Small Bust Bras: An Interview with By Baby's Rules & 32AABra, pt. 1
Lately, I've been getting a lot of requests for articles that address the unique bra concerns of smaller busted women. Since I'm fairly new to the world of small bust lingerie, I asked two of my favorite lingerie bloggers --- Chrystal of By Baby's Rules (who I first met during this conversation on the War on Plus Four) and Amanda of 32AA bra (my go-to resource for small bust bra reviews and articles) --- if they'd be willing to share their insights with TLA readers.
When you ask a lingerie blogger to talk lingerie, you're gonna get a lot of really great insight. I didn't want to shorten this interview (there's just too much good stuff), so I split it into two parts with the first going up today and the seconnd tomorrow. As always, I'd love to get your point of view in the comments.
1) Let's begin at the beginning, how do you feel about the way the lingerie industry is currently handling the needs of smaller busted women?
Chrystal: There have been some improvements in the last few years, at the same time there has been a decline. The brand I used to buy ill fitting 32A bras now starts at a 34B. But Victoria's Secret (to name one) has introduced 30A and B bras while reintroducing their 32AA online. Those 30As would have been ideal for me. Brands are in a constant state of flux and I for one am not up to date on how they determine their product lines. But with each change we have to remember that a single company cannot provide for the needs of an entire market of women. We definitely don't have to like it, but we should try and ensure we are up to date on what is available in a size market.
Amanda: For the most part, I think the lingerie market is not doing nearly enough for small-breasted women. The UK and Europe have handled this consumer niche better than other places, but even they have very limited options available. Here in the US where I'm from, you go to almost any department store and typically you can't find anything under a size 34A in the women's department. If you need something smaller than that, you have go look in the "Kids" or "Girls" section. It's the same thing with most brands that are sold in chain stores across the US; they have intimate apparel lines for adult women, which generally start at a 34A or 34B on top and a size Small (5-6) on the bottom.
2) Here's something I've noticed lately... while there are a lot of B-D lingerie bloggers and DD+ lingerie bloggers, there are very few A cup and under bloggers. Why do you think that is?
Chrystal: This is something that I'd love to see changed. With every blog you look at there is always something that pushed the author to start writing. In the smaller bust circle there is a common stereotype that lingerie does not have a function, for example a small breast does not need support or all that is needed in a bra is padding for size. With the few blogs that do exist you see a common thread of information about supporting, shaping, flattering the smaller figure, while providing a message with a mix of function and fashion. These are pretty big shoes to fill, especially when you are fighting a stereotype. I'd also like to see more in the plus size small bust. A 40AA does exist, and their lingerie needs are vastly different.
Amanda: I think the main reason there aren't many small-cup lingerie blogs is that a smaller bust size is much less common, so there are actually fewer women looking for information on this topic online. But I also believe that the small-cup/petite size niche of the lingerie market wants and needs a lot more attention than it is getting right now. Although small-busted women are more rare, they are out there and they are definitely seeking help. I've done what I can to address that need.
3) Bra shopping is hard for most women, but what are some of the biggest concerns of smaller busted women?
Chrystal: The biggest things that I see are women who buy without trying on the garment. We all tend to stick to a safety net, the same brand, same bra, season after season. But brands change and so do bodies. Every woman, no matter what size, needs to consider how their needs change. The 32A that worked last year many not work now that you've gained a few extra pounds from summer BBQs. Smaller busted women have the same issues you see in the full bust range, wires may be too wide or cups too shallow, bands could stretch quickly, shoulder straps may not come short enough, not to mention the needs of a plus size small bust. Unfortunately there is not a lot of fit information for small busts, which puts women in the position of buying what's available and living with the discomfort of a bra that is not suited to their body.
Amanda: Many women with smaller breasts are unable to find their band size in stores, especially those who need a size 32 band or smaller. They usually end up in a 34 band, which is quite often too big across the front. A lot of them don't understand that a 34C runs like a 32D in the cups --- which means you basically have to go up in the cup size when you go down in the band. I've had women who measured at size 32B or 32C tell me, "no way... I've never been able to fill that cup size! I am flat as a pancake!" But once they try the smaller band and larger cup, they discover it does work on them.
Another group that suffers a lot is women who need an AA cup or smaller. You can almost never find anything in these sizes in stores that is not designed to fit little girls. Even petite brands tend to have the cups set too close together in front to fit well on women with average bone structure and very small breasts. Past size 34, it gets especially difficult.
For more advice on bra shopping for size AA, A and B cups, please see my Size and Fit page at http://32aabra.com/size-fit/.
4) Do you have any fit and sizing advice for smaller busted women? What about unique considerations they should take into account?
Chrystal: Get fitted, and not just once. Get several fittings, and with each fitter ask questions. Find out why they recommend a certain product, how it is going to work with your body. Know your body, know what you do not like with your current bras, know what you need for your wardrobe. The more information you give to the fitter the better they can fit your needs. Try different sizing/fitting methods, one may not work for you when it works for everyone else. Don't look at a bra tag and think that you couldn't wear that size, judge by the fit and comfort. That tag could read larger or smaller then what you are used to, but those numbers and letters are brand unique and have no defining purpose. Bottom line, you should feel comfortable!! So many smaller busted women think that because they have smaller breasts that a bra is just going to have to be uncomfortable. If you sigh with relief when you take of your bra at the end of the day then it is not the right bra for you!
Fitting example: Last fall I helped my twin sister refit two years after having her baby. She measures a 28D. She was wearing a 34A with the band between her upper shoulders. A 28D and a 30C just do not work for her body shape, the cups are placed on the band in a way that does not work for her, though they "fit" she is miserable while wearing them. She comfortably wears a 32B, feels supported, and likes how she looks in clothes. The highly debated method to add inches to a underbust measurement works well for her, while it does not for me. And she is my twin sister!!
Amanda: It's a good idea to get professionally fitted for a bra. Keep in mind, however, that professional bra fitters are not always trained to address the petite slender body type. Before you go, get a non-padded bra that fits well on you and take that along in order to have something you can show the salespeople without being totally uncovered (if it makes you self-conscious to be seen with nothing else on). This can make the process a little less scary. If the salesperson tells you that you need one size in particular and that nothing else will fit, don't believe it. Bra fitting is not an exact science, as most legitimate professionals who do it will tell you. Most women, including those with smaller breasts, can wear at least two different cup sizes when AAA and AA cups are included. Some can also fit into more than one band size. That's why I have bras in four different sizes in my personal lingerie drawer.
5) What are some of your favorite lingerie brands and boutiques for smaller busted women? Feel free to link us to specific styles!
Chrystal: I am currently in love with the Affinitas line, 30-38 A-D. They have daily wear, strapless, bustiers, camisoles, wired baby dolls, and chemises. Affinitas has a full bust line, branching into both market segments in a way similar to Wacoal with their petites line, Huit by Eveden, and Atlantis by Panache. Claudette makes their gorgeous neon mesh starting at a 30A. For ladies looking for shorter straps I like Calvin Klein. For ladies between cup sizes I like brands that run a little smaller like Elle MacPherson. And of course the made to measure and specialty designers, they do not have to be as expensive as they sound. There are plenty more that I'm sure I have not mentioned, and again these are not in the plus sized small bust category. I have a huge knowledge gap when it comes to fitting women and their needs in that size range.
Amanda: Here are several of my favorites --- The Little Bra Company (http://thelittlebracompany.com/) has bras scaled down in total height, underwire length and cup width. Some bras in their collection also run small in the cup. This company makes beautiful underwire bras in a variety of styles, most of which have some degree of push-up padding. You can find The Little Bra Company for sale in sizes 28-38 A, 28-36 B, and 28-34 C on the brand's official website. The website also provides a list of recommended boutiques across the United States that carry their lingerie.
If you prefer bras without wires, I highly recommend The Zee Bra by Lynn Saussy (http://thezeebra.com/). Lynn, a small-busted woman herself, makes extremely comfortable and stylish pull-over bras that are made to fit AA, A and B cups. They have a wide band for better support, and light removable padding in the cups for more coverage if you want it (or not if you don't).
Itty Bitty Bra (http://ittybittybra.com) makes excellent underwire bras with a light layer of contour padding in petite sizes 32-38 AA, A and B. Recently this same company introduced the Flatter Me Bra (http://www.flattermebra.com/) for women with small breasts and larger backs; these come in sizes 40 - 48 AA, A and B.