Since becoming pregnant, there have been some changes with my body. The worst one, as far as I’m concerned, is that my breasts have basically been hurting continuously, day and night, for the last 5 weeks. It’s not excruciating, but it’s always there. It’s a bit like having a minor headache for 5 weeks straight. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s unpleasant and, frankly, it’s not helping my mood any.
Well, last night, I decided I had had enough. I looked at Husband (who has been hearing me say that my breasts hurt every day for the last 5 weeks) and said, “I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to a bra shop. It will be crazy expensive. I don’t give a damn. This. Has. To. STOP!” He (very wisely) answered, “Okay, that sounds like a good idea.”
I had heard very positive things about bra shops in general from various female friends, who are, shall we say, a little on the busty side. I had heard words like, “the most comfortable bra I’ve ever worn,” “life-changing,” and, “it made me look 10 pounds thinner.” Basically, women who had been to bra shops could not say enough positive things about them.
My friends, it is all true.
This morning I went to a shop recommended by a friend. I went into the store and told the woman working there, “My breasts hurt. They need more support. I’m willing to do whatever it takes.” She looked slightly taken aback, but assured me she could help. I explained that I am 7 weeks pregnant, and she put me in a lovely fitting room, measured around my ribcage, showed me why my current bra was not going to give me what I needed explained what she thought I did need, and brought me bras to try on. It was beautiful.
As soon as I put the first one on, I knew I was hooked (no pun intended). It was the most comfortable bra I had ever worn, it was life-changing, and it did make me look 10 pounds thinner (for real, guys). And my breasts no longer hurt. The salesperson (and I hesitate to call her that, because I really feel she deserves a more grandiose title like, “Bra-fitting Goddess”) explained that she was bringing me bras that were particularly stretchy in certain regions because my breasts were going to continue to grow (Oy! Say it ain’t so!) and with pregnancy, I would likely put on weight in my ribcage. So, she wanted me to have a bra I could grow in a little bit, while still providing me with the support I need. She also said she was bringing me a very popular, basic bra that was in the low end of their price range. “I can bring you $200 bras if you’d like, but since you will probably need a larger bra in a couple of months, I thought you might not like to spend that much.” Indeed. I remarked that I would likely need these bras again when my breasts decrease back to normal, they will go back to normal, right? “Don’t count on it,” she said. Double OY!
With each bra, she evaluated the fit and brought me another size if it didn’t fit the way she thought it should. I could tell which ones fit properly and which ones didn’t simply by how comfortable they were. Additionally, she said women who get diagnosed with “blockages” (whether in milk ducts or lymph ducts was unclear) often have ill-fitting underwire bras that are putting too much pressure in one spot of the breast tissue. I’m not sure what the data is for that, but I can see how it could be true, given where the underwire on my old bra was ending up under my arm. She showed me where the underwire should end up under my arm for a good fit. She mentioned breast-feeding that women who breast-feed unevenly often end up with uneven breasts, so beware!
In the end, I bought two bras which cost about $140 in total. This was a whole lot cheaper that I thought it was going to be (I was prepared to spend up to $150 per bra if necessary, that’s how much distress I was in!) and, actually, not much more than I had spent on two of my ill-fitting bras. I did try on one very pretty (and sexy) black bra with stretch lace at the top that would also allow me to grow that was a little over $100, but I decided to save it for next time (because I’m absolutely sure there is going to be a next time, and probably in about a couple of months). She didn’t pressure me to buy the more expensive bra, she just asked if I wanted her to write down the brand, model, and size in case I wanted to come back for it. She didn’t even mention buying a matching panty (which I’m sure they had). Her goal was to get me in a well-fitting bra that I liked, not to get me to spend as much as possible in the store.
I wore one of the new bras out of the store. I really couldn’t bear putting the old one on again.
To give you an idea of what kind of change we are talking about here, I walked in wearing a 36D (the size recommended to me by the saleswoman at Victoria’s Secret) and walked out wearing a 38E. The 36F was a little too snug around the ribcage even though the cup size was right. I was a little distressed about the cup size. The Bra-Fitting Goddess tried to soothe me, “Don’t worry about it, it’s just a letter.” Yes, but it’s a letter that indicates I will probably always need to buy the more expensive bras (although, as I said, the two I got were not that much more expensive than others I owned).
Why did I wear such ill-fitting bras for so long? Well, one reason was that I had balked at the idea of going to a bra shop because I thought all of the bras would be at least $100 or more and I didn’t want to spend that much on a bra. This was somewhat faulty thinking, though, considering how much I wear each bra (I usually only have two or three at a time and therefore wear each one about 3 days a week). Really, given how much time I spend in each bra and how important I feel it is to be comfortable, a very good, expensive bra makes a lot of sense and is a smart investment. I had come to this conclusion about my eyeglasses a few years ago (I wear a pair of glasses 16 hours a day, every day for two or three years, so it’s worth it to me to buy a nice pair that I really like), but really hadn’t put the same kind of thought into undergarments.
The other reason, I think, is that I was “comfortable enough.” I didn’t feel like I was falling out of my bra because it looked pretty good from the front and I didn’t have the double-boob thing going on. The band didn’t feel “too” tight. (And, it wasn’t possible to try on a larger cup size in the places I typically shopped for bras.) There’s a lot of, “just suck it up and deal,” advice given to women in just about every area of life. We are meant to think that some things are slightly uncomfortable and that’s just the way it is. I hated wearing a training bra before I really had breasts–I thought they were uncomfortable–so when I truly had to wear a bra (because being without one was more uncomfortable than wearing one), I didn’t necessarily think that it should be comfortable. On top of that, my mother is an A-B cup and so didn’t have the same experience I have had, dealing with much larger breasts, so she didn’t teach me the importance of a well-fitting bra (not that A-B cup ladies don’t deserve to have well-fitting bras, they absolutely do, but it’s my impression they have less to worry about in terms of support, weight, and pain–please correct me if I’m wrong). So, I was pretty much screwed from the beginning.
The key difference, I think, in shopping at a proper bra store versus shopping at a department store, or even shopping at Victoria’s Secret, is that the saleswomen in a bra store are professionals. They really know what they are doing and this doesn’t seem to be a part-time or temporary job for them (the woman who helped me had been mentioned in yelp reviews going back at least three years). I actually worked at a Victoria’s Secret right out of college, before I found a research tech job, and none of us were given any training in how to properly evaluate bra fit. We only got a very brief talk about how to measure someone for a bra. And we always, always had to suggest the matching panty. All of the advice we were given was about how to increase a sale.*
Given my experience at this store, how comfortable I have felt since putting on this bra and how much better I look, I will definitely be going back to this bra store in the future and if I move elsewhere, I will track down a bra store there. I may be preaching to the choir, here, but if you’ve never been to a proper bra store (and you will know right away if you’ve found one by how knowledgeable the saleswoman is) I really very strongly urge you to go hunt one down.** It might not be as expensive as you think and you have nothing to lose.
*Even though we were not paid on commission they did keep track of each saleswoman’s sales and if our sales were routinely low, we had to have a talk with a manager. This is why it is important to remember the name of the person helping you in clothing stores and to mention it at the counter when you go to purchase something. They key in a code before scanning in the merchandise which allows the computer to keep track of each person’s sales.
**Bra stores are a bit of dying breed, though. If you don’t live in a major metropolitan, it may be difficult to find one. But it will be worth your time.