Bra comparisons – what a difference a bra makes!

posted on: November 7, 2013

Bra-comparison-profile2

For weeks now I’ve been frustrated with my tops and dresses, because nothing seemed to fit right. Finally it clicked: I needed a new bra. Books and magazines are always stressing the importance of proper undergarments, but it’s not always easy to put the concept into practice. Underwear is something usually only seen by ourselves and our loved ones, so it’s more tempting to spend money on items that’ll see the light of day. Also, bra sizes vary enormously from brand to brand and bra style to bra style, so even if you can actually manage to find the right size (and how do you know it’s the right size anyway?), you’ll still probably have to go through the process all over again next time you’re bra shopping. The bra selection mirrors the same problems we often find with other garments; it’s either synthetics and shabby quality all over, or it becomes shockingly expensive. And if you aren’t lucky enough to fit the (very limited) size selection in most stores, well, then it’s really hopeless. Right?

Yes, there are many difficulties with finding the right bra. But I still think we should make the effort, instead of settling for some ill-fitting ol’ thing, because the difference it makes to the silhouette is pretty astonishing, as you can see from my little diagram above. I’m rather busty, and simply cannot go braless and still be comfortable. Finding the right bra(s) is therefore not just a visual matter, but also to prevent aching shoulders, poor posture and feeling annoyed with a very prominent part of my body. Of course, these are relevant factors no matter the size of your bust, they are just harder to ignore if you’re endowed more like Marilyn (supposedly a 36D) than like Audrey (a rumored 34A).

I’m planning a separate blog post dedicated to bra shopping (because otherwise this post would be way too long even for my liking), but I thought we’d start with studying different kinds of bras, and the effect they have on our figure. Let’s take a closer look.

Fantasie 4500NE-bra-comparison

This is the newest addition to my lingerie drawer, the Fantasie 4500NE. It has soft cups without any kind of padding, medium wide straps, and a somewhat separating effect, which hints at the 50’s silhouette (though not as exaggerated as a bullet bra). The band around the body isn’t too narrow, and the underwiring doesn’t go all the way to the outer edge, so there’s less chance of it poking me. I’m aware that the bra itself looks almost granny-like, but it does its job so well that I don’t care. It’s pretty much invisible under all kinds of clothing, the only possible issue is that the cups come quite high, so it might peek up from a low-cut top. Since the cups aren’t padded, there’s also a chance of showing some nipple, but I’m not too concerned with that, to be honest.

What I really like about this is one is how comfortable it is. The bra provides plenty of lift, but not so much that I feel like an extra in a period movie (you know, where the breasts are pushed so high you can almost rest your chin on them). I definitely prefer my bras not padded, because it gives a softer look that suits the rest of my figure. This bra also separates quite well, in comparison to some of the more shaped and padded bras; those often make it difference to see the space between the breast, which I personally feel can look a bit massive on a larger bust like mine. The underwire stops about an inch before the outer edge, so no poking; I cannot bear poking underwire.

I paid 499,- NOK for it at LaLina in Oslo, and though it is somewhat expensive, it has both a higher quality and better construction than cheaper bras out there. Also, many high street shops have a ridiculously limited range of sizes available, so shopping in designated lingerie stores becomes almost unavoidable if you’re not lucky enough to fit the “H&M standard”. I wear a EU 75D/UK 34D in this one.

Primadonna-016-1330-bra-comparison

My previous favourite, the Primadonna 016-1330. With this bra I (finally!) took the leap from high street bras to quality bras, and from that moment I knew I could never go back. I wore it pretty much every day for a while, which resulted in its early aging. It is freshly washed in the picture, but the fabric has stained with time, and as you can see from the silhouette comparison picture, it has also lost some of its lifting abilities with time. The model is very similar to the Fantasie one, with unpadded cups and a slight granny-esque look. It cost 599,- at Det Lille Under in Oslo, and is a size EU 80D/UK 36D.

Unpadded_bra-bra-comparison

An unpadded, pretty standard bra, bought at Lindex a while ago. This one is also an EU 75D/UK 34D, but as you can see from the profile picture above, the cups are too small for me; a perfect example of how a size differs depending on the bra model and brand. This doesn’t provide nearly as much lift and separation as the more expensive models above, even though none of the three are padded. When it fit me properly, I used to wear this on those rare days I wanted to minimize my bust, such as if I wanted a more 20’s or 60’s look. The comfort is so-so, as the underwire extends all the way to the sides (poke-poke!), and the lace is scratchy.

Padded_bra-bra-comparison

Time for he only padded bra in this comparison. It’s by the brand Ella M, also bought at Lindex, and I’m guessing the size is EU 80C/UK 36C. The cups are a wee bit small for me, and the band a little bit too large, but I wear this on days when I can’t risk nipples showing through, or when I want to inject some extra oomph to my profile. It’s comfortable enough, but tends to ride up in the back, and the band feels very restricting. The lace sometimes irritates my skin, especially around the back.

Fancy_bra-bra-comparison

Ah, the fancy lacy one, with a balconette-like shape. Also by Ella M, bought at Lindex – as you can tell, Lindex used to be my go-to shop for bras, because they are usually softer and feel less plastic’y to me than, say, bras from H&M. It’s an EU 80D/UK 36D, but, like the other Lindex one, too small in the cups. Because of the lace, it shows through thin clothing, so I prefer this underneath something black and a bit thick, or a crisp cotton dress. This is the bra I wear more for how it makes me feel than how it makes me look; in the future I hope to find a bra that can do both these things well, but for now, I’ll don this (or its lavender twin) when I want to feel like one of the ladies in Nine.

Sports_bra-bra-comparison

I simply had to include one sports bra here, in part because I know many with a larger bust often end up wearing these as their everyday bra. They are comfortable, at least more comfortable than an ill-fitting bra, and are often affordable and easy to find, in stark contrast to “proper” bras.

Sports bras vary from the super-strong-hold-kinds, excellent for actually performing sports, to the more relaxed versions, better for smaller busts or for just lounging around at home. That’s why I have two of these, for my not-leaving-the-house-days. This model, from Pierre Robert and available in most grocery stores in Norway, is pretty tight and firm, so next time I’ll go for a slightly softer type. The colour is great, though!

As you can see, the different bra models have many pros and cons, so my number one bra-buying-tip comes here: try on as many different sizes and models as you possibly can. This includes going to multiple stores, in various price classes. You don’t have to do all that trying in one day, of course, the point is merely to acquaint yourself with what’s really out there, and what your preferences are. How else are you going to find your way in that overwhelming multitude of bras? Hopefully this blog post can get you started, and inspire you not to settle for bras that are merely “fine”. We deserve better – as do our breasts.

  • ev

    - was wondering what your underbust measurement is? As you wear a band 75 or 80 I’m guessing it’s around 85cm?

  • Maria

    I measured it just now, and it was 84 cm, when pulled snugly around my body. So you guessed about right :)

  • Fen Frances (@FenFrances)

    this is such a great post! I’m in the market for some new undergarments and it’s great to read these recommendations :) I have been a size 30E since I hit my late teens and I really struggle to find and get on with bras. I find that I have to shell out at least £35 if I want a good one that fits properly, unless I get lucky and find one on sale or in TKMaxx.

    I recently discovered the soft ‘magic’ bras which are a bit like a sports bra but shaped so they can be worn with more everyday tops. I tried out the Belvia brand (like on the infomercials!) and they’re pretty good but I actually found that Primark’s own brand rip off version is better. they lose their elasticity a bit after a few months and I do miss the extra support of a proper underwire, but still a good buy.

    I hadn’t heard of Primadonna or Ella M before but I’ll definitely be checking them out as they look lovely, I love the pretty black and white lacy one :)

    • J

      Another brand I really love in the uk that has a variety of sizes that are not too expensive, is Boux Avenue. Their basic (well fitting bras) run for around 10-15 pounds.

    • Maria

      Thank you for commenting, Fen Frances! I’m not sure where you can find the Ella M outside of Scandinavia, but perhaps ebay is a good place to start :)

  • Trajena

    I love this post! I was nodding and smiling the entire time I read it.

    Thanks to my ridiculous proportions, I have a very challenging time finding a bra (let alone buying one). With a very small frame and a very large breast, my size is actually UK 30G. No, I did not make that up.

    Given that my band size is smaller than most brands produce in addition to the cup being much larger, I have no choice but to shop in specialty stores. Honestly? If I can even find a bra for under 200$/1150,-NOK I’m thankful.

    In spite of the challenges, not the least of which being limited budgets and constantly trying to not look like an anime character, my girls are a part of me and I do love them. The way I feel when I’m wearing a good bra under a nice outfit is akin to Batman donning his Batsuit: I’m ready to take on the world and throw thematically-appropriate boomerangs!

    In addition, to anyone who has breasts, please check out the hilarious webcomic “Busty Girl Problems”: 300 comics chronicling the hazards and hardships of having boobs

    http://bustygirlcomics.com/tagged/comics

    • Maria

      Oh, the busty girl comics, how I love them! Thank you for reminding me, darling (and for letting my other readers know about it) :D And that visual of donning a bra in a batman-like manner will forever stay with me – getting dressed will be even more fun, now!

  • Maja H

    All hail the gorgeously boob-endowed, and I can relate to your pain – I suppose it must be like my problem with jeans shopping. I’m a 34A myself (Audrey’s size, yay!) and really appreciate the fact that I can walk into any old store and find my size. They also don’t bother me during sports, which is a huge plus. I still have the problem where I don’t really make it a priority to buy high quality undergarments, though. As you said, only me and The Boyfriend will really see them, so I have trouble forking out for better quality, especially when I can easily pick up 3 for 2 at H&M. I really should though. Great fitting (and looking) underwear really makes a big difference :)

  • Charlotte

    Herlighet, for en fantastisk post! Jeg mener, ingen snakker om undertøy, føler jeg. Men det kan jo få nesten alt til å se bra ut, bare man har riktig størrelse på BH-en. Jeg ble sjokkert da jeg gikk i en undertøysforretning og fikk meg målt, og oppdaget at jeg brukte 10 cm for store BH-er i omkrets. Ikke rart det gnagde!
    Likevel opplever jeg problemer med å finne riktig størrelse. Det er ikke mange som fører 65E og oppover, og jeg ender som regel opp med å gå med litt for store og formløse sportsbher, typ de som finnes på Lindex og Cubus. Det ser jo ikke akkurat bra ut (synes jeg) men det er definitivt mer behagelig enn noe annet som ikke passer.

    Takk for at du skriver og deler. Din blogg er trolig en av dem beste jeg har lest! :-)

    • Maria

      Så godt å høre at du likte blogginnlegget, Charlotte, og at du har fått øynene opp for skikkelig undertøy. En omkrets om er 10 cm for stor kan umulig ha vært noe godt å gå rundt med! Jeg holder på med en bloggpost om å _kjøpe_ bh’er, og der finner du kanskje noen tips til hvordan du kan overkomme det ekstremt lille utvalget som finnes i “vanlige” klesbutikker – jeg har nettopp bestilt en bh fra ebay nettopp, for å teste om det kan være et alternativ. Man må selvfølgelig bli målt og finne et merke og en modell som funker, men når man først vet dét, så bør det gå an å bestille over internett (håper jeg). Tusen takk for fine ord, i alle fall :D

  • Shelby

    Thank you for writing about bras! I think a lot of us have been so undereducated about how a bra is supposed to fit, and what different types of bras do to our figures. But a bra that fits correctly can be a really big confidence booster. And this post couldn’t have been more timely – my old bra was ripped, so over the weekend I went bra shopping (which I dread) and found two new ones that fit very well! Thanks for the inspiration :)

    • Maria

      I’m glad you like the post, Shelby! It baffles me how little most women (and men!) know about properly fitting bras. Especially when, as you say, it can be such a confidence booster. I’m still learning about it all, so there will probably be more blog posts concerning bras in the near future :)

  • Hanne

    Hah, how very clever of you to take pictures of them all for comparison! :D I have been trying to educate myself on bras for the last year or so. Ever since I started wearing them at 12 or so I’ve always loathed them. But sadly I’m not one one the lucky small-breasted people and I have to buy bras. This year I’ve been fitted (was last year but my cup sized changed) and actually have 6 bras that all fit right, and even if they are expensive (at least 500 NOK, eep!) they are quite good looking and comfortable so that makes up for it. I also try to buy one or two every few months so I have more bras to wear. That way, they probably won’t come apart so soon. At one point I only owned 1 ill-fitting bra and I won’t go back to that anytime soon.

    My size is 80F/36F so I have to go to the fancy undergarment shop for underwear. Change has a lot of nice bras (not just black and white, I have mostly wine red and dark grey/lavender ones with lovely lace), and I LOVE THAT MOST OF THEIR MODELS ALSO COME WITHOUT ANY PADDING! Seriously, I have an F-cup, whyyy would I need extra padding? Or anyone, for that matter? *sigh*

    • Maria

      Phew, that’s great to hear; it definitely felt a bit awkward taking that many photos of my… well, breasts, but I thought it would be best so _show_ as well as _tell_ you all about the difference a bra can make. Thank you for recommending Change, I’ll make sure to check them out sometime soon! Especially if that means I can avoid that blasted padding. I understand that some might like that, but I personally am not a fan, either :)

  • guinevere von sneeden

    Hello Maria,
    I was just wondering… how did your full skirt with box pleats from ASOS.COM work out for you?
    I have been thinking of getting it and was wondering if it had become your new ‘live in’ skirt or not?

    You look so incredibly beautiful in these pictures!! Purple looks so lovely on you.

    -Guinevere

    • Maria

      Darling Guinevere, I’m so sorry, I have completely forgotten to blog about that skirt! Here are some quick pros and cons:
      + perfect midi length
      + the navy is lovely
      + pockets!
      + extremely versatile

      – the fabric is already showing some wear, it has thread-thin horizontal “stripes” here and there
      – this might be because of the fabric, or because of me, but after a month or so it was suddenly way too large in the waist. I suspect it has mostly to do with how I’ve been sick for a while now and have lost some weight, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless. I just took it in a few inches using my sewing machine, and now it fits perfectly again.

      In short, yes, I love it, and it has become one of my two go-to-skirts when I “have nothing to wear” :)

      And thank you!

  • Emily

    Hey Maria! Loved this post, bra shopping is one of my favorite things to do, it’s amazing just the difference the type of bra you wear makes.
    At some point would it be a possibility for you to do a post for us little ladies? Tired of seeing push-up is the only option everywhere I go, us smaller ladies are is as equally beautiful as our more well endowed sisters. It’s unfortunate that in America smaller busts are so undervalued because of a media mold.

    • Maria

      Hi Emily! I’m glad you like my blog post, thank you :) I’m planning a blog post on “how to shop for a bra”, which will concern breasts of all shapes and sizes, so hopefully that will be of interest to you :) And I completely agree, it’s such a shame that the push-up bra is now the “default” option. Smaller busts can be so elegant!

  • Lenka

    Hello Maria,
    I just recently discovered my proper size (from 75/C to 65/DD) and it really makes wonders. Figleaves.com and brastop.com are user friendly for searching… they cover many brands that make small bands and cups to K.

  • hanne

    er over gjennomsnittet interessert i bh-er, og det å finne en som passer i vanlige butikker (HM +++) er ca umulig for de fleste av oss. 80 C er ikke den vanligste størrelsen, for å si det sånn! jeg har ikke kjempestore pupper, men har blitt ganske tynn rundt ryggen, og det ga en ny utfordring, for utvalget i de små størrelsene (med en medium cup) er ikke så godt det heller. i alle fall ikke på en liten Triumph-butikk, som er min lokale go-to. etter at jeg kjøpte min første ordentlige bh da jeg var ca 21-22 år gammel, og fikk målt meg og lærte at jeg hadde brukt HELT feile størrelser hele livet (for store i ryggen for å få en cup som passet – vanlig problem) har jeg aldri engang tenkt på å kjøpe fra kjedebutikkene. kvalitet koster litt mer, men det er så SYKT verdt det :)

    • Maria

      Hear, hear, hanne! Det er så uforståelig at “standardstørrelsene” er så begrenset, når så mange må ha andre størrelser for å ikke få vondt over alt.