Book Review: The Bra Zone

I recently finished another book that Hourglassy readers will be interested in: The Bra Zone by Elizabeth Dale of The Breast Life. More than a how-to-fit instructional, this book promises to delve into all the different styles and shopping experiences that could work for a woman–hence the “zone”–and I was excited to receive a review copy.

Even though I was already familiar with most of the content, I love having all of this information in one place. It’s become a handy reference book for me.

Other than a personal reference book, would I recommend this book to a less knowledgeable friend who needs a well-fitting bra? My answer is yes–if it’s a friend who learns best by reading and I could highlight the points most relevant to her ahead of time. The book is only 142 pages with appendices, but Elizabeth covers enough scenarios in it to make it applicable to a variety of friends with a combination of different issues. It originated from the kind of conversations that you and I have all the time: “During conversations with fellow bra wearers, I suddenly realized that despite years of bra wearing, no one felt confident about their own bra shopping skills. Everyone knew what they liked, but no one seemed to know quite how to find it.”

Here are the things I especially like about this book:

  • Appendix B International Bra Size Charts . . . complete with band conversions. This is so great to have!
  • Elizabeth takes the time to go through all the reasons that bras are wonderful. We hear so many complaints about them, that it’s refreshing to have this list.
  • She’s realistic about bra-buying obstacles and provides workarounds.
  • She walks the reader through basic bra construction terminology. I can finally stop calling the metal things on the straps “those little adjuster thingies” and start calling them by their proper name: sliders.
  • After going through the criteria for fit, she gives a great caveat: meeting all the requirements doesn’t mean you’re going to love the style.
  • The descriptions plus images of the different bra styles are very helpful. No more confusing a balconet with a demi.
  • There is a complete chapter on sports bras, including a chart with sizing options.
  • In her chapter on special bra fit situations, Elizabeth stresses how important it is for an adolescent to have plenty of sports bras. With so much complaining about the price of bras, this is an important point–a daughter’s ability to be active without self-consciousness or discomfort is worth more than the price of a bra.
  • The book includes a great list of bra recycling options.

Here are things I would like to see in the next edition:

  • The “scoop and swoop” discussion needs more than two sentences. For instance, a reader needs to know that it’s important to hold the underwire in place while moving the breast tissue to the front. Also, from my personal experience as an aggressive scoop and swooper, it wouldn’t hurt to warn against over-scooping.
  • An explanation of what constitutes proper length for bra straps would be helpful. Every time I go for a fitting, the fitter adjusts the straps that I thought were perfectly fine. What is the rule here?
  • In covering the rules of proper fit, the center gore against the sternum is so important that a diagram would be useful to make the point as clear as possible.
  • The book acknowledges that some adolescents “may be moving through the bra cup alphabet at breakneck speed, while everyone else in her class is still wearing camisoles”. I would love to read more about the options for this girl. We all know she wants to wear the cute Yellowberry bras like the other girls. Are there any less grown up bras for the sixth grader who already wears a D cup?
  • There is one special situation that is very important to Hourglassy readers but not mentioned in this book: nursing bras for women who were already an H cup before pregnancy. Are there simply no bras available for the woman with a small band whose breasts suddenly shoot past a J? If not, perhaps refer readers to resources like Karen’s helpful post on the subject of DIY nursing bras.
  • I’m biased, but it seems like Hourglassy should be included in the Bra and Blogger Resources of Appendix C!

With her wealth of experience and warm and practical writing style, Elizabeth Dale provides a great entry to the complicated world of bra shopping, plus an excellent reference for those of us already immersed in it.





  1. This is inspiring me to go look for the book. Meanwhile, “In covering the rules of proper fit, the center gore against the sternum is so important…” If this means what I think it means, I have never once (42DD-EE here) owned a bra that does this, including ones fitted to me by bra & corset shop professionals. Are there body types that make this impossible?

    • I can think of two body types where tacking may not be possible.

      The first is pectus excavatum. With the sternum in a different position than the norm relative to the ribs, the bra which is designed for the average person won’t fit.

      The second case is close-set breasts with some center fullness. I have about 1 cm of space between my breasts, but the narrowest gores tend to be 2 cm. Personally I have found that I can get tacking with firm wires (e.g., Panache and Ewa Michalek) but not softer wires (e.g., Freya and Ewa Bien). For some people with this shape, plunge bras may be an option for getting tacking. For me plunge just means I fall out in the center, so I just look for narrow gores, ideally with overlapping wires.

      • Darlene C. says:

        Aa, thanks for chiming in here. My breasts are also close-set. For the longest time I only wore full cup bras, and with their higher center gore, they were much less likely to tack (often I could get them to tack initially, but they wouldn’t stay that way). Balconettes and plunges have definitely been better for me in this regard.

  2. Darlene C. says:

    Nomi, a tacking gore is a pretty new phenomenon for me, too–I looked at the subject in depth here:

    There may be body types where this is impossible, but my theory is that a lot of bra fitters think it’s a matter of preference, like I used to. Also, it’s a lot more work to help a customer find a bra where the center gore tacks.

  3. Until I bought my current set of bras (Chantelle Rive Gauche) I never had a good tack, either. Now that I do, I know how much of a difference it makes.

    My mom who was full breasted but not small band, taught me to bend forward and let my breasts fall into the cups, instead of scoop and swoop. It works really well.

    I’m a new commenter here … happy to have found the site. I was a C cup in junior high, a 32D in college (when the bra ladies told me that was an impossible size) and am a USA 32H now.

    • Liz C, I’m so glad you’ve joined the Hourglassy readership. Can’t wait to hear how the DD Atelier dress works for you. I’m hoping Leah will be able to review some of their pieces tomorrow.

  4. Hi Darlene. Thanks for your very thoughtful review of my new book! Wanted you to know that I agree with you on what should be tweaked for future editions. Plus, my goal is to make The Breast Life “guide” a series of short, helpful, consumer oriented titles. I’d like to write one about post-surgical lingerie, swim and loungewear. And dedicate another to the “first bra” situations, since there’s such a great difference between buying a bra for an 8 year old versus a 15 year old. Again, thanks for the feature!! P.S. Hourglassy is included in the online edition of the the appendix; available via a password protected page listed at the end of the book (and in eBook format). I’ll be adding others as the Appendix is a work in progress.

    • Darlene C. says:

      Thank you for pointing out the password protected page–I LOVE it!! It feels very special to have access to it, and of course I’m honored to be included on it.

      Your idea of focused titles sounds perfect. There are so many specific situations that someone might miss in a general guide but would be specifically looking for in a title.


  1. […] of recommended reading, the team at Hourglassy loved reading The Bra Zone, a recent book from The Breast Life creator Elisabeth […]