Bra Fittings: Why Being Sized Up Can Be Hell

Not long ago, I was pawing through the mall with twenty minutes to kill before an appointment. I saw a sign for bra fittings. Well, hum-dee-doodle, I thought, that ought to eliminate twenty minutes and maybe I’ll learn something.

I was sequestered into a dressing room by a plump, bossy brazier-fitter who sized me up with a look. Feeling like I was about to go from farm to table, I was measured for the kill and then stripped. Now basically nude and listening to a static Taylor Swift coo about her love life, I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

My saleslady returned, bras draped over her arm in a colorful cascade. She wrestled me into them, pulling and snapping straps, and pronounced me properly fit as she announced my size to the dressing room at large. The only problem was that in doing so, she had also cut off my air supply.

Feeling pinched and unable to take in my regular quota of air, I meekly begged to question her measurements. I could feel the woman’s hands go to her hips where she stood behind my nearly naked self. Smoke fairly issued from her nostrils. “Datz yo saaaz,” she insisted.

My reply was equally swift and bold: “Um,” I faltered. “I’m just having some trouble breathing. It’s pretty tight. See here where it’s pinching and turning the skin red?” The lace and elastic bit like a viper.

Datz. Yo. Saaaz,” she pressed, gaining ground as she shifted her weight. I weakly brought up my need for air again, hoping it would sink in this time. Her rebuttal was frank: “Haah much air yoo need?” I had never thought about it that way before, but still decided that the answer was plenty. She muscled me into another fit, clucking and ticking her tongue with dissatisfaction that I dare reject her diagnosis.

Far be it for me to argue with a professional, much less one who had the advantage of being fully clothed as well as armed with that special je ne sais quoi that only African American grandmothers can employ. It’s the ultimate trump card, the elder wand, the ring of power. The only thing left to do was take the coward’s way out, fake an urgent phone call, and get the hell out of there.

But as I wandered through the mall and wallowed in my defeat, I began to contemplate bra size seriously for the first time. After all, there are a million different shapes of ladies and lady parts. Didn’t it stand to reason that a lot of us could be wandering around backwards, going through life incorrectly clad? I decided to pursue the issue further.

I ended up doing five more fittings. Each was humiliating in its way, some more than others. I was manhandled by bubble-headed teens, bossed by rival department store croons, and critically evaluated by women at malls and specialty shops in a thirty mile radius. It wasn’t fun. I almost gave up.

Then I stumbled into the last store on the map, frustrated and put out, promising myself that this would be the last time. I begged for the best bra fitter they had and was turfed to another bossy grandmother. But, unlike the first, this lady knew her stuff. She is the archangel of bra fittings, a woman so flawlessly calculating that I feel certain she could adjust a broken aircraft just by looking at it sideways. Because bras, while they may just be bundles of fabric and elastic, are more complicated than planes. But once you find the right one, it’s like meeting “the one.” You live happily ever after, relishing every moment and movement in your custom fit. Life becomes a dream.

My advice for finding a bra is the same as finding your mate. Take the time to shop, don’t let anybody push you around, and when one fits, write down your size in ink and buy ten.

P.S.—Nothing delights me more than thinking of how many pre-teen boys are going to stumble on this blog accidentally while googling “boobs.” Serves you right, boys. I hope you at least learned something.

About aemayer

A.E. Mayer is an author of fiction, fantasy, and other tales for kiddies great and small. To learn more about Mayer and her books, please visit www.aemayer.com.
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13 Responses to Bra Fittings: Why Being Sized Up Can Be Hell

  1. I remember my one and only bra fitting vividly. I might have been 12 and overnight I’d sprouted breasts that were WAY too big for my age. My aunt took me to this bra store at the mall and this very stern, Nurse Ratchet type took me into a fitting room, measured and then put me into one of those bras that fit like an equine harness. Being felt up by a bra sales lady at 12 was a little scarring.

    So, I shop off the rack and get the best fit I can manage. Usually that involves an extender added to the circumference so that I’m not being bisected by elastic. It would probably be a great idea for me to be fitted again, but I’m way too self-conscious to get naked in front of a stranger nowadays. :-)

  2. aemayer says:

    That sounds… Not fun. And neither are bra fittings. But I will say that it was worth it. You might need to be willing to bounce around until you find a person you feel okay being around, maybe one you can laugh with. Once you get over the trauma, it can change your life. Go for it!

  3. Stina says:

    Oh my dear, this warms my heart. As a former bra fitter, I have to say the process is not infallible, but we certainly did try. I’m glad you found your match–but remember, we flux, so it’s good to double check every so often. You yourself know how awful it is to be in the wrong size.

    Still, I do love your narrative. I hope some of my former ladies find this so they can have a good laugh, too. Boobs are so VERY awkward, and thanks for making light of such a weird subject.

    And for the record to any of your readers, you don’t have to strip, just to the least layer you’re wearing, and the sales rep should NEVER insist on being in there when you change–only to double check your fit once the thing is on. We see a lot of boobs in our line of work–yours aren’t really that memorable…with the exception that when someone with a similar shape walks in, we’ll have a better understanding of what might fit them best.

  4. Darlene says:

    This should be required reading for all bra fitters! Thanks for the laugh. I’m dying to know who your final fitter was. If you feel like recommending her store specifically, please consider sharing on my blog. I try to let people know who the good ones are, but even the good ones can have off days sometimes.

  5. I am so sorry you had to go through that – although I am glad for the happy ending.
    I agree with the earlier comment, there’s no reason to be completely naked.
    Bras are like shoes, not every style and brand in your size is going to fit the way you like. You have try them on. But there should never be any groping. If a fitter has to touch you, there should be asking of it first. Seriously? People still think this is normal?
    Next time you’re in NYC, come uptown. We don’t grope and we find being able to breathe with ease incredibly important.

    • aemayer says:

      Brazen–I definitely will! I don’t think my first fitter was a bad lady, just someone who had forgotten her fitter’s Hippocratic Oath. Manhandle though she did, she also got me thinking about sizes, which ultimately led me to the right place. Darlene–I’ll shoot you a message!

  6. Brooke says:

    Great post, Ashley. Congrats on the new book. When life settles for me a little (probably Christmas) I plan to read it. If your description of bra-fittings is any portrayal, I will certainly enjoy it.

  7. Melissa Galt says:

    Priceless and dead on. I’ve been there and cringed at that and won’t go back. UGH. And I’ll even divulge the source of the humiliation, that most overpriced bra superstore known as Intimacy right here at Phipps Plaza. Puhleeze, breathing isn’t the only thing they seem to miss, how about common courtesy and let’s lose the attitude.

    I know they’d shake their heads at this, but I recently dropped a few pounds and rather than reinvest hundreds in new bras, since the cup was fine, I just took them to my alterations lady (very pleasant, polite, and professional) and had the band reduced. It worked like a charm!

    You are braver than I to undergo multiple fittings. I have always bought anything I loved in multiples, even panties!

  8. T-J Hughes says:

    It’s such a shame that so many women experience similar bra fittings. We hear so many awful stories. No wonder women are always being told they’re in the wrong size bra! They don’t know how to fit a bra, and when they go to a ‘professional’ fitter they’re made to feel 2cm tall!
    My whole business started on a similar experience, and I love training new women to be a Bra Lady
    who are passionate about bras & customer service!
    But, as above, you won’t be one size in all bras, even from the same manufacturer! And even different coloured bras can fit differently if they’ve dyed the fabric! So try them on, and don’t be uncomfortable in a bra, or with a bra fitting experience.
    Thanks for sharing this – the more women talk about their boobs & bra fitting, the more we can help them get the right bra for them! ;)

  9. Amanda says:

    I was directed here by a comment on a post of mine, Bra Fittings: Sizing Up the Reality.

    I too would love to find out the name of the woman who was able to fit you properly. Please email me when you have a moment… or why not publish the name and location of her store? I’m guessing she would appreciate the publicity; I know I would!

    Amanda

  10. sue says:

    Good one! Let me tell you about my MOST EMBARRASSING BRA MOMENT!!!
    It had nothing to do with being fitted. When I was a teenager, I popped into our local Penney’s store and picked up a couple of bras in the size I had been wearing. Didn’t try them on—BIG mistake. After I got home and tried to wear them, I discovered that they didn’t fit. When my dad heard that, he told me to take them back and get a refund (money was tight, but not the bras!). I patiently explained to him that it was impossible because they were considered underwear which was not returnable. His reply was, “We’ll see about that!” So he dragged me and the bras back to the store. now I have to explain to you what this Penneys was like. It was located in our small town and every department was on the wide open first floor. We arrive at said store with my dad stomping over to the lingerie area. He told the lady that he was returning my bras. The woman told him that they were un-returnable. At that point his voice proceeded to get loud enough for everyone in the store to hear. “These bras don’t fit my daughter! I’ve been a loyal customer for years-I want my money back!” All eyes were on him, then quickly turned toward the red-faced me. I surely would have crawled into the proverbial hole in the floor if I had been so lucky as to have found one! I prayed fervently that none of my classmates were there. He did get the money back, but you can bet that I have never again bought a bra without first trying it on.!
    As to your expert fitter experiences , I lucked out the first time I had a professional check me out. I found out that instead of the 34B I had been wearing, I needed a 32D or 32DD! Walked out of that store with happy “girls”.
    Keep writing!

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