Barbed wire bra image courtesy of Zephyrbunny on Flickr

Image courtesy of zephyrbunny on Flickr

Right.

Those of you who know me well know that I’m what you might call a bit of a tomboy. Always have been, always will be. As a kid, I liked to climb trees and pick berries and plants and play in the dirt. I liked to play with everything — including my food (and look where that got me). I didn’t exclusively like pink — and later, grew to actively hate it as a teenager. I like cars and motorcycles and mechanical things and forensics and was always asking questions about how things worked. I love to knit, but will take (and have taken) the time to figure out how to double-knit a design based on a MotoGP rider’s helmet (subject of a future post, don’t worry). I am a quirk-filled PITA at times, but allegedly that’s all part of my charm.

All of those things I love to do would be really difficult (if not downright painful) without the help of nice, properly fitted bras. Seriously. I may not be a marathon runner, but you just try standing on your feet and running around a commercial kitchen all day without proper support for your boobs and see how you feel. (Hint: not good. Not good at all.) They’re also a good idea for driving cars quickly (and well), as well as riding motorcycles. Seriously, there’s no time that a good, supportive bra isn’t a good idea. If you have boobs, you need to have some. Period.

Lately, I’ve run into more and more women who have the same problem: bras sold by Victoria’s Secret and the like just aren’t doing what they want them to do. This becomes a major problem if you don’t fit into the narrow size range to which VS and most department stores cater. Sure, you can find bigger bras (either by band, cup size, or both) at specialty stores — if you’re lucky enough to have a specialty store nearby that you can peruse. But a lot of times, they’re the kind of stuff your grandma might have worn. While you may love your grandma, that doesn’t necessarily mean your style is her style, you know? And if you have a small band size but a large cup size, you’re basically SOL.

Several years ago, I was complaining about this very thing with some friends online. One of them, a London resident, helpfully pointed me in the direction of Bravissimo, which had at the time just started to sell stuff internationally via their web store.

I couldn’t believe it. Great fitment advice, for a start — whenever I went to VS and got fitted, they of course tried to fit me into what they sold, but if I didn’t end up with quadraboob, I ended up with underwires that came loose and stabbed me with their sharp ends. It’s a little scary at first, buying a bra online — but if you take the time and follow their fitment advice, as well as read the reviews of other customers for each individual bra before you buy, you can definitely end up with something that makes you happier than you may have previously thought possible.

Here’s the problem: most standard purveyors of bras here only go up to DD cups. They’ll go up to larger band sizes with no problem, but larger cups? You need a specialty store for that. My mother thought she was a C cup when I was little. Neither she nor I knew any better then — nor when I first started wearing bras. With hindsight, as well as genetics, I think it’s likely that she probably was a larger cup size — but like a lot of women, instead compensated by buying a larger band size and fitting herself into cups that were too small.

The problem with that approach is that your chest isn’t properly supported. That’s hell on your back, your feet, your posture — your life, basically. No matter what you like to do, you need proper support. A well-fitted bra should support your boobs from the band — NOT the straps. If your straps are cutting into your shoulders, that’s a sign that your bra doesn’t fit properly. Underwires can help with larger boobs, but there are also soft cup options if you don’t like the wires. The key is really finding the right band/cup size combination. This leads to good support and nice shaping.

Also, really, NOTHING feels like a properly fitted bra. Nothing. Also, if you’ve been wearing an ill-fitting bra for a long time (or worse yet, cramming your boobs into a sports compression bra because you can’t find a regular bra that fits well), you’ll look like you’ve lost a significant amount of weight. (Yes, I speak from experience. Boobs: your best friend and your worst enemy.)

I’ve been a happy Bravissimo customer for several years now, and I’ll never go back. I wish they had stores here, because I’d happily shop in them. (Nudge nudge — we can get Zara and Topshop and H&M, but no Bravissimo? C’mon, guys — I know I’m not alone.) They have sales frequently, which helps take some of the sting out of the exchange rate between the dollar and the pound. If you wash your bras by hand (which you really should), they’ll last for a long time. I’ve had some wear out after a long time, but I have NEVER had any quality control issues like I used to have with other bras. No wires escaping to stab me, or broken straps, or poorly sewn anything. If you shop the sales, they’re in line with what you’re going to pay at VS or somewhere similar for a bra that won’t make you happy. Bravissimo isn’t paying me to say this; I’m just that happy with the experiences I’ve had there, and have since talked them up to any ladies I know who have had trouble finding bras that make them happy. Their customer service also can’t be beat — even with the time difference from across the pond.

They’re good for swimsuits, too — and clothes that are “designed with your boobs in mind.” It’s a little late for resolutions, but resolve to treat yourself (and your boobs) better in 2014, yeah? Your back, feet, and everything else will thank you for it.

My name is Janni, and I approve this message. 😉