Shopping for large-breasted women?
December 16, 2013 12:35 PM   Subscribe

You are an average-sized woman with a disproportionately large chest. You have great bras. You look fabulous in your tops, which magically do not pull, gape, make you look skanky or fit like a giant bag. How did you learn how to dress yourself in a way that flatters you, and where are you shopping for clothes that have a chance of fitting without tailoring?

I finally have a stock of great, well-fitting bras (in a 32G, I have been fitted and am sure I am wearing the right size), but I am having a really hard time finding tops that fit and flatter. I understand the joys of tailoring- I am 5' 2" with muscular thighs and a small waist, so I get pretty much all my pants hemmed and taken in at the waist- but really would strongly prefer to buy off-the-rack clothes that mostly fit for everyday wear at work (business casual, and on the very casual end of that) and home. Where can I shop for basics (tees, tops to wear with trousers and skirts etc.) that are cut more generously in the bust but aren't giant around the waist? How about one-piece swimsuits? Is this all just a pipe dream?

I live in the US and am not super-stoked about paying international shipping.
posted by charmedimsure to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
I have this problem and there's no easy answer.

A start is these blouse you can order from the InStyle site. They're based on bra-size.

I also gravitate towards the fit-n-flare styles.

As for t-shirts, I'll be watching this question with interest.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might be a little bit of a pipe dream, I'm afraid.

I had some luck with the "Westward" top at Downeast Basics but they only carry one color nowadays, if that (they are subtly a "modest dress" kind of company and honestly, they have been sliding toward the frump end of the spectrum for a while).

For t-shirts, though, Old Navy's "vintage" t's have a boob-friendly but still tailored cut about them. They are flattering without being painted on, and are something like 10 bucks a piece. Bonus: if you want them tighter than they come, shrink them exactly once in the dryer and it usually does the trick. However, they are VERY casual. I'd never wear them to a business-casual environment.

The only thing that *really* worked for me (5'1", 32 DD) was buying a series of minimizer bras :(
posted by like_a_friend at 12:44 PM on December 16, 2013

I have a large chest and somewhat tapered waist, and I find that the tops that are the most flattering and comfortable are made with somewhat stretchy material, and in a fitted style. (stretchy enough to accommodate my chest while also conforming to my waist). I've found tops like this in H&M and New York and Company. (note: H&M also has a lot of tops that are not friendly to large-busted women, but if you search you can find some of the type I just mentioned.)
posted by bearette at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2013

Your options are pretty much a) wear a lot of knits, b) buy from stores that sell clothing specifically for large breasted women and/or c) have everything tailored.
posted by crankylex at 12:46 PM on December 16, 2013

Might Pepperberry fit the bill?
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

34G here, but I'm 5'7" so I imagine YMMV a bit on this.

I was at Target recently and saw that all of their cardigans were on sale, so bought a few. I think I've discovered my winter uniform.

I work in a similarly very casual side of business casual place, and I've been doing a lot of cardigans over solid colored tees with jeans. My boobs look totally not-enormous in this getup and I'm comfy, appropriate, and happy.

Important note: these are not shell neck cardigans. They are v-neck cardigans like this. NOT the boyfriend cardigans. Those are baggy. But these standard v-necks are great. I'm wearing a bright orange one right now. The v ends just below my boobs and cuts in a chest-minimizing way.
posted by phunniemee at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

For work my strategy is to wear a stretchy sleeveless drape neck top + high-waisted bottoms + cardigan. I especially like the Halogen tops at Nordstrom, which come in petite sizes. I've stopped wasting my time on button-ups completely, and I'm happier for it.
posted by figgy_finicky at 1:08 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I shop at thrift stores so I can't recommend specific brands but in general what I look for is knits in natural fibers.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:13 PM on December 16, 2013

Have you tried Carissa Rose - a little pricey though.
posted by lasamana at 1:18 PM on December 16, 2013

I mostly wear tops that are made of a stretchy material, so that they can accommodate the upper chest region without being tenty everywhere else. For teeshirts I find it's REALLY important to seek out ones that advertise as being extra-long, as you need more length to cover the boob area without making the waist ride up high. I've found a lot that meet this criteria at J Crew, Target, and Modcloth.

Another staple in my wardrobe is a plain old tanktop. I have dozens (my husband says I have an addiction) from the Mossimo line at Target. I buy them a size larger than I would normally wear because otherwise I find they are a bit too booblicious. I wear these as a base layer underneath tees and knit tops, or sometimes I wear two (they're on the sheer side) with an unbuttoned cardigan.

I don't even bother with any top that is button-up. Nope. Not gonna.

For swimsuits, you really want bra-sized swimwear. Freya, Fantasie and Panache are widely accessible from lingerie and swimwear sites.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you find a button-front with some stretch that fits but has a little gaping, button it up and try pulling it on over your head. If you can do that, sew up the front of the blouse (from the back) and voila, no gaps.
posted by bunderful at 1:33 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out this new subreddit: /r/bustfriendlyclothing

Some bra bloggers also have pretty good reviews of clothing - here's a good list from /r/abrathatfits (Miss Underpinnings is a personal fave of mine).

For one piece suits, you can try Freya or Panache -- they have bra-sized one pieces in their active collections (you have to settle for tankinis in the style collections). Not sure if your 32G is US or UK sizing (it goes by the brand's country, not where you're buying it). US sizing is hella inconsistent, but a 32G is usually a 32F in UK sizing (because a lot of US brands go D/DD/F/G whereas UK goes D/DD/E/F/FF/G). Freya/Panache go by the UK size. Do check out Figleaves, even though it's international. Their return center is in the US, so return shipping is only the domestic cost (still a cost, but much more manageable). For a swimsuit, I'd probably order a sister size down from my normal, since the material is stretchier (so a 30GG).
posted by melissasaurus at 1:56 PM on December 16, 2013

I buy the shirt or blouse to fit my bust and then have it tailored to narrow at the waist. Sometimes the shoulders are a little big with this strategy; when that happens, I use thin shoulder pads. I attach the loop (soft) side of Velcro to the inside of the shirt's shoulder, and attach the hook side to the shoulder pad. Shoulder pads have the added advantage of making my bust look less out-of-proportion.

I often use double-sided tape to prevent gapping. The scotch tape with the yellow label isn't strong enough, though. Hollywood Fashion Tape and Flash Tape are better. Alternatively, you can use Velcro or just stitch the gappy area closed if you don't mind putting a button-up blouse on over your head.

Besides the great bras mentioned above, I like Elomi bras.
posted by wryly at 2:49 PM on December 16, 2013

For swimsuits, Figleaves ships from the UK but the shipping charges are not ridiculous and they have a very user-friendly returns policy.
posted by posadnitsa at 2:55 PM on December 16, 2013

Bravissimo is the place for exactly this in the UK, and their international shipping doesn't seem unreasonable either.
posted by runincircles at 4:18 PM on December 16, 2013

Knits and ponte have some give which can be great for fit, but really some things just won't fit right if you don't have them tailored. I'm 5'8" and a 36G so I've been there. It means trying on so many clothes and accepting that things that should work might not.
posted by GilvearSt at 4:57 PM on December 16, 2013

Like others, I sort of gave up on button-downs (they gape unattractively or pinch unhappily and the amount of tailoring needed would not be worth it) in exchange for wearing lots of knits.

Given the large variety of fabrics, textures, lengths, and colors that knits come in, it's hard to advise you on a particular store. I take that back--for work I've discovered that JC Penney and also Macy's have some astonishingly fashionable yet still quite wearable clothes (I think it's because their target demographic is middle-aged women but whatever, they have cute things for younger women as well). Think more like Liz Claiborne and Worthington and less like a.n.a for Penney's and more like Jones New York and Calvin Klein and less like American Rag or INC for Macy's.

Also? The petites section is not your friend. All too often, petites designers seem to think your bust is as petite as your height and that's a one-way ticket to frustration.

I will note that it's *especially* important to buy in person if at all possible. Busty women shopping for work have a lot more ways that tops can go wrong than other women do, and a lot of times that's only evident in person.

Finally, if you're a lap swimmer you should find that Speedo works just fine for one-piece swimsuits. I am ridic busty and anything Aquatic Fitness accommodates me just fine. If you're looking for something fashionable, Speedo is not it--but functional they have covered.
posted by librarylis at 5:47 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a 28FF/32F, I am shaped exactly like how you describe yourself, and I do most of my shopping at: Target, in the juniors section even though I'm a little too old for it; Loft; and H&M. Boob friendly and budget friendly.
posted by capricorn at 7:15 PM on December 16, 2013

I have a big bust and a shoulder problem. The osteopath told me to shell out for a very expensive and properly fitted bra so I went to to an extortionate/'top' shop (am in the UK though). My back size was deemed 30 (I used to wear 32/34) I'm a UK size 10. This quite surprised me and felt very tight initially. I was also told.. don't wash them too often, wash them in the shower with soft/coconut shampoo and don't wear them 2 days n a row so they regain their shape and change after 6 months. Might not be quite the answer you're looking for but perhaps some unexpected tips with that bit!
posted by tanktop at 8:53 AM on December 17, 2013

Check out the blog Thin and Curvy, especially her list of clothes for curves/big breasts and places to shop for same. (I can recommend Texas-based Jailyn Apparel, especially the mandarin-collar shirt, but she also has a classic shirt and a wrap shirt.)

Another resource: the Hourglassy blog and its Big-Bust Clothing Options page, including links to swimsuit reviews, stores, alterations and made-to-measure stuff.

The Canadian-based bra retailer Butterfly Collection has a blog, and the post "Clothes for Busty Women in Canada and America" (with many links and comments) could be a help.

Good luck -- I've been there.
posted by virago at 11:36 AM on December 17, 2013

You've heard a lot of this sort of thing, but here's more confirmation: I never, ever wear button-up shirts. Typically I wear scoopneck or v-neck knit tops in dark or jewel colors, cotton with just enough lycra to keep their shape around the waist. They aren't hard to find. Mine come from the Gap, Target, Joe Fresh, whoever's selling them when I need them.

I'm an inch shorter than you, even, but petite tops don't work for me because (even though I have the world's shortest torso) the bust takes up too much length.

For work I generally wear one of those knit tops, slim dark jeans or a pencil skirt and tights, usually either a big scarf or a cardigan. I have a very short torso and smallish hips, so petite jeans don't need hemming for me.

The bra that fits me better than anything else (at least nowadays) is Freya Rio. I scoop them up on eBay; even with shipping it's usually much cheaper to get them from UK sellers. But breasts come in such a range of dimensions that what works for me won't necessarily work for anyone else.

Check out Land's End's line of DD/DDD-sized swimsuits. They aren't all frumptastic; some are, of course, but they really do carry a reasonable range of styles. I will not wear moulded cups under any circumstances, but I don't mind a little underwire in a stretchy, shelf-type bra. The Freya swimsuits I've seen on eBay look great, but I haven't tried them.

Incidentally, Modcloth has the most helpful user reviews of any clothing site I've seen. People routinely include their bra size, their height, and the size they bought, and discuss the fit with sophistication and detail. They also upload pictures. I didn't think their retro styles would suit my body shape -- at best I'm more superheroine than hourglass, and when I gain weight I morph into a cube on legs -- but by carefully sifting through those excellent reviews I've been able to find a couple of treasures there. (My main quibble with Modcloth styles is that so many of their necklines are very high, sometimes with Peter Pan collars; those really don't flatter the busty, especially the short and busty. But you can sometimes compensate visually with a necklace.)
posted by tangerine at 1:35 AM on December 18, 2013

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