Breasts and Their Bras

Breasts - eh? Love them or hate them, from the moment that they start to bud on our chests as we move into pubescence to the time (for me anyway) that they have grown heavier and more pendulous with age, they pose their own unique set of problems.

Breasts - eh? Love them or hate them, from the moment that they start to bud on our chests as we move into pubescence to the time (for me anyway) that they have grown heavier and more pendulous with age, they pose their own unique set of problems.


They may grow too much or too little thereby bringing potential for embarrassment or despair in either case; they may be the source of pleasure during love-making but may also be the source of terrible physical and psychological pain during menstruation or if they become diseased; they may remain purely ornamental or they may fully satisfy their purpose to nourish our new-born babies if we are lucky enough to successfully establish breast-feeding. And, uniquely, they have their own garment, which has even been imbued with a political significance when early feminists decided that burning their bras was an act of liberation and emancipation.


Whatever your attitude to your breasts, perhaps, like me, you are now happy to settle for comfort and contour in the form of a really good bra. By which I mean something you can forget the moment you fasten it across your back and which lifts and shapes your bosom to give you a great silhouette in clothes.


And yet eight out of ten of you reading this will not be wearing the right bra! By ‘the wrong bra’ I mean one that doesn’t fit you best for either comfort or contour. An ill-fitting bra is one which you’re relieved to take off at the end of the day and which fails to give you the support and shape which helps your clothes to hang well on your body.


So, a challenge for you! Don the bra you most often wear and stand in front of a full-length mirror in good light. Now do an honest appraisal:


1 - Do the cups contain your breasts or do they overflow at the upper edges? I have one breast bigger than the other (this is very common apparently) so a bad bra on me is one where I have a ‘bumpy bit’ at the top of one of the cups but not the other. So I need a bra shaped to cover my whole breast and not just three-quarters of it. If both breasts are overflowing then the cup size is too small.


2 - Does the back of your bra ride up or does it sit straight across your back? The work of holding your breasts in the perfect place should fall to the elastic at the back not to the straps.


3 - Do you have red marks on your body when you remove your bra at the end of the day? If the straps dig into your shoulders or there are pinch points where the elastic is leaving marks on your flesh, then your bra is probably too small for you. 


4 - When wearing your bra, does the midpoint of your breast sit halfway between your shoulder and your elbow? Whatever your age, however much your breast tissue has sagged, the right bra will position your breasts so that they sit properly on your chest.


5 - When you look at yourself straight on, is there a smooth line either side or do your breasts push outwards east and west? Again, the right bra made with side panels in the cups will push the breasts in towards the centre, creating a much smoother shape at the sides.

Your bra should contain your breasts and there should be no bulging over the top

Your bra should position the midpoint of your breasts halfway between your shoulder and your elbow

A good bra should push your breasts into the centre rather than east and west. This will give a flat outer edge

These guidelines on sizing apply to the bra that you wear every day for both optimal form and function, regardless of the size and shape of your breasts. Obviously you may want a different look, say for an evening dress to show a bit of cleavage or maybe you need a strapless bra if the straps spoil the look of your posh frock. Likewise sports bras are essential for the support and health of your delicate breast tissue if you are seriously into any activities which jiggle and bounce your boobs around.


So, if you are now concerned that you may be wearing a less-than-perfect bra for your breasts - what to do? Well, I’d urge you to go somewhere reputable for a professional bra-fitting. Up until my 60s I was one of those 80% of women who wore the size of bra which sounded about right - a 36C cup. Do you remember when a classic figure to which we all aspired was 36-24-36? I never managed the 24” waist and my hips were always much nearer to 38” (or if I am really honest) 40”, but at least my boobs could be standard, average and apparently ‘just right’. Every now and then I’d pop into Marks, look for a bra that was reasonably pretty whilst giving little or no thought to structure, size or shape in relation to my own particular breasts. I bought a 36C cup both before and after I’d given birth and breast-fed my babies and before and after my menopause. Were they comfortable? Not particularly. Did they give me a nice shape in clothes? Not always. But they seemed to fit ok and I never bothered to try any alternatives.


Until, that is, my daughter gave me a Christmas gift voucher for the Queen’s bra supplier (I was going to say upholsterer - but you know what I mean!), Rigby and Peller in Sloane Street. To be honest I wasn't that thrilled with my gift (couldn’t see the point), but I kept the voucher and a few months later booked an appointment for a professional fitting. What a revelation! I expected tape measures, charts and some shaming for my cheapish M&S bra. Not at all! The lovely woman who assisted me took me downstairs to a very private space and asked me to remove my bra. She very quickly appraised my (uneven, rather saggy) breasts and said ‘You need a 34D Cup’. So for most of my mature life my bras had been both too big and too small! I tried on and bought two 34D cup bras with my Rigby and Peller voucher and have never looked back! The difference was staggering and since then I have paid a lot more attention to the shape, fit and comfort of all my underwear. I now accept and understand that small adjustments can make a huge difference to the way that I feel and the way that my clothes both fit and look.

My fabulous new Bella di Notte bra, which ticks all the boxes above, is complete with reinforced side panels...

Which gives the perfect support and a great silhouette!

The photographs here are of my new Bella Di Notte bra (‘Conturelle’ ultimate comfort bra in a 34D cup!). On Tuesday this week, I had a great conversation with Susan Johnson, ‘Bella Di Notte’ founder. This is a business initially specialising in beautiful Italian underwear and nightwear, but which has now expanded their range to include trousers cut specifically to work on different body shapes plus tops and T shirts. You can see a video of our conversation here in which Susan gives all the secrets of ensuring that you are wearing the best possible bra for your particular needs. Sue sent me the bra I am wearing in these photographs, which is pretty, but most importantly it’s also very comfortable, and, as you can see it gives me a great silhouette.


They say ‘It’s never too late’ and that has certainly been true for me, my breasts and their support! It may have taken me 50 years but I am finally wearing bras that fit me properly, are incredibly comfortable and which I think (although it’s not the main point) have taken years off my figure. So I encourage you all to consider your own embonpoint. You won’t regret it!


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Watch my chat with Susan Johnson here: 


Tricia x