Elisabeth Dale wants to talk about your breasts. This actually isn't creepy, because Elisabeth is a self-educated breast expert who has built an entire business on this one beloved (and sometimes also hated) part of the female body. I've had the opportunity to chat with her about bras, her new book, and her passion for educating women.
Bras Outside the Box: So, your first book, b00bs: A Guide to Your Girls, came out in 2007. What lead you to write a second, and what can readers expect this time?
Elisabeth: My second book is part of a series of shorter guides I’m publishing over the next couple of years. The first of these guides, The Breast Life Guide to The Bra Zone: How to Find Your Ideal Size, Style, and Support, is all about navigating the wacky world of bra shopping. It addresses different stages of life, as well as style, budget, and body shape considerations.
Bra buying has changed dramatically from the days when my mother took me to buy my first bra (back in the 1960s). Consumers don’t understand the realities of the bra business. For instance, most believe they are a single size (a letter cup, without considering length of band). They don’t know what sister sizing means, or how different styles of bras can change the way their breasts rest on their chest.
The idea is to help readers discover and accept a more fluid "bra zone" of sizes, styles, and fashion preferences. Plus I touch on some of the major bra and breast myths, as well as covering how to shop online for a bra, wear and care, etc.
BOTB: In your own experience, bra shopping was an ongoing challenge, and you ultimately had a surgical breast lift. Can you talk a little about what you went through trying to find a bra in the right size and shape for your breasts, both before and after your surgery?
E: Buying a bra before surgery was a nightmare, in that I didn’t understand how bra shapes and materials made a difference. For instance, my less-full boobs just rolled around in contour bras. My breasts were completely deflated after three children and losing weight. Like most women, I blamed my body for any bra problems.
I didn’t change bra sizes after my surgery and continued to wear a 34C both before and after the procedure. However, my breasts were now less shallow with less skin weighing them down, so I could get away with skimpier support.
Now, some ten years after my lift, my breasts have changed again with menopause. Turns out that twenty percent of all women grow bigger boobs after menopause, and I’m one of them. Now I wear a 34DD; my breasts are again heavier with more fat and less breast tissue. I’ve had to change the kind of bra styles, sizes, and wire shapes I wear — yet again!
Also, I've noticed that older women are absent from any kind of lingerie marketing. I’ve had to figure out the new bra fit rules for my almost 60-year-old female body. I’m just glad I know that a poorly fitting bra is never my fault!
BOTB: What's the most rewarding thing you get out of talking to other women about their breasts?
E: When I can help them feel like all breast shapes, sizes and placements are “normal.” Too many women never see breasts outside of the youthful, airbrushed, and pushed-up images in lingerie advertising. It’s only when we realize that breasts are all different (like our eye color) that we can truly appreciate our individuality. Our gift is that we are all unique.
BOTB: Most of my readers are dealing with challenges related to body image, size, and/or shape, and trying to find good bras in a market that isn't targeting their particular needs. Do you have any advice for this neglected population?
E: I think they need to start using social media and get more vocal about their needs. I think there continue to be pockets of underserved populations, but so much has changed — for the better — in bra fit. You couldn’t find anything over a D cup when I was a teen. Now you can find bras in size AAA to M. Brands are doing more for deep cups, breastfeeding, and post-mastectomy patients. Much of this change has come about because of the internet, and now brands can sell directly to consumers.
My advice is to find a lingerie blogger who talks about or has your same issues. Talk to brands about your needs, but be realistic. If the market is too small, it’s difficult to expect a large company to mass-produce for one narrow shape/size. On the other hand, I recently heard from one of my readers (who had a single breast recon after mastectomy) that she was able to buy a gorgeous bra in her difficult-to-fit 26A size from an Etsy seller.
There are ways to meet your bra needs; it just may take you a little longer if you fall outside the standard or core sizes. On the flip side, your body is constantly changing and you may find it easier to buy bras at some future point in your life.
BOTB: Your success indicates that there is a need for more breast experts. Have you thought about training other women to do what you've done?
E: No, that has never occurred to me. Others address breastfeeding, bra fit issues, and breast cancer, for instance. I think I may be the only one that covers all the bases on my website. That makes it both challenging and frustrating as there is so much more I’d like to discuss when it comes to breasts. It’s also one reason that I’ve started to add guest bloggers with expertise in certain areas. There’s never enough time to write all the blog posts that I want to write.