Few places is the grass greener than on the topic of chest size. At some point in life, it seems almost every woman thinks she’s gotten a raw deal with the genetics she’s been dealt.
That’s why we had two Bare Necessities bra geniuses—one card-carrying member of the Itty Bitty Committee, one bodaciously busty—sit and compare notes. Turns out our design director Moira Nelson (who wears a US size 34H) and Bra Fit Expert Kristyn Polin (she being a 30C) are more alike than different in both their wants and their woes.
Find out what works for them, what doesn’t and what it means for you, wherever on the size spectrum you fall.
Moira: Let me start by saying I like having big boobs.
Kristyn: I like having small boobs! They don’t get in the way. I can not wear a bra and be fine. I got saggy after nursing, but you can’t tell because they’re camouflaged by my clothes.
Moira: Clothes are a nightmare. You’re never going to see me in a button-down shirt. If I buy a jacket, I have to go up a size so it will close over my boobs, but then it’s too wide in the shoulders and the sleeves are too long. These things matter when you have a business meeting and don’t want to make your boobs the center of the conversation.
“You’re never going to see me in a button-down shirt”
Kristyn: Backless and strapless fashion is a challenge for us both, I feel. Though Bare Necessities keeps expanding our vendors, and those brands keep extending their size ranges, the majority of bra brands are still 32 to 38 in the band and C to DDD in the cups. A lot of times, 30 bands start in a DD-cup. Why is that?!
Moira: Or anything small is too cutesy.
Kristyn: Exactly. Before I started working here, the only bras I could find were in the junior’s department. I would be walking around in bras with penguins on them. In stores, it’s rare to find a 32 and if there is, there’s one left and it’s not my cup size or style. Once a salesperson told me that I didn’t measure any bra size. I mean, come on, there’s something there!
“Once a salesperson told me that I didn’t measure any bra size”
Moira: Before I’d been properly fitted, I went to the mall. They fitted me into the size range they carried because they certainly weren’t going to send me out the door without buying a bra. I was in a 34DDD so the band was too big, but that’s what they needed to do to get me into a big-enough cup, and I was still falling out of it. I look back on those bras now and there was no lift or support. I was already working in bra design and development when I realized how off I was. I’d been to a handful of boutiques, but the styles were horribly matronly, so I opted for the bras that didn’t fit right. The older I got, the more options I discovered and the more I could spend. Good bras for under $50 in my size range don’t exist. The first time I felt really locked and loaded, it was like I was wearing a bulletproof vest! Once you’re in a bra that fits properly, there’s no turning back.
Kristyn: No, you can’t. I had my aha moment when I started working here. I put on a 30C for the first time and said, “Wow, so that’s how a bra is supposed to fit!” I picked up a couple every few weeks on sale and got rid of all my old bras. By the end of the first week in my new size, I realized I never had to yank my band down, fix my straps or tuck my boobs back in the cups.
Moira: People don’t realize that if the store doesn’t carry your size, they will put you in a band size that’s too big for you to get you the cup capacity you need. When the band size goes up, so does the distance between the straps. Women complain all the time about straps slipping without realizing it’s because they’re in the wrong band size. Get fitted so you have at least a starting point.
Kristyn: Smaller breasts seem to be more size-consistent. I think with large breasts, you have to go through more trial and error. You could be a different size from one bra to another.
Moira: Yeah, the larger you get, the harder it is to find a perfect fit. It has to do with shape, density, proportion, shape, all those things. With small breasts, it’s easier to put them where you want them. Friends who are busty are constantly looking to downplay their chests because it makes you look thinner—if you’re lifted, it highlights your waist. Personally, I don’t like a minimizer, so I look for plunge bras where the wire and center gore don’t sit right between my close-set breasts.
My current favorite bra is the Freya Starlight T-Shirt Bra. I love, love, love it with every fiber of my being. It puts me exactly where I want to be, I feel contained and secure, it’s snug but not uncomfortable, I’m front-and-center but not too boobylicious. I also like that contemporary American look you get in a molded foam T-shirt bra. In a three- or four-part cup, I like the Prima Donna Madison and the Chantelle Rive Gauche.
Kristyn: I have a drawer full of T-shirt bras because that’s what works for me. My dream is to find a great unlined style. I’m shallow and never fill out the cup, so you can see the seams. I want to look sexy, but I feel like the sexiest bras are made for larger busts.
Moira: That’s funny because I feel like I can’t wear sexy bras, either!
Kristyn: I’ll often go for a push-up bra. My favorite is the b.tempt’d by Wacoal Ciao Bella Balconette Bra. I like The Little Bra Company, but I find they’re not true to size, so my 30 band is a 34, and then I can’t always find my cup size. Wacoal runs snug, so I’ll do a 32B. When I’m over it at the end of the day, I’ll throw on pajamas and a bralette.
Moira: I wish I could find a bralette! When you have boobs, trying to put one over your head is no joke. You’re punching yourself in the face to get it on and off. Once I was alone in the fitting room, stuck in a bra, and had to scream for someone to help get me out of it. That humiliation means I’m never setting foot into that store ever again. Ever. But I would love a weekend bra. Believe it or not, support isn’t always my #1 goal. We now live in a society where comfort is the driving factor in every category, especially for the younger generation. They’re comfortable wearing bralettes and sports bras every day. They don’t have the same hang-ups people in their 40s and 50s have. Oh, you can’t go out in public like that. Watch me! I’m sort of adopting that mentality: Why do I have to be properly lifted and separated every waking moment? I want to show off a lacy strap sometimes, even if it gives me uni-boob. Cosabella has some, though they’re more full-figured than full-busted. I have several Coobie bras. I don’t care if it mashes me down. I get enough support from the underband that keeps me from flopping around. I’ve yet to wear it to work, but give me a few years and I won’t care anymore! When I turn 50, I’m going to say screw it.
Kristyn: I’ve been mixing up my everyday bras lately. I’ve been getting into strappy cage bras.
Moira: I love strappy bras! They’ve finally come out with some in my size.
Kristyn: Mine, too!
Moira: I like that the straps show a little bit.
Kristyn: That’s why they make these things, so you might as well embrace it. My son’s teacher complimented how my shirt looked the other day and I told her, “Thanks, but it’s actually my bra!” I developed young. Little did I know I wouldn’t get any bigger! I always liked having boobs and feeling womanly.
Moira: Same. I developed at 10 years old and had to find training bras at Sears. It’s part of my identity. They’ve always been there, they’ve always been large. I dress for my boobs. It’s all about my boobs.
Moira: I feel like a woman, and you feel like a woman. You don’t feel any less feminine because you’re smaller than I am, right? That’s important, because society tells us we need to look a certain way, and it’s not true.
Kristyn: I have a big butt to make up for it. All things in balance.
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.