In this episode, we discuss the most important, and most overlooked, item in most women’s wardrobes–bras! Most women are wearing the wrong size, turning their foundational garments into instruments of torture. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Lessons from Linda shares the story of a bra fitting gone terribly wrong.

The Word of the Week is crocking–what is it, and how do you stop it from happening to your favorite jeans?

In current events, we talk about the impact of the Coronavirus on US retail.

In the Style Lecture, we dive into our first of two episodes all about bras. We talk about why they’re important, the anatomy of a bra, and how to tell if your bra doesn’t fit right.

Links & Resources from the show:

Read more about the Coronavirus’ effect on US Retail: What does Coronavirus mean for US apparel and retailIs Coronavirus a threat to the clothing industryHong Kong Retailers’ ‘Double Devastation’ in Coronavirus CrisisWhat the Outbreak Could Mean for Cotton and Polyester Prices 

Click here for Sister Sizing

A good video for fitting yourself at home, here.

My favorite resources for bra fittings-find one in your area:

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Read the full episode transcript below! – Ep 32 All About Bras- Part 1

Hey There! Welcome back to the Everyday Style School podcast where we believe style can be easy, and getting dressed should be fun! I’m your host, Jennifer Mackey-Mary, and in today’s episode we’re kicking off two episodes all about my favorite topic: bras!

Today, I’m going to be using words for the things that go in bras a lot, so if you’re listening at work, you might want to put headphones on, or if those aren’t words you want your kids to hear, maybe listen later. You’ve been warned!

If you’ve followed me for more than five minutes, it may shock you that it took me until episode 32 to talk about bras. I am so passionate about getting women into better bras, so if you’re surprised that I haven’t talked about it until now, you and me both, girl.

Here’s what happened: I reached out to a bra expert I really admire and asked her to be a visiting professor in The Everyday Style School. Her assistant got back to me in an hour and said: “Yes, she’d love to be on the show”. I sent a scheduling link, and crickets. I sent an email. More crickets. And so on and so on. I gave it my best shot, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I searched for someone else I wanted to have on the show but wasn’t really feeling it, until a friend of mine said “Why don’t you just do it yourself? This is not a topic you need an expert for”. So here we are. And while I will say that I do have a lot of bra knowledge, there is no substitute for being fit by an expert, in the bra you actually intend to buy.

So, as always, use this show as a starting point and foundational knowledge, and then get out and apply it in the real world, this time, with a hands-on expert.

Also, I want to say hello to all the husbands who listen to the show with their wives–Hi guys! Settle in, it’s going to be an informational month!

For the next two full episodes of The Everyday Style School, we’re talking about bras. By the end of the month, you’ll know more about bras than you ever knew there was to know. You’re going to discover that your boobs aren’t weird, and you’re not the only one who struggles with bra challenges.

In this episode, we’re going to be covering the importance of good bras and proper fittings, as well as some bra vocabulary. We’re also going to dive in to sizing–which is where most women get it wrong, and which causes almost all bra issues and talk about signs your bra doesn’t fit well.

Next time, we’ll be talking about the different kinds of bras, building a good bra wardrobe, taking care of your bras, and I’ll be touching a little bit on specialty bras like nursing and mastectomy bras. Finally, I’ll be answering the bra questions posted in the Everyday Style Lounge that don’t get answered elsewhere in the episodes.

Before we get started though, Your homework from our last full episode was to do one thing to bust out of your limiting belief that you can’t have a wardrobe you love until you have a body you love.

I’ve gotten great feedback from the episode, and I’m thrilled to hear how much it challenged you, so I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Everyday Style Lounge, and if you haven’t done it yet, there’s no time like the present!

All right, let’s kick things off, as we always do, with lessons from Linda:

Lessons From Linda-

I’m going to share a Linda story that relates to the theme of the show again today. I normally like to mix things up, but this story fits so well here, that I just have to talk about it. Next episode, I promise it won’t be bra related.

So, this Linda reached out to me because she just wanted help with her closet and shopping. Honestly, there’s nothing unusual about that part of the story, but here’s where it took a turn. I require all clients to get a bra fitting before we work together, and I’ll explain why in the takeaways. Clients fight me on this more than anything else, and in the end, almost everyone has said they wish they’d done it sooner.

At Linda’s house, she’s trying on tops, like what normally happens during a closet edit. But, every time she takes off her shirt, her bra comes flying off with it.

Now, I’ve seen some stuff in my days as a stylist. I’ve even had to cut a client out of her underwear after it got caught in a zipper. A story for another day. I’m used to seeing clients in next to nothing. It’s not at all weird. But this took it to a whole new level. It was full exposure every single time she tried on a new top. This bra just could not stay on her body. It was like there was a magical force, repelling it.

I asked her, “Linda, did you get a bra fitting?” and she said she did, and that this was one of her new bras. I asked her where she went, and she named that store in the mall, where that lady has a secret? You know the one. I asked what size they put her in, and she said 36DD. And in an instant, I understood the problem.

You see, Linda was tiny. Size zeros were often a little too big for her, so there was no way she was a 36. I said, I think you’re closer to a 30H or 32G, and she said “No way, that’s a porn star size” and she said she would not buy that size.

I asked her to trust me, and when we went shopping, we went to a different store for a bra fitting before we got started, and sure enough, she ended up in a 32G, which stayed on her body the entire shopping trip. She told me it was the only comfortable bra she’d ever worn, and she went back and bought a bunch more after we were done that day.

I’m going to explain a lot of what happened here during this episode, that applies to all women, but for now, there are a couple of lessons to take away from this Linda

First, even though Linda’s initial bra fitting wasn’t a success before you upgrade your wardrobe, you need to get your bra game right. They’re called foundations for a reason. Think of any show on HGTV focused on doing a remodel. Nine times out of 10, they find an issue with the foundation.

And never do they just move on and say “eh, not important, let’s spend money on pretty kitchen cabinets instead”. No, they stop and fix the foundation, and allocate the money necessary to do the job right. It’s the same thing with your wardrobe.

Don’t worry about pretty finishings when your foundation is a mess. I get it’s not money you want to spend, but the right bra makes everything you own look better and more expensive. I don’t think I own any tops that cost more than my bras. A twenty-dollar top over an eighty dollar bra looks a whole lot better than an eighty dollar top over a twenty-dollar bra.

The second thing I want you to take away from this Linda story is that your boobs are the size they are whether you put the right size bra on them or not. There is no regulation “porn star” band or cup size, and while I’m not an expert on the subject, I’m pretty sure adult film stars don’t fit in the sizes sold at Nordstrom.

As a bra fitter, I had so many women say “I don’t want to be an F cup” or I can’t be a 40, or avoid bra fittings altogether because they didn’t want to face the size on the tag. Just like our last episode, women tie self-worth to a size, which makes no sense.

You have very little control over the size of your girls. As someone who had a breast reduction at age 20, I know this from the bottom of my heart. I also know that I struggled with self-image and clothing issues because of the size of my breasts, and I truly believe that a bra that fits well would have made me look, and feel so much better.

By the way, this is a topic I am completely open about, so if you’ve got questions about breast reductions, my experience, or whether it might be right for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. But my point is, a bra that fits you well is a better choice than a bra with numbers and letters that feel good to you.

By the end of the episode, you’ll understand what happened with Linda’s fitting, but for now, Let’s move on to the Word of the Week!

Today’s Vocabulary word is “crocking” and it has nothing to do with bras! “Crocking” is the technical term for what happens when indigo dye–usually in denim–transfers to other fabrics or surfaces due to rubbing or contact. If you’ve ever had jeans stain your shirt, or a chair, or your underwear, you’ve experienced crocking. Crocking usually happens to new denim that hasn’t been washed, but as some of you know, sometimes you get a pair of jeans that keep on rocking for years!

The first thing you should know is how to tell if a fabric is prone to crocking. The best way to do this, even at the store, is to take a piece of paper-thermal receipt paper works best- and rub it quickly against the fabric for a couple of seconds. Dye on the paper? You’ve got a crocker!

If you brought a pair of jeans home without checking first, the best thing to do is to soak your denim in cold water and wash them a few times before wearing them.

You can also try soaking in cold water with a cup of white vinegar and a cup of salt for a couple of hours before washing, but some of the new dyes and fabrics being used in denim don’t respond to this as well.

If you have a pair of jeans that transfer dye even after being washed a few times, you can try soaking and washing them in cold water and then hanging them to dry. Once they’re fully dry, iron them on the hottest setting noted on the care tag. This can help set the dye.

I hope this helps solve one of denim’s more annoying issues and remember to always wash your denim inside out on cold water to prevent color transfer.

Let’s head over to Current Events–
In the interest of time, because today’s Style Lecture is gonna be long, I just want to highlight a topic that’s very much in the news right now. All the trade publications I subscribe to have been talking about one thing the last week or so, and that’s the Coronavirus. Obviously, the biggest concern is human life, and we are all wishing for quick containment and resolution, but the impact of the virus on the industry is pretty substantial. And if you’ve checked your clothing labels lately, you know that a big industry in China is the fashion industry.

The majority of apparel imported to the US still comes from China, and the virus is keeping both textile and apparel factories closed, and disrupting air cargo shipments, which could have an impact on upcoming seasons. What most of the articles say is that we’re a couple of weeks out from knowing how, and even if, this will directly affect US retail, but we could see disruptions in new merchandise schedules, fewer sales on clothing and footwear, and more limited inventory.

As I said, I’ve linked to a few articles in the shownotes above if you want to read more in-depth, and I’ll keep you posted if there’s anything notable to report. In the meantime, we hope this gets under control quickly for all the people affected.

When we come back, we’re going to talk about why good bras are so important, some tips on fitting, and signs your bra doesn’t fit well.

We are hard at work on the Spring Capsule Guide, and a brand new all-access membership I’m so excited to announce. Starting March 1, Annual Members will get 4 seasonal Capsule guides just like always, but now, you’re going to get so much more. You’re going to have access to all of my masterclasses, like how to find the perfect pair of jeans, how to find your best colors, how to discover your personal style–and more!

You’ll also get access to the Member Community with weekly Q&A sessions where I answer all of your style questions, monthly wardrobe challenges, and so much inspiration and advice from your fellow Style Sisters. The Annual Membership is your one-stop style resource to help make style easy and fun, so you can love the way you look, every day.

Get on my email list so you know when the membership goes live! Look above to sign up for the free mini capsule guide. You’ll be notified as soon as the member site is ready. I can’t wait to see you there! And now, back to the show.

Today, we’re going to focus on some bra basics, like the parts of a bra, and the importance of good fittings. A lot of women I’ve talked with over the years thought that there wasn’t much to bras–you just went to the store, picked your size, and then suffered through the discomfort of digging wires, slipping straps, and back fat.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and by spending some time learning about this oddly technical garment, you’re going to look and feel better than you ever thought. You won’t be adjusting it during the day, and counting the minutes until you can take the stupid thing off.

In the Linda lesson, I shared why good bras are important from a clothing standpoint. A well-fitting bra makes your clothes look better. Plain and simple.

They even help your clothes fit better. I’ve had lots of women tell me button-down shirts just don’t work for them, but when I hike their boobs up where they’re supposed to be, the shirt fits just fine. And yes, working with me is a very handsy experience! But there are other reasons to invest the time and money into really great bras.

First, comfort. Especially for women with bigger breasts, although every woman is more comfortable in the right bra. But if you have been blessed in the chest, a good bra can help distribute the weight better, and alleviates back, neck and shoulder pain, and even headaches

Also, the farther your boobs are from your waist, the younger, taller and slimmer you look. You know this show isn’t all about vanity, but so often I see women feeling bad about themselves, feeling frumpy, and when they get a better bra, they instantly look like their whole body has been lifted, which in turn lifts their spirits. If your waist is well-defined, a good bra helps show off your curves.

If your waist is not well-defined, a good bra will help create some curves. If you’re feeling a little frumpy, even though you’ve been buying clothes you love, and that fits you well–ask yourself if it’s been a minute since your last professional fitting, and start there!

Finally, wearing the wrong size bra can affect your posture, and put extra pressure on your ribs, affecting your breathing. So basically what I’m saying is that finding the right bra is a matter of life and death.

This episode was kind of hard for me to structure, because some of the information I’m going to ask you to tuck away for later, and I’m also going to ask you to refer back to things we’ve already talked about, so just bear with me and go with it.

The first thing I want to cover is parts of a bra, and right now, you’re thinking, Seriously, I know what cups are, move on. But we’re going to go a little bit deeper, and I’m also going to give you fit tips on each part, so don’t fast forward through this section.

Let’s start with the band. You know that the band is the part that goes around your body, but did you know that the band should be providing 80% of the support for your boobs?

One question that comes up all the time around bras is what to do about shoulder grooves from straps, and 9 times out of 10, these are women who are trying to support their girls from the top, rather than from below. When we get to sizing, I’m going to talk about this more, but what I want you to file away is that you need to focus on band size first, not just cup size.

Now, we have hooks. Bras can have 2, 3, 4, 6… When the band is wider you have more hooks. When the band is wider, you have more support. Also, when the band is wider, there’s a more smoothing effect, and less of the dreaded back fat.

What I want you to remember right now, is that when you buy a bra, it should fit you on the loosest hook. Not the middle, not the tightest–I don’t care what they told you. I’m telling you it on the loosest hook. I’ll explain why later.

Next, we have the strap. The strap is responsible for 20% of the support. It should not be doing the heavy lifting. Actually, when I was a bra fitter, I would have women slide the straps off of their shoulders. If their boobs didn’t sag, we had a pretty good band fit.

On the straps, we have the sliding adjusters. These little guys serve two purposes. First, to adjust the strap length, obviously. The second is to adjust the cup size. If your cup has a little extra room, shorten the strap. If your cup is causing a little pillowing, let the strap out a little. This is for tiny adjustments, not major bra overhauls. The sliders are not meant to lift the girls. Yes, this is what I have to do in fitting rooms in a pinch with clients, but that’s not a real-life fix.

Now we have the cups. You know what they are, but I want to touch on a few different styles. The first is unlined. It is what it says. It’s the fabric of the bra, and that’s it. Second, we have lightly lined and molded cups. These two are sort of different but they’re used interchangeably online. Technically, lightly lined is a contoured cup made by a few layers of fabric, while a molded cup is a contoured cup made by thin foam.

The purpose of both of these is to give the breast some shape, and in the case of the molded cup, like a t-shirt bra, to keep your headlights from flashing their high beams, if you know what I mean. Lightly lined bras may not provide that same level of nipple coverage. Neither of these is a padded bra, and they don’t add volume to the cup.

So many women are afraid of these bras because they don’t want to increase their cup size. They don’t. They add shape, that’s it. Finally, we have padded bras which are now more commonly called push up bras. These do add cup volume. They either have a padding sewn in, or pockets for removable padding called cookies, that fill the bottom of the cup.

Now, the underwire. The underwire of a bra goes underneath your breast to provide a little support, but mostly lift and shape. A lot of women avoid underwires because they find them uncomfortable, but I’m willing to bet that most of those issues are due to fit.

Does that mean you have to wear an underwire? No, not at all. Wire-free bras have come a long way in terms of shape and support.. in the end, you won’t get the same shape as you would with a wire, but once you get a proper fitting, and you decide underwires are still not your jam, that’s fine.

The last part of the bra I want to talk about is the center gore. That is the part between the cups. It’s where your tennis racquet or little flower was sewn on your first bra, and now often features a little metal tag. The gore, when you have a properly fitting bra, should lie flat against your chest.

If it’s angled away from your body or digging into your sternum, chances are your bra doesn’t fit. Now, there are some women whose shape makes it difficult for gore to lie flat, but those women are few and far between. Chances are, you’re not one of them.

So that’s the anatomy of your bra, and a few things to know to help you find one that fits well

Before we talk about fittings, I want to talk about Sister Sizing.

This is where this week’s Linda got it wrong. We have this idea that a D cup is a D cup, and all D cups are created equal. Let’s think about cup sizes in terms of nesting measuring cups in your kitchen. And let’s think about the one cup measuring cup as a 38D, the half-cup as a 38C, the third cup as a 38B, and the quarter cup as a 38A.

This isn’t a perfect analogy but just go with it. Now, most women think that the one cup size, the 38D is also a 40D and a 36D and a 32D. This is incorrect. The cup measurement is not a static measurement–it fluctuates based on the band size.

A woman who wears a 32D does not have the same size breasts as a woman who wears a 38D. The volume of the 38D breast is greater. So, here’s what sister sizing is.–as the band size goes up, the cup letter goes down, when referring to the same physical cup. So let’s think about our 38D measuring cup–the biggest of our nesting cups. That cup is also a 40C, a 42B, and a 44A.

Conversely, when a band size goes down, the cup size goes up, so our 38D measuring cup is also a 36E (or dd, depending on the retailer), a 34F and a 32G. That one measuring cup, that holds 1 cup of water, can represent 7 or more cup sizes. You need to know the cup, in relation to the band to get the right fit. Just saying you’re a D cup means nothing.

When you go to a mass retailer, like the store in the mall with a secret Linda went to, they often don’t carry a wide variety of sizes. So, when Linda went in, they found her a cup that fit, but it was attached to a band that did not. And considering how much support your band should provide, this is not a good thing.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statistic that 85% of women are in the wrong size bra, right? In my travels, I’ve seen some women who were just way off, but more often, women are wearing a band size that’s too big, and a cup size that’s too small. And why the cup volume might technically be accurate, like it was with Linda, unless both band and cup size are correct, you’re in the wrong bra.

In a minute, we’re going to talk about how to tell if you’re in the wrong bra, but first, let’s discuss professional fittings. Everyone wants to know, do I really have to go to the store and get naked with a stranger?

First, there’s usually no nudity involved–professional fitters know how to be discreet and respect your space and privacy. And you can measure yourself. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet, and here is a good video for fitting yourself at home.

With that said, it’s hard. It’s hard to know if the measuring tape is in the right spot, or if you’re pulling too tight, or not tight enough, so I recommend letting someone who is paid to fit boobs properly do it. The other thing is, not all bras and not all breasts are created equal.

There are a lot of different breast shapes and placement on the chest that determine what kind of bra is going to work best for you. And while bra sizing is certainly more standard than clothing sizes, there is a variation from brand to brand–some run smaller, some more generously. When you’re with a fitter who also has access to lots of bras, you can guarantee you end up with the right one.

Everyone wants to know where to go for fittings, and a lot depends on your budget and what you have available to you, but the biggest thing is to go to a store that carries a good size range–like 32a to 44h, and while you may not need the extreme ends of the range, the fact that they carry them makes them more likely to carry the size you never thought you were until you went in there.

Another great option, especially if you do fall outside of the standard size range, is a specialty retailer in your area, which Google should be able to find for you.

Other rules for fittings–you should be refit at least once per year, or after a weight gain/weight loss of 10/15 pounds or more–especially if you’re someone whose chest fluctuates in size a lot, or when your bras become uncomfortable. There are also guidelines for bra fittings and nursing moms that I will talk about next episode.

The last thing I want to cover today is signs your bra doesn’t fit. The more of these you’re experiencing, the more likely it is you’re in a bad bra.

Number 1- Your straps slide off. Sometimes, you just need to tighten up the straps a little bit, but the biggest reason for straps sliding up is that your band is too big. This causes two problems. First, the straps are set too wide because the band is big, so they don’t stay on your shoulders as well. Second, when your band is too big, it rides up in back, making the straps too long, and they fall down.

Number 2-Your bra moves around a lot. You should be able to raise your arms above your head, and not have your bra band move. If you find your bra shifting, chances are your band is too big. Your band should be parallel to your waistband, about halfway down your back. If your band is sneaking up in a v shape, it’s too big.

Number 3- Your underwire is poking you. Chances are, it’s a cup size issue. First, if your cup is too big, the wire will poke you in the armpit. If your cup is too small, the wire pokes you in the breast. This could also be a band issue. If the band is too big, the underwire can be shifted forward, poking you in the boob. If your band is too tight, it can be pulled so that it digs in under your arm.

Number 4- You have 4 boobs! This is not something a human woman should have! This is a cup issue–in that your cup is too small, and you’re spilling out of it. Your cup overfloweth, so to speak.

Number 5- Your cups are wrinkly and gappy. In an unlined bra, a cup that is too big will look bunchy and wrinkled. In a molded up, there will be big gaps when you’re sitting up straight. A good way to tell if your molded cup fits you is to poke the cup at the top of your breast. If your boob moves, your cup fits.If your boob doesn’t move, and you’re just poking air, your cup does not fit. And I wish I had a dollar for every woman poking herself in the boob right now. With molded cups, when you bend over, all bets are off. There will be gaps, so you need to check it outstanding or sitting straight up.

Number 6- The gore of your bra doesn’t lay flat. If the center of your bra is not laying against your skin, the most likely reason is that the cup is too small.

Number 7, and finally–your bra hurts. There is a breaking in period for bras–they may not be so comfortable you don’t notice them for a week or so. But if you’ve had your bra for a while and it is pinching, poking, rubbing, chafing, leaving terrible red marks on your skin, you need a different bra. While bras may never be the most comfortable items we wear, they shouldn’t hurt. You shouldn’t live with that.

That’s a great stopping point for today. I hope you found part 1 of our bra series information and helpful, and gave you hope that finding a comfortable bra might not be an unattainable goal after all.

Your homework for the next 2 episodes is to go get a bra fitting if it’s been a bit. Does doing it yourself count? Eh, I’d really like you to visit a professional and find the right bra if you possibly can. I got an email last week with the subject line “Who knew” and all the email said was “Who knew the right bra could make such a difference?” My response was “Me! I knew!”. So, if you want to join the I told you so club, go get a fitting, and then join us in the style lounge and let us know how it went!

That’s it everyone–I’ll see you Monday with office hours, and in our next full episode, we’re going to be talking about building a great bra collection, taking care of your investment, and answering some of the bra questions that were asked in the Style Lounge. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too!

Class is dismissed for today, but the conversation doesn’t have to end. Head over to join my member community in The Style Circle.

And if the Everyday Style School podcast is helping you love getting dressed again, it would make my day if you would subscribe to the podcast, leave a review and share it with your friends, so women everywhere can have more fun with style. Thanks, Style Sister.

I’ll see you next time, and until then, Stay Stylish!

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