I have heard so many of my friends tell me that the bras they wear are uncomfortable, and even painful. The bras are too tight or too loose, they have to adjust their boobs into them throughout the day and they can’t wait to take them off when they get home. And since working at Bravissimo, I’ve discovered it’s a very common story. In fact, between five and eight out of women spend their lives wearing bras that do not fit them properly.
My own bra story is one of necessity, When I was 13 years old I found myself in the situation that so many women find themselves in: I had bought several bras that I had sized myself (together with my mum), but they were doing nothing for me. P.E. at school had started to be far too uncomfortably bouncy, and I was uncomfortable in my clothes.
I needed a good bra.
My mum had the good sense at the time (Bravo Marioula) to take me to a specialist lingerie shop for a fitting. And I am not exaggerating when I say that that fitting changed my life. I still remember it vividly now, 33 years later! The lady who fitted me had a look and she knew what the problem was. She told me why I had trouble finding bras in the high street, namely because my back is quite slim, while my cup is quite large. She also, thankfully, had the solution. She sold me two bras: one for every day and one for doing sports, and she sent me on my way. Her advice and her service stayed with me for years to come! It was more than a practical logistical thing. It was someone seeing me, seeing my body, and validating a very real struggle I had as a young teenager. It meant far more than just getting a bra. It meant getting validation, confidence and a better self image.
What I did not know was that your bra size changes as your body changes, every 9 months – a year in fact. What I also didn’t know was that different brands of bra fit differently and while I might be this size in one brand, I would be a different size in another. So I spent the next 15 of my years wearing the size I was fitted into, or something close to it – whatever I could find in the shops. I had to pull and adjust my boobs this way and that to fit into the bras I bought. It kind of worked somehow, until I endeavoured pregnancy, having a baby, and breast feeding. Due to a variety of factors (which I’ll not go into today) I became super engorged, very uncomfortable, and quite ill . I got severe mastitis. The tight and badly sized bra I was using was not the only cause of that. But it certainly didn’t help.
I needed a bigger bra. But I had the biggest bra I could get, and I didn’t know of a way to source a bigger one. I had heard about Bravissimo before, and maybe even visited once. Someone (possibly the lovely Karla Napier – a midwife specialising in breastfeeding) suggested that I go there. I was ill in bed, so my husband was swiftly sent to Multrees Walk – which is where the Edinburgh Bravissimo shop is. He spoke to the ladies there and they sent him back with a huge bra. It was a size 38L, and a proper boulder holder! In my near delirious feverish state, I remember seeing a lovely parcel on my bedside table, wrapped in tissue. I remember opening it up to find a bra that I could actually fit my boobs into. That was not by any means the end of my mastitis adventure. But it certainly did help.
Fast forward 7 years – which is the time it took me to brave having another baby after all that boob pain – and I gave birth to my son. I wanted to try breastfeeding again. It could be argued this was slightly insane of me, but I wanted to do it. And when I really want something, I am usually focused and single minded enough to get it. In the hospital, I met a beautiful mum who was in the same maternity room as me. She had a baby boy that was born the same day as mine, and she seemed to know what she was doing with nursing, so I watched, learned, and copied. We got talking, and she told me she worked for Bravissimo. With much excitement, I told her my huge bra tale and we became instant friends. A year later, I got a text from her telling me that Bravissimo were recruiting for bra fitters in Edinburgh, and asking if I would like to apply. It was not the line of work I was used to, or would have pursued at all, but after thinking about it, I decided I would. I started working soon after, only committing to one Saturday a week. And 5 years later I am still there, on a zero hours contract, working at weekends whenever I can.
I love having access to well fitting bras and swimwear and the expertise I have gained on how to get the right bra. But more than this, I love being able to help other women find well fitting bras, swimwear and nightwear. I love providing the solutions they need. Sometimes that can be the perfect bra for a dress for a special occasion, or the right sports bra so they can do their favourite exercise. Other times it is finding a bra they can wear every day to work so they can go about their day in comfort.
The fact is that wearing the right bra is so important for so many reasons. For example in cases like mine, of having mastitis, a good bra can really make a difference in causing it or recovering from it. The reason is that a tight bra can press on and block the ducts on the inside of the breast, causing breastmilk to get stuck and become infected. A well fitting bra for breastfeeding should provide enough support in the back, but also enough space in the cup for the milk to flow without getting stuck. In other cases ladies get back pain because they do not have the right bra to give them enough support.
But having the right bra is also about being confident, and looking amazing in your clothes. My self confidence has grown hugely since I got training and experience in bra fitting. I am more confident to wear clothes and swimwear I would otherwise have avoided, and my body image has become much more positive. Isn’t this something that every woman should have access to? I think so. For me, there is a moment of magic, the moment when a lady sees herself in the mirror of my changing room, wearing a beautiful bra that fits, looking amazing, and feeling amazing too!
In the next blog post I am going to share with you some of my tips on what makes a great bra. And if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We should be talking about boobs, bras, and fittings, don’t you think?