Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bra fitting on a fat body

Recently, I have become aware that bra fitting is not just that – it can be very different from body to body. Eliza at bratabase recently made a post about “Bra fittingfor the overweight or pendulous”, and we have both talked of bra fitting for the overweight on several occasions at bratabase, as have others (if you are not on bratabase yet, sign up! :D It’s a great resource!) 

I also noticed that Georgina also addressed some fit issues that will be different from body to body: One is straps digging in, as she says: “the straps should take 20% of your breast weight and 20% of my breast weight is a hell of a lot!” And also, squishy shoulders will be squished, even if it was a light weight that they carried.  She also addresses back-fat, which is quite relevant – even for someone as smooth as her. I am not that smooth, so now I will address back fat and bands from my point of view: 

So, I want to talk about something that has been a problem for me a lot here in my bra journey. Band. A lot of bra fitting just doesn’t seem to work for me. For example, the difference between a tight, snug or loose measurement is not so clear defined. Part of the reason for that may be that for a lot of women, it doesn’t actually make that much of a difference. If they land on an uneven number, they can just round up or down depending on if the measurement was loose or tight. But for me, and many bigger ladies, I am sure, the difference is between 28.5” and 35.5”. That could mean 5 different band sizes! So what to do? I usually put down 33.5” as my measurement, because that is what I get if I measure just about as tight sock or panties, which is probably a good reference. And it can’t be said enough, bras should be determined of fit, not just the numbers. So on we go to look at how a band is supposed to fit:

 Here the problem starts: My back will never look like that. A band will never fit like that on me. Bra advice tells us “the band should lie flat on your back”, but what if my back is just no flat? It is difficult to see on a soft back, how a band doing any work could possibly not dig in. 

^These are lableld as too tight bands, because they dig in, and create those bulges. But again, a lot of plus size women will always have bulges, it’s not the bras fault, and a looser band certainly wont make it any better. When ever I naively walk up to a fitter, they often tell me that I need a much larger band, because “oh, isn’t it painful when it is digging in that much?” and they’ll say that even if I am wearing loose, loose bands. What they don’t seem to realize is, that those bulges aren’t bra-bulges, they are the natrual shape of a body with rolls. But I bet there aren’t many of those in bra-school.

Another very important thing about how a band looks on a larger women, is also the fact that a lot of weight is put on the band: On a slim woman, a too loose band with a lot of weight on, would probably fall down, if not held up by the straps. On a woman with a belly, or a stubborn underbust roll like me, the bra cannot fall down, and instead “rests” on the top of the belly, and will then look like it is strained on the body, because there is put so much preasure on it from the weight, rather than by the tightness.

And now I’ll show you why I always look like my band is digging in. I have to say, I didn’t think I would volentarily have pictures of my rolls anywhere, but hey, in the name of bra education (of which I care very much), here we go.  First up is how I look without a bra: You can clearly see what I mean about “bra bulges” with no bra! And also forementioned underbust roll. Next up is how 36, 34 and 32 bands look on me, both without the strain of weight, and with it. So here we go:
No bra
36 band with my boobs lifted, so no weight is putting pressure on the band

36 band with weight on
34 band with boobs lifted, so no weight is putting pressure on band

34 band with weight on
32 band with my boobs lifted, so not weight is putting pressure on band

32 band with weight on

For the 36band, at the front, you can really see the difference between having weight on the band or not: Again, because the band is not giving any support, all the weight is put on my roll – this really makes it look like it is very very tight at the front, even though the oppesite is the case.
On the 34band it is clear how the band riding up slightly, means that it sits exactly at the my back roll, making it look like it digs in – and this is even exagerated when the weight is put on. So here it is easy to imagine, that a smaller band that doesn’t ride up, will actually eliminate some of the bra-bulges!
Also on the 32band, you see that when the weight is put on, everything just get’s more squished, but much less than with the 36 for example. What is interesting, is that there is no more back fat than there was with the 36 or no bra: So it is a myth that the tightness of the band causes the back fat.
So, what is the conclusion? The look of the right fit can be very different for fat women vs slim women, so we can’t always rely on those handy fit-pictures and advice. Fitters, or people who fit themselves, must learn to know what is supporting, rather than what matches the picture, because fact is, if you look nothing like the picture to start with, a bra cannot make it match up. Look for wide, firm bands, with wide elastic at the edges. And notice how much difference there is whether your weigh it down or not – I think that can be a good trick.

I can also tell you, that just yesterday, I wore my Ewa Michalak Onyks without the straps, and the mark from the band would make it seem it was much much tighter than normally - so I guess this proves my theory that weight, not tightness, can put a lot of strain on the band, making it look like it is tight.

All in all, I know this was not a too long post word-wise, but I hope the pictures speak for themselves, and can give a more size-varied view of bra fitting :D

Next post will probably be about bratabase and a few words about my recent order (very few words, because it is not too fair to properly review a bra that I got in the wrong size)


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks :D I was nervous about the reaction to this post, but I just found it quite relevant to discuss :)

  2. I love this! As we discussed, I have a very similar problem with my body, and it often makes the band roll up a bit in the back. Not because it is too tight, but because it is squishy.

  3. I am still trying to figure out weather this relates to me or not. I'm still not sure about that :) But it was an interesting post :)

    1. Glad you found it intersting :) I think it is very possible that for more toned/muscular, even if they have fat too, there will not be the same issues as for women like me, who are pretty much soft all the way through :b

  4. I get the same underbust perma-tight looking shape from the front, but mine is the actual shape of my ribcage! I fully agree that fitters tend to forget to take the client's body into account and instead focus on fitting based on "standard" images of what a good fit is.

  5. Ohno, I now will have your issues. I managed to find the root of my boobs and some of them really had went to my stomach. Which mean I now have that issue, with much larger boobs. And no clue whatsoever about what size to go for.

  6. Delighted to have found this page, and recognition that fat bodies exist! What are your thoughts on bands that continue to be dragged down by breast weight, even when the bands are tight enough to be uncomfortable? My bras keep everything where I want it for the first half hour, but they soon migrate downward and drag my tissue with them, highlighting stretch marks that were initially invisible under more lifted conditions. After migration begins, I'm shimmying the front back up where it belongs all day long.

    I can pull the band or the bottom of the center gore away from my body at least the 2" that fitters warn us about, but that's stretching the material to the max, and I truly won't be able to breathe normally if I go tighter...I've tried!

    Is there any solution to this problem? I'm thinking about finding some sort of sticky "caulk" (for lack of a better word) to squeeze onto the band, like some strapless bras have for stay-up power... Any other ideas?

    1. I don't personally have that problem, because my body is actually wider just under my band - so it doesn't slide down, it just rests on my roll.
      But, I've seen a few bras that have that little line of silicone or something on them - I guess it would be possible to put something like it on your own bras? It can probably be bought at sowing shops and stuff like that.

      2" away sound like a lot, though. I find I like bras that are very stretchy - that way they can sit nice and snug, but can also 'move' with my body.
      I find Masquarade and Ewa Michalak to be very unstretchy, and Panache Superbra and to some extent, Cleo, to be very stretchy.
      Maybe switch to a tighter, but stretchier bra?

  7. Thank you for posting this. It's helpful for me as I try to find a bra that fits correctly comfort and support-wise.

  8. Hi cool blog! I was searching for women having undergarment problems and i found this. I think we have a solution for this. It has been mostly around Asia and I don't know why it hasn't been all over the world where women suffer the same dilemma. Google "easecox" or email me ( so I can introduce the product more explicitly. Thanks! :)

  9. Great post! Even though I do have a relatively smooth back, I carry a lot of weight in my stomach so I have the issue of bras sitting on my belly instead of sliding down that much. A very frustrating (and uncomfortable!) problem.

    I think another great thing about this post is that in the smaller band your back actually looks a lot smoother and you have less underarm fat than in the 36 band Rhea, for instance. It really shows the difference that a tight band can make! :D

  10. Is there a way to reduce rolling of the band? I'm larger and have had the band either ride up my back or roll into itself.

    1. If it is riding up, it is probably too big in the band - as you see on a square, the diagonal is longer than the side - same with the band: going straight is shorter, so if it is riding up, it is too long to stay straight.

      Preventing it from rolling, I think is a question of how wide the band is for one - if band-edges are sitting at the 'mountain' and the 'valley' of a roll, it will roll into the 'valley'. But if it is wider, it will not.
      Also, the width of the seams make a difference in how well it can 'hold on' to you - if you see the narrow seam on the 36-band vs. the wider ones on the others (especially the 32), there is quite a difference. I think especially brands aimed at plus-sized (Like Elomi), or more 'practical' bras (like Panache), they are more like that.

      (sorry if most of this is gibberish, I am not feeling too well, hence why I have not updated the blog for a while either)

  11. Do you find that tighter bands lead to more or less weight on your stomach? I've been wearing bandless bras, but your stomach is like mine; a nice ledge of roll under the bra, and I noticed that wearing a banded bra lead to a lot of pressure down on my stomach underneath, as if it was taking a lot of the weight and compressing my stomach down. Is this a band tightness or just construction issue?

    1. Tighter bands definitely keeps less weight on my stomach - the band holds my boobs weight around my body, rather than resting on my belly.
      I think it is true that since banded bras take up more space between the root of the breast and the stomach, they will push more at that roll too. So I think a loose band on a full-band bra will put the most pressure, and a bandless, tight bra will do the least.
      A lot of women with heavier busts prefer the banded ones, though, to keep the wire from distorting. I don't actually mind the distortion too much, as it is usually just the top of the cup that is pulled more shallow, and since I am full on bottom anyways, this does no harm to me.

  12. Thank you very much for your sharing post, now I can find the bra suits me best easily.

  13. That is magnificent how you have contrived to completely unfold the theme which you have chosen for this peculiar blog entry. BTW did you turn to some alike posts as a source of data to fulfill the entire picture that you have posted in this blog entry?

  14. Thank you so much!!!
    I'm similar build, at 5ft5, but have a "flatter" back and my tummy is more troublesome when I sit (aus 18 in pants).
    Bra fitters try and fit me as an 18(40), when I measure 35inches (12+1)...
    I always wondered why smaller busted women looked like they had "bigger" breasts (was forcing myself into E's) when I'm spilling out of my 14(36)F's and my Rhea 36ff!!!

    A friend wears a 32h, but is a size 16(38) so I have seen your fit solution WORK!!!

    Keep up with your posts and an extra thanks for using your beautiful body, as a description <3
    I now know why everything I wear is stretchy and small, even though I "measure" at around 36" xxx
    Tineca from Australia :D

  15. When you changed band size, did you change bust size and to what?

  16. Good one!
    Very informative!
    It has been composed and presented very well.

  17. I have a question - I wear about a size 22 pants (US) and a size 18 shirt. Recently I got fitted at Nordstroms in a 42G Elomi bra. The gore tacks flat and the bra seemed to fit well at first, even a bit tight in the band.

    I have worn the bra 4 times now and have washed it once in the shower and let drip-dry. Now the band goes up my back to rest right under my shoulder blades and the sides roll enough to begin distorting the elastic on the bottom. I suspect the band is too small, but both I and my fitter measured my chest at 42".

    This is weird because I read all these other plus-sized girls have 34-36" chests. I am not really that big so I'm getting fairly confused. What do you suppose accounts for the difference? And, do you think my band is too big? Or is it just doing that because I have fat sides?

    1. It can depend on a lot of things - for instance, how tight did you measure to get 42": Measuring really loose can "add" unnessesary inches.

      Also, tightness of bands can vary a lot from brand to brand, even bra to bra - I generally find Elomi quite loose, so I'd have prefered to size down from my usual band size in that.

      And also how your body is build - some women are a lot wider the closer to the shoulders, and thus don't need as tight bands to prevent it from crawling up - others who are more straight from underbust to shoulders might need a tighter band.

      The reason that a lot of plus size bloggers have such small bands is a) because what we genereally believe to be 38, 40 and 42, is often 34, 36 and 38 or less. b) they are quite curvy, in the sense that their middle is quite a lot smaller than their bust and hips. So even though they might wear the same size top as another woman, they may have quite different underbust measurements.

      I do think it sounds like your band is too big: I so often worry that women just think "oh, I'm too fat for this to fit correctly" because we are not, there are good fits over there, and it doesn't matter if we have 'fat sides' or anything like that - if the bra is causing a problem, it needs to be fixed :)

  18. *sorry, I suspect the band is too LARGE.

  19. OK, so I just saw your site. I have been having a problem with my bands rolling in the back. Very uncomfortable… The bra cups fit great but the band rolls, what is your suggestion to that. I have never blogged before so I'm not sure how to sign

  20. I am SO relieved to have found this blog. You are speaking truth at last!!!! Hallelujah! I've been on a quest to find a well fitting bra & department store sizing has not worked, neither has paying more for nicer bras. As you've said, my plus size body looks nothing like all the models, even the Lane Bryants out there, so how could their fitting advice? But I love, love, love how you've demonstrated your point here with the photos - thank you much.

    I'm burdened with the problem of a wide band size but small cups size, trying to find bras that are 40B, 42b, 44b...which is very difficult as it seems manufacturers think if you're fat, you've got large breasts. While I wish that were my case, it is not. As I've gained weight, my cup size has stayed the same.

    I've been wearing a 42b, but any bras I try on start out good the first few hours, then the wings stretch & start to roll into 'the valley' of my back/sides & drive me insane the rest of the day. Going up a size has not helped, & the last full coverage bra I tried with wider wings ended up digging into the front underarm area where it joins the cup, causing great discomfort & pinching/redness. I don't know what to do at this point - off to read more. But thank you so, so much for writing this & sharing your own experiences!

  21. I wanted to ask... It appears my bra fits well but it is still uncomfortable. Is this for all Brad or because my my stomach fat is under the wire? I'm a 40HH and finding bras is so difficult so I want to know exactly what I'm looking for

  22. I found your post in searching for a bra back riding up and front rolling up. I am currently wearing a Jenique (banderin type/wireless) bra. for the past 30 years I have worn either Norvel or Jenique.
    I am currently having squishy-roll issues with shoulders back under arms and upper torso-bloating but the abdomen is always large- look pg.
    Are there any other wireless bras out there for 36-38 J-L sizes?

  23. Nice to read your blog! to get more information visit our website

  24. I have the same underbust roll, but a long waist, so it looks like I have a second set of boobs. It drives me crazy and I can never find bras that are comfortable where the middle gore is. I have to wear a front-close bra and that really limits me. I also have a lot of side boob fat that a smaller band helps contain in the cups, but then I can never find cups big enough in that band size. So frustrating. I used to wear a 54D or DD, but now I get a 50H or I. I tried one 48 and it was too tight, but I think in a stretchier fabric, it might work better.

  25. My problem is that I am an overweight lady (yes I admit that) a very overweight lady and I do need to focus on loosing weight, But the problem is that my very large stomach region pushes the bottom of my bra up into my breasts and in and in some cases start to slide up from under the breast. I can't seem to find a bra fitter with any decent experience in our city. One option I have though about is wearing all in one's but is hard finding them in my size 46c/d to 48 c/d depending on the brand that look pretty and not plain and booring. Any suggestions?