Time and again, I come across articles offering bra tips. And time and again, I find myself saying, "Well, those rules only apply to ladies with at least a C cup. What about those who are a bit more ... petite?"
So, I decided to find out for myself. For the first time in my life, I got a bra fitting -- I know it seems like it should be a teenage rite of passage, but I honestly never thought I needed one as an A or B cup. During a recent trip to Manhattan's Intimacy, the lovely Dee Binyard, one of the store's bra fit stylists, selected a slew of bras that made me realize just how important fit really is, even for small-chested women.
Thanks to Dee -- and nearly 25 years of being a woman (for roughly 10 of which I actually needed a bra) -- I've gleaned six bra-shopping commandments for petite ladies.*
1. Yes, you do need support.
Contrary to my former belief, A and B cups need to be supported. Small chests rarely lead to the kind of back pain that keeps chiropractors in business; but without proper support, you can accelerate sagging. As Dr. Cynthia S. Vaughn, a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association, once told me, wearing a bra as a small-chested woman is "not so much for current times, but for later in life." That said, if you prefer to go braless, more power to you.
2. The fit of the band is crucial.
During my fitting with Dee, she emphasized that the firmness of the band (not the straps) is of utmost importance. As a general rule, she says the firmness should be on the loosest hook of your band so that the band sits level on your back. From there, you adjust to the tighter hooks as the band stretches out. "I know we all want comfort," she told me. "But comfort doesn't necessarily mean that the band is going to give you that looseness. You want to be able to lift your arms without your breasts coming out the bottom of the bra." Amen, sister.
3. Don't get comfortable in your cup size, because things change.
With all of the size discrepancies between brands, and our bodies constantly changing, it's not a good idea to assume that once you're a 34A, you'll always be a 34A. Never buy a bra without trying it on, and try to get fitted every year or so.
4. There's no reason to wear padding ... unless you want to.
I'm not going to lie: My 15-year-old self definitely tried on padded bras. These days, I'm comfortable with my size, so I personally don't feel the need for padding and would probably feel uncomfortable if I did wear it. But if you feel great about yourself with a little extra something, by all means, pad away!
5. You need more than one or two bras.
If you're like me, you find a couple of bras that work and wear them to death. Judging by Dee's reaction to this statement, this is very bad. "I would say you need a good seven to 10 bras so you'd be able to alternate every day," she told me. "This way, your bra and the elasticity on the band gets that rest that it needs so that it's fresh for the next wear." She also recommends wearing your bras two or three times before you wash them to extend their lives.
6. Most importantly, wear what you feel great in.
I can't stress this enough. Lingerie should be fun, not just functional. It should also be comfortable, because no one wants to be awkwardly adjusting underwire all day.
*In no way am I asserting that all women, whatever their size, must wear bras. These tips are for the ladies who want to wear bras. Please completely disregard if you'd rather go braless (and just know: I envy you).