.e. the equivalent in cup size) to a 40C. Up a band size, down a cup size (and visa versa). This is why some seemingly small breasted women can still have relatively large cup sizes - because of their small ribcages, they need a smaller band and hence a bigger cup.

    As a friend of mine has said, 'you wouldn't wear a pair of jeans that was "4-5 inches" bigger than your actual waist size'. The same goes with bras. Your underbust measurement in inches should roughly be your band measurement. Other manufacturers don't make their bras differently as such. Each bra varies, yes, but other manufacturers don't add 4 or 5 inches to their bands. It is the fitters that suggest this, not the lingerie manufacturers manufacturing the bras differently. Places like brastop, figleaves, curvylicious.co.uk, storm in a d cup, brava, etc, all stock the same bras as Bravissimo and all the companies owning the brands these places stock say the same thing in relation to fitting (which is, don't add inches to your underbust measurement). The old-school method of adding inches does not apply today (as the bras are elasticised)... As a general rule, if you can get the bra comfortably to the tightest hook when you first try it on and are still able to pull it away a few inches from your body, it's too big. It should be nice and firm on the loosest hook (as with time, the bra stretches out and you'll need to tighten it).

    I understand that smaller cup sizes don't need as much support, but when you're a 30F a tighter band will give you better uplift than a 34 (even though the 34 may feel as though it fits too). I have an old 36E bra. It still seems to fit me fine and doesn't actually ride up either... But there just isn't much support at all. When the band isn't tight, the straps take on the support, which isn't what they're designed to do. Even though this old bra I have isn't the worst fit, when compared to my 28 and 30 bands, the difference is amazing.

  32. Re bargains... my (very well endowed) female inlaws swear by TK Maxx- unusual sizes, good brands- you just need time to rummage and try on.

  33. Re the last 'anonymous' comment- a small ribcage doesn't always mean the cup size is that much smaller. That's something they do alot in the dreaded M&S- it's also why I stock up on bras I like when I find them... my husband can put his hands round my underbust but sometimes puts my bra on his head to laugh at the cupsize. I also note that the shape of my boobs (on the beach etc'- I don't go asking strangers) is very round- some women are pointy, others longer cleavaged- is it that shape is a factor as well as size?

    No Jordanesque 'vanity' comments requested pls- that's just the shape god made me not silicone!

  34. This is an excelent example that the advice bravissimo gives is not unique, many bra fitting communities support the same way, or similar, http://maheda.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=94%3Asprawd-rozmiar-stanika&catid=34%3Ayou-tube&Itemid=69&lang=en

    I believe bras have to be cut differently, or many people would not find the right fit. For me there are brands available in the sizes I normally wear, that I can not use because their shape is completely wrong. The wrong size in brand who's shape I fit is actually preferable.
    For the bands, some brands make their bras with less strech regularly, while in others some bras are made in different materials and end up being tighter than the other bras they make. For bras with very little to no stretch, they very quickly become too small, and very quickly too big. The stretch in modern bras, means sizing is easier in some ways, but it also means a lot of bras have so much stretch that they will be loose after little use, and the smallest ribcages do not find any bras that are tight enough.
    For me the add 4 inches method absolutely do not work. I normally wear a 28 band, and by that method I should've worn a 30 or 32, but even with the 30 the band slides down an inch or two in the front right away after putting it on, the cups are also not fitting well, the shape is odd.
    But I have heard tales of the complete oposite experiences too. And I would not go so far as to say "the Bravissimo" way is the only correct one, because I believe such things as ribcage shape (oval, round, triangular) and composition (bone and squish) can have an impact as well as how heavy the boobs are, and personal preference. But I do think the add 4 inches method is completely wrong for so many people that doesn't know it.
    I used to wear a 34D when at the time I was really more a 28G, and the 34D would be wrong even if the add 4 inches method was right for me. I have since realized that my reasoning for picking the 34D bras, was: the size was available (I didn't know much of internet shopping), the cups where large enough that they didn't hurt, and the band size was small enough that the underwires didn't hurt because they did not curve where my ribcage did. No support to speak of, a t-shirt bra can really hide how bad a fit is (not that it hid so much, my confidence improoved incredibly with the new bra size because it looked so much better). There where so many obvious signs of really bad fit, that it's hard to beliieve how I could wear it for years. I see it happening all the time with other people though, somhow it is very very normal.
    I now find the thought of going back to what would be a similar fit, completely unthinkable. I am larger in the cup now, and I do find I require a better fit than I used, to for this reason as well.

    (I hope I remembered everything I intended to say this time, I wrote this twice the first time blogger just errored on me!)

  35. I'm very sorry if you have felt offended. I didn’t mean that. Moreover I thought that you will be flattered if I say that to me you look as good as a model on this photo. And I understand that in real life no one looks like in commercial all day long and that comfort is also important.
    Consider that English is not my native language and I guess that words that for me were neutral, for you appeared to be offensive. Once again sorry for this misunderstanding.

  36. I had the pleasure of visiting Bravissimo when I was in London a few years ago. The fitting experience was amazing and I looked SO much better with the right size bra on. Really wish they had a store in the States.

    If you're looking for similar brands. Belle Lingerie UK has some of the same ones and good prices.

    I've learned the hard way that you get what you pay for if you have a strange size or need more support. Totally worth it for me though!

  37. I am a Bravissimo fan but the sizes are available cheaper elsewhere - the Gorgeous brand at Debenhams is where I get mine from. I wrote about this very issue ages ago, here: http://marmaladekiss.blogspot.com/2009/02/big-boob.html

  38. This is true. I am a 32G (which equates to the same size boobs) and thay are the same size as my head! I apologise that you had to have this experience. I did exactly the same thing and could no longer wear the 34D which i could find ANYWHERE. this is not to say you shouldnt have gone - just the bra shopping is so much harder when equipped with this knowledge.

    Freya i have found are great for support and some Agent Provocateur bras - you can even get away with a cup size or so smaller there and still get wonderful support!

  39. :-/ l didn't know there were two ways of measuring for bras. I admit l was a bit surprised when l realised l had gone up a bit recently as l haven't put on weight. I bought a cheap bra form m&s but its small in the cup..which would suggest l need a c but lve never needed a c! Nor have l ever been measured though. Which is shocking as l love underwear!

    I love big pants too, especially ones that give me aine at my waist - l don't care if its not fashionable!!

  40. Sorry Perdita, I meant that some women can have a small ribcage with smallish breasts (but still have a bigger sounding cupsize, like a 28E), definitely not all! As I've got 28HH/J's I know all too well that slim women with small ribcages can have large breasts too :) But most lingerie companies don't understand this.

  41. I read about the Bravissimo style of fitting somewhere on the internet a year ago, and what a revelation it was. As others have noted, this is not "Bravissimo's" fitting invention; it's simply correct. It seems that fitters don't remember there is this amazing stuff called "elastic" in the bands. Through trial and error (because in the States, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to find a small band size with a cup size over B), and recent confirmation by a fitter, I've found my actual size and am relieved to have done so. No more messing with my bra and the girls! LOL

    I should note that these are not bras made by Bravissimo or one of their suppliers, either; when I wear the "+4" size in other brands (Wacoal, La Perla, M&S, for instance, or Maidenform, etc), it does NOT fit properly; if I can find my size (30DD/E), it does. So it's true that this is actually correct across all brands, though of course one must be aware of comfort (you ought to be able to breathe). I can't wear a 32 band, it floats about on my ribcage and gives the girls (don't let the cup size awe you, IMO, they're not big!) no support, plus I'm adjusting and fussing all day! Also...in the Panache brand, E is too small. I have to wear an *F*. It's unbelievable. Again, I'm not a big-breasted gal! But it fits properly—no bulging over the cup, no center band floating 2" from my ribcage. So...Anonymous is correct.

    At any rate, band size is going to be, or ought to be, pretty much the same across the board. It's going to feel quite snug, but it needs to be if your breasts are going to be supported. It's just that not all brands know what they are doing fit-wise, and are holding to sizing advice created decades ago, when fabric didn't have much stretch; I have several vintage bras, and yes, I wear a larger band size, because they hardly stretch at all!

    Since I am forced to buy many of my bras from the UK, I've found BraStop has these sizes and brands like Freya as well, and often at great prices. I find Nordstrom to be the best place for fitting, but they never, ever have enough small band/large cup sizes to try on. If I had a million bucks (or even a few grand) I'd start my own lingerie shop where women would be PROPERLY fitted and be able to try things on in their size.

    For those curious, LindasOnline.com (US) has a great bra-fitting calculator. I've shocked more than one woman by having her use it then go try on bras in the "I am NOT that big" size, only to find they actually fit!

  42. Completely agree Jen!

    "And this was proved by my being a 30 in Bravissimo vs a 34 in M&S, and them being a 34 in Bravissimo and presumably a larger band size in M&S."

    Hi Fleur, it's worth noting that (like Jen inferred), a 34 M&S bra is not the equivalent of a 30 Bravissimo bra; that difference is just because the M&S fitters fit differently (and the M&S fitters I've seen were fitting incorrectly), and they also don't have much choice of smaller bands, so they will fit you into a larger band in order to get a sale. Bravissimo simply have more choice so they can fit you into the size that you are supposed to wear -- a 28FF or a 30F. M&S have tried to put me in larger bands, even though the bras they were trying to sell were less than perfect fits! I'm a 30 band in Bravissimo and I can't buy from M&S because the smallest they go is a 32, and I'm a 30. They would try and put me into a 32 or 34, but that doesn't mean I actually am a 32 or 34.

    The bra you bought is a Freya bra, which is not a Bravissimo bra. I'm a 30G in that bra, to which I bought from a store that wasn't Bravissimo. I went to a different store some time later to get another one (as I'd worn it out!) and the fitters were evidently not very good. They'd tried to put me into a 34 by adding 4 inches to my 30 underbust (they didn't seem to have the bra in a 30 nor up to a G either, mind you). This just showcases that the discrepancies across stores is often the fitters fault, not because one particular store stocks bras that are smaller in the back than another.


    ^ Another article which says that the ancient 'add 4 or 5 inches' to the underbust measurement tale was around when bras were first invented, and thus when they weren't as stretchy as they are today.

    Jen, that Linda's Online calculator doesn't seem to recognise that a 28 band exists. Funnily enough, Linda's fitters don't seem to understand women can wear a 30 band (bad experiences there when I was living in the US and would never go back).

  43. There's been some really excellent fitting advice here, so I won't repeat ad nauseum what's already been said, but I would like to suggest this: give "bravissimo's" method a go, even for a week.

    Buy a bra in your "true" underbust measurement and appropriately bigger cup size, and see what it's like wearing it, even for a few days. Sort of like the Special K challenge, but with breasts and underwires, as opposed to cereal and milk.

    I'm not trying to be flippant, but I was a convert by this very method. As a woman, surely I couldn't be wearing the "wrong bra size" - I know my breasts, and I'd know if I wasn't being properly supported, right?

    Well, I was wrong, and as it turns out, most of us are; often through no fault of our own. For almost ten years I wore an ill-fitting 36/38/F/E when really, my "best fit" is a 32GG-H. I have an underbust measurement of 32.5" and and overbut measurement of approximately 43". A 36-38 band does simply not fit firmly enough to provide much in the way of support. I know that now, but for years, I thought I was comfortable, and I thought I was getting adequate support.

    The beauty of the "bravissimo method" (and others which disregard the antiquated add 4-5 inches to the bandsize rule) is that they're not especially concerned with your exact, physical measurements off the inch tape. I was fitted by a disciple of the bravissimo school here in Australia, and she took one look at me (shirt still on) and knew, just from the position of my boobs and the way I was carrying myself that I wasn't wearing the best size. A measuring tape never entered the equation, she simply took the time to work me through and down a range of bras until we both decided that the 32 band with GG-H cups was the best fit/look. As it turns out, so-called "modern calculators" actually agree with her and my decision. But this is a retrospective discovery, and one that merely confirms my size, but did not determine it.

    Breast life-story aside, I use the term "best fit" because unfortunately, in my experience, a bra fitting for a fuller cup/comparatively small back size is not an EXACT science. There are a lot of variables between manufacturer's brands and styles, not to mention the wonderful variance in breast density, positioning, shape, volume, an individual's bone structure etc.

    It's a case of trial and error, but I feel you owe it to your breasts to at least try the "other" option and see if you can get a better fit than what you're used to. It changed my life, and my boobs have never been better. Breastly yours, xo.

    ps: bra construction/the materials used therein have changed so much in the last 50-60 years, Surely fitting methods need to do the same? The trusty 4-5inches rule is a throw-back to a forgotten time when elastane/spandex/lycra etc were non-existant in the world of lingerie, and much more rigid fabrics were used. I probably could quite happily wear a 36E/F if it was in a super-sturdy, no-give material.

  44. High five deary! same size as me- well almost I vary depending on the brand.
    Just count yourself lucky though, it seems in England they have a lot more variety where I do. Try finding a 10f, 8g, 6gg. Its impossible and all the shirts and dresses and jackets I buy never fit properly because I'm short but slim but chesty.
    It is also good to see someone encouraging other women to get fitted.

  45. what a wonderful post – and it couldn;t have coe at a better time for me. Feeling most cheered up, so thank you SO much!

    I have also enjoyed reading over your recent posts – I love the garden you created! I also love the funny happy photos, too :D

  46. I have never been fitted in M&S. I measured my size and tried lots on and went from there - no one was trying to sell me anything. Also I am well aware that the Freya bra I got is, in fact, made by Freya. ;) Thanks for your comment an insights though!

    Lots of interesting comments, ladies! I might try on a 32 DD when I next visit M&S, but I know what I feel most comfortable in, and it's not a bra that feels like an iron bar around my chest. The 30F bra is not quite so bad as that, but it's not as comfy as my 34D from M&S. I will agree, though, that many of mine have stretched and are now probably not as snug as they should be. So 32 on the loosest setting is probably where I should be aiming.

  47. Hello,
    I just wanted to let you know that I really love your blog. I came across it by accident when doing an image search on Google. It is a lot of fun.
    I saved it as a bookmark on my browser and plan to stay up with your posts.
    I am actually an artist/ jeweler. I would love to know what you think of my work.
    You can check it out at: www.nicoleshannon.com
    Thanks so much.
    All the Best, Nicole

  48. Great post Fleur!
    The problem comes when you are smaller backed but larger chested as support is needed around the back more than from the shoulder. I now measure a Bravissimo 30g but as a kid was in M&S 32dd and do infact have indentations in my shoulders!
    It's also worth remembering that boobs are like feet- you can buy without trying but it's better not too!
    Everyone should experience a Bravissimo or Rigby & Peller 'fitting by eye' method- everyone us different and the ranges are now amazing.
    I agree with what someoftjeother ladies have said too- get measured in Bravissimo then find the same bra cheaper elsewhere on line! (Bravissimo also let you buy online and return to a store swell as free returns!)
    I am a Bravissimo girl and proud to be one- my shoulders are slowly recovering!!!

  49. I think because you measured yourself as 29 inches but bought an M&S 34, means you've fitted yourself the way M&S fit (by adding 4 or 5 inches). So in this case, the different sizes across these stores is because yourself and Bravissimo fit differently :) I understand that when wearing a larger back size, it's hard to adjust to a smaller band (I definitely know this from experience). There are lots of different sizes I can fit into, but I do know that the 30 bands are the best. Sometimes they are tight to begin with, but they stretch out. Whenever I buy a 34 or bigger band I find I do not get much wear out of them at all, because they are too big to begin with. But if you don't feel your breasts need too much support from a tight band, then a 32 would probably be worth giving a go. Women who have protruding ribcages may find larger bands preferable too.

    This blog is great, and this guide to measure yourself is absolutely spot on!


  50. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoyed reading this post. :)

    I think Kiss Me Deadly and Ayten make amazing lingerie. ♥

    The Cat Hag

  51. I'm Australian, but almost all my bras (and many of my clothes) are purchased through bravissimo. I'm but 5' tall with a 27" ribcage but a 38" bust. The simple weight of my breasts mean that anything band larger than a 28 is going to end up sitting around my shoulder blades with my breasts hanging out the bottom of the cup.

    The biggest issue is that while the brands bravissimo sell can be purchased elsewhere, the other stores rarely carry the 28 bands, and if they do, they're unlikely to carry up to the H cup.

  52. I am slightly amused by the number of people that are surprised by the fact that Fleur wears non-retro underwear on a daily basis; quel horreur! After all, Fleur has managed to fashion herself as an 'authentic' vintage enthusiast by wearing 90% repro clothes most of the time. 'Tis a testament to her persuasive copywriter skills no doubt...

  53. Dear Anonymous,

    What you don't know is that Fleur's copy writing skills are so superb, that in fact, she doesn't like the 40s at all. And as she sits here in my living room watching 'Flava' channel, she wants nothing more than to bust a move and don a pair of wet look leggings a la her style icon Nikki Minaj. Meoooow!

  54. I do love an anonymous bitchy comment! Brave enough to give me shit but not brave enough to leave your name. I don't have the time to dignify your lovely message with a reply as I'm too busy enjoying the 21st century, sorry about that.

  55. There's nothing like a bit of bitchery to whip you vintage girls up into a snobbish fervour. Only a vintage clique could defend their sartorial choices in the same breath as bithcing about a lesser style. Pigging hypocrites, the lot of you.

  56. ...failing to see said snobbish fervour in either mine or yesterday girl's comment (if that's what you're referring to), nor any bitching about another style. I was indeed watching the Flava channel when she posted that & I fecking love Nicki Minaj. Sorry to disappoint!

  57. I used to wear wet look leggings, I adore to dance my arse off to RnB, I love Nicki Minaj, my friends have the most diverse range of interests and have ended up in the vintage scene after being, goths, punks, indie kids...you name it. They are the most unjudgemental group of people I have ever known. You however, are obviously extremely judgemental (and cowardly) having decided that Fleur is creating a false image although she has never declared that she wears 'authentic vintage' every day. She creates an authentic 'look' through a mix of repro and vintage. I do wonder why you read Fleur's blog if you don't like it? Seems strange to me....

  58. Very interesting post. I have big boobs and it is difficult to find bras that fit well and look remotely pretty. I'll definetly check Bravissimo next time I am on the hunt for a new bra.

  59. I recently discovered that my measurements make me a size smaller in cup size than I thought, but my boobs still seem to fit better in a cup size bigger! Maybe I should get measured by the gals you mentioned in your post ;)

    Every one of those pictures are gorgeous. And how about that girl in the first photo - can you say hourglass?! Amazing!

  60. I don't rate M&S for bra measuring services, but I second (or third) the recommendation for Debenhams. Great service, nice staff, and they have a good range of undies for all shapes and sizes.

    Oh, and by the way, I've nominated you for a Stylish Blogger Award. Although now it seems a bit odd to be mentioning it in the comments after a post about undies. Oh well... :D


  61. This is very interesting. I'm Swedish, so I buy my bras in metric sizes. The band size is simply your underbust measurement in cm. However, now that I looked closer at the label, it seems that they don't just convert cm to inches, but actually to a different size! So, a bra that I call a 70C (my size before pregnancy), is sold in other countries as a 32C, even though 70 cm is actually 27.5 inches! Isn't that weird?

  62. And that last comment was not left by my husband, he just never signs out!

  63. That’s the thing when you are bigger then a C cup you need bras that are better made with more structured design. John Lewis uses the same method of bra fitting and they have a few cheaper brands. Did they tell you what bra styles you should wear?
    I hold out for John Lewis and Selfridges twice yearly 50% of sales. Look in your TK maxx, I have spotted, Freya Fantasie, Chantelle and a bra that cost £50 in John Lewis.

  64. I am a total Bravissimo covert after venturing there over a year ago, upon which I too went for the freya retro bra!
    I love them, though totally hear what you're saying about the sizing thing! I have no clue about my size in other (cheaper) places!
    Nevertheless, I like the experience.. those friendly women and the way they wrap your new bra in nice tissue paper! ahhh. xxxxx

  65. Great post. I really enjoyed reading this and the comments. Thanks for being so honest, Fleur. I haven't been fitted properly in years and now scarily wondering how ill-supported I am. I also enjoyed the garden post. xx

  66. I went to Bravissimo and had a fitting the other day. I'd had it done at Debenhams and they'd told me I was a 34C-D depending on the bra type. I went into Bravissimo and they told me I was more like a 32F. Well, as you say the band was far more snug than I was used to, but definitely not un-wearable!
    Some sort of standards would be so nice and make bra buying so much easier!

  67. Interesting discussion.

    My partner and I have been together 15 years, she is a 38DD and over those years I have bought nearly all her bras (I think she has bought 2) and other underwear. This has always been done meeting her requirements and tastes and comfort, one of those rules is don't ever buy anything in M & S - seems to us that this is a byword for frumpy. Oh yes, wonderful stuff in all their expensive adverts but try buying any of it in a branch outside Oxford Street. I did once order from their Website a set they sold designed by Agent Provocateur, I was so appalled by the material quality and the finish I sent it back for a refund.

    So where do I get it from? Some years back often Debenhams, but now they have gone down the route that says pretty sexy unpadded bras are only availabe for 36C or less - any bigger and you have to have what looks like a football cut in half and sewn together with elastic. Peacocks, yes Peacocks, have always been a good source but there range is getting smaller; but of late nearly all of it I order on-line - that way you get a wide choice in all sizes.


  68. Are there any other women in the world with small breasts? The vast majority of specialist lingerie shops simply don't cater to anyone with my size - around an A or AA. You walk in and they say that they start at something larger - much larger. So you turn round, utterly humiliated and miserable, and you walk out. That goes for pretty much all the vintage-y places I know. It's such a shame. Why is it that the bra sizes on offer get bigger, and bigger, and bigger...but those of us at the lower end of the scale are just told to get lost? Let's hear it for bras for all! kix

  69. It seems this discussion is long over, but I just wanted to make a quick comment regarding the Bravissimo sizing. Having read about your experience, it looks to me as if they use the same system as Change Lingerie. I was fitted for a EU size 70H (generic UK size 32GG, M&S size 32G) in a Change store, which came as a shock, since I have always thought I was a 36D/36DD.

    I then sat down and compared the EU and the UK bra sizing system, and decided to order a 32G bra from M&S, which fit just as well as the bra from Change. So it is possible to embrace the Bravissimo/Change bra fitting system, and still shop at M&S, although I must admit that the choice in style and design from M&S is somewhat limited in my size.

  70. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. You have a wonderful blog! Keep it up!


I welcome all comments, praise and constructive criticism alike! Please note, though, that I don't respond to anonymous comments. If you want to offer a criticism then have the conviction to do so publicly. I thank you!

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