Tuesday, 13 May 2008

BODYSHOCK: When boobs grow and wardrobes are destroyed! Getting measured and fitted for bras.

It happened so gradually, I wasn't even aware of it. And then, KER POW! There they were. My four breasts. I was standing in front of the mirror trying to decide whether my t-shirt disguised or emphasised my mini muffin top when I first saw them. "HUH, WHAAAA, meeeehhh, HAAAA, Where...?" where some of the words suitable before the watershed to come out of my mouth.

Apparently I am not alone, either. I consulted several friends about this 'phenomenon' and 3 of them admitted they had experienced similar miraculous growth despite being grown women in their 20s and 30s.

Obviously, the fella fails to see the problem in this, but there is one. I now have beautiful shirts that gape, t-shirts that pull unattractively, and tops and jackets that strain across my new heaving bosom. Wonderful clothes rendered useless.

Not one to give up on fashion though, I decided some good bras would solve this problem. So, off I went to John Lewis to get measured (I feel I should say at this point, I am avoiding M&S EVEN though I do have several bras from there that have served me well. The reason I am boycotting them so to speak is because (if I am boring you, feel free to skip down to the measuring and fitting review in the next paragraph) a couple of months ago I went to the Bournemouth store with my pregnant sister. She needed to be measured for maternity bras. We went to 4 different places and called on M&S last because we felt it was a 'sure thang'. Oh how wrong we were! They were by far the worst of all the places we went. The 3 other stores measured my sister as a 34b and bras of that size fitted her well. M&S felt she was a 36b (we were dubious but went with it), but on trying on at LEAST 30 bras nothing fit. Not even the 36a sizes. They were wrinkling across her bust. My sister cried because "my back is getting fatter and my tits are getting smaller". I cried. The fitter cried. OK, the fitter didn't cry, but I did. It was shocking, M&S made my sister cry! This experience said to me that M&S sizing is not consistent with that of the rest of the high street, and the fit of their underwear is pants. Heh, geddit?)

In contrast to the mentally scarring episode at M&S (Stuart Rose, expect a bill for my sister's therapy), my experience at John Lewis was everything I could have asked for; friendly, professional, un-intimidating (once I got past the embarrassment of showing my breasts to a stranger) and the fitter (Chris) was extremely knowledgeable in her field. Chris measured me and then asked me what style of bras I preferred in terms of design and colour. She brought a selection of ranges in 2 sizes (sizing can differ according to range and so it is important to be fitted every time you buy a bra) for me to try. Then, Chris explained how a good bra should fit:

  1. When you purchase a bra, not only should it fit you on the loosest fastening, but also the straps should have length to be made shorter. With time the elastic in the straps and across the back will give, and so you need to be able to re-adjust your bra to compensate.
  2. The bra should be level round your back, fit flat against your the middle of your chest, and the under-wiring should properly cup around the breast.
  3. Every woman has one breast slightly bigger than the other, and so when buying a bra you have to find the compromise. You need one that supports both breasts without being to small for the larger one.
With the help of Chris I picked out 3 bras and matching briefs from the Elle Macpherson range which look and feel great. It is not a brand I would have veered to myself, but the cut is surprisingly amazing (something to do with a double dart I think), I found myself unable to stop staring at my boobs in them.

The real question to be answered though is, did this rescue my wardrobe from potential redundancy? Well yes and no. Unfortunately, when your boobs go from a 32c to a 32dd some things are just never going to fit again. However, now that my breasts are safely contained with no risk of spillage, my t-shirts and some of my favourite shirts and jackets are now back to looking like normal (the 'puppies fighting in a bag' effect is no more). And, for that I am truly grateful. I owe this mini fashion miracle to John Lewis. If you haven't been there for a fitting, I highly recommend it. Their lingerie department really is the cat's whiskers.


My appointment was with Chris in the lingerie department of the Oxford Street (London) branch of John Lewis. If you would like to be measured, you do not need an appointment, you can just show up. If however, they are too busy to accommodate you at that time, they will book you a time to return. A fitting usually lasts between 10 - 25 minutes. John Lewis lingerie department specialise in mastectomy, maternity and first bras.

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