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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Follow Bella di Notte on Instagram at: @belladinotteuk or on Facebook at: @Bella di Notte
Makeup Magic Monday - The Importance of Brows and Lips to Frame the Face
Makeup Magic with Tricia Cusden and Sally Deung: we are going to be hosting a LIVE Zoom session in which Sally and I will talk all about the importance of your brow and lip makeup to frame your face.
We will be running you through our favourite hints, tips and tricks, as well as discussing two BRAND NEW products. Take an exclusive look at our new Long Lasting Lipsticks, as well as the new 'Blonde' shade of our Bring Back Brow Shape.
Teatime with Tricia - Beverly Searle, CEO of rare chromosome disorder charity 'Unique'
Unique is a small charity supporting, informing and networking with families living with a Rare Chromosome Disorder or some Autosomal Dominant Single Gene Disorders associated with learning disability and developmental delay. When my granddaughter India was born, Unique was a fantastic support to our family.
Beverly Searle has been involved with Unique since 1990, after the birth of her daughter, Jenny, was born with a chromosome deletion which left her profoundly disabled and very medically complex. Beverly has since become CEO of Unique, and liaises with and helps families dealing with similar chromosome disorders. She is a decorated biologist and has a PhD in biological sciences.
This is the most honest and accurate description of the hazards and joys of wearing and finding the right bra. So much depends on not only the sizing but the style. When I was younger I didn't have a problem with the style. I seemed to get away with most styles. I'm now 75 and have made lots and lots of style and sizing mistakes. What fits well in one size won't fit at all well in another. Same applies to brands. Oh how they vary. I haven't had nearly enough bra fittings in my life largely because I get fitted and then end up with a bra that doesn't suit summer wear or that special evening out top that you only try on 30 minutes before you're due to leave! So style is in my mind extremely important and therefore you need about 4 different styles to cover all eventualities. I must admit over the years M&S have been my go to shop purely for convenience and price. So after reading your article I am spreading my 'wings' and looking further afield. Just one other problem my weight! This goes up and down yearly. I lose weight usually through illness ( Hospital food) and manage to keep it under control for the first 6 months to a year and then slip back to old habits and the portion sizes gradually increase along with the size of my boobs! So we are then off on yet another bra hunt! There are times when I think men have it so much easier! Well Tricia I have enjoyed your article and intend to enjoy my next Bra hunt now I have all aspects covered!!!!!!
If you are curvy I also recommend Elomi The shape is great and very flattering
What an amazing blog and coming at the very time I feel so desperate to find a new bra. At the moment, come the afternoon I feel my ribs are being compressed, the underwire digs in and the shoulder straps are too short on this 6'1" body. I've been round and round online and am continually amazed that A cups seem to be missing from most places. All I can find seems to be made of elastane and that too hurts my shoulders with the straps being so short. It's not as if my 80-year old breasts can actually fill a cup anyway but they do need support to look halfway decent! Anyway I've now got Rigby and Peller and Bella di Notte to look at thanks to you. All the best, Ann
That’s an interesting blog. At 71, my boobs are the biggest they’ve ever been, I’m now 35” bust and I hate it. I was measured and fitted with a good bra a few years ago, but I measure 33” under my bust, but I have never been able to fasten even a 34” bra. Sometimes measurements and manufacture do not match. I have tried the soft feel Bella di Notte bras, but they allow my nipple to show which I hate. I recently came across Jockey underwear and bought 3 of their soft touch bras, and one of them has turned out to be the most comfortable bra I have ever worn. It gives me shape, no nipples showing and I usually still have it on as I go to bed, it’s been so comfortable. I’ve just ordered 3 more, and I shall get rid of all my other bras. Thank goodness for Jockey.m