PSA: Your Boobs Are Just Fine.

In addition to all the curriculum writing, travel, family organizing (not just my grandma — someday I might talk about it here, but right now, it is not a safe story to tell), yoga, and other general life stuff, one way I’ve been spending my summer is trying to find a bra that fits. I don’t know that I’ve gained or lost any significant amount of weight overall, but my body has undergone a shape change over the past several months. The bras that sort of, just barely, almost but not really fit before — well, I can no longer pretend.

Particularly for anyone who wears a not-easily-available size — hi, that’s me! — this is a process. There are additional steps if one has a hard-to-fit breast shape in addition to bra size. The whole thing requires an investment of time, money, and research that I just do not have during the school year. (Without a daily commute, I drive way less in summertime. I am spending what would be gas money on bras.)

Back view of a woman in a purple bra. The bra band is visible, riding level with the ground.

The band of a bra where the band does fit (no riding up). It is easier for me to show you pictures of my back side.

It can be really frustrating to bra shop alone — or with people who can voice, intentionally or unintentionally, a body negative attitude. I’ve definitely had problems feeling like:

  • My breasts are wrong and ugly because they’re two different sizes (quite common, I know, but it’s slightly more than a cup size difference).
  • My breasts are wrong and ugly because they’re wider and shallower than other breasts that are my equivalent cup volume.
  • My muscular upper body — chest, back, shoulders — is wrong and ugly because there are some parts of them that will just not move in order to make things easier for bras and breasts.
  • My torso is wrong and ugly because there’s fat there, and a properly fitting bra band (i.e., one tight enough to support my bosoms from the bottom up) accentuates that.

Obviously my body image issues are my own responsibility, but it’s nice to be able to call in reinforcements.

So I’ve been reading some bra bloggers (for folks who didn’t know, there is such a thing as bra bloggers), like The Lingerie Lesbian and Bras and Body Image. (As one might imagine from their titles, those blogs regularly feature images of people in bras, underwear, and sometimes other lingerie. May not be advisable for clicking in all circumstances.) And I’ve been reading and asking for advice at /r/ABraThatFits, over on Reddit. (While Reddit at large has some Serious Issues, there are certainly pockets of decency and civility. This is one of them.)

I guess I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when I started reading a whole very lot about breasts and bras. But I gradually came to the realization that spaces like these are — happily — body positive spaces. (By “spaces like these,” I mean the bra blogs and message boards I’ve personally visited. I can’t vouch for the ones I haven’t visited and do not mean to make a sweeping claim.)

Profile view of breasts in a patterned, molded cup bra.

This bra does not fit. But it’s a molded cup and gives a nice profile, so it’s not too hard to share.

For one, people post pictures of themselves in just bras. (Not in a pervy way, and if you’re someone who creeps on people like that, I am judging the shit out of you right now.) How is that empowering? Because it’s such a bigger variety of body shapes and sizes than are typically shown in lingerie adds — or, really, in pretty much any type of positive media representation. In terms of a full range representation, it’s not perfect — but it’s a start. Moreover, these are real photos, capturing people as they actually look in those moments, free of major Photoshop interference (the occasional pixeling of a nipple or personally identifying marker notwithstanding).

Real photos show ribs and rolls, bones and bloat, scoliosis and scars. They show breasts that are pointy, pendulous, and every shape in between. They show sizes that are large or small, shallow or deep for any given frame. They show different size body frames. They show ill bra fits with side spillage and ill fits with bullet boobs. They show the same cup fitting differently on the left and right boob.

In short, they show lots of different people having lots of different experiences — both good and bad — with lots of different bras. This is the reality of having a body. Nobody looks like an overly retouched print advertisement — because no real body is meant to.

Torso shot of woman in black bra. The bra gives her a breast shape that's rather pointy and downward sloping

This bra is just a terrible shape for me. I can say it without judgment and let it go.

Beyond that, I’ve found that overwhelming philosophy — explicit or implicit — of these spaces is to find the correct bra for the body you currently have. Even if your breasts are very large or very small. (Caveat: There is an assumption that if you’re visiting a bra fitting community, you probably do not want to go braless, at least not all the time, even if your breasts are very small. Which is probably valid, given the context.) Even if you’re still growing or pregnant or breastfeeding or losing weight. You still need well fitting clothing to dress the body you have now.

There’s no assumption that people of one size will of course want padded or push up bras (unless folks specify, of actual course) or that folks of a different size will of course want minimizers. Nor is there an assumption that people outside certain size ranges should settle or give up (though for some outliers, there is frank discussion of the benefits and drawbacks). If a particular bra does not fit, there’s a careful analysis — size, shape, style — of why this bra is wrong for you.

There is a very solid assumption that each body, each person, deserves clothing that fits.

This is not the pithy rainbows and unicorn farts of paying only lip service to body acceptance. This is doing some of the hard work of body acceptance, reaffirming, person after person, day after day, that even the most intimate parts of ourselves are just fine as they are.

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9 comments on “PSA: Your Boobs Are Just Fine.
  1. Yes, you’ve hit on exactly what really works about these communities. It’s revolutionary, in its quiet way, to analyze exactly why a piece of clothing is wrong for a particular person, and to try to find what fits someone, instead of telling women to change themselves to fit a piece of clothing, which is what happens almost everywhere else. (I’m looking at you, Say Yes to the Dress. Why isn’t it Say Yes to Whatever Makes You Feel Beautiful?)

    • Tori says:

      Or even, Say Yes to Whatever’s Comfortable and Lets You Get on with Your Life? (Though I can appreciate that is not necessarily what a bridal show will focus on, it is a sentiment that works well for everyday bra fitting.)

  2. Ethyl says:

    Thanks for this! Getting properly fitted and actually having bras that fit me properly has been SUCH a huge thing for me this year. Of course, getting past that size (ye gods I’m a WHAT cup now?!) was hard, but I think for me, it was worth it.

    • Tori says:

      Agreed. I’m still frustrated by how inconvenient and expensive it is to purchase bras in my size (and how often this involves returning items that are going to be unworkable regardless of size). But it’s more of a… surface frustration? If that makes sense.

      I mean, I keep encountering clothes that are not right for me, and it is no fun. But at the end of the day, “these clothes are wrong” is a different and less bad feeling than “my body is wrong.”

  3. wordsp1nner says:

    Every time I go to the store I end up buying a bigger cup size… the last one I bought was a G (it was $13 on sale at Soma). It is great (except for the part where the underwire almost goes all the way into my armpit). I also have two DDDs that fit pretty well, but everything else is smaller and I can tell they don’t fit as well.

    What I always wonder is why bra manufacturers/sellers only stock such a narrow range of sizes? One of the mall bra stores doesn’t seem to have any cup sizes larger than C, and the others often don’t stock much above a D. My mom claims that is because that particular store caters to teens, but teens can have above a C. I was a C in fifth grade.

    • Tori says:

      I might be cynical, but at this point, I have a strong suspicion that the narrow size range is profit-driven. Basically, if many stores only stock 32-38 A-D (and a few stores stock 30-40 A-DDD, and a very few stores stock 30-44 A-G), many customers will: 1) assume those are basically the only sizes available and thus select the offered size that fits “best;” 2) recognize the significant additional resources (time, money, online purchase access) necessary to find a bra in the correct size — that may still not fit and thus still select at least one bra to tide them over (should they be able to shop online for bras at all).

  4. RachelB says:

    Your analysis of why the size range stocked is so narrow is as plausible to me as it is discouraging.

    But yay for another online community built on the premise that all people deserve clothing that fits.

    • Tori says:

      Also, yay for the related communities that offer bra swaps (and secondhand sales) as well as bra giveaways (and/or very reduced-price sales). :)

  5. […] Fat Acceptance -Virgie Tovar interviews Joanna Villegas, an awesome (and adorable!) fat, queer Chicana poet. -Ragen has some great comebacks to fat-hating comments and questions. -Rachele responds to a troll who calls her a “delusional sea cow.” -Sara-Jane Smith writes about her experiences being a fat lesbian on a reality TV show. -Why calling fat hatred “the last acceptable form of bigotry” is neither useful nor true. -This story makes me SO ANGRY. Fuck weight discrimination. -An open apology to all of my weight-loss clients. -Male privilege and transitioning from a fat woman to a fat man. -My big fat marathon. -Tori writes about her experiences with the body positivity of bra-fitting blogs. […]

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