I am 45 years old. And I have never owned a bra that fits.
Granted, that’s partially my fault. Unlike what every stand-up comedian since the beginning of time would have you believe, I hate shopping (I also hate dressing and undressing; probably a sensory issue like my son), and thus attempt to avoid it as much as possible.
As a result, when I was a teenager, my mother bought my bras. (My mother actually enjoys shopping and, to this day, if someone notices me wearing a new outfit, the follow-up question should always be, “Is your mother in town?”) She bought me my bras when I was in high school, and I continued wearing them through college. And my 20s. And my 30s. (I did buy a few nursing bras after I had my first son in 1999. And you don’t want to know how long I wore those. Even after I stopped nursing.)
My bras never fit exactly right, but it also never occurred to me to do anything about it. I didn’t even know what size I was. (Yes, I could have looked at those handy tags in the back, but I had owned most of the bras for so long, the numbers had been laundered off. And it is impossible to underestimate how deep my disinterest in the subject went.)
About 10 years ago, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and go shopping on my own. (Primarily because what I currently owned was literally down to its last strap and snap). I went to Victoria’s Secret. I got measured and everything. And I bought the size they recommended.
It didn’t fit. The straps were constantly slipping off my shoulders, and I wobbled around in the cups. However, a few months after that purchase, I got pregnant with my third child and, miraculously, for the next half a year, it fit perfectly!
My daughter turns 8 this January. I haven’t bought any new bras since.
So, after almost 16 years of marriage, my husband decided to get into the act.
My husband is very interested in my breasts. Much more than I am. The night we met, he took one look at them and was literally struck dumb, all but gulping and running away, prompting the friend who’d introduced us to peer confusedly in his wake and reassure, “He’s really very smart. He went to MIT.” Obviously, my husband has since gotten over his traumatic muteness.
(My 15-year-old son has also recently taken an interest but, in his case, it’s to express his horror that I allowed a photo of myself going braless–which I try to do whenever possible; especially in the summertime–to accompany a post I wrote for Today.com.)
This fall, my husband, the MIT engineer, announced that he would solve my ill-fitting bra dilemma, once and for all. (When informed that I would be writing this post, he wanted it on the record that his interests aren’t exclusively prurient. He believes women’s breasts are a natural resource that must be protected and kept sustainable, that they are economical, entertaining, and good for men’s health.)
First, he took copious measurements. (I’m sure the fact that he got to fondle my breasts all the while was just a coincidence.)
Then he used those measurements to draw schematics. Yes, of my breasts. Graphing paper and everything.
The conclusion he reached was that I was short (about 5 feet, 3 inches), but disproportionately busty.
His solution was to get me a 36C in order to accommodate my cup circumference. It proved so loose that, over the course of a day, my breasts would quietly slip out, nipples peeking over the edges and through my shirt (including, one time, in the middle of a PTA meeting, when I had to surreptitiously stuff myself back in before I could stand up to speak).
His next attempt was a 32DD, where the cups kept me in check, but it was so tight, I could barely fasten it, and the elastic digging into my skin left bright red marks when I took it off.
In order to stretch it, my husband took a pillow off our bed, stuffed it enough to replicate my dimensions, slid a book inside to keep it from collapsing, and then dressed it in my bra. It sat around the house for a few days, like a most peculiar objet d’art. Eventually, it did fit, but I still feel like I’m trapped in vise, and there is excess flesh rising and bubbling at the top like the cheesy surface of French Onion soup.
His most recent effort is a 34D (anyone know why bras only come in even sizes?). We had to shorten the straps as far as they would go in order for me to have any support, and while it seems the best fit so far, it’s still not entirely comfortable.
So, while I love my husband and respect his engineering skills, I thought I’d turn to people who have been dealing with this problem possibly as long as I have.
Ladies–any suggestions on how to keep my cup(s) from literally running over?