I can relate. I wear a 36D, and I have that in-between problem of sometimes fitting into a C. It's hard to explain, but when I wear a shirt that fits, my upper portion reminds me of those black and white movies with Rita Hayworth. It's that triangle shape that most bras push my chest into that gets to me, so I know what that issue is like.

I have an hourglass figure, meaning I have hips and an ass. So I get annoyed with undergarments at both ends. Not exactly because I am large, just endowed, and believe me, most times, it's no blessing.

Underwires are not exactly healthy, since they cut into the muscle under the fat and usually leave a mark. The size and weight, unbeknownst to most men, will cause the muscles in the upper back to be pulled to where the muscles in the shoulders should be and the shoulder muscles where the upper chest muscles are and so forth. So it's either a boob sling or a cage. It's either hanging low or straps cutting into your shoulders.

It's boobs like mine that make me wish I was in Africa, where it wasn't such a big deal.

Not too many women can, and what most of us peons don't know is that female celebrities (politicians, rich chicks, actresses, musicians, etc.) have theirs custom-made. It's basically the only way to truly get a bra that fits, rather than just doesn't hurt, unless you're just incredibly lucky. Of course, that's insanely expensive.

My wife shops exclusively at Victoria's Secret. She wears a 36C when she isn't pregnant or breast feeding, and usually fits into them very well.

When she needed to find larger bras due to the increase in breast size she fell exactly into the gap between C and D cups.

A C cup was too small, and cut into the flesh on the tops and sides (the "cup runneth over" problem). In a D cup she could carry her keys in the extra space.

The only solution that she found was to buy a D cup bra with the "miracle" padding that she normally hates. The padding didn't affect her figure very much since the bra was much too large, but the padding helped take up some of the extra space.

Can't find a bra that fits? You're not alone. The statistic that floats around is that more than half of all women wear the wrong sized bra.

Yes, it's a hassle hunting down your real size, and a well-fitting bra, but the difference is worth the effort. You won't spend all day hitching your straps only your shoulders, wriggling as wires poke you and stab you, or whining about red marks in your flesh when you get undressed. The perfect bra can be more comfortable than going braless.

OK, the very first thing to do is go and get measured. And get measured by a specialist. Go to the smartest department store in your town, and get them to whip out the tape measure. The fancier the shop, the more likely the staff will have been trained to be polite and discreet. It's more embarassing to have a lumpy chest spilling out of a badly fitting bra than it is to be semi-naked with an uninterested stranger for a few minutes. Prepare to be surprised by the results.

(Marks and Spencers, in the UK, offers a fitting service, but it's a waste of time. Their training is so poor that they can't really help you out here. Try Selfridges instead. An example: sick to death of finding bras that were just all wrong, having been told one size by M&S and sticking to it for ages, I finally got measured properly. There are so many arguments about how to measure back size for a bra, that it's worth just going to someone who knows, and then you don't have to worry about adding 3, 4, 5, even 6 inches to the measurement you get, rounding down, standing on your head, and crossing your fingers. I stopped wearing a 38C and started wearing a 30D/E, and all was comfy and happy. No, that's not a typo.)

Secondly, you need to know what a well-fitting bra actually feels like. The main back strap should fit. It shouldn't be loose, or ride up at all. If it arches up between your shoulder blades it's too damn big for you. Get someone, ideally the changing room lady, to try giving the strap a tug. It should only have a couple of finger's space when pulled, maximum, and should pull you backwards rather then stretch into space. If you are not super-slender-skinny-slim, well, you may have a little bit of flesh bulging from a strap. Don't worry about that. As long as it's not cutting into you and leaving marks, it's better than a bra that's too big. The underside of the front should sit tight and snug. You should not be able to see an air gap between fabric and skin. The part between your breasts is where you can get the best idea of a bra not fitting. If the bra is underwired double check that the inside curves fit neatly against your body, and don't gape. If it's the right size, underwires are just fine and dandy. Wrong size, and you are risking damage to your body.

The cup fits if it looks and feels right. Obvious, but look very very closely all around. It shouldn't be pushing any of your flesh out of the bra and into your armpits. No wires should be poking into you. You shouldn't have the dreaded four-tit-syndrome, with the depression of flesh, and then the spillage of extra boob out of the top. You shouldn't be swinging around loose inside the fabric. Get the assistant to help you out here. A second opinion is always helpful, and the assistant is unlikely to be slavering all over you hoping to unfasten it as soon as possible (lovers are very good at judging the effect of underwear, but not of the perfect fit).

Thirdly, know about how sizing works. Most bras are scaled up from an A cup. This is why cup sizes get so weird when you hit D and above: they get so much bigger with each size, and often come way too far up the breast. The difference between a C and a D is far more extreme than between a B and a C. Some manufacturers are now producing larger cup sizes that are based on a D or a DD, which will fit the more generous of breast better.

You can sort of cheat the sizes, too. If you are, say, a 36C, you'd get much the same effect from a 34D or a 38B. They wouldn't fit, exactly, but it's a good way to see how the scaling works and how the amount of fabric in the different cup sizes varies. This is why going from 38C to 30D/E makes sense. down 4 back sizes, up two to four cup sizes...of course, no one makes a 30E, so I had to wear a 32. No, I'm not this shape anymore. Yes, this stuff is complicated.

Fourthly, be prepared to buy different sizes from different manufacturers. Not all bras are cut the same. Not all breasts are made the same. Try on dozens of different bras: the shapes are so different, and not all of them will fit (even if it's officially your size). The sensible special in cotton from Company X might be all cover-up and high cut, but the friday night lacy balcony number from Company Y, might tip you out and leave you wobbly if it's the same size.

Fifthly, be honest about your shape. Large breasts are heavy, and can't be held up by the little wisps of lace and hope that smaller girls can run around in. Or, if you are economical of breast, don't go for padding beyond about a single cup size up: you'll look unbalanced and feel uncomfortable, and give someone the surprise of their life te first time you get naked and shrink.

And don't forget to go shopping again if you gain or lose weight...

heyoka's got it right here, women. Get properly fitted for your bra. I did, and now, for the first time ever, my bras are sort of comfortable.

The whole experience of being fitted was odd, though. I was in a bra shop, so that's all they do in there. They measure, they find a bra that conforms to what you're looking for, you try it on, and then they look at the bra on you. Apparently I wasn't wearing my bra right, for the assistant came up behind me after I put one on, put her hand right IN the bra, and moved my boob around. Was I shocked! But she was very matter-of-fact about it. Once I'd recovered, I asked her about how to put the damn thing on right. She said my nipples are supposed to point forward and not be squeezed off to the side the way they had been. She suggested I lean over to guide the boobs into the cup in the right place. Who knew? Not me.

I tried on lots of bras that day, many of which were just not right for me, but a few that were. I got lots of useful tips on buying, wearing, and caring for bras. It's true that us well-endowed women have to use the evil things, and since we do, let's get nice ones, as comfortable and attractive as possible. Something you wear every day is worth spending money and time to get right.

I once spent a week stranded in Las Vegas, sleeping on someone's couch while waiting for my car to be repaired. While there, I learned about the proper fitting of bras. It turns out that the person who's apartment I was camped out in had worked for Dillard's for some time and knew a few things about it, and after a week, we were running out of things to talk about.

She told me that if you must wear a bra, as most of us with anything over a B cup must, then get a fitting at least once. She said to be prepared for surprising results. Then she told me the basics on doing it yourself.

She informed me that the most important issue when fitting a bra is how the cup fits. Forget everything else. Until you have the cup the right size, you can't continue with any degree of accuracy. When figuring your cup size, the basic method of measuring your barrel, around the ribs without including the breasts, then measuring with the breasts and taking the difference, subtracting 5 or 6 inches so you have an even number, and then dividing by 2 and converting the resultant number to a letter, 1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc, is a good place to start. Use a medium style bra, I prefer soft cup to underwire but that is a separate issue, not anything sexy or puritanical for fit issues. You can branch out to taste after you know what you need.

After you've found your proper cup size, then it's time to find out how big around it should be. This measurement is important, not for how the bra fits around your body so much as for how much strap comes between the cups themselves. I have the terrible misfortune to have a wide back. This means that if I buy a bra that fits properly around my body, the cups are set much too far apart. This is the difficulty that causes the front strap of the bra to be held away from the sternum. I was told to mostly ignore the fit of the bra around the body as that can always be adjusted with a little sewing or extenders, and that the same goes for the shoulder straps. I am personally of the opinion that all shoulder straps should be detachable at the back, so that if necessary, you can cross them, but most manufacturers haven't followed through on this yet.

I personally feel very sorry for the women with large breasts and small frames. I have only a C cup and I have difficulty finding one that is small enough around with a large enough cup size, and while the back can be taken in, it's much more difficult to adjust the distance between the cups. Thankfully, the current trend seems to be an expansion of available sizes and size combinations. Now if only I could find some fun leopard print ones in soft cup.

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