Bras and Dignity: Is Your Old Full Bust Bra a Lost Cause, or Can It Go to a Good Cause?

This is the fourth in my series on Support 1000, Hourglassy’s adopted cause for the year. Last month we learned that there are more C- donations than D+ donations because full-busted women tend to wear out their expensive bras. It made me wonder: How much is too worn out to donate?  Here’s what I learned.

On one end of the spectrum, there are the new bras that people donate for a multitude of reasons, including this one:

(You can see other photos of notes that Support 1000 receives on their Flickr page.)

On the other end of the spectrum are the bras that should have been sent to the waste basket instead of to Support 1000. These have:

  • stretched out elastic that is clearly worn out
  • missing or broken straps
  • excessive staining or tearing
  • underwires either missing or poking out

When supervising the pack and ship sessions, Support 1000’s Catherine Herzog tells volunteers, “If you wouldn’t wear it, we won’t send it.”  As she explains it, “I think the bottom line of all of our bra needs is our mission of dignity. Worn out, dirty bras do not help the women we serve. I appeal to volunteers and donors to put themselves in our client’s shoes and imagine what THEY would like to receive.”

A bra that is still in good shape and simply missing a tag is fine . . . but without more, it’s not getting to the woman who needs it anytime soon. Right now Support 1000 has a large box of bras waiting to be sized. If your donation is missing tags, include a note or a homemade tag letting Support 1000 know the sizes you are sending.

And don’t air your dirty laundry–that’s another delaying factor! As Catherine told me, “You’d be surprised by how many truly dirty bras we receive. We do try to wash them, but our space and resources are limited, so that is a hardship.”

After you’ve washed your donations and made sure they are something you yourself would like to receive, why not go the extra mile? Here are the packages that Support 1000 loves receiving:

The donations that really make me [Catherine] smile – and are memorable – are the ones that come beautifully packaged. My dream day at Support1000 is opening a package wrapped in brown parcel paper to find 5-10 neatly packed bras in tissue paper, with a note to us about what bras (including sizes) they have sent, and why they are sending them. I love the stories that people send us along with their bras, and it is so touching to see how carefully people are sharing this part of their lives with us.


Hourglassy Homeroom: What to Do When There’s No Bra Fitting Textbook

As I mentioned yesterday, today’s post is by “Denise”, a 15-year-old high school student who is determined to find the right bra size. Enjoy (and empathize with) her journey so far!

I think it’s best I warn you in advance that I’m quite a rambler. Now that you’ve been warned, here is my story (chest edition):

Fourth grade: my first bra size was “small”. Wires poking in (I’m positive that it had underwires because my mom always says that bras without would lead to saggy boobs), frustration with the clasp, etc. Typical tween girl stuff.

Fast forward to sixth grade and I remember I was wearing a 34A. I complained to my mother that something about it was wrong. Something had to be wrong because things could not possibly be right when I felt so miserable. Back then, all I was going on was a gut feeling that most of my boobs should have been inside the bra. My mom bought me a 36A bra and from there, I just kept experimenting. Still, it seemed like I was growing out of my bras faster than I could buy them, and certainly faster than I could get my money out of them.

So I went online to learn more. I searched all kinds of key words, like “how to calculate bra size” and “how to tell if you’re wearing the right bra size” and through loads of websites. I just wanted to know. However, they were confusing to me because for most companies, there are two sections: A calculator and a guide. Of course, I hadn’t known how small my underbust actually was either. At any rate, the calculators would say I was anywhere from 34B to 36A (because they were using +4), while the guide told me the band should be straight, and the center gore should like flat against the chest. I was incredibly confused because I’d already tried these sizes, and the band wouldn’t stay straight or the center gore lie flat against my chest.

Although these sites weren’t helpful at all, I was eventually led to better sites that talked of sister sizing. “Aha!” I thought, “Here’s the key. I must be a 32C because the B and A don’t fit.”  I told my mother and she agreed to help me look (if only because I’d complained so much and she wanted to humor me? I don’t know, but I’m grateful).

I went to the mall and numerous stores, but the only one I remember is Macy’s. As a self-conscious teenager by then (I was a nerd and always tried hard to stay out of the spotlight), I was definitely in awe of their expansive (from my view) displays and selection. To my 13-year-old self, it seemed super mortifying to look at the lacy bras and underwear. I cautiously browsed all the sections, but finding no 32C’s, we decided to ask the a saleswoman working there. She seemed motherly, kind, and perfectly nice but when my mom asked for 32C, she paused, scanned my body and chest and replied that she didn’t think there were any. That sticks out in my mind because I felt like I wasn’t normal and didn’t fit in. (I’d always been skinny but since I have a pretty small butt, I was always sure that any insecurities about my body and boobs would stem from them not being big enough, not the other way around.) Her reaction only added to my embarrassment about the whole thing.

That experience is also what carried me into the mindset that most women and men have: a C cup and D cup are big, and DD is enormous. That was when I started feeling like I had to keep my bra size a secret. My mother took me to Marshalls and T.J. Maxx instead, which are actually great places to shop for anyone who fits into the 32-38 A-D (and select DDs) range. That’s when I started my trial and error process until I got to 32DD. All the ones I  have owned since being a 32C are Calvin Klein for $14.99. As the seventh grader I described above, I truly did feel like those stores were my lifesavers.

At the time, I’m pretty sure I was reading all the fitting advice on Imogen Lamport’s blog, (which is fabulous by the way), and I discovered that my bra didn’t match up with many of the tips. She had an article with pictures that showed correct fit, and I think I also read somewhere on her site that she was an H cup (something like that), which caught me off guard and made me rethink my size. From her blog I found a link to Hourglassy where I read all the Fairy Bra Mother letters and followed the links to Boosaurus, BrasIHate, and StackDD+.  Somehow or another, I also got to the Thin and Curvy blog, and that was when I really discovered how to get a good starting point for an accurate bra size and finally measured myself. “Twenty-four inch underbust,” I thought. “That explains so much!” Now, I’m completely hooked and I read lots of bra blogs daily and as a result of them all, I’ve learned SO MUCH and still am. Seriously. But while I was learning a lot, I wasn’t sure how bras would translate for me due to my underbust.

Then, I emailed Darlene and Christine from Boosaurus and received really kind replies. I was touched because I hadn’t expected a reply at all, never mind so quickly. And that is basically my “bra journey” thus far.

I also want to add that my journey has increased not only my knowledge of bras and boobs and such, but also my self esteem. I may not yet be wearing the perfect bra, but I don’t feel like a freak, and I don’t feel embarrassed about the size of my boobs. If someone asked today, I would tell them. It’s all good. I’m much less of a judgmental person and definitely less insecure. The girl who once googled , “what is considered a big bra size” seems like a totally different person.

Hourglassy Homeroom: Learning to be a D Cup and Up in High School

When you revisit your tween and teen years, do you ever think about how different things would have been if you could have had then what you possess now? Here are three things from the present that I wish I could take back with me in time:

1. More confidence. If I could go back to my teens, I’d wear a certain knit top that looked amazing on me but I was too self-conscious to wear out of the house.
2. Every pretty and supportive full bust brand currently on the market, including all the new and amazing sports bras for PE.
3. The internet.

With items 2 and 3 readily available today, you’d think that full-busted teens would have it easy now, wouldn’t you? I’m not so sure because here are a few more things we only tend to have as adults:

A. Funds—full time jobs that pay for the great bras we find on the internet;
B. Independence—the discretion to spend on our own priorities instead of being subject to our parents’ budgets; and
C. Transportation—the ability to reach a professional bra fitter when the only options in our town are department stores.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to find a high schooler to write about what it’s like to be large busted as a teen . . . while a teen. Maybe it’s my way of trying to revisit the past, but it’s actually more a way to keep up with the present. What issues do DD+ teens deal with today that we never had to deal with? What issues remain the same?

In March I received an email from a high schooler I’ll call Denise who impressed me with how seriously she had been searching for a correctly fitting bra. She’d done all her homework, but a lack of funds, independence and transportation were affecting her options. I offered the little bit of advice, but Denise ended up helping me out even more—she agreed to be the high school writer for Hourglassy. Look for the first installment in the Hourglassy high school series tomorrow!

Demi Coverage Reading Roundup

With it being a holiday weekend, I’m not quite back to a full coverage reading roundup, but I think these pieces that have caught my eye will also interest you:

How have I not discovered the Dressing Curves blog before now? I’ve met its Swedish author, Helena, in another forum and been extremely impressed with her technical knowledge and insight. For instance, those of you with narrow shoulders who find most bra straps set far too wide apart, will appreciate this great tutorial on how to move your bra straps in. (For a little background on strap placement, see Eveden fit expert Frederika Zappé’s discussion of the Fantasie 4500 last year.) I’m also jealous of her ability to make her own patterns to create these light, flowy summer dresses last year. Wonder what she’ll make this year?

What’s your “Marge Simpson” outfit? Read this Simpsons episode summary on One Girl, Two Cups from last February to answer that question. And enjoy her description of the Birchbox “scam”. At least she got something out of it that saved the day for her “Marge shirt”.

Every year I vow to review more swimsuits, and every year the summer gets away from me. I’m not making any promises this year, but I do remember my epiphany from last New Year’s Eve on Miami Beach. That epiphany came to mind again on Saturday as I watched this video on choosing the right swimsuit this summer–it seemed to be mostly about covering and hiding. For a more liberating and joyful perspective, check out this gallery of average and overweight women who aren’t hiding anything.

One reason I don’t invest in a new swimsuit is money–I haven’t worn out the one I purchased in 2010, so I can’t justify buying a new one. The money issue caused me to be very happy at this recent post on the Independent Fashion Bloggers website: How Not to Go into Debt over Personal Styling. Here’s my favorite quote from that piece:

Until your disposable income is comfortably, you know, up there, reserve your big ticket purchases to accessories, shoes and classics. Why? Quite simply: they will always fit! A handbag, a pair of shoes, sunglasses, jewelry – even if your size fluctuates, these pieces will always work. If you’re going to spend big on apparel: think about jackets, blazers, a perfect black dress or a cashmere sweater. Quality is key!