Congratulations you’ve gotten some new bras! You’re wearing them on that loosest set of hooks and they feel comfortably snug, supportive and all around awesome. But how do you know when it’s time to readjust and move onto the middle or even tightest set of hooks? As the elastics in the band stretch out the tension that helps keep everything in place start to make a few things shift around, so we’ve put together a short guide on what to look for when it’s time to move those bras in a notch.
The gore (where the wires meet in the center) starts to dig into your chest wall: Everything is going well with your bras, but one day you notice that the wires are starting to put pressure on your sternum. Think of the bra band like a belt, when it has just the right amount tension, everything will stay in place, but if it starts to stretch out that belt buckle is going to shift around throughout the day, digging into your stomach or pelvis.
The wires start to rub or chafe under your armpits, or dig into your rib-cage under your breast tissue: As the band loses elasticity the tension on the wires is no longer staying level with your underbust, when this happens your bra isn’t defying gravity as well and it has a bit of a teeter-totter effect, the band slides up a bit and the wires shift down causing pressure on the breast tissue or on your rib-cages (sometimes both)
The band doesn’t feel as secure: Sometimes the band will just loosen up over time and you won’t feel the shifting of the wires when you’re wearing your bra but over all the bra just doesn’t feel as supportive.
You feel like you’re adjusting your bra more frequently during the day: When your bras fit well and are brand new they tend to stay in place for most of the day, if you start noticing yourself pulling the band down more, or feel like you have to readjust your bra on your lunch break it might be time to tighten up the band a bit.
Sometimes these changes are gradual, other times your bra starts bugging you right in the middle of the day! If you’re on your last set of hooks and you notice these irritations, then it’s probably time for a new bra!
– Written by Hollis Kitchin, Co-Owner of Bustin’ Out Boutique and Bra Enthusiast (ok we admit it, she’s obsessed with bras)
Let’s talk about underwires and why they are used so frequently in bras. The thing I really want to emphasize before getting any further is that when your bra is fitting you properly the wire should not rest on your breast tissue, it should not pinch, it should not rub, it should not poke you and it shouldn’t cause irritation on the skin. When your bra and wire fits your breasts correctly it should just barely trace around ALL of your breast tissue, from under your arm pit to the center of your chest between the two breasts. If that description sounds like a mythical fairy tale then come on by and we can help you figure out what’s happening.
An early bra from around 1913 featuring a series of vertical stays (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Another early bra featuring vertical seams to provide a rounder silhouette. (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Having the breast tissue separated but contained within the wires allows for the weight of the breast tissue to be more evenly distributed across the chest as you are no longer relying on fabric and creative seam work to support the breast tissue. The use of wires allows for lighter, thinner and more elastic materials to be used in other parts of the bra which can be helpful in larger cup and band sizes as it allows for more breathable materials. Stiffer materials, while stronger and more resilient to wear-and-tear aren’t always the softest and comfortable for the more delicate skin of the breasts. This is why at times it can be difficult to find wire-free bras in larger sizes that are also soft and delicate feeling as well as supportive. However the association that wired bras are painful is why a lot of women look for wire free options.
A very sheer wire free bra from the 1940’s made from silk (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
A silk bra from the 1920’s that is more for coverage than support (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Wire free bra from the 1940’s with lots of darting to help shape and support the breast. (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Italian bra from the 1950’s, still no wires but lots of seams to help shape the breast, a lot of fabric as well (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
A longer bra from around 1935, more delicate lace but still not a lot of support or shaping (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Beyond the support aspect of the wires, they also help to bring the breast tissue up and forward, which allows for for different design changes within the structure of the cup itself. The underwire didn’t gain popularity until the 1950’s. Prior to the use of the underwire stiffer fabrics, extra layers of fabric, extra stitching, and boning or stays were used within the cups instead of around the base of the cups to provide more support for women with that needed more support for their breast tissue.
An early wired bra from the 1950’s of French design, much fewer seams in the cup and a delicate lace. (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Another French bra with more pointed cup, but a much lower profile band is needed for this bra (photo from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
A different style of bra that featured a wire designed to rest above the breast to provide lift.
Because of this lift and more forward projection with a wire you will sometimes get a different shape within the bras. They can make the breast tissue appear smaller, they can create more separation of the breast tissue (unless the bra is designed to create more cleavage), and it can help ensure that no breast tissue is resting on the rib cage. Some wire-free bras can also provide the appearance of separation of the breast tissue however depending on the cut it can lift the breast tissue outwards in what we call an ‘east-west’ look, so instead of the apex of the breast tissue being lifted front and center they are more splayed out. Now this might be the look you’re going for but depending on your body shape it can help create the illusion of an hourglass figure.
But a bra that is designed with an underwire will not provide the same support or shaping if you were to take the wire out of it. The materials, the stitching, and the wires are all designed to work together and if one of those elements is removed the entire physics behind the garment is compromised. The same premise will also apply to a wire free bra, if you were to add a wire to a classic bralette shape the entire structure will change and it won’t be doing what it was designed to do.
When we look at styles of bras from earlier bra designs there is a much wider band, and much more bulk to the bras, now obviously things like the bullet bra are trying to achieve a very pointed and projected silhouette, and different bras from the 40’s are either very muted or use fewer fabrics (due to fabric rationing during war time which I might go over in a different post) however, they still are using a lot of darting and creative shaping to provide subtle coverage and support. Even with modern wire free bras designed for larger cups you see a lot of similarities, stiffer fabrics, more pointed/projected cups, fuller coverage, and wider bands and straps, etc. However styles like modern bralettes look very similar to a lot of wire free bras from the 1920’s- 1940’s.
Now whether you love wired bras or hate them they do exist for a reason, and if your bra isn’t fitting you properly no matter what the style, cut, material or brand it’s most likely going to be uncomfortable and you’ll want to rip off as soon as you can. On top of that our bodies are constantly changing and what might have worked for you a year or two years ago might not be the best option for you now.
– Written by Hollis Kitchin, Co-Owner of Bustin’ Out Boutique and Bra Enthusiast (ok we admit it, she’s obsessed with bras)
So you have some great bras that fit really well! But when is it time to replace our faithful and supportive bosom buddies?
The hooks are damaged: Hooks are what keep your bra together and keep your band clasped! If they’ve become bent out of shape or have torn out of your bra they can’t do their job!
The wire is popping out: Now sometimes this can just be a faulty bra and if it happens within the first month or two of wear usually it’s a manufacturing error (if that happens to a bra you purchased from us let us know ASAP and bring it in). But if you’ve had that bra for over 6 months or year it’s time to toss it aside.
The band is no longer snug: Bras contain elastic and it’s only a matter of time before it gets stretched out beyond the point of being supportive. Starting your bra on the loosest set of hooks means you should be bringing it in a notch about once every 2-3 months or sooner if you have fewer bras.
Significant weight gain or weight loss: Our bodies change and your bra doesn’t always shrink or grow the way we need it to if it’s too tight or too loose it’s time to get a new one.
Obvious signs of damage: Torn seams, stains, broken wires, holes, rips or tears, or the cups are becoming misshapen.
When your bust is drooping and your bra no longer does its job: Bras are designed to lift and support and if your bra isn’t doing that it’s time to replace it.
Did you know a bra is designed to last 6 -12 months? There are various factors that will affect how long your bras last you!
Number of bras you regularly wear: if you only have 3 bras that you regularly rotate between you’re wearing each bra for 121 days! Just adding 2 more bras to your rotation means you’ll be wearing each bra for a total of 73 days a year! That adds almost 2 months of life to each bra!
Cup size: If you have more breast tissue to support your bras are doing a lot more work and will have more everyday strain.
Nursing: Not only can your breast size increase with nursing, but the breast tissue is also holding milk, adding more weight for your bras to support in addition to the daily adjusting and readjusting that can occur with unfastening and refastening clasps.
Washing: How you wash and dry your bras will drastically affect how long they last! Ever pull a pair of tights or underwear out of the dryer and have the elastic snap or poke out of the fabric the next time you try to wear them? Heat from dryers will make the elastic more brittle causing them to lose their firmness. Washing Machines can cause hooks to get caught and torn.
We’ve all heard stories of bras along with myths about how bras should or shouldn’t work. Things like bras are supposed to be uncomfortable, bras should make you look bigger than you really are (only if you want them to do that), bras need padding in order to keep your head lights down (otherwise known as nipples), padded bras are more supportive, that your bra size stays the same, or that the shoulder straps are the supportive parts of the bra. These are just a few examples of some bra myths we at Bustin’ Out Boutique hear frequently. Unfortunately the first myth, that bras should be uncomfortable, is certainly the most common. There are many reasons why women feel like bras are uncomfortable. To name a few, the straps dig in, the straps fall off, the wire digs in, the wire breaks, it squishes boob out in weird places, boob falls out from under the cup, and finally having to readjust yourself constantly in public (quick note: all the reasons given for an uncomfortable bra are also indications of a poorly fitting bra).
Things that will help make a bra more comfortable: Wearing the right size: wires that dig into your sides or into your breast tissue mean that your cup size is too small! Our breast tissue starts much farther back on our bodies than just front and center on our chests. Wires snapping or breaking is usually a sign that stress is being put on them in the wrong place, this is usually from the cup sizes being too small. Conversely, if the wires are digging into the chest wall/sternum area it can be a sign that the cup size is too big.
Having a firmer band: When the band of your bra is riding up your back during the day it means it’s not doing it’s job! A properly fitting bra should provide you with 80-90% of your support coming from the band (the part that sits around your rib-cage) , the 28, 30, 32, 34 etc… number of you bra, while the remaining 10-20% should be distributed on the shoulder straps. A firmer band will also help keep things from moving around when you sit down, or bend over helping to prevent wires from moving around as well. All in all a properly fitting bra will give you support where it is intended allowing you to feel more comfortable in a bra than you ever have.
Wearing a cup style suited to your breast shape: If you have fuller breast tissue on the top half of your breasts, the wrong style will dig into your breast tissue, conversely if you have more shallow breast tissue there can be a lot of gaping in your bras if it’s the wrong style making it so your breast tissue isn’t fully supported. Some bras might not have deep enough cups and can add too much pressure or compression causing your breasts to feel sore by the end of the day.
Think of your bra like a good hiking backpack, you want the majority of the backpacks weight being supported by the waist band and minimal amounts of weight on your shoulders because if you are carrying around a heavy load for more than a mile without the support around your waist, you are bound to experience shoulder pain and discomfort before the end of your trek.
When the bra is properly fitted to your body, your body type, and more importantly, your breast tissue, a bra is far more comfortable. We’ll be honest, you probably won’t feel like your breasts are floating on cloud 9 all day, every day but a majority of your bra annoyances will be alleviated. Even those of us that have bras that are properly fitting get to a point in the day where it’s time to say goodbye to our over-shoulder-boulder-holders. However, it should be closer to the end of your day, not within minutes of putting it on. The reason for this is something we all have to remember, regardless of our bra size, a properly fitting bra is a support garment, meaning it is designed to support and defy gravity. In the case of a bra it is holding up anywhere from a few ounces to several pounds of breast tissue, and larger your cup size the more weight you are carrying.
We will be tackling some of the other bra myths in future posts, but we felt this was a very important topic to start with!
It’s a new year and most of us have the resolution to get back in shape and to get fit! But what about getting fitted and measured for new bras? Our bodies change frequently and it might be a good idea to get measured for a bra if any of the following apply to you:
Have never had a bra fitting
Recently started or stopped breast feeding
Haven’t been fitted in the past year (or more!)
Recently lost or gained weight
Are on the tightest set of bra hooks even when your bras are brand new
The cups of your bra cut into the breast tissue
You feel like you’re constantly adjusting your bra
Your bra band is riding up in the back, creating a rainbow or an arch
You feel like your breast tissue is spilling out of the cups
You feel like your breast tissue doesn’t fill out of the cups
You feel like your underwires are pinching your breast tissue
Your bra is painful in anyway
Come on by and let us help you find a supportive and well fitting bra! No appointment necessary! Have any questions or concerns about your current bras? Contact us!