Tell me more about bra-fittings
July 16, 2018 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in getting a bra-fitting, but I'm a bit hesitant about actually booking one. How exactly does a bra fitting work?

There are a few lingerie/bra boutiques with great reputations in my city for having great quality bras for all body sizes. I've gained a bit of weight and my current bras (from a more mainstream store) just don't fit properly anymore. I've always been pretty self-conscious about my body and unless I trust someone completely it's hard to undress in front of them. I'm plus size with stretch marks galore. Furthermore, one of my current bras has actually given me a rash! I'm really self-conscious about all of these things.

How exactly does a bra-fitting work? Will they need to see me topless to measure me? I assume they'll want to see me with my bra on and no top. The thought of this alone makes me so anxious. I know that they've probably seen everything body-wise, but that doesn't actually make me feel any less self-conscious.

I've tried to use r/abrathatfits to measure myself, but I can't seem to do it properly and I would rather have someone else measure me (for accuracy).
posted by VirginiaPlain to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I went to a place that has their fitters also work with our local big cancer hospital for folks that have had mastectomies +/- reconstruction. I think they have some kind of special certification regarding post- mastectomy fitting.

No shame, and my word, that lady looked at me, pointed out a specific fit issue, and came back with an amazing convertible one I never thought I'd be able to have.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:14 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I totally feel you, I felt the same but it actually ended up being a good experience. For me, they started with the bra size i was wearing (they never wrapped measuring tape around me or anything) and then brought a bunch of variants to the change room. I tried one on, they came in and checked out the fit, then brought more bras of a slightly different size until we found ones that had the desired fit. They were so businesslike about it that I forgot to feel self-conscious. As I was trying bras on, they were teaching me about what fits well about one bra, and less well about another one. They really are used to seeing every body type imaginable, they hardly seemed to notice that I was partly undressed. They never came in when I was not wearing a bra, and they were very respectful about asking before they touched me anywhere to adjust straps etc.

This was a small, family-owned shop, and I feel like that atmosphere was perfect for easing my anxiety (The people doing the fitting were a mom in her 60s and her daughter in her 30s, and there was a baby toddling around).
posted by torisaur at 4:20 PM on July 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

All the ones I’ve had consist of them looking at you in your existing bra, and making size suggestions based on that (“you need to go down two back sizes” or “you could do with a larger cup size” etc).

Then they bring you loads to try on, and check the fit of each one. You get changed in privacy and they come in once you’re actually in the bra. You can be a different size in one manufacturer (or even just between different styles) so it’s important they check the fit.

Some styles just won’t work for you even when you have the right size on. The fitter should know the bra styles inside and out, and be able to make recs (“this style comes up a bit small in the cups so try a 32F in this one”). It’s always been a positive, if time-consuming, experience for me. Allow an hour for your first fitting, trying on the same bra in four different sizes takes time.
posted by tinkletown at 4:33 PM on July 16, 2018

They will want to see you in a current bra and they might do measurements, though honestly the best ones I've been to have eyeballed it purely based on what size I'm currently wearing and how it fits. This process is VERY FAST. Like literally seconds long at the most.

If you feel self conscious, turn away from the mirror and close your eyes or look away from the bra fitter. You can also let them know you are anxious. They will be super nice, I promise.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:40 PM on July 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

They measured me over my bra.

Be prepared to be told you need to go down in band sizes and up in cup sizes. I doubted it at first, but they were right in the end.

I'm glad I finally did it.
posted by misseva at 4:42 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

My experience is consistent with the other posters. At the fitting, I was able to leave my bra on and in general the whole thing was so much more comfortable than I expected that I only regretted not doing it sooner, because it made such a big difference to have a bra that actually fit correctly. (I have anxiety and this was something that was really stressing me out in the lead up, if that's a helpful point!) The fitter was extremely professional and was a seasoned pro at helping me without invading my privacy. Find a place with good reviews and odds are good your visit will be positive, too! In my experiences since at a variety of shops, places that carry a wide range of sizes and do bra fittings are almost invariably home to great fitters who are really passionate about the work they do.
posted by araisingirl at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've tried to use r/abrathatfits to measure myself, but I can't seem to do it properly and I would rather have someone else measure me (for accuracy).

Even if it's not quite right, you at least have an idea of the ballpark. Armed with whatever size(s) you're getting, call up one of the shops and tell them this from your question:
I've always been pretty self-conscious about my body and unless I trust someone completely it's hard to undress in front of them. I know that they've probably seen everything body-wise, but that doesn't actually make me feel any less self-conscious.

See what they say. Make an appointment if you feel comfortable. It sounds like you have options, so try a few places.

You're the customer, you can decide how this goes. They may *want* to see you topless in the bras you're trying on, but that's tough.

Bring a tight-fitting tank top, put it on over the bra, and they can work with that and even adjust your straps without you disrobing.

Reading r/abrathatfits will give you a baseline to evaluate a good fit, and the terminology to communicate any problems to the fitter. They can just keep bringing you bras until you find one you like.
posted by mgar at 5:02 PM on July 16, 2018

I've always gotten fittings at Nordstrom. I would recommend this 100% to any bra-wearer. Here is how it goes:

-Get shown a fitting room and am given a robe
-Fitter asks what size my current bra is
-Fitter steps out to seek bras of current size
-Fitter returns and says let me know when you're ready (i.e. shirt off, bra on, robe draped)
-Fitter comes in and explains about the different bras she's brought, and to let her know if you have style preferences, then suggests one to start with
-Fitter steps out so you can change into new bra
-Fitter aks if you're ready then steps back in (I generally don't fuss with the robe at this point but I think the idea is to shimmy it off your shoulders so she can see how the bra fits but you can still retain modesty if you prefer)
-Fitter will touch you at this point and adjust straps, ask questions, and make suggestions
-Fitter steps out to get more bra options
-Repeat multiple times until you find your perfect bra
-If your sizing is VERY different from the bra you're currently wearing, the fitter will measure right under your boobs (ribcage) with a tape, and then over the top of your boobs (covered in bra), but this doesn't always happen

I've always had a very positive, easy experience. I have an uncommon bra size for regular stores and having someone else do all the heavy listing of searching for things in my size, style, and color prefs, and then on top of that doing all the adjusting of straps to make sure the fit is perfect--it's just so, so much better.

My mom is really body conscious and tried to raise me with a lot of body shame. She would never ever in a thousand years go get a fitting, and didn't let me get one when I was younger and needed one. Life is a lot easier when your can let some of that go.

And geez, especially for bras. Boobs are such a damn hassle. Shopping for one with the help of a professional makes this one part of boobhood suck so much less.
posted by phunniemee at 5:04 PM on July 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was also nervous (am also plus-sized and generally do not like disrobing for anyone but romantic partners) but I've done it at two different stores now and it was seriously just the best experience each time!

Store A: a small fancy boutique store. I got into a dressing room with an older woman (which, I'll admit, made me feel less self-conscious than the skinny, younger woman who has also done a fitting for me at the same store a subsequent time). I took off my shirt and bra. She eyeballed my boobs, asked me my current size, and brought back a variety of bras for me to try--she stayed in the room to help/show me how to properly heave one's boobs into the cups for a good fit. She pointed out some aspects about various bra cuts/fits WRT to my boobs, and took measurements for the on-site seamstress to make some minor adjustments to the bras I selected for purchase (one of my boobs is ever-so-slightly smaller/saggier than the other...).

Store B: a small, less-fancy store that catered more to mastectomy patients. I got into a dressing room and a woman asked me my current bra size and measured me both with my shirt on and then with my shirt off but bra still on. She confirmed that I was in the right size and told me that my fit issues were just about needed to adjust my straps, which she did, and she brought a few different brands in my size for me to try.

Again:each time has been an extremely pleasant and helpful experience! I highly encourage it. The only down side was that I spent like $300 each time in my excitement to finally have properly fitting bras in a variety of styles/colors.
posted by TwoStride at 5:37 PM on July 16, 2018

I'm the same body type as you. Like everybody's saying, this is something that seems like it's going to be awful, but then when you get there it's not that bad, and the bonus is that you end up with well-fitting bras which are sooo worth it and will make you feel like a million bucks. FWIW, I've had better experiences at the small boutiques than at Nordstrom, which is the classic go-to.
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:16 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was so happy with my first proper bra fitting that I wrote a thing. I offer it here to cheer you on: You can do this, and you're going to feel amazing in the correct size, fit, and cut! [Apologies in advance; it's long.]

Here’s what I remember about my family’s twice-a-year socks-undies-jeans pilgrimage to the Vanity Fair outlet in Reading, Pa.: the display windows of ‘20s houses converted into mom-and-pop shops that lined the way into the red-brick factory Mecca; going to the Bachman’s snack shop with Dad while my mom browsed in other stores, and coming out with dozens of little bags full of chips and cheesy poofs; hiding myself under enormous racks of clothing; and nuns buying underwear.

They were still in the traditional habits, then, and it struck me as EWWWW, WEIRD that the sisters were buying (sensible plain cotton) bras and panties, and I still credit this as my first intimation of professionals having beings separate and distinct from their vocations. At the time, it came to me more in the form of “Oh, that means that nuns are people,” probably setting me up for my later inability in CCD class to mind Sister Grace only because she was the authority figure. She’d try to shame me, and all I could think of was, “Yeah? Well, you have to buy underwear too! What makes you so infallible? You’re just a person under there!”

Years later, here I am, trying to wrangle two independent children and despairing of ever finding the right bra. Because I live rurally, there aren’t many options, and I can testify to the difficulty of standing in a dressing room, half-naked and swearing at Hanes/Bali’s terrible sizing, while my kids escape from under the half-missing dressing room doors and play hide-and-seek all over the store. Ill-tempered mother, check. Peevish sales ladies? Check. Dusty, grubby children crouched in the circular racks? Check. Sister Grace, you are avenged!

I started shortening bra straps. Hemming bands. Then, in a stroke of genius, *asking MetaFilter.* A quick search of my favorite site turned up three amazing posts:

The upshot was that I realized that maybe I wasn’t freakish (after all, Vanity Fair’s bras told me that I must be a full-figured woman, to have the cup size I have), but that *stores tend to carry stock for the sizes that most women THINK they are* which may or may not have any relation to the reality that *most women don’t actually KNOW what size they are.* Further experimentation with the tried-and-(un)true measuring formulas revealed that they, too, are largely fiction. Which led me to the unhappy realization that I had to find someone who knew what she was doing to measure me and hand me various specialty sizes to try on.

So: Drive to far-away Nordstrom’s, find a little old lady with a measuring tape, have my half-naked self evaluated by a stranger while getting all kinds of chilly, judgmental looks for my inability to keep small children from escaping under the dressing room door and for my rising, hysteria-tinged screams of “AH SAID, GIT BACK HERE RAHT NOW!” Clearly, a non-starter of an idea.

Then a friend mentioned that she had a great fitting somewhere much closer to home. I made childcare arrangements with my husband, took scissors to my current bras and committed to a fitting at [Store Name], in West Reading.

Reading has its problems—drugs, murders, bankruptcy—but West Reading, home to the Vanity Fair outlet complex, is having its own small renaissance. The ‘20s houses, once plain mom-and-pop shops, have been transformed into rowhouse-sized bistros and boutiques with funky hand-painted signs out front and hipster proprietors setting out their wares on the front porches. It speaks strongly of a set of urban venture-steaders, reclaiming these old spaces and making them inviting and warm.

The woman who sets out her lingerie-clad mannequin on the porch at [store] is one of them—young and serious and passionate about her work. Robin has funky glasses and a fine knowledge of what’s going to work. She measures me, examines me and does some kind of magic in her head, because the first bra she brings me—an outrageously red plunge that’s not at all sensible for a farmwife—turns out to look insanely great. And her choices just get better from there. Ninety minutes later, I have winnowed the pile down to just a few, all of them in a band size that’s much smaller than I’ve ever worn, and in a cup size I didn’t know existed.

The technical distance between my old bras and this new selection is astounding. It’s like the difference between compression arch and suspension bridges: the lines of force shape the structure. As it turns out, I have been wearing the wrong bridge for almost 30 years. It's a small vanity, but I’m thrilled with the re-building.

For my Pennsylvania friends, both wives and husbands: [store] is transformative. Treat yourself (or your wife) to a complimentary fitting. Buy something. You’ll be supporting a local business and affirming that all women, no matter what their size or shape, should be well-supported.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:22 PM on July 16, 2018 [21 favorites]

^^^MonkeyToes, that comment was wise and wonderful, not just about bras but also about adolescence, vocations, rural renewal, and the body acceptance journey.

I was born in your neck of the woods and still have family in the area, though my parents relocated long before my bra-buying years.

Anyway, I'm going to MeMail you and ask for the name of that West Reading shop. A cousin in Greater Reading just had her first baby, and I'd like to get her a gift certificate -- the store you describe sounds like just the place for a low-key, nonjudgmental shopping outing.

PS Here are hyperlinks to the comments referenced by MonkeyToes:

What size breast am I really

Over the shoulder boulder holder Filter: Help me find one for my boulders

Do your boobs hang low?
posted by virago at 7:46 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I dreaded it, but found the actual experience completely unobjectionable. They look at breasts all day. The store I've gone to, they're fast and business-like. I've gone 3 times due to weight fluctuations and they have never shown the slightest sign of judging or even commented on prior visits or changes in my body.
posted by Mavri at 7:47 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Self-fitting isn't a substitute for a proper fitting. They know the right tension to pull the measuring tape, for example, which is a lot tighter than I had expected.

They should also have a very thorough knowledge of the shapes and fabrics and even really weird details like whether Italian-made bras typically pinch in a place that you personally have more/less flesh. They'll make suggestions you never dreamed of and save you SO MUCH TIME.

I don't believe I've ever taken off my bra but it's typical to take off your shirt for the entire appointment. It's likely that they'll see the full Monty anyway if you try a bra with see-through cups.

They really have seen it all and are professional if not slightly aloof.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2018

I've helped a bunch of friends get bras that fit and had many different experiences because of this that I wouldn't normally have been privy to because I'm one (huge, very unusual) size and my friends have been others with different needs (sensitive skin problems, gender nonconforming, nursing, dropped 50 lbs, and more!)

I would say that while my first impulse is to take a friend to a small boutique that will hook you the hell up and make you feel gorgeous, I get the impression (because you asked this question) that a lot of your unease comes from ignorance, which is very astute of you. So maybe instead of getting up all your gumption and then doing a one and done, you could split this quest up into two stages: recon and execution. The upshot of this is that you will end up feeling much more informed and experienced so when you need to get more bras you won't need to make it such a thing. It's what's helped my buddies with varying skin issues and self consciousness the most, so I don't need to be with them every time.

Recon step one - Go to Nordstrom's and talk to a lady in the lingerie department, fully clothed on the store floor, about your skin sensitivity and how you're looking for bras to help with that. When they ask if you'd like a fitting, say no, not today. Look at a lot of different bras, touch them, and see what's out there in terms of styles and fabrics. They will look at your bust - clothed, in public - and guess a size range for you. They will encourage you to try on a lot of bras. Feel free to do so, but when they knock on the fitting room door and ask to come see the fit, say "I'm fine by myself, thank you." or "Please give me privacy." Any department store person will respect that and not push back and understand that you are being very modest and give you space. If they don't, just get dressed and walk away. I give you permission to do so and not worry for a second about anyone's opinion of you in that situation. Anyway, don't buy any bras that day. Just try on a bunch and get used to looking at your own body in the fitting room mirror and scooping your boobs into the cups of a new bra and all that stuff. Then leave.

Recon step two - Go to a Soma Intimates. They will have softer bras, good for skin sensitivity, but their size range is quite limited in comparison to nordie's. Chances are that you will probably fit okay in some of their stuff though, unless you're like me (36K). I find that their fitting rooms are more comfortable than Nordstrom's and their folks are more personable. Ask them to measure you, if you're feeling up for it that day. They will inevitably measure you with your bra on. They will touch your shoulders and reach around your body to get the tape measure right. Also they might explain how to tell if parts of your bra have too much give or are too tight by suggesting you put your own fingers under the band or strap, but won't touch you there. They might lightly touch your back to indicate things in a place you can't see. They will not mention stretch marks or comment on the appearance of any part of your body that is not your breasts or the area of your torso where the band rests. All of these things would also apply to a Nordstrom's fitting, if you're comfortable with that too. Once again, feel free to walk away without buying anything, but think about how much more comfortable you are looking at yourself in a bra, in putting them on and taking them off, in how many bras you have looked at so now you're noticing differences in construction and forming opinions on them. However, maybe buy some pj pants from Soma, they have pockets!!

Recon step three - Go to the fancy boutique. Look at their selection and get a feel for the vibe of the place. If you're comfortable, make an appointment for a fitting. They will likely want to measure you right then - you can do that if you want, go for it! - but you can tell them a time you're free for a fitting later. They'll talk to you about your style and the kind of clothes you usually wear to get an idea of the things you'll like in addition to just the size you need.

OKAY time for execution - Use the time between then and your appointment to ruminate on your bra experiences thus far. What did you like? What did you hate? Do you feel better telling salespeople to give you space, or asking them questions? Was there someone you had rapport with? Do you find yourself having Opinions on underwires? Do you think that a band without three hook closures is useless? Stretch lace - evil or the fabric of the future?

Go to the appointment and get hooked the hell up with at least one kickass bra that fits you perfectly. It will probably be stupidly expensive but you'll look way better in your clothes than expected. If you can afford it, get two, so you can always give one bra a full day to air out before wearing it again, even during things like fancy wedding weekends when you want your best boobs forwards two days in a row.

Then go back to Nordie's or Soma or another chain place while wearing your new bra. Let them measure you in that bra. If you're actually a common size you could even go some place that doesn't do fittings and just grab a million bras to try on, now that you have something to compare them to. Look for very comfy bras and ones that are cheaper than your fancy boutique bra but are a good size, so you can have some variation as your body gains and loses small amounts of weight and your skin heals and all that stuff. Revel in how over the whole shirt-off situation you've gotten. Feel confident in your knowledge and experience.
posted by Mizu at 8:18 PM on July 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

The Bra Sizing post is full of goodness and facts. Seriously, I learned a ton, and look much better dressed now. Undressed, I'm on my own.
posted by theora55 at 9:04 PM on July 16, 2018

I used to fit and sell lingerie, and I can tell you 100000% all that a fitter is looking for when they are assessing your body is how to make you as comfortable and happy as possible. There comes a point where you stop processing peoples' bodies in the same sort of sexual and/or medical way that everyone else does. They just like hair, or eyes, or elbows - parts of a person who it is your job to take care of. I've fitted women of all shapes and ages, both cis and trans, gender non conforming people, men, again both cis and trans, you name it. All those bodies lose the capacity for revulsion or amusement or arousal. They just are, and are there to be taken as best care of as you can.

I don't really have much to add in terms of the process. I've never touched a customer without permission, and even then it's to tighten straps or adjust the band. If you don't want to be touched, you won't be touched. You don't need to strip for anyone, although it helps if they can have a look at you in one of the bras to make sure it fits. But if it's really worrying you, you can skip that bit and just talk to them through the curtain. You don't even really need to be seen - I never got that good, but some fitters as said above can look at you, fully clothed, and make the right fit for you in seconds. It's magic.

And I gotta add, as a woman with large breasts, a well fitted bra is a game changer. I've put on a lot of weight lately myself and the difference between how good I feel about my body in a good bra and in a crappy one is astronomical.
posted by Jilder at 3:55 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nordstrom's was the best bra fitting I've ever had.

I went in after having lung surgery and one of my incisions ran under my breast almost to my back. It was my first outing just two weeks after being discharged. I still in a lot of pain and I was wrangling an active six year old. I also knew I was going to have to spend some big bucks at Nordstrom's versus my usual budget from Kohls or Target.

What I wasn't prepared for was the staff's kindness and tenderness handling the fitting. They helped me take my shirt off, they were careful with their touches and kept my daughter entertained. I was completely surprised by the actual size they recommended but whew, did my boobs look and feel great. They asked about my budget and preferences then offered several options.

Never regretted that experience.
posted by IndigoOnTheGo at 4:55 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This has been mentioned, but bears repeating ... Well-fitting bras are stupid expensive, so brace yourself. I pay anywhere from $60 to $120 per bra. You can certainly request bras on the low end of the scale, and you should stick to whatever budget works for you, just don't have high expectations of getting many $10 bras out of this experience.
posted by EmilyFlew at 5:13 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm late here, but I wanted to chime in because I literally did this last week, and had a great result and I am definitely a convert to the fitting experience. I always avoided getting a fitting because I didn't want someone to invest a lot of time in helping me so that I would feel pressured into buying something. I also wasn't keen to disrobe in front of a random salesperson. I reluctantly relented this time, because I had determined that was the day I would come home with at least 1-2 new bras.

Since I was the only customer there at the time, I actually ended up with two fitters helping me, one from the department store, and one a rep from a particular brand (who said she visits a different store each day of the week). They made me feel comfortable right away. One of the fitters had me start by trying on a bra she grabbed off the rack after eyeballing me in my clothes, and asked me if she could come in the fitting room once I had it on. We then we went from there, and she gauged the fit of that bra on me, running her finger under the band (with my permission) and went out to grab some more. They had a nice rapport with each other and with me. They listened to my feedback and it didn't feel too high-pressure at all. The brand rep was, of course, interested in having me try some of her bras, but was equally happy to help me with other brands. A big part of it was not just the measurements, but their sense of what bra styles worked with my shape, so it wasn't just down to grabbing any bra in a certain size.

In recent years I had sized up from 34B to 36C to accommodate some extra weight (my boobs are on the medium-to-small end of the range), but I still wasn't finding my bras very comfortable. I was planning to go up in band size again to 38, and I was surprised when they fit me down to a 34 but with a DD cup. I think my eyes bugged out of my head, and I really thought she had to be mistaken on the cup size, but sure enough, it was a perfect fit. I walked out with 4 new bras from 3 different brands, and am really excited to wear something that really fits well.
posted by amusebuche at 11:39 AM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

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