Today, I’m going to write about a topic that’s close to my heart – namely that of “the girls”, tits, boobs, or whatever name you personally like to call them. I apologise in advance if these slang terms cause any offence – as the cunning linguist that I am (yes, we translators really do jokingly refer to ourselves as this!) I’m quite literally fascinated with different slang words and Urban Dictionary is one of my favourite reference works:-).
Ever since I moved to Germany, I’ve become insanely self-conscious about my “rack”. The reasons are twofold. First and foremost, thyroid disease has turned my knockers into a pair of thyboobs, ready to quite literally bust out of my shirt – that is if I can even find one to fit. I was busty before then, but now they really are out of control. The second reason is quite simply that I feel a bit of a boob (or a tit – this turn of phrase interestingly shows us just how seriously most members of the public take the topic of boobs – i.e. not very!) whenever I try to shop for bras – in fact, I’ve quite literally given up bra shopping in Germany anyway because it seems rare for most stores to stock above a D cup (I’m not even sure what size my knockers are these days because it differs depending on the brand of bra, but they could certainly live up to their name and knock a grown man out!)
((In case you doubt my claims or need illustrative proof, check out this picture of me pre-thyroid diagnosis. Thankfully, I am happy to report that my boobs are no longer this out of control, but looking at that pic reminds me just how bad the back pain got!))
One wonderful experience was spent swimsuit shopping. My over-the-shoulder boulder holders were smaller than they are now (and I was a US Size 8/UK Size 12) and I went into a German department store, looking for swimsuits – I was literally told: “We don’t have anything in your size unless it’s for old women!” Could the saleswoman have been more tactless if she had tried? Probably not! The other rude comment I have heard from an idiot shopkeeper was: “English women have the biggest boobs in Europe because of their fatty diet!” Yes, indeedy, many people are uninformed and prejudicially hold the opinion that big boobs equals big all over. Of course, we enlightened ones know that this isn’t necessarily true and, even if it were, would it kill some people to just keep their nasty remarks to themselves?
My top half is bigger than my bottom half, which can be a pain when looking for dresses and tops. Not to mention I’ve practically abandoned wearing blouses because unless they’re especially made for busty women, you don’t have a chance in hell of avoiding that ever-so-telling gape! Talking of tops, I once spent an afternoon here trying to find summer tops and the net result was one bloody top that fit and only then because it contained Lycra. Since then, I really do refuse to buy clothes here. It’s not as if busty German women don’t exist; the vast majority of stores simply don’t cater to them, or to curvy women at all for that matter – it really does oodles for my confidence that I can’t find anything here to fit. On the contrary, it makes me feel even bigger than I am! (However, it seems that things in Germany are improving – see my update below in Link 13)
I’ve trained my eye to immediately suss out tops and dresses to see whether they would work with my boobs. Generally, this is based on the cut, but also on the material because certain materials make my bust look like a human sausage squeezed into a sausage skin – not sexy, but more importantly not comfortable! And that’s where I come to the other problem I encounter with my bust. Finding a bra that provides ample support yet is still comfortable to wear is a true tour de force.
The general consensus for big busted ladies seems to be that they should wear an underwired bra, which quite frankly feels like a corset to me. Recently, I visited the UK lingerie store Bravissimo, which specialises in garments for busty ladies. One thing I have been doing since I was a teen (thanks mum!) is to get my boobs specially measured every time I buy a new bra – not only does this ensure that I get the right bra size, but the fitting specialist can also individually fit me with a bra to suit me. Bravissimo also offers this service and for the first time I asked them about their soft cup bras. I was also interested to hear that many ladies have problems with underwired bras – basically they chafe me so badly that I end up wanting to break their wires and rip off the damn things once I get home regardless of how expensive, well-fitting or high-quality they are (apparently, it’s sometimes possible to remove the wires yourself). It seems I am not alone with my low tolerance for underwires. Bravissimo also stocks a range of other wonderful goodies for us voluptuous goddesses, including PJ tops with built-in soft cup bras – finally I can walk around the house or work at my desk in my PJs (as I am wont to do) without feeling like “the girls” are sad because they are getting droopy!
An ill-fitting bra can pinch, chafe, give you insufficient support (resulting in problems like back pain) and even give you extra back fat, but a well-fitting one will provide you with support, comfort and a slimming effect. I know where to go in the UK and I get the impression that there are also more options in the form of most major department stores such as Debenham’s, but also specialist stores such as Bravissimo. Because we’ll be moving to New Jersey at the end of this year, I’ve already done my homework and found two US chains that offer a fitting service and also stock larger cup sizes: Nordstrom’s and Intimacy.
To be honest, I’m a bit sceptical about Victoria’s Secret ever since I had a fitting there and they tried to put me into a bra that clearly didn’t fit and still rudely insisted that it did! It made it no less stressful that my mother-in-law was waiting for me in the store. Then again, I know some women who sing their praises, but they don’t cater for everyone because according to their website the bras they offer only go up to a DDD cup. Sadly, I had a bad experience with Frederick’s of Hollywood (or as my sister-in-law once jokingly dubbed them “Frederick’s of Sluttywood”) because some bras I bought there actually gave me a rash, and that’s not something I’ve ever had before – needless to say, I had to throw them away. However, Frederick’s does at least offer some bras in larger cup sizes and bras are such an individual preference. For instance, I know that my fellow columnist Anita swears by Frederick’s.
Here I’d like to briefly note that there are a few differences between UK and US bras: UK bras tend to have fewer hooks at the back and from my own experience I get the impression that there’s more selection in the UK than in the US for big busted women and professional fitting places are much more widespread, but I wouldn’t mind betting that this is changing as the average woman’s bust size seems to be increasing year by year. Surely supply has to start catering more for demand.
What concerns me is that when you have a bigger bust it is all the more important to get a good quality bra, but I am not entirely sure what you are supposed to do if you are strapped for cash. I get the impression that there are some pretty good offers for discount bras online and so I’ve included a few links in the “Useful links” section below. However, when it comes to buying bras, I personally am reluctant to shop online because for me it’s too unpredictable. Every time I get a bra fitting, my cup size can vary greatly depending on the bra or even the country I am buying it in (US cup sizes are different to UK cup sizes – I kid you not, with the same bust size I have been a DDD in one store and an FF in another!).
The links below provide some wonderful resources on topics such as how to care for your bra, how often a woman should buy a new bra (I have heard every six months), how to ensure you get a good fitting … be sure to check them out for more information.
I have heard some people despairingly talk about getting breast reductions. For me personally this has never been an option, but I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has had one and whether or not it has helped them. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section. In addition, please feel free to dish on your general experiences with living with big boobs – have you been the victim of any nasty attitudes or prejudices? Do you have any useful tips you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them.
- 007 Breasts – 007b.com
- Bras Beyond DD
- Oprah’s Bra Revolution
- Figleaves online lingerie store (separate stores for both the US and the UK)
- Brastop.com®, UK-based online store for “big bras at discount prices”
- Linda’s Bra School, bra fitting service and tips, as well as online shop for lingerie, swimwear for big busts plus two stores in NYC
- Linda Unhooked, your inside guide to bras, fashion and your fabulous boobs
- Town Shop, online bra store with store location in NYC
- Living With Large Breasts
- Big Boob Survival Guide, list of some bra fitting places in Canada
- Big Bust Support
- Nicola Quilter. If you are ever in London’s Camden Market or are just looking to order an original handmade skirt or dress online, you really should check out Nicola Quilter. Nicola is a multitalented actress, musician, designer and writer who told me how she vowed to make clothes in realistic sizes once she became a designer. Much of Camden Market is filled with import crap that just won’t fit many women and Nicola told me how many women would come to her stall in tears because they hadn’t been able to find anything at all. Not only does Nicola create exquisite designs, they are also really flattering even for the curvy women amongst us and she helps to boost our body confidence further by going against standard sizing conventions and calling her sizes: Tiny, Trim, Normal, Healthy, XHealthy, Voluptuous. I l♥ve this concept because most of the time wearing an XL or larger top makes me feel seriously fat, but I’m perfectly okay with being called Voluptuous. Keep up the good work, Nicola!
- Bornemeyer Düsseldorf. Having bitched about the inability to find a well fitting bra in Germany to give the girls some support, I was delighted to discover last year that things are improving. Due to Hurricane Sandy, I ended up stuck in Düsseldorf for longer than we planned (meanwhile, we have moved to the US, so we were just visiting). As a result, it was decided I should accompany my husband on his business trip to Bad Nauheim, the spa resort where Elvis once spent his military service. This meant – horrors of horrors – that I was going to have to embark on mission impossible to actually find a swimsuit that fit the girls without them generously pouring out (not anticipating the spa trip, mine was in my drawer at home!). Oh. God! I literally panicked. However, as luck would have it, a friend of ours recommended Bornemeyer and the day was saved. I went in there and not only did they have swimsuits in larger sizes, they also had a selection of bras. This is honestly the first time in Germany where I’ve had the pleasure of having bras and swimsuits fitted by a professional. Even when I went to a huge underwear store in Cologne stretching over two floors, they didn’t offer this service. Now, when you’re as busty as I am, you know how important it is to get a second opinion to make 101% sure that you are getting the best support. Because it was out of season, there wasn’t a ton of choice, but I still managed to find something I liked (with underwired support in my size!) and so happy was I that I even went back and bought three well fitting bras. When we arrived at Bad Nauheim, I was also enthusiastic to see that many stores even stocked tops to fit the bustier lady. Perhaps the Germans are finally learning that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes!
I garnered a lot of attention for my chesticals early in life but turning 50 started a whole new adventure. I’ve never gone braless so they are better than they would have been, but at 60 the sag was most definite and now that I have to lose weight, and I can’t afford plastic surgery, they are going to look really bad. The Avonex I take for MS causes little skin bumps and brown spots to work over time and cover about 1/5 of the surface now. The last man I was attracted to turned out to be incredibly ageist and I’m fighting the assertion that only 20 year olds look good. I have only grown from 38D to 38DDD, but oh, the difference. I’ll be interested to see what the weight loss does and working overtime in the weight room. Not for men but for me.
Thanks for commenting. I think you look great for your age and f*** those men who think otherwise. People who just judge a woman by her age are missing out on so much and really you are better off without them. What kind of med is Avonex exactly? I’m sorry to hear about its nasty side effects. I wonder if certain fading creams would work with that. I know there are some out there that are designed to bleach/fade age spots (as part of my translation work, I do a lot of cosmetics texts).
I think I’m about a DDD at the moment. I hope the weight loss works well for you. And your assertion “Not for men but for me” is something we all need to consider because ultimately what is most important is that we feel comfortable in our own skin despite what others might think!:-)
another engaging article, S. love this one. as a gal who fits into the scheme of this article, i can say that bra buying is never easy, nor quick. and when i lived in asia, the land of the small busted lass, i was a total freak. i will never forget being so excited to see they had built a la perla, only to have the willowy, nearly non existent sales girls look at my chest, snicker and shake their heads “no no nanette” at me. hussies.
yes. i DO like fredericks of sluttywood. ha. but, their range has really expanded, and many of the plus sized bra’s are downright fetching in a very pretty, feminine way. not at all cheap looking, but sexy in a pretty way. i like to have my sails hoisted right to the top of the bar, and their bras give you a nice lift. a lot of support. i personally require an underwire. period. another bra that’s nice for everyday t-shirt wear is the playtex secrets line. they have larger sizes and often have great sale prices. cacique, lane bryant’s line, has revamped and improved their bras tremendously, and i’ve found myself veering away to them from fredericks for the first time in years. pretty, girly, super supportive. i personally like my bras to have bows and color and flowers and lace… i want to look alluring in my undies! very happy with them.
i’m going to jump in and tell a trick that your sister in law told me, and it’s worked a proper treat! the seat belt trick. being busty means the seat belt never crosses over the chest in the right way. it is bloody uncomfortable, chafes and bites. i took one of the heavy duty little bag clips, snapped it just under the spot on the belt where it spools out of the roof or side of the car, giving just a little slack. it’s tight enough to protect me, but lays just short of tight. i can adjust it to fit different bra profiles and i am so much more comfy. i didn’t wear my seatbelt for years due to the way it cut into my neck. now, no excuses. it works much better than the adapters they sell in the stores. heide is a genius!!!!
I knew you’d have some valuable input:-). What the hell did the sales girls at La Perla mean by “non naette” – they sound like a couple of bitches! I have been there too to the extent where I have felt self-conscious about entering a boutique for fear that the women would laugh at my body. I know that is crazy, but as you know it happens! How people can be so heartless I will never know!
I am glad you have found some bras that work really well for you. I honestly couldn’t imagine ever going without an underwire until I tried the Bravissimo soft cups, but I have to tell you that they offer just as much if not more support than the underwires – I think you have to see it (or rathe feel it) to believe it.
I rarely buy bras these days because I have given up buying them in Germany, so the US or the UK are my only options. I think things will be a lot easier once we move to Jersey. Hey, maybe we can even go bra shopping together one day:-). I agree with you about pretty bras. Colour has been something I have always loved. Sadly, when it comes to the larger sizes, there isn’t always as much selection as I would like, but Bravissimo does carry a great range – the fact that they only stock bras from a certain size means that they have more selection in these sizes than many other stores would. I think my mum wears Playtex – they seem to be a good quality brand. I have a lot to thank my mum for the fact that from an early age she taught me the importance of getting a well fitting bra: Thanks to this, I think I am still pretty pert at the grand old age of 33 going on 34;-).
Thanks for sharing Heide’s trick. She is a practical genius and has some great stuff to share. Hopefully she’ll chime in later on, too.
Thanks again for dishing.
oh yeah!! three scrawny little acrylic clawed harpies, they were. i felt like i had entered a scene from macbeth. only the witches were skinny, skimpy dressed, sexy little chinese girls. sigh. and my boobs were the point of ENDless fascination in southeast asia, where the women are a size 2, and size 6 is a double XL. they’re both repulsed and amazed at large breasts. they love to stare, but don’t want them on their women. only on the “paid entertainment” if you get my drift. so, i caused quite a stir, being a regular old expat bouncing around town like that. i can make even a regular necked shirt look porno!
i will look into the bravissimo brand. i buy the fredericks on sale, and they end up being about 19 to 32 US dollars per. and, like i said, the cacique is in the running with me. i’m also a bra addict. i have about 15, in all colors and styles, as well as 4 sports bras, which i use for morning and sleeping. i know a lot of ladies go braless, but i never have in my life, i only occasionally sleep without one. as a result, my nearly 50 year old boobs look wonderful. no sag or droop, full and round. yippee. at least ONE thing on me looks good nekkid!! ha ha.
Wow. It’s so sad that we should have to put up with shit like that from women who are actually trying to sell something. I know how you feel though. I have often felt self-conscious about my boobs, but I have grown to like them and appreciate them despite what anyone else may or may not think. I suspect we are about the same size btw.
I’ll have to look into Cacique, but I’m sure I’ll be dishing with you even more when we finally get across the Pond and I have access to more bras for bustilicious figures. Sports bras are great if you get the right one. I have a Shock Absorber sports bra in a 38GG and I’m VERY happy with it:-). One thing you might like about Bravissimo is their PJ tops with built in soft cup bras. I can’t imagine wearing an underwire to bed, but these are seriously comfortable and they also have a sister brand called Pepperberry and I think they have some good stuff too. It’s rare that I’m that happy with a bra, but I didn’t think it was actually possible for a bra to feel comfortable and offer support for big busts. Theirs do though:-). I should be getting paid for this free endorsement, eh? But I’m quite happy with the brand, so may well buy again if I get the opportunity. Good for you for keeping your bust pert! You look good, Anita, but I know you are critical of yourself too. I think most of us are.
I so share with you about big boobs. All my life I’ve had big ‘uns as they say. In 7th grade I was insulted for the entire year that I stuffed. I got so humiliated that I flipped them out right on the feild. (not my finer moments) As I got older,yes I got bigger and bigger. After my son I went from a D cup to a DD and after I quit smoking I went to a DDD when I gained another 60lbs. When I lost the weight, the boobs remained. When I got measured at Victoria’s Secret, I measured out to being 36DDD, except that I spill out on both sides and just very uncomfy ill fitting. I went to a store called Soma and they measured me at a 36DDD and when I put the bra on, same thing. So she brings me a 38DDD. Why do all assume to go up a size works. Now I’m too big around the back and still have some spillage on my right side. I’m sure alot of ppl have that issue too (one size just about bigger then the other) I settled for the 38DDD and bought 2. They were bogo. Alot of good that did $60 and no support and alot of shoulder and neck strain from pulling the straps all the way. So I’ve been desperate in finding bras that fit and fit comfy. I told my hubby I wanted to try the Genie bras, but afraid to make the purchase and find I don’t like them. A friend said she wanted to try the Ahh bra. From looking that didnt look like it even had any support.
Anyway, that’s my story.. Hope I’m not alone..
I’m curious where you saw my article as I see you are a first-time commenter. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that horrible humiliation at school. I suppose you might look back and laugh, but it can’t have been pleasant at the time. I was never that huge at school. For the longest time I was a DD and at the height of thyroid disease my boobs were so big that they caused me A LOT of back pain. I really should post a picture of myself back then.
Bra fitting is nothing short of a science. It is no coincidence that these women are specially trained to fit us. Having been fitted time and again, I just prefer to go that route, but I haven’t been happy with the bras I bought for the longest time. I’m very happy with my last Bravissimo purchases. It was the first time I went there, but the soft cup bra really seems to be for me. Gone are the days of red marks due to chafing. I have the most sensitive skin, so I guess I may react more to underwires than some other people. If I remember rightly, sometimes when you go up a size you have to go down a band width. With big bras, another problem I have experienced is how they show through your clothing and even a crop top won’t cover them up. They are so bloody wide at times – even the nice ones! Either that, or someone tries to fit you in one where you can hardly stretch your arms back to fasten it. It must be excruciating for people with illnesses such as fibro. I know at times my sister-in-law (who has fibro) has had problems even colouring or washing her hair.
I’m not familiar with the Genie bras. Are they well-known? I guess I am a bit out of it here in Germany and hear most stuff about bras in larger sizes from what I glean on the Internet. I haven’t heard of the Ahh bra for that matter either.
I wanted to share one more story to show just how tough it can be as an expat in a country that doesn’t cater for busty women. We recently got married and I had to make a 7(!) hour round trip just to get a wedding dress that fit. Now picture this – I am not big, but I am curvy. At a Size 12, I’m actually below average by American standards. My bust however will not fit into a Size 12 and certainly not in the German equivalent a 42, which often seems tighter than a 12 anyway. I travelled that far to go to a bridal store with designs by a talented Brazilian designer for all shapes and sizes. I found that I had to bump it up one or two sizes just to get my boobs into the dresses, although the rest had to be adjusted as I have a narrower waist and hips. In fact, the bridal shop actually told me I had a slim waist, which is something I don’t usually here. Just shows that we are way too self-critical at times.
Trust me, Christina. You are in no way alone and I am really glad you were brave enough to comment and share your story because I know that in turn other women will read it and take comfort it knowing that they are not alone either:-).
I was looking for where to buy large cup size bras, as I felt I never want to waste my time and money in Bravissimo again after the young salesgirl was deliberately rude, they have signs everywhere saying ask for help with fitting, and when I did she was really unhelpful and asked the woman behind me in the queue if she could help her,ignoring me, while I was still standing there trying to ask questions. I had tried on a bikini top in the bra size that fitted last time, 30H, but it felt uncomfortable and a struggle to do up. I have a 30H Bravissimo bra which has always fitted beautifully and at the time, about two years ago, I was fitted by a really nice lady my age, who could tell by looking that I was a (British) size 12 and she estimated the size bra I would need, and it fitted perfectly. Their stuff isn’t cheap and I wouldn’t buy anything without trying on.
I was considering learning to make my own bras, bikini tops, etc, as there don’t seem to be any Bravissimo competitors, and it isn’t the first time I have been treated like dirt in their shop. Their advertising says they will be helpful, but apart from the saleslady two years ago they are anything but, and it is difficult to get anything to fit so it is comfortable, and if it isn’t comfortable you don’t ever wear it. Their stuff is expensive and needs to fit properly to be wearable.
I’m sorry to hear you had such a shitty experience at Bravissimo. I really sympathise as I have personally experienced a lot of poor customer service and sometimes I find that it depends on the individual serving you or even the individual store. For instance, I’ve had horrible experiences with Victoria’s Secret – the sales woman was incompetent and tried to stuff me into a bra that was quite obviously way too small! I’ve also not had the best experience with Frederick of Hollywood bras, but others seem to rave about them. One thing I know is that bras – like so many other things – are such an individual purchase that if one brand works for someone, it will not necessarily work for another. The same with doctors really.
To be honest, because I no longer live in the UK, I’ve only ever visited one Bravissimo shop in person and they were nice to me there. I’ve been to other places to get bras such as Debenham’s and one woman was a total bitch at their store in Canterbury, but when I went to their Sheffield store they were nice as pie. It is tough and frustrating either way when you have a big bust and not everyone or every brand gets it.
Whilst I am personally recommending Bravissimo, feel free to try out any of my other recommendations in this article – I tried to include as many as possible as not everyone wants to mail-order a bra. It certainly wouldn’t be my preference unless I was absolutely sure what I was getting. Now that we are living in the US, I may well end up going to Nordstrom’s as well as some of the stores I mentioned in this article which are based in NYC. I’m not sure where you are based, so it’s hard to make any specific recommendations, but I hope you do find a good place and that perhaps some of my suggestions will provide you with some inspiration.
Take care and happy bra shopping (I know it can be a pain in the boobs at times!!)
I’m sharing this wonderful comic I found about the trials and tribulations of busty girls because I know that many of you will be able to relate and it really makes me smile:
Thanks for the info! I agree Victoria Secrets suck! They dont know how to meausure. I went in earlier this week to check out their bras and they wanted to measure me so i let them. They measured me at a 40DD. Im like no way. Im a 34DDD or F maybe even G depending on the bra. They measured over my clothes and they didnt measure directly under my breasts for my band size instead they measured in like a cross for band size. I told them they were wrong and they didnt carry the size i needed anyway so i just left.
Thanks for your comment, Cynthia. Victoria’s Secret seemed particularly clueless and unfriendly when I went in there and it doesn’t sound like your experience was that different. Who measures a bra over your clothes?!!
Good luck in finding some bras that are supportive yet pretty. I know they exist. You just have to know where to look. If you know what size you are in a particular brand, I see no harm in ordering online, although personally I’ll always prefer being in person because even then certain styles fit better or are more comfortable. That’s just my personal preference though and you have to do what makes you the most comfortable.