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True Lingerie Loves: Beyond the Bra Fit Community

Pink Silk Rose Panties by RavenDreams

Pink Silk Rose Panties by RavenDreams

For the past few months I've been yearning and searching to rediscover my love of lingerie. Some of my feelings are because I blog a lot for work, so I simply see a ton of bras. Some of it is because this season all the lingerie kind of looks the same and I'm someone who tends to fall in love with unique and slightly kitschy pieces. But part of it has to do with what the lingerie community has become, which is what I'm going to tackle today.

A few weeks ago Cora brought up bra fit on Twitter and asked for some of my thoughts about it. Talking about the bra fit community is complicated, as it's what most people encounter first when they enter the world of lingerie. When I started getting into underwear, lingerie blogs were mostly dominated by young women with very small band sizes and larger cup sizes. If that described you, you could find a whole community dedicated to bra fit and your potential lingerie choices. As a curvy woman this initially thrilled me, but it didn't take long for some of the issues in the "bra fit" community to become apparent. Some of these tie into the way the plus size community is treated within the greater lingerie community as well.

Dear Bowie Hashtag Robe

Dear Bowie Hashtag Robe

I've talked before about the differences between full bust, full figure and plus size categories. I've also talked about the sizeism that one encounters on lingerie blogs, even ones that label themselves as body positive spaces. When you add in the rigid rules the bra fit community espouses, it's easy to get left out of the incredibly complex venn diagram that is lingerie blogging. As a woman with a 34/36 band, I was viewed as too heavy to fully be part of the full bust community. Now that I write about plus sizes, I'm frequently told that I'm not heavy enough to be plus size either. Where that leaves me (and many other lingerie lovers) is out in the cold, without a community to fully embrace or find friends in.

It doesn't help that the bra fit rules frequently seem to come down to erasing all traces of fat. Have any back fat? You've broken a bra rule and need to find another. If you're my size or larger, back fat is a way of life, even in a perfectly fitting bra. Find a great bra that doesn't lift your boobs up to your collarbone? It's not right and you should go try a Polish bra, according to many participants in the bra fit community. While the bra fit community has been eminently helpful to many people, it seems to me to have become focused on fitting everyone into some magical lingerie equation that can produce the perfect bra --- at least before you change size and have to start the search all over again. What this ignores is what lots of lingerie reviews and bloggers ignore, which is the transformative power of lingerie. 

Agatha Robe by Betty Blues Loungerie

Agatha Robe by Betty Blues Loungerie

When I got into lingerie, it was because lingerie truly enabled me to see myself differently. At its most powerful, lingerie can allow you to dress as the person you are that day, at that very moment --- even if no one else sees that person except you. Lingerie does need to fit, but the math of fit and the focus on bras over all other forms of lingerie seems to be missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. When I suffer from what I personally call "lingerie fatigue," it generally comes, not from too many bras in general, but too many bras that don't make me feel anything and too many bloggers who see lingerie as math rather than fashion. 

Lots of reviews and blogs focus on the nuts and bolts of lingerie, from stitching and design to the complicated math of finding a bra that fits. What I don't see many lingerie bloggers or reviewers address is how the lingerie makes them feel. Do you feel like a classic Hollywood screen siren? Did that pinstripe bra help you ace a presentation at work?

Betty Bra in Floral Print by Tutti Rouge

Betty Bra in Floral Print by Tutti Rouge

The best lingerie sets combine good fit with a specific feeling, almost like perfume that takes on personal meaning to the wearer. When you exclude plus size women from this experience either through limited size ranges, designs that fail to make a statement, or by excluding them from large swathes of the lingerie community, then you're limiting that potentially transformative experience to those who are deemed thin enough or privileged enough to be worthy of it. When you immerse yourself into the world of lingerie blogging, it's easy to feel like you don't deserve to have the depth of experience with lingerie that others do.

Orla Print Bed Jacket by Ayten Gasson

Orla Print Bed Jacket by Ayten Gasson

Over the past month or so, I've gone on a personal campaign to remind myself of why I choose to make lingerie such a large part of my life. I've switched out my yoga pants and t-shirts for slips and silk bed jackets with red lipstick, even if the only one who sees them is my dog. I've made a vow to not buy lingerie that doesn't resonate with me on a deep level and to save up for some custom sets that do. I've purged my lingerie collection of all the pieces that are worn out, don't fit, or that I simply don't gravitate to on a regular basis.

I want my bras to fit, but I also want them to speak to me. And I've gotten to the point in my life and my lingerie collection that I want more than math out of bras: I want to fall in love with them and wear them until they fall apart. That's what lingerie should be and it's not what lingerie blogging is now.

Leave me a comment and tell me about the last piece of lingerie you wore that really moved you. What was it? How did it make you feel?

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

6 Comments on this post

  1. Sophie says:

    Thank you Holly for writing this. As much as I love writing about bra fit, I sometimes feel like the odd one out there who does not need her bras to be perfect fit, but a perfect feel on some level at least. The bra fit world CAN sometimes baffles anyone who has just been fitted to their better size and even I, who write about the fit specifics on a quite deep level, get comments on how some bra cups are too shallow for me or something similar, even though I myself might not take much issue of it. It’s a shame as that also leads people to think that there is some magical perfect fit that they just need to find – when in reality, there are plenty of bras that are good enough fit-wise but most importantly, they will make you feel something just for the sheer art of them. I always try to find the best size for me with all my bras but sometimes I compromise to acquire something that does not exactly come in my size. After all, I am a collector ;)

  2. Thursday says:

    I’ve not spent much time reading blogs from the bra fit camp, partially because I’ve found it unlikely that my size would be represented (40B), or if it was, that differing preferences wouldn’t necessarily make such a focus useful to me. What you’ve really hit on this article is that, whilst I require my lingerie to fit comfortably and I want my everyday underwear to serve certain purposes, great lingerie allows me to express myself – who I want to be that day, my mood, my intentions. Through colours, patterns, fabric, style lines, retro or contemporary, it’s a reflection of myself. This is why I find the lack of options in my size so frustrating.

  3. Rachel says:

    I appreciate this post, especially this line: “too many bloggers who see lingerie as math rather than fashion.”

    I’ve been reading lingerie blogs for nearly ten years and managed to dodge a lot of the bra fit crap primarily because I either don’t wear bras or I prefer ill-fitting cheap bras. Bras are for job interviews, not my daily life. I’d rather hear how a bra *feels,* both in terms of the material used and the experience of wearing it on one’s body, than how it *fits*. Semantic difference, but I think you can get my point.

    For that matter, given the highly individualistic and personal nature of bras and their contents, a blog that focuses on fit can come off as pretty narcissistic. Even if we wear the same size, my breast tissue, life, preferences, etc means I can’t get any good information from a blogger who just focuses on whether the bra fits. Again, that’s fine, I encourage narcissism in women. But I’m not going to read it.

  4. Catherine Deadly says:

    I wouldn’t mind the maths approach so much if it was done by people who were good at maths.

  5. wendybien says:

    I agree with you, and I’m sorry you are feeling burnt out on the bra-niverse. I hope you will stick around though, and not just to represent a different part of the size range. I think the phenomenon you describe can mostly be chalked up to the fact that bra fit bloggerdom, at least at first, was largely due to the fact that this was a community dominated by insecure youngsters — leading to many pitfalls such as doctrinaire approaches to fitting, lack of experience with the fit realities faced by bra-wearers of different sizes, ages and body types, absurd disregard for the material reality that different wearers have different preferences, distorted/very shallow understanding of body positivity, exclusionary tendencies, blithe denial of obvious body privilege, the urge to navel-gaze and childishly insist that NO OTHER SEGMENT OF THE SIZE RANGE has it as bad as the one you happen to be a part of, etc. etc. etc. All this was compounded by the fact that many of the early bloggers, being so young, could in all fairness not be expected to possess the in-depth understanding of garment history, the lingerie industry as a global whole, or indeed even of the dynamics of how that industry shapes and responds to consumer desires and demands.

    On a more crass materialistic level, which probably does have some relevance to your thoughts about lingerie that inspires and makes us dream, your typical 21 year old university student usually does not have the budget to even consider anything remotely high-end, their tastes run to cheap and cheerful, and the English-language dominance means they were slow to venture beyond US/UK brands and the Ewa/Comexim duo. So most of these bloggers spent quite a while parsing the same limited Panache/Cleo/Freya offerings in excruciating detail. Meanwhile, many beautiful lingerie options simply received no coverage whatsoever in the bra fit blogosphere for several years, with the exception of a VERY few bloggers who actually worked as bra fitters in boutiques, went to trade shows, etc. (I’m thinking for example of the greatly missed Miss Underpinnings). In recent years, happily, some of the more prominent bloggers, like Cakes On A Plate, have really branched out (more Polish brands, some other European brands) because they’ve started going to trade shows and the brands have started reaching out to them with samples. I see this as an encouraging thing.

    Anyway, all this to say–weird or difficult beginnings don’t need to define the tone of a community forevermore. Yours is an important voice, as is Cora’s. Broader perspectives on everything from diverse fit needs to body positivity to aesthetics and understanding of the industry are very valuable and necessary. And for every person making a silly comment about bra-fitted boobs “need” to be round, nippleless and hoisted up to your eyebrows, I know there are 200 more silent readers who learn from your work and appreciate your voice because it empowers them to enjoy lingerie, find comfortable and beautiful options that fit their bodies, and hopefully enjoy a good relationship with their bodies as well.

  6. Avigayil says:

    I totally get this. As a 36E cup size, I am ‘too small’ for the full bust community and not ‘plus-size enough’ nor ‘normal size’ enough. I find it terribly difficult – not to find bras as i am a ‘cusp size’ – but to get matching underwear with my bras. Sure, I can buy a 36E almost anywhere – most full bust brands make 36″ bands (most, not all) and start at a DD cup. But hardly any of them make plus-size underwear to match. I find that standard underwear maxes out at a 42″ hip for XL or a stretchy L… whereas I am somewhere between 46″ – 47″. I really like matching sets – so this is a sore spot for me!!

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