The most important piece of clothing you never see
How often do you shop for underwear? Do you take the time to try before you buy? The right underwear makes a real difference to an outfit, but it's often overlooked. Funny, when we think they are the most intimate piece of clothing we wear every day.
At the very start of any great outfit is fitted, comfortable lingerie. I discovered bra fitting after a friend mentioned it and now I can never go back to facing the endless rows of brands and shapes, totally clueless and overwhelmed. It's like having a personal shopper for your bras.
The shocking stats
If you don't know your real bra size, you are not alone! According to a study by Boux Avenue, a UK lingerie brand, 81% of women in the UK are wearing the wrong size bra.
The study also found that only 1 in 10 women have ever had a professional bra fitting. This suggests that most women are guessing at their bra size.
The average woman in the UK renews their underwear every 18 months, typically buying 2-3 new bras and 6-8 new pairs of underwear each year.
The most common reason for renewing underwear is because it has become worn or damaged. Other reasons include weight fluctuations. We very rarely shop regularly for underwear, it's not seen as a treat or boost - more a chore. But it doesn't have to be this way!
Why is it overlooked?
In France we say 'Loin des yeux loin du coeur' - if you don't see you tend to forget, so because most days we are the only ones to see the lingerie, we tend to neglect it.
The choice paralysis is strong in the underwear department - too many options, often leading to fear and avoidance.
Perhaps we choose to ignore we need to shop for a new bra because it takes time - commitment, effort of going to the store etc,
We might be embarrassed to ask for help - fair enough! Nobody likes the idea of standing in a cabin in our underwear next to a stranger!
It confronts us with all our body fears and insecurities.
We might think a professional fitting comes at a cost (most are free).
However wearing the right size can make a massive difference in the overall look and feel and really boost our confidence, As always, the most difficult is to take the first step towards action.
Choose the right-size bra and wave goodbye to these issues:
- Discomfort - if you're not supported properly, your back, neck, shoulders, breasts can take an unnecessary battering, carrying on too much weight. This can go two ways: tight bras dig into the neck and shoulders; loose bras do not provide enough support and put pressure on everything.
80% of a bra’s support comes from the back band. Often we opt for a looser band as we think it will be more comfortable but it actually puts more pressure on the shoulders and causes discomfort. If your band rides up at the back, go down a size!
- Rash or skin irritation - worth checking fit and fabrics to ensure they are breathable .
- Poor posture - when there is not enough support, you compensate by rounding your shoulders
- Ill-fitting outfits - when your bra is too tight, there are gaps or bulges, and it can make your top or dress appear too tight even when it's not.
Ultimately all of the above can have a knock-on effect on your confidence. Even if you have the most beautiful dress on, if you don't have the proper underwear that will look seamless and feel comfortable, this will have an impact on how you carry yourself.
Do you have the right size bra?
How to get properly fitted
Ask a professional! The bra fitter will give you advice on sizing and how it should feel. I had a revelation the first time I went, as previously I always went for large large torso and small cup, whereas now I have the opposite and my bras fit perfectly! Professional fitters will make you feel comfortable and empowered.
Myth busting coming up - most professional fitters are trained to measure you without actually touching you. I was surprised when I had my appointment in Selfridges but they observe and check the fit of your current bra, then offer a selection based on what you are looking for.
Although some say visual fittings can be less accurate than a tactile fittings, I think it will all depend on the training and experience of your fitter. I went there twice and the specialist took a quick look at me in my bra, front and back, assessed the issues. We also talked about the type of the bra I was looking for (I'm into functional and discreet now, tee-shirt bras-types with a round shape).
The main department stores such as M&S, Fenwick, John Lewis provide a free fitting service you need to book, although sometimes you can just turn up. M&S also offers virtual consultations.I think going to a department store with a variety of brands available is the best option especially if you're getting fitted for the first time, so you can try on a variety of brands and decide which one you prefer.
Finally if you have a favourite brand of underwear and they have a store, you might be able to go directly to them: brands like Rigby and Peller offer in-store appointments, or even virtual or telephone fittings.
If professional bra fitting is not your bag or not available close to you, you can always use a bra size calculator. Once you have your measurements, you can then compare them to the bra size chart of your favourite lingerie retailer. Consider bra shopping as self-care: it can bring much joy when everything fits just so and is pleasing to our eye.
Get fitted regularly
Just like other routine appointments, the recommendation is to get fitted every 6-12 months, or as soon as you experience discomfort in any way.
Your bra size changes over time due to weight fluctuations, pregnancies, age - that's perfectly normal! Rather than insisting on still fitting into a bra from your twenties, embrace your new shape and get correctly fitted and dressed for it.
There are also some special services available for maternity and breastfeeding bras, or post surgery. Here comfort will prevail with breathable fabrics and non wired cups.
Finally, why not treat yourself for a special occasion eg if you have a dress that is strapless or backless, there are many elegant options so your outfit will do all the talking, without any distraction of straps poking out!
This is a piece of clothing we wear day in, day out, directly onto our skin, so it makes sense to invest the time to find the perfect shape and size - and the money to get a quality, long-lasting item you will cherish for months to come.
Wearing the right fit of bra can be transformative - good support means improved posture and new sense of confidence, definitely worth a try.