Saturday, April 30, 2011

34B or not 34B, that is the question! My cup overfloweth, sometimes:The quest for the perfect bra left me flummoxed ...

I've been guessing my bra size for years...

AS TV style guru Gok Wan often pointed and prodded out, the right bra can make a huge difference to both your appearance and your self-esteem. In fact, bras can make such a big difference that recently a London hospital claimed that many women considering breast reduction surgery would be better off buying a properly fitted bra. So, why are millions of us wearing the wrong bra size? Is it really that difficult to find a bra that fits?

Over the years, my breast size has fluctuated greatly depending on weight gain,weight loss and my exercise routine. I have a drawer full of pretty but now useless bras, in every size from 32A (from my tiny teenage years) to 34D. Like many Irish women, I've never been for a professional bra fitting, I've always just guessed my size. Today I'm wearing a 34B, exactly the same size as Jennifer Aniston, Christy Turlington and Gwyneth Paltrow  - but am I wearing the right size?

I visited Dublin's best lingerie stores to find out.


I begin my quest for the perfect bra at the Susan Hunter lingerie store in the Westbury Mall, just off Grafton Street. This store is full of fabulous lingerie in an array of fabrics, colours and sizes, including luxury brands La Perla,Aubade, Lejaby and Cadolle. Its run by Susan Moylett, who has been expertly fitting bras on Irish women for the past 25 years. Susan takes a look at me and announces that I'm probably a 36B, which,apparently, is the most common size for Irish women. Most women are wearing the wrong size because they go into a department storeand choose a bra that covers their cups, Susan says. To get a perfect bra, you really need to try it on for size.
I'm ushered into a very private changing room where Susan measures me with my own bra on. She brings me a selection of bras in a variety of sizes, some of which fit better than others. I settle on a lilac lace bra, which gives me plenty of support and wonderful cleavage. It's a fantastic fit at 36B and although it costs €89, it's well worth it.



The lingerie department at Brown Thomas is filled with pretty pastel bras from top-end ranges Myla Fantasie, Pleasure State, Elle Macpherson, Lejaby and Princesse Tam Tam. At the fitting rooms, I get the dedicated attention of Marilyn Bane who looks shocked when I tell her I've been guessing my size for years. After measuring my back, she suggests that I try on a 36B, which is surprisingly small. Marilyn tells me that sizes vary greatly from brand to brand. Its like shopping for jeans you need to be prepared to try on lots of different styles to find the perfect fit. You should be able to run two fingers under the back strap easily, she says.That will give you support without being too uncomfortable. A bra should sit flat between the breasts, with wiring against the ribcage and the backfastening should be horizontal. I try on a Chantelle bra, priced €51.99. It fits like a glove, giving my breasts a round, full shape. I am delighted that I've graduated to a buxom C cup.



When I arrive at M&S, there is a queue of women waiting to get fitted. After afew minutes, I'm lead into a spacious cubicle for a personal consultation with resident bra-fitter Pamela OConnor. Pamela says that nine out of ten customers are wearing the wrong size like me, mostly in a bra thats too small. The average M&S customer is a size 36-or 38C, says. Pamela also tells me that support only lasts six months, it's important to change regularly.
She measures my back. "You're a 36C, " she says. I tell her looking  I am for something girly, and few minutes later she arrives withfive very pretty bras. I fit a pleated silk bra in 36C. It is a style with a little padding at sides. Comfortable, supportive, sexy and only €28.50 sold.



Henry Street department has a new, stylish lingerie department and Imimpressed their huge selection of brands. I tell sales assistant Petra Novotna that Ive been to a variety of shops who have told that I'm between a B and a C , so I ask her to measure me give me her verdict. After I try on a selection of Petra decides that a Gossard bra in 32D is the perfect one for me. Can you repeat that please - 32D? She tells me Ireland is awash with big breasted women like me, most of her customers are between 32DD-34E. I've always believed that Im rather flat chested so to be told that Im a D cup is quite a shock -  a nice shock. So long padded bras and chicken fillets.



 Fitter Phil Bond laughs when I tell her that I've fit into B and C cups today. "Youre obviously a 36D," she says and then measures me twice to confirm her estimate. Phil brings me a selection of bras in 36D and they fit me beautifully. She then brings me a 34B my original size and compared to the new bras it looks ridiculously tight. I fall in love with a Fifties-style black lace bra. Its my favourite of the day by far and the cheapest at €25.I stare down at my ample cleavage and honestly, its like looking at someone else's breasts. I cant believe that, after years of wearing a 34B that I'm actually a D cup. I leave feeling elated.



Bra shopping can be a complete minefield. Whatever the size, agood bra should contain, lift, shape and support your breasts. But whatever happens in the coming months, I am definitely keeping my D cup!


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