Monday, September 28, 2015

When Comfort Must Come First, But Beauty Still Matters: What Are The Options?

I pretty much refuse to wear ugly beige oxen harnesses. Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's your thing. But they basically challenge my will to live, so unless there is a compelling need - for instance, recovery from surgery - they are banished from my world. I would prefer to, and often do, buy a bra in white and then dye it with food coloring. This is how I ended up with a coral pink Freya Jolie and a whisper blue Curvy Kate Princess.

I digress. You'll find I do a lot of that. Blame it on the Irish inability to impart information without an accompanying story. Anyhoo. There are many fabulous blogs that can teach you about proper bra fit - I've listed my favorites in the side bar. 

But my purpose here is to share a lot of information that I have gained over the last few years on an epic quest to find beautiful bras that also fit, and beyond all, are comfortable. Information I searched for extensively, and mostly with futility. Specifics on comfort. Good luck trying to learn which brands (and they are few!) cushion their wires with foam and use high spandex fabric for comforting stretch that accomodates swelling; which use narrow, biting elastic on the edges of their bands (Freya); which have poorly sewn seams that form a painful lump where the strap joins the cup (Lunaire); which have wide wires that are also armpit-stabbers even on a 5'9" woman like myself (Panache). 

And above all, how to make compromises with fit that are often worth it for comfort. 

I know there are other women like me out there. Because they come and talk to me about bras, and fit, and where I found whatever I'm wearing. Because I'm about their size, and I don't seem horribly uncomfortable, and my bra obviously fits fairly well. I give them what info I can, and offer to help fit them from my massive collection which I can never seem to get eBay ready. 

More about me, well, my boobs anyway: I have sensitive skin - the kind where I must take a seam ripper & remove most tags; turn my pajama tops inside out because the seams actually irritate me to the point of a rash. I have zero tolerance for wire digging, or harsh fabric that chafes. I prefer a rounded-to-natural shape, and wear seamed, non-padded bras 90% of the time. 

I most often wear a 38GG (UK sizing). Quite full on top, projected, medium width. My actual measurements using the 'war-on-plus-4' (i.e., not adding any inches) put me in a 36H. Which is just....thanks, but, well, just no. I believe that +2 works for more women, particularly those who value comfort and especially those who sit at desks. Also, I'm just not a fan of the tight band theory. Snug, yes. Tight, never.French, German, and Polish fit systems seem to be much more moderate with their approach to band tightness. And that is what has worked best for me. 

So, I plan to do quite a few reviews, and provide overall brand summaries for what I've found workable for different situations. And give specifics on brands & styles than have been surprisingly accomodating to my size fluctuations, sensitive skin, and lifestyle.

So mostly, I'm going to talk about compromise. Deciding what's important to you, and embracing the idea that sometimes good enough, just is. And sometimes beautiful lace, gorgeous buttery soft fabric, and a lack of gore tack is just a higher good than a perfectly fitting bra that not as comfy as you need it to be. 

All of the info that I so wished had been out there when I began my quest for comfort and beauty. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Comfort & Beauty Are More Important Than Fit. There, I Said It.

To me, anyway. I've learned a great deal over the last few years of the bravolution. About Fit, with a capital F. About the huge array of options available outside the U.S. to (the great many) women like myself who wear a cup larger than D. And it has been wonderful. And freeing. 

I now have the knowledge to really fine tune the fit of my bra to my shape of my full-on-top, fairly projected, medium-width, high set, tall-rooted, 49-year-old breasts. 

And yet, after 5 years of trying every British/French/German/Polish/Latvian brand I could find, in every conceivable size - and having the closet-full of bras to prove it - I still find myself standing at my dresser, surveying my bra choices, and some days not finding a satisfactory choice. And realizing that the rest of the time, I am choosing the same basic rotation of 6 or 7 bras. 

The common factor?  Comfort. 

The 2nd most crucial factor?  Beauty. 

The....very distant 3rd criteria?  Fit. 

This is what I learned through observation of many laundry day, and many weekday split-second getting dressed decisions. I may live on the edge of the wilderness, but I still spend 90% of my work day at a desk, gazing into two 21" monitors. Harsh, rigid - though beautiful shape-giving wires (I'm looking at you, Panache, #1 offender) - lost every time when factored against the reality of a perfectly fitting bra turned digging-in, armpit-stabbing instrument of torture by lunchtime.  At the end of the week, I realized I had turned overwhelming to a non-tacking, flexibly wired, buttery soft fabric Anita. Or a poorly fitting, but foam-cushion wired Wacoal. 

Which has given me pause, and made me really consider: perfect bra fit as an analytically satisfying standard to achieve......or, comfort and reasonable support, with decent shape as a bonus. Ideally, perfect fit and the comfort we deserve could be found in one bra. In reality, I've personally never found it. It always comes down to a choice between foam-wrapped, stretchy, exquisititely soft microfiber - which is ill-fitting - OR - perfectly constructed, seamed, rough mesh-banded, wires barely covered in scratchy felt, let alone cushioned, stiff starchy pointy non-soft fabric.

Until that perfect hybrid exists, at a reasonable price point, I choose comfort. Then beauty. Then fit.