Getting a bra to fit properly a question of try-on and error

October 17, 1990|By Pat Morgan | Pat Morgan,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Frederick's of Hollywood, which is trying to shed its image as a retailer of sleazy lingerie and become a respectable intimate apparel manufacturer, wants me to know that 55 percent of American women wear the wrong size bra.

And I want them to know that this is not a surprise to any woman who has ever worn a bra. In fact, I'm surprised only that the figure is so low.

Why? Because bra manufacturers don't make bras that fit. At least not comfortable ones. Bras are made (A) to look pretty or (B) to serve as stabilizing devices. They, along with panty hose and high heels, are definitely not intended to be a pleasant experience for the wearer.

I think they must have been invented by a man.

Should you be so fortunate as to find a bra that fits and is pretty and is comfortable, you can be sure the manufacturer will correct that little miscalculation by discontinuing that particular style, which means it will be pulled from store shelves only moments before you rush out to stock up.

Do I sound bitter? Sorry. My bra straps must be digging into my shoulders again.

The folks at Frederick's, of course, refuse to acknowledge that bra manufacturers are part of a discomfort conspiracy. Merchandise manager Christa Koegl says many women buy the same size bra year in and year out, because they don't realize that breast size can change as a result of pregnancy, birth control pills, weight fluctuations or "just the passage of time."

She also claims many, maybe even most, women buy bras without trying them on.

I didn't believe that, so I asked around. My unscientific, informal survey shows that Frederick's is right. Several women sheepishly admitted they buy bras without first trying them on. Most of them weren't sure why, though one woman suggested, "It's even more humiliating than trying on a swimsuit."

The folks at Frederick's politely gloated. Koegl says many women who would never consider buying a dress before trying it on routinely do so with bras.

Maybe it doesn't fit, she says, but a woman who has never worn the right size bra doesn't know the difference, which perpetuates the problem.

Frederick's suggests that these are the very women likely to claim that wicked bra manufacturers are determined to keep them harnessed to bad bras.

Women like me, I suppose?

So, in the interest of fairness, I'll share with you Frederick's tips on finding the right size bra.

While wearing a bra, presumably one that hahahaha fits, measure the distance around your body just below the bustline. If the number is odd, add 5. If it's even, add 6. If you measure more than 33, add only 3. That's your band size.

To find the cup size you need, measure the distance around your body at the fullest part of your bust. If the measurement is 1/2 -inch larger than your band size, you wear an AA cup; up to 1 inch is an A; up to 2 inches is a B; 3 inches is a C; 4 inches is a D and 5 inches is a DD. If the measurement is more than 5 inches larger, I guess you're out of luck.

Then, of course, try the darn thing on.

For what it's worth, Frederick's also offers these tips on the qualities a good bra should have: Center seam fits snugly against breastbone; cups are smooth, without any wrinkles; no skin bulges around bra edges; shoulder straps are comfortable; bra back fits well under the shoulder blades.

OK, all those whose bra at this very minute fits all the criteria, raise your hands.

Your bra rode up, didn't it? I thought so.

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