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Even M&S wants to make blancmanges of women now

2011 April 1
by Zoe Strimpel

This bra looks more comfortable than any that Marks and Spencer offer.

The bra is probably the most important piece of clothing the larger-breasted woman will own. Ranging from £10-£100 they can provide no support, lots of support, and many other sensations.

Here are some of them: the sense that something metal is digging you in the ribs (it is). The sense that you’re being constricted around the middle (you are). The sense that something’s carving channels into your shoulders (it is).

The main thing, though, that the larger breasted lady has to cope with is the contradiction of big boobs (sexy) and bras for big boobs (hideous).

Which is why so many of us fall in between the cracks and opt for not hideous bras that don’t quite fit. Not quite fitting is much worse than it sounds – which is why I say that the bra is the most important, and certainly influential, piece of clothing a woman can own. When it doesn’t fit you feel deeply uncomfortable, psychologically and physically.

Symptoms of bad fit include four-boob (when your breasts are unduly cut in half horizontally by an overzealous cut of cup, causing spillage out the top, which can be visible through clothes), underboob, when your breasts are pushed UNDER the underwire (overwire is not a good look), side boob (when they’re squeezed out the sides by the armpit). Then there’s shape: sagging due to poor cup size and loose straps (a bad sign is when the clasps at the back ride up the back while the front plunges down); general wobbling in motion and – my absolute pet peeve – the enormous three-dimensionality arising from what is so delicately and horrendously called the “balcony bra”, of which more presently.

Many people will tell you that they know how to fit a bra. Rigby & Pellor are among them; as are John Lewis (which prides itself on having a down-to-earth fitting service, free of charge), M&S and Fig Leaves. With great excitement I went along to Rigby & Pellor, hoping that at last, a life time of brassiere anxiety (too tight, too loose, too saggy, too cone-shaped, too smooshed, too wobbly, too hausfrau-esque) would be resolved. They lectured me about lines and cup size and persuaded me – with the aid of a tape measure and ruler – to buy a matching bra and underwear set.

The pants I love to this day. The bra, as soon as I took it home from the shop, proved to be just as disappointing as the rest. A mix of wobble and sag. Pointless. Its only upside is that it’s pretty. But who cares when it makes you look silly WITH a top on?

So it was with some degree of consternation that I went along to M&S today – in a misguided moment of old-fashioned trust that this frumpiest of British brands was nothing if not supportive (ahem) of your traditional British shape. Which generally includes large-ish or large breasts. I figured that – despite being located next to the sandwiches and cakes – the “lingerie” section of the massive M&S near Bank would bear fruit.

Let’s see. Row upon row of “balcony” bras. In yellow lace, beige nude, padded and polka dotted, and so on.

I retired to the changing room with 5 hangers of bras. Since there appeared to be no alternative to “balcony” but “plunge” and “push-up” – the latter two of which are clearly not helpful for me – I took the most promising looking- more terrace than balcony?-  but gingerly.

I began to strap then on, strap myself in. Balcony, dear reader, is a horrible, horrible thing for breasts. We are not in a pub in 1610 and I am not a bawd. Therefore I do not want a cubic expanse of jiggling breast flesh reaching almost up to my neck- do I?

And yet, sad to say, that is exactly what you can find at M&S – and hardly anything else. It’s a sad day when, in 2011 when there are probably iPhone apps for bra fitting and probably for bra designing, even old M&S has nothing – and I mean nothing – for this woman right here. That is, as long as I don’t want the appearance of bearing two blancmanges below my collarbones, or the feeling of being squeezed within an inch of my life. Is it a feminist issue? Might be. It certainly is supreme and unjust laziness of design and manufacture for a product essential to feminine wellbeing.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Rachel permalink
    April 1, 2011

    I feel this pain intimately as well, as a larger-breasted woman. Let’s cut to brass-tacks here, shall we? I am petite with a small back and shoulders but (at least) size D breasts. Now, the 34D (american size) cup fit fine,great even. However, the shoulders and back were always too big, so the girls, they are a droopin’ and a hangin, making me feel like a grandmother. For a 32D, the shoulders/back are firm and tight and upright, but I get a little of the 4-boob, over-zealous cut of cup-action, but at least they are not at my waist, and I feel my age.

    What’s my point? Hmm. I guess, I decided pick my battles and realize the latter was my best bet. I re-arrange them on occasion and we’re off and running. It’s not great but I’m at peace. It took me 31 years, mind you. Is it pathetic that we can’t find bras that fit? Yes. Should we do something about it. YES.

    Oh, and the entire country of france does not have bras for larger women.

    What the hell is with the balcony bra, do I want 2 black eyes?

  2. Michal permalink
    April 1, 2011

    A real treat to read!

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