My next bra story comes from a woman who has developed considerable expertise in bra fitting, based on her own experience as a size 36L. Danielle helps other women find their best fit through her blog, Rolls and Curves.
BOTB: What are the brands that do make your size, and which bras do you wear?
Danielle: The only two brands that actually make my size are Ewa Michalak and Bravissimo. I cannot wear Ewa Michalak because I have wide and short breasts, and Ewa Michalak bras are made for someone with narrow and average to tall breasts. I usually sister size into brands like Panache, Elomi, Goddess, Flirtelle, and Curvy Kate. I used to wear Cleos when I could fit into them. In the past year, I've grown from a 36J up to a 36L, so I've literally seen my options taper off before my eyes.
Thus far, my favorite bras have been:
Panache -- Tango, Ariza, Melody Fullcup, Rhapsody
Cleo -- Marcie, Meg
Elomi -- Caitlyn, Rita
Goddess -- Keira
Curvy Kate -- Gia, Daily Boost
Flirtelle -- Lena padded bra
BOTB: What are the sister sizes that sometimes work for you?
D: I measure a 36L, and currently own bras in a 36K and 38JJ (with one Flirtelle padded bra in a 36JJ that I can't bear to part with). I have yet to purchase bras in my new size just in case my recent growth spurt isn't permanent and they go back to a 36K. My next step is trying out Bravissimo in a 36KK, 38KK, and 36L.
BOTB: Are you happy with these bras after you've made the necessary alterations?
D: I'm usually happy with my bras after I alter them, but there's some bras that couldn't be saved due to a glaring construction issue that I didn't feel comfortable fixing on my own.
BOTB: Do you make the alterations yourself, or have them done by a tailor? If you alter them yourself, can you describe or show in photos what kind of alterations you make and how they are done? (Readers of a similar size and shape to you might find this helpful to know.)
D: I alter all my bras myself because I can rarely keep bras in my rotation for more than a few months at a time, and I don't want to spend extra money on my bras.
My usual first step with a bra is to see if the straps are fully adjustable. If they are, I don't touch them unless the tightened setting isn't tight enough. If they are not, I have to alter them to keep them from slipping off my shoulders.
What I do is fold the beginning of the strap over onto itself, and sew the sandwiched fabric. This shortens the strap without having to cut it in case I need to remove the alterations. Other common alterations that I may perform are narrowing the gore (makes bra less east-west, keeps the wires from poking) and taking in gaping lace (when the lace rests above the full part of my breast and has no tissue to fill it out).
I've noticed that I've had to rely on alterations more often after passing the J cup barrier, because many brands tend to scale bras horribly in the upper end of their size range.
BOTB: How do you feel in the Reddit forum A Bra That Fits, wearing an unusual size? You said in response to my post requesting stories from women who wear sizes outside the mainstream lingerie market: "Finally I am relevant here." Do you feel excluded from the community because of your physical size/shape?
D: While I found out about proper bra fitting from ABTF and generally love the community, I do feel more and more left out the larger my cup size is. This is not an uncommon sentiment shared by other women of "unusual" sizes, and it was even brought up many times in the demographic survey from a few months ago.
The quality and quantity of advice you receive is better if you're under a 36 band, under an H cup, and have a narrow and projected shape. Many plus sized women are left to a small selection of brands, and since the average member of ABTF has little experience with these size ranges (the most common size is 30F), they may recommend a bra based on size rather than the shape of the person's breasts.
At my size, 36L, I'm always told to try Ewa Michalak bras even though I'd have to size up to a 36N to get the correct cup width. There's little focus on brands that aren't on-trend, and it can be grating to constantly receive the same inaccurate advice. When I was still unsure about my size and what worked for me, I became discouraged very fast and wouldn't post fit checks on ABTF because of the limited responses I'd receive.
If you have at least one bra that fits and you'd like to find more, I'd recommend comparing bra measurements on Bratabase. With time you can figure out exactly what measurements will work for you.
BOTB: What motivates you to continue to look for a bra that fits, in spite of all the challenges? In other words, what makes you feel good about wearing the right bra?
D: Wearing a bra that fits is a necessity for me. Before discovering ABTF, I was crammed into Lane Bryant 40Hs (UK 40G) and had a slew of health problems along with a lack of self-esteem.
My back, neck, and shoulders were in constant agony, I had pimples and rashes around and under my breasts, I had huge grooves in my shoulders, my posture was horrible, and I couldn't find suitable clothing, I would come down with a migraine every day, and I hated my body. It doesn't help that I have scoliosis, so my back is already under a lot of stress.
I wear bras that support me because if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to hold down a job or have any semblance of a normal life. It's extremely difficult and expensive to find the correct bra, but it's a lot easier and cheaper than going to the doctor for pain and skin conditions due to wearing the wrong bra.
BOTB: Anything else you want to share about yourself or your search for a good bra?
D: Even though my search for a bra has been difficult and expensive, it was so worth it to be able to feel comfortable in my skin. I never thought I'd actually learn to love my body, and while my self-esteem isn't perfect I've definitely improved since finding some decent bras in my size.
It's been incredibly therapeutic for me to help other women find bras in the correct size, and blogging has opened up a Pandora's box of information about bra fitting, body image issues, and the industry itself. I definitely feel more knowledgeable about bras in general after using all my free time to research and write about them.
If you're reading this and have struggled with finding bras in your size and shape, don't give up. Most women will be able to find a collection of bras to fit them. Feel free to ask for advice on A Bra That Fits, Bratabase, and any and all available resources.
Sometimes it helps to get a few opinions before deciding if a bra is right for you. If you see a blogger who's a similar size and shape as you, don't hesitate to contact them. Most bloggers are incredibly warm and helpful individuals who have a true passion for helping others.