A chapter from my book ‘My Big Fat Fat’ (2018)
A humorous and touching account for those losing or coping with excess weight. With her laugh-out-loud humor, Samantha Dee covers all subjects from beauticians to socks in this easy to read A to Z guide on weight loss, maintenance, and ways to nourish your self-esteem.
B is for… Bras
‘She wore no brassiere underneath, and he regarded her breasts sombrely.’Ten from Infinity, Paul W. Fairman
I could almost guarantee that every female you know owns at least four bras, which vary in size. I recently posted a survey on Facebook to my female friends, and the results showed that eighteen women owned a total of two hundred and fifty bras. That’s a flat average of thirty-one bras each.
Of those bras, each lady declared having at least two varied sizes, some more than four.
Yea Gods, shouldn’t it be a law that every bra fits the same when you put it on (regardless of cup style)? On top of the manufactured size, they all have their foibles; poking or chafing in diverse ways, not sitting right, not shaping in the same way.
The available choice tends to lessen the bigger we get; although, these days, I have to say that things have improved many-fold.
But let’s kick-off with what I consider to be an ideal bra:
- A bra should make our boobs look feminine and perhaps glamorous, not like tired, flat sausages aiming at the floor.
- The larger the bra size, the wider, longer, and more adjustable the shoulder straps should be. You try carrying two gala-melons with two shoelaces.
- The length of the bra band should be as per the label, when stretched.
- Armpit lumps should not spill over the band.
- The wires should not be made from recycled razorblades.
- The wire should not stop an inch away from the end of its casing (like the one I’m wearing currently).
- The central piece at the front shouldn’t make us feel like we’ve donned Joan of Arcs armour.
- is such that the wire can’t ‘peek’ through and stab holes in our armpits.
- The wire is either flexible or strong enough not to snap in two, making one boob look like a deflated dinghy halfway through your day.
- The bra doesn’t give us boob-sweat.
- We don’t want to have to adjust anything, at any time of the day, ever.
- We don’t want to feel the darn thing.
Now, let me raid my underwear drawer and describe each bra that currently exists: why I bought it and why I subsequently don’t wear it. I have thirty-four altogether, so instead of you having to endure that, these are the best/strangest ones:
38D Hot Pink
A corset style bra with vertical bones in the cup, which makes it look like you’re wearing a corset on each boob. I don’t wear it because the middle vertical bone in each cup doesn’t shape ‘around’ your boob; it just sticks straight up. So, if you bent down to pick something up off the floor, you’d stab yourself in the chin.
Other than that, it’s very pretty; the straps are basically like two shoelaces on each shoulder, so
you’d only really wear this if you were going to have it removed very quickly, or are lying down. Wink.
Probably my second favourite bra of all time…I’ve cut the ticket out of this so I’m guessing 36B. This was a Christmas present in the eighties from my mum, and was part of a set. Our dog at the time ate the knickers. It’s a vintage true red, all lace, and makes my boobs look super-glam, á la pin-up. (I’ll get back into it one day.)
The reason I don’t wear this is because it’s my favourite bra, and I’m scared to break it.
Looks like a traditional, over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder. You know, the Playtex ‘Doreen’ vibe. The reason I don’t wear this is because it’s NOT underwired, and I’ve yet to find a wireless bra that is remotely supportive and doesn’t make your boobs look like sagging dog ears. There are huge, thick, padded straps on this.
Honestly, it’s a monstrosity. Also, I’ve never been an E-cup, so not sure what I was thinking. Comfort and invisibility, probably?
This one is from Victoria’s Secret ‘Body by Victoria’ range. I used to wear these all the time—absolutely loved them. They are really comfortable: they’ve got formed cups, and beautiful, stretchy soft fabric. The wires are nicely enclosed. The only reason I don’t wear this one is because it’s too small now, and the wires dig in, making me miserable. I think I had to stop buying them because
VS started messing with the design and changed the fabric. Why do they do that? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
38D Pale Pink
This is a lovely, dusky, vintage pale-pink colour with lace overlay and half-pads. Half shoelace straps. It’s a very pretty bra, fairly comfy. I wore this quite a lot.
Gone up four sizes or so now, so I’ll keep it just in case.
This one is possibly from a multi-pack. It has nice thick straps, and it’s underwired, not padded. Polka-dot lace. When I hold this up in front of me, it looks very ‘compact’, so I suspect that I don’t wear this one because it
smashes my boobs together, like a large version of two tomatoes stuffed unsuccessfully into an egg cup—
bought it because of the beautiful colour.
Bought this one this year, actually. In 2016-17 I’ve floated between 42C and 44C. It’s underwired, not padded, and sheer. I wanted a ‘summer’ bra with very little fabric and very little ‘hardware’ in the front-centre. I was so excited when I ordered this. However, I was utterly disappointed with this when I tried it on. The wires are super flimsy, and there’s no support in this bra whatsoever.
My boobs looked like two gala melons in a sausage skin.
I might as well wear a bikini top. It’s a real shame actually—could have been a perfect summer bra. Manufacturers should really test their larger sizes. This might have been my all-time favourite.
38C Black Body Suit
Oh! Forgot I had this. There’s no size on it, as I went through a phase of cutting the tickets out of everything. It’s black with underwired cups and cream lace trim along the top of the cups. Poppers at the crotch.
I must have bought this sometime around 2004. Pretty sure I’ve only worn it once. (Oh yes, that memory has come bounding back—dirty weekend, older man. Oh dear, get back in your trunk, memory).
The reason I don’t wear this now is, oh dear, it’s a thong back, it’s very short in the body, and I’m having flashing images right now about the flabby belly that would just wobble out the sides and…thong?
Crotch-poppers? Gods, no.
Another one from Victoria’s secret. This time, their ‘Very Sexy’ range. Not padded, underwired. The front part where the bow is normally placed has a criss-cross corset type lacing—nude colour with black floral lace overlay. Straps are decorated with lace—very pretty. It’s too small for me now, but I used to wear this a lot.
It has matching undies, too. (The dog hasn’t found them yet.)
Underwired, not padded. Black lace. Again, looks very pretty. It’s from M&S I think? Holding this one up, it looks too compact and squished together. It’s a balconette, so I think my boobs spill over the top of this one. Very ‘bodice-ripping’, but not very suitable when you’re at work or running for the bus.
That’s black eye material, right there.
This is one I’ve had a long while, probably from the nineties, from the look of it. This was one of my favourites back in the day. It’s sort of a petrol-blue colour with a grey lace overlay. I’m probably not giving it much justice. Underwired, not padded, I think it’s a balconette—too small now. And it’s not a tee-shirt bra, so you can see the lace through clothes. Perhaps that was a thing back then.
I just Googled ‘bra lace showing through’ and now need to bleach my eyes.
This bra is so old I can’t read the ticket, but probably 38D. Black, not padded, underwired. The straps look very decent. I can’t remember why I stopped wearing this. The wires seem thin, so I suspect that this one is a ‘digger’.
That feeling you get when you get home and the first thing you do is take your bra off? Yep, this would be that bra.
Not padded, pretty, linear lace in the cups and a pink bow in front. Straps are decorated with lace. Balconette style. However, the straps are tiny, and they don’t adjust enough, so this one ended up feeling like you were wearing a bra made out of chicken wire. Also, when I hold this one up it looks absolutely tiny. Like, a 32A! (not that I would ever know)
I think I wore this once. Extremely uncomfortable. Makes you want to kick a puppy.
36C Multi/Yellow Leopard
This is a very silly, slutty little one. Underwired, front fastening, racer-back, extremely stretchy-lace in a really slutty print. Only looks like a 32. Looks tiny again, but it’s extremely stretchy, which is probably why I bought it. The underwires are super-bendy. The cups are all wrong. I suppose this might be okay as a bralette (something I would never go outside in).
I was probably entertaining my ‘horny teenager’ self when I bought this. Haven’t seen her since—thank goodness.
This one looks like something you could carry your groceries in, and is absolutely the most massive bra I have ever seen. Really, you could put wheels on one of the cups and make it into a baby-stroller. It’s padded, underwired, and gigantic. The wire in the right cup has snapped in two, and one of the pieces of metal is sticking through. I remember this one now. The ‘snap’ happened to me at work one day, so I had to finish my working day with a raw snapped piece of metal stabbing my right boob for several hours. I was gnarly, that day, I can tell you. However, this was one of my absolute-favourite bras. Aside from the cups looking huge, the straps are really nice and wide—and padded! My favourite work bra.
I really have to throw this in the trash, but I’m wondering whether I can re-purpose the cups into cat beds.
This one was from a multipack. It looked super pretty in the pictures. Underwired, not padded. Stretchy lace. I did wear the white version of this for a spell; however, the straps are like shoelaces—absolutely tiny, and they warp very easily. Actually, what I mean there is that they sort of curl up to resemble actual shoelaces. It’s the whole gala-melon-shoelace scenario again. Which is a shame because this was a really nice summer bra. If the straps were wider, this would have been perfect.
I don’t own too many white bras. This one is called ‘Lottie’. Quite pretty, un-padded, and underwired—nice lace straps. It has interesting details at the front where the bow normally is. It looks like I’ve never worn this.
Probably because the cups are narrower than I’d like – they make my boobs look long and thin. Weird!
This is the white version of a previous mention. I wore this quite a lot actually, shoelace straps aside – until the straps got so bad they’d just roll off my shoulders. I should throw this one out really. It’s over-laundered, so the white has gone grey and it looks just plain nasty now.
I really must attack my underwear drawer (possibly with a blowtorch).
Underwired and padded. I bought this from a clothing section of a grocery store one summer. Thought it was pretty because it has cotton broderie-anglaise on the cups and looked very, sort of ‘Daisy Duke’. I’ve cut the ticket out so I’m guessing the size. (Did I mention my ticket-cutting phase?)
When I got this one home and tried it on, I found probably one of the most bizarre issues I’ve ever had with a bra: I looked down, and saw all this extra fabric in the nipple area, which made my boobs look ULTRA pointy. Almost as if you’re wearing one of those bras the robot women in Austin Powers wore – you know, where guns pop out. ‘Pew! Pew! Pew!’ – said the boobies. I could literally grab the extra fabric. Other than that, it was a really nice bra, fitted nicely, and was comfortable.
I did a few more ‘Pew! Pew’s’ in the mirror before putting this one away (probably forever, unless I meet someone who has a strange Austin Powers fetish).
Moulded cups, memory foam I think. It has pretty lace sides, and fairly decent straps; although, they look like they might not adjust as much as I’d like them to (and which is likely the reason it’s in the ‘drawer of doom’). I think this one is identical to my number one ‘best bra ever’.
The wire snapped on that one, so maybe I’ll give this another test drive. (You can ask me on Tumblr how that went.)
Again, this is one that needs to be thrown out. Extremely old. 42E? Really? I can guarantee that I wasn’t a 42E when I bought this. What was I thinking? Good lord. It’s greyed, which is how I know its old, so I must have worn this a lot. Lovely padded straps. One of the wires is entirely missing. So, we’ve got one underwired cup and one wireless cup.
I’m really never going to wear this again. (Remind me to Pinterest ‘101 uses for old bras’.)
42C Jade Green
Part of a multipack, so I might have already talked about this one. It’s the most beautiful bright jade-green colour, I really love the colour. Underwired, not padded. Not too much hardware in the front and lovely straps. I think this is the ‘squashes boobs together’ multi-pack.
I would only wear this if I was ultra-tired, so I could rest my chin on my boob cushion.
My all-time favourite bra, found two years ago. The best one I’ve ever bought, the king-of-kings, bra from heaven. I wore this forever and would still be if it were not broken. It’s called a ‘youthful lift’ bra from a well-known department store. I just could not fault this bra in any way. I was devastated when I broke it. It was everything I’d want in a bra. Invisible (never felt it while on), ‘lightweight’ in front, well enclosed wires. Super-comfortable. And didn’t feel like you were wearing something from the Dark ages. Inevitably, I snapped one of the wires, and cried into my coffee for the rest of the week. The department store I bought it from messed about with the design and called it something else I think. I’m still mourning. I’ll have to make a bra-shrine for this one.
What? Am I insane? Quite possibly the biggest bra I own (and have ever seen). This was a mail-order thing; it must have been. Was I on a quest to buy every single size of bra? Was this one of those late-night, drunken shopping sprees? Do I have bra OCD? This could be a cat-carrier. It’s a multi-way bra with massive, moulded, ultra-round spherical cups, like a football cut in half. When I put this on my boob, I can grab a handful of extra fabric. My boobs just disappear in it. It has a tiny back-band, and it doesn’t look 44. Perhaps I just wanted to own a multi-way bra. Because you know, every woman needs a multi-way bra.
I feel like Miss Trunchbowl in this. Oh dear. Still, got a hammock for the garden next summer.
Same ‘smush-up’ bra as the Jade green one. Must have been a three-pack.
Seems really stretchy, nice underwire, semi-moulded cups, soft padded straps. I forgot I owned this—not sure why I’ve never worn it and, post-edit, I’m wearing it now. The wires chafe a bit; however, it sits nicely and feels generally invisible. Or, as invisible as I’m going to get, at this size.
In conclusion then, I own thirty-four bras in six assorted sizes. My life-long dieting and weight fluctuations are largely responsible for this vast selection. However, bra-style aside, they all have their eccentricities: straps too thin, front too bulky, weird shape, not enough strap adjustment, bad or flimsy wire encasement, smushing cups.
My best advice on bras I think, is to return any bra that doesn’t fit or feel right, and say so. I really should – because unless we give this information to manufacturers or buyers, we’re going to get much more of the same. Forever.