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!