Mamas, the end is near. I have been either nursing or pregnant since 2007. (Actually, that should be our new slogan here at ANMJ: "NURSING OR PREGNANT SINCE 2007!")
But Pax is now over two. And while he's not weaned juuuust yet...the reality is that his nursing is pretty sporadic. I recognize the signs, Mamas. They've been here for a while. I'll be lucky if I can stretch it out for a few more weeks at this point.
Therefore, it's time to take care of bidniss. Specifically, my bra situation. I have a few once-great nursing bras (most featured here), that are now stretched beyond all recognition. So on a Friday night a couple of months ago, I wandered into Victoria's Secret. (And by wandered, I mean that I tricked my husband into meeting me at the mall, then left him and the kids there next to 5 Guys.)
I didn't want to spend a ton of money - especially since 'the girls' will be in a state of flux as Pax tapers off. Once I stop nursing, I...I can't even talk about it. It's like my life's purpose will be gone. (cue tragic music)
Ok. Back to Victoria's Secret: Basically I walked in and they pounced. They started by asking what my 'needs' were (I tried to stick to the general topic of 'bras' and not immediately launch into a detailed list starting with "Poop ALONE")...and then quickly whipped out the measuring tape and wrapped it around my general chest area. "Uh, um.." I stammered. "I'm wearing three tops and this sweater is kind of chunk-" Nobody cared. They pronounced me a D. Maybe a C. And "probably, like, a 34". And suggested that I would "really, really love" their push-up bras. Hunh.
Armed with a rainbow of pretty push-ups, I eventually found myself being escorted into a dressing room by a woman wearing a bluetooth headpiece and a sharp black suit. She only spoke in brisk, hushed tones directed somewhere over my head. Distracted by her headgear, I wondered if Obama had arrived. "The eagle has landed," I whispered. (She didn't even look fazed - the Secret Service should TOTALLY recruit at VS.)
After Mrs. Smith had left, I started trying on bras. And? It was a disaster. Mamas, if you are some sweet young thing with only one kid, I'm sure you and your boobs will be very happy with Victoria's Secret. They have the cutest bras, as cheap as $25. But if you (like me) have more years than you'd like to admit, have watched your 'girls' go from AA - DD and everything in between, gained 40+ with each pregnancy, blah blah blah....NO.
The problem, Mamas, is that due to kids and age, I not only have some back fat going on, but I have...um....underarm fat? Side Boob? Is that what you call it? I don't know, because THIS IS NEW. Damn. I could also refer to it as: Extra Boob Hanging Out of Side of Bra? Or Old Lady Side-Chest? I don't know WHAT to call it, but it sure as heck looked worse in Victoria's Secret push-up bras, which pushed in right where I had extra stuff that needed to go out. [Cue me calling Mike and crying that I had "fat underarms". You can imagine the bewildermint (him) and annoyance/blind rage (me) that resulted from that winner of a convo.]
Clearly, I needed another option.
Serendipitously, I was contacted by True&Co. True&Co is an online retailer started for gals who hate shopping for bras in person. (Hunh. I wonder why?) You basically take a quiz of your preferences and fit information (no measuring tape needed thankyouverymuch) and True&Co will recommend bras that fit. They'll ship five to you for free, you choose the one(s) you want, and ship the rest back for free (using the pre-paid shipping label included). You are charged only for the bras you keep, and most of their inventory runs between $45 - $80.
Not bad, right? So I started by taking the quiz. True&Co's fit algorithm uses your existing bras as a basis. You input the maker and the size, and they ask you questions about the current fit (ie - how does the band fit: too tight, too loose, etc.).
Right away I had a problem: My favorite bra? The only one that fit? It's so old and worn that the size had rubbed off. Also, it's a nursing bra, and Bella Materna isn't listed as a choice in True&Co's extensive pull-down list. And when we got to the fit questions (too loose? too tight?)...I found myself checking right in the middle. It fit..ish. Yes, it was stretched out...but I couldn't pinpoint exactly where the problem was. I wanted a checkbox that said "I've been nursing, lost all sense of what fits and have no idea what I'm doing. HELP ME." But in any case, I finished the quiz, and voila! A box of bras was on the way.
In the meantime, I decided to get Serious (read: expensive). I went to Intimacy.
Intimacy is a bra-fit specialist store, and one that is pretty intimidating to visit. You must have a reservation, for example. Yikes. And the bras are not on display; they bring the bras to you. Double yikes! But I was curious, and thought, honestly, that I'd learn something to share with you, Mamas. SO THIS WAS FOR YOU, MAMAS. THAT'S MY STORY FOR MIKE. GOT IT?
Once enclosed in a dressing room with the Bra Fit Specialist, she asked me to strip down to my existing bra. (After childbirth and latch problems, I don't have a shred of modestly left, so, you know: Stare at my boobs. Feel me up. Totally normal.) She pointed out a few fit issues with my current bra (it turns out that she knew exactly what was wrong), and then had me try on a few more. From there, she determined that my actual size was a 30D (hunh?) and brought in a pretty huge selection, all priced between $60 - $130. She also stuck to demi-cup, rather than push-up or plunge, to take care of my "extra skin issue" (aka sideboob). Lastly, I specified that I needed bras with pretty straps, in order to peek out of tank tops. Here's what I ended up with:
The whole experience was...awesome, actually. Not only did I leave with two gorgeous, comfortable bras that do wonders for my self-esteem, but I learned so much about fit, that I could (theoretically) shop anywhere now. Time and money well spent.
So here's my first tip:
If you are completely clueless about your size, and have specific issues (sideboob, back fat, etc.), going to a really great bra fit specialist is totally worth the time.
A few days after my Intimacy visit, my box from True&Co arrived. Using my new-found knowledge, I was able to determine that the bras didn't quite fit. Some were close, and in the past I probably would've declared them fine, but now that I know how bras are supposed to fit...well. Let's get it right, no?
But here's the thing that really impressed me about True&Co: They have amazing customer service. And really - if you are in the business of bra fitting, especially online bra fitting, you're probably going to expect some sizing issues. And know how to fix them. And they do. With an option to either talk to a bra fit specialist or email (I emailed - I can't talk on the phone without the boys freaking out)...they quickly had another box on the way. (And it helped that I now knew exactly how to judge fit.)
The second box from True&Co? A winner. The bras in the second box were gorgeous, and most fit great. My only beef is that they aren't as comfortable as the bras I bought from Intimacy...but that's the difference between a $100 bra and a $45 bra. While I probably wouldn't use True&Co for my hard-working, everyday bras, it is an great option for "fun" bras: a lacy one for date night, a pretty racerback to peek out of tank tops in the summer, a detailed cup that looks cute in a plunging v-neck, etc. Here are a few of my current True&Co favorites:
The only thing I find completely annoying about the True&Co experience is that they rely so heavily on their algorithm: They only show you only the bras that they deem will fit. So the above bras are my favorites from the limited selection they think will fit me. In all honesty, if you take their quiz, you may see a different set of bras. Searching for something specific is also impossible. For example, if I'm looking for a cute strapless bra, I...what? No idea. There's literally no way to search. I would much prefer that True&Co just show their entire inventory, and just...ohidon'tknow put a STAR next to the bras the best fit you. Or recommend a personal size in each bra. This whole We Know You Better Than You Know Yourself nonsense drives me nuts. (Stylemint used to be totally obnxious in this way also, happily they've redone the website so you can search for clothing by TYPE, aka Sweater vs. Tshirt vs Jacket. SHEESH.)
Bottom line, there's nothing online that can replace a really great, in-person bra fit specialist. However, I realize that these folks are hard to find. So here are some of the key fit tips that I learned from the gals at Intimacy:
Bra Fit Tips (Based on my Experience At Intimacy)
1. Your bra straps should be just tight enough to stay on your shoulders. No tighter.
It turns out that shortening your straps doesn't miraculously lift your boobs. And even if you stubbornly insist that it does (*cough*me*cough*)...wait an hour, then check. Your boobs will have dropped back down, while the back band will be halfway up your shoulder blades.
2. In the back, your band should fit tight, and stay under your shoulder blades.
If you are anything like me, you're going to need to loosen the heck outta your bra straps to get the band far enough down. The tightness of the band is what keeps your boobs lifted, NOT the tightness of the bra straps. Oops. Also, if your band is in the right place (below your shoulder blades) you have less noticiable back fat. Ahhhh....
3. No dimpling, puckering, or overflowing of cups.
Like Goldilocks, you want these just right.
4. The area in between your boobs should lay flush on your chest.
Say WHA? That little square of fabric? That one? It should be touching your chest. As in, laying flat between your boobs. This is where I have trouble. None of the original bras from True&Co (nor my nursing bras) met this criteria. Once I upped the cup size to accommodate...voila! Fit.
Well...that's my tale of woe. Other than coming to grips with, uh, sideboob, I think it has a pretty happy ending. But seriously: please tell me I'm not alone in my bra fit issues. Or my Victoria's Secret aversion. Please? OMG. This whole thing is slightly embarrassing.