Those of you who do your research and are willing to share your experiences here are such a delight. Last Thursday, I received this question from Karen, one such reader who is on the hunt for a nursing bra:
So would you ever work with a tailor on altering a bra? I am hesitant because to shell out $75 for a bra and another $50 for altering might leave me with a $125 bra that I end up not liking but can’t be returned due to the altering.
Since we know it takes a village to buy a bra, I’m submitting Karen’s query to you. Here’s more background from her email. I write my response in the comments.
I’ll start by saying that I have absolutely no idea what bra size I am. I have yet to have a satisfactory fitting, and what I measure seems to be a terrible starting off point when it comes to purchasing bras online. That said, I’m in a terrible need of nursing bras.
I went to my local specialty bra store (the only store within 50 miles of my home that offers bras larger than a DD), and asked the owner of the store to measure me: 29″ underbust, 36″ full bust. She felt that I would be best fit into a 30 band, but they didn’t carry any brands in that size.
She brought back a 32F, 32G, and 32H of a LeMystere bra. The F cup was way too small. The G cup was okay, but hard to tell based on the band being too large, and the H cup was perfect on one breast, but gappy on the other.
Now, the store does not carry any nursing bras of any brand. The owner suggested that I purchase the 32H bra and work with their tailor to alter the bra to become a 30″ band, fit the cups to my breasts’ differing sizes, and modify the cups into the traditional flip down nursing style.
I went ahead and ordered 15 different styles of nursing bras online, ranging from 30F to 32H (including F, G, and H cups of each style). My total bill for these bras was $2400!! However, when you have no other option than to do a virtual dressing room, you need to order as many as possible at once to save on shipping and time. Unfortunately, none of these bras fit just right, so they all will be returned.
I'm so impressed that you've done all this work. I need a little more information before I could tell you what I would do in your situation.
First, are you already nursing or simply preparing to? The reason I ask is that Anina from Brazen Lingerie recommended in my October 7 post that a pregnant woman wait until she is at least 7.5 months pregnant to buy a nursing bra, and that she forget underbust and cup sizes and just go for S, M, L or XL in whatever is stretchy and comfortable.
If you've already tried this and been unhappy with it, I'd ask myself a few more questions before going the alterations route:
Do I trust the owner? Would she be willing to refer me to other customers who have gone this route? Will she make as many changes as it takes to get the fitting just right, or will she tell me I'm being too picky and that I have to live with it? Will she make further alterations as my body changes?
I'm also curious as to why the owner can't just order you a few 30 band nursing bras to try. (My friend just told me Saturday about a beautiful new Le Mystere nursing bra. I'm not sure what size it goes to.) Granted, I've only had a few occasions where a lingerie store owner has offered to special order something for me in my size, so I'm wondering if she couldn't return something you don't purchase. Also, I realize from your email that time is a factor.
If I felt like I could trust the owner and that she would keep working with me until we got it right (and I knew the stretchy S, M, L or XL option wasn't for me), then I would have fun with the alteration option and write a review about the process for my blog!!
Also, I'm curious about the other brands you ordered and tried. Did you notice a trend across the brands and styles in each cup and band size?
Good luck, Karen. I'm looking forward to seeing what other readers have to say about this.
I would gather you're definitely a 30 band and possibly even a 28. Bravissimo (a UK based site, though they ship to the US/Canada as well as other locations) has a good selection of bras, even three choices starting at a 28 back in two brands:
They also have fantastic customer service available by phone or email. I would recommend calling them and telling them your tale, they will be able to help you.
Judging by your story I would not bother with 32 anything and stick with what you can order in 30. Possibly 30H sounds like it could be the right one for you based on your experiences – though keep in mind that a 30H in british sizes is different than a 30H in French sizes – British brands have double letters (d, dd, e, f, ff, g, gg, h, hh,) and french don't – (d, e, f, g, h) so therefore the h's are not created equal. If you explain to the bravissimo service the sizes that worked they can tell you what sizes to order from each brand.
Good luck – and please know – they DO make bras in your size, they just aren't easily available in north america. It's not you- it's the retailers!
PS I don't work for Bravissimo! Just love their products and services. (
I suffered through cheap, not-fitting nursing bra's for a long time (helped by the winter season and sweatshirts hiding them, LOL). Then a friend suggested just using a regular bra, stretchy helps, and either lifting the breast out over the top, or loosening the band and lifting the bra up. This might be annoying in the first 6 weeks when you're nursing frequently, but after that…
In the first two weeks I don't bother with a bra cause I nurse every 90 minutes to prevent engorgement…so I just wrap myself up in a towel, LOL!!
Getting a bra custom made from scratch might be cheaper than getting one altered.
I have had my bras altered at the band, because I need smaller than a 28. I don't really recommend it.
It sort of helps but I have read that the width of the wires ought to be relative to your band size- so, if you have a small back size, the wires should be narrower and the cup deeper than the same size on a wider back. Altering takes a bra that already has too-wide underwires and stretches them more. I end up with the wires past the midpoint under my armpit! My mother is 29 under and 39 over, and she wears a 30G/28GG.
So basically in my opinion altering can be good if you have no alternative, but if you can avoid it it's a lot better to just buy them in your size. There is a style and size out there that will fit, you just need to be able to try more on. Is there another fitter or store you could try? That would probably be the easiest.
Thank you all for your comments. I was able to meet with the woman who would do the altering of the bra today, just to ask her how she would change the bra. Now, the fitter had told me I was between a G and an H in a 32 band. The tailor said that the only reason the G fit was because the band was too big, and the H didn't fit right because the band was too big. She said the H cups would fit better if the band was smaller (the cups fit, but needed more support from the band), but the G would be too small 9the cups were too small but didn't look that way because they were including some of the band). She suggested looking for 30I or J bras if I wanted to avoid altering. So I've put in another order (I'm working with Breakout Bras in order to avoid some of the shipping fees!), and we'll see how that goes. It would make sense that nothing fit right the first time since I was looking at H as the largest cup!
(FYI for Darlene: I'm 9 weeks post-partum and I was previously wearing my stretched out 32s until the swelling went away. The owner of the store told me she would not order any nursing bras unless I was sure to purchase them. They don't regularly carry them and she would not be able to return them to her supplier. I now trust the tailor more than the shop owner, so if I find a bra that I like, but needs just a tiny adjustment, I would not hesitate to have it altered with her!)
To add to the comment that not all cups are made the same, also don't reject a size because a given bra in that size did not fit you. It can also be a matter of brand, shape, model. So even though you have two bras 30H from the same manufacturar, a plunge, a balconette and a full cap may have different fit.
Have you seen Bratabase? it may help you get a clue of what size to order given on recommendations. I don't think they're that good but it can at least point you in some direction before spending $2400 again 😛
If you go to http://www.figleaves.com they have a nursing bra called the Charlotte Nursing Bra in black and white for $35.50. It goes up to a J cup in a 28 band. The main page says free shipping for all US orders before Dec. 13. Maybe it is worth a try – reasonable price, free ship? The two woman who left reviews seemed to like it.