Today, we are talking about the biggest (and most damaging) bra fitting myths - ones the industry may not want customers to be talking about.
But first, a disclaimer:
I don’t consider myself a bra fitter. I’ve never worked in a brick and mortar lingerie boutique. I’ve been fit countless times, by people who knew what they were doing and people who most definitely did not. I’ve personally fit a lot of my friends and family, including some virtual fittings over Skype and Google Hangouts. I also answer numerous customer emails with fitting questions about specific products available here at Bluestockings.
But I don’t consider myself a bra fitter, mostly because I don't currently offer it as a consistent, professional service.
I think bra fitters do incredibly important work. I think they also perform a lot of emotional labor that isn’t talked about or particularly valued in American society.
However, I have reservations about the weight that our industry places on bra fittings. Namely: all of the knowledge and power resides in the bra fitter. The industry does a substantial amount of work to keep customers completely powerless in the process.
Grown-ass, bra-wearing adults know shockingly little about how a bra should fit.
This is not an accident.
The lingerie industry has created a world in which people know exceptionally little about how to fit themselves and, what’s more, are convinced they can’t know. That bras are too complicated to figure out. That they need an expert.
Frankly, this is not true. Let’s talk about four common myths about bra fitting and bra-wearing that we need to let go of in order to empower bra-wearing people (not just women, which the industry addresses as its ideal customer) in their everyday lives.
Myth #1: 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.
boutiques often quote (and misquote) the statistic to frighten customers into buying
If you are woman-identified and have ever clicked on an internet article about bras, I’m sure you’ve heard the statistic that 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. Some asshat even put this into the Wikipedia article on bras.
The short version? That statistic is complete and utter bullshit. It’s also a bullying tactic.
The long version: the statistic is based on a bogus study that was not peer reviewed. Even if you fell asleep during the lecture on what peer review is, even if it’s been decades since you were in a college classroom, you probably remember that it’s really fucking important for studies to be peer reviewed. It's also important for them to be statistically significant. Catherine Clavering of Kiss Me Deadly has long since proven that this study was neither.
Here’s what's shameful: the lingerie industry knows that this statistic is wrong. But companies throw this big, scary number at women to scare them into buying. “You don’t know what size you are! YOU ARE PROBABLY THE 80%. We know what size you should wear. We can help you. Take our quiz to find your size! Buy from us.”
This statistic is used to bully women. Why an industry that sells such a wonderful, amazing product uses such horrific fear and shaming tactics in their marketing is completely beyond my comprehension.
Myth #2: You only have one size. ("Or, I'm a [insert size here].")
Mark's & Spencer
Do you only have one size in jeans? Shirts? Dresses? Or does it vary based on the cut of the item, the style, the brand, the fabric?
Bras vary, too. They do not have standardized sizing. The size you wear will vary based on the brand, style of the bra, and a variety of other factories (e.g. weight gain/loss, hormonal changes such as menopause, etc.).
Here is a quick walk through of the sizes I wear in my most frequently worn + most recently purchased bras:
This kind of range is completely normal.
There is also a key grammatical point to be made: when we talk about clothing sizes, we tend to say “I am a size [whatever]” vs. “I wear size [whatever].” This really close personal identification with a size can be harmful in that it really encourages rigid thinking and a lack of flexibility about how we approach our clothing.
We are not “a” size. (Full bust blogger Sweet Nothings wrote an amazing blog post about this.)
We wear the clothes. The clothes don’t wear us.
Myth #3: You have to find the "right" size, or you don't care about your body.
True & Co. - "take time for yourself / get the fit you deserve" / "get fitted in two minutes" / "mom i'd love to fit"
Related to but different from #2 is that you are under some kind of obligation as a lingerie-wearing person to wear the “right” size.
I’m calling bullshit.
Wear what makes you feel good.
Wear what you can afford.
Sometimes, just putting a bra on is a goddamn win.
You are not obligated to go get professionally fit every 6 months. Just stay in touch with your body. Take note of how your clothes fit.
Take care of yourself first. Eat. Breathe.
For goodness' sake, don't let this industry make you feel guilty for yet one more thing in your life.
Myth #4: A lingerie professional is best equipped to tell you the "right" size for you to wear.
The single most infuriating aspect of being a (new) professional in the lingerie industry is that all of my friends now view me as the expert on their boobs.
I like that Bluestockings has given me a voice in this industry; I like being respected as a new authority on issues such as queer representation and ethical manufacturing.
I don’t like it when my badass, super feminist friends crawl into a shell and assume they don’t know anything about their beautiful bodies—but that I must.
That’s not me being an authority. That’s society affecting our confidence and sense of self.
Everybody take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and repeat:
I know my body better than anyone else.
I know my body better than anyone else.
I know my body better than anyone else.
You are the expert on your body. YOU. Not a bra fitter. Not a boutique owner. Not a designer. Not your partner. Not your lover. Not your friends. Not your parents. Not anyone.
Industry professionals and bloggers can offer advice. We can offer tips. But you are the ultimate expert on comfort, on what is “loose” or “tight” to you. On what FITS for you.
YOU determine all of those things.
YOU. Not me. Not some god-in-the-sky bra fitter in a youtube video.
The lingerie industry has done its damndest to purposefully withhold useful information out of the hands of its customers. Now, are bra fitters and boutique owners probably going to have lots of useful information on how different brands fit? Absolutely. Goodness knows that I’ve gone to plenty of lingerie friends with questions about how certain brands fit. But there is no justifiable reason why bra-wearing people should not know the basics of how their bra fits.
I get so many basic questions over email like,
We understand differences in jeans: regular, long, short. Boot cut vs. skinny vs. straight leg vs. wide leg vs. high waist vs. low waist. We are fucking smart. We hold all of this information in our heads and can adjust it immediately on the fly in the fitting room or while online shopping based on our prior experience and other customer/blogger reviews.
So why doesn’t the lingerie industry trust us to get down the basics of bra fitting? Could it be—possibly—because they want to keep the information (and the power) out of the hands of customers?
You know your body best. And take it from me: bras are honestly not that complicated. I’m probably gonna get a decent amount of hate from my bra-expert friends for saying that, but it’s true.
Trust me, friends: if I can learn how to fit myself in a bra, you can, too.
P.S. Isn't it weird how all of these ads (and so many more) talk about finding your "perfect fit"? Just remember: there's no such thing as a single "perfect fit." Find underthings that make you feel good. <3
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