“The invisible power of a simple bra”

We all have some guilty moments from the past, when our bra was just another piece of a fabric used to cover our “pride and glory”. Its style, shape or colour was dictated more by what is available in the store, than the actual shape our body needed. To make matters even worse, most of us wear the same size we wore years ago. Covering it with oversized or sometimes quite tight clothes, we all hope that the beauty of the outside will cover what we wear underneath.

From my experience as a stylist, I know that correctly fitted underwear can completely change the size of clothes, your posture and most importantly how women feel and carry themselves. We all want to look our best before the summer season; planning to exercise more, eat healthier and show off some of our many new outfits, but not many of us, are starting that transformation with a visit to a bra expert.

Why should we change that bad habit and how to do that? I am talking to Kayt Wright from Edinburgh’s Harvey Nichols underwear department.

Aga Galat-Bracken – Kayt you have recently corrected my bra size, even though I was professionally fitted before, but I was never advised about the shape of the bra I should wear. Do you have many clients wearing wrong size or wrong shape for their breast?

Kayt Wright – Heaps! It is very rare that I have a customer who knows her correct bra size. There are so many outlets offering ‘bra-fitting’, but I swear sometimes they just fit you into whatever size they have in stock. It’s terribly disappointing. A lot of women immediately flock to the plunge bra to give them ‘oomph’ and it’s difficult for them to tell whether or not a plunge fits properly or not because the wire sits so low anyway.

A.G.B – What is the reason women do not get professionally fitted? Nowadays, almost every department store offers such services free of charge.

K.W – Women do not like to be told they are wrong. They often feel that because they have been fitted once, that’s it, and they hang on to that size forever. We think we know our bodies best. And we do. But, if we’ve been given false information from the start, it’s very difficult to comprehend the change. Most women are delighted after a fitting as nine times out of ten they are smaller in the back and bigger in the cup. And it doesn’t hurt. Properly fitted bras should never hurt. But some can feel affronted, and alarmed. They need a longer explanation, and, mostly, just more time to look at themselves in properly fitting underwear!

A.G.B – What is the basic knowledge we should know before bra shopping?

K.W – There are two very simple rules. The wire should never touch breast tissue. It should run from the breast bone to the side of your ribcage, just under your arm. If, when you push the wire in at the side, your breast moves, the cup size is too small. If you think about it, it’s pretty self explanatory, the tissue in our breasts is sensitive, and having a metal wire pushing on them for over 50 years (in total, potentially) is not going to do them any good! Secondly, 80% of your support needs to come from the back band so this needs to be SNUG! You should only be able to pull it an inch away from your body at the back. Any further and it’s too big. Always hook it on the loosest hook when you first try it on, as with time, washing and wearing the elastic will soften and that’s when the other hooks come into play. Try on a variety of styles, balcony, full-cup and demi-cup. Avoid fitting into a plunge as these are not good indicators because you can’t fully tell where the wire would lie against the breast bone.

A.G.B – There is a trend of wearing one size “fits all supported vests”. What is your opinion about this?

K.W – The trend for this has come because women are finding their bras uncomfortable. In my opinion, that’s because they’ve been badly fitted! These tops are fine for wearing around the house etc. but offer almost no support, so should not be used as an alternative to a bra.

A.G.B – What type of bra is best?

It’s a very personal thing, but most women find the balcony style best suited to their shape. On being properly fitted, a lot of women have gone up to a cup size that doesn’t tend to come in a padded or moulded style, which is often new to them. Soft cup is much better for you breasts. It helps retrain the upper pectoral muscles and keeps them perky and proud for longer!

A.G.B – Is there a most common bra size?

K.W – There is. It’s a 34B. But can I tell you a secret? It’s not a real size! Let me break it down, a 34 back equates to roughly a UK14; if you are a 14 it is highly unlikely you are as small as a B at the front. Most women who wear a 34B are in fact, a 32E. Likewise, women who wear a 34C are often a 32F. I would say, realistically, that the UK’s most common size is between a 32E, 34E and 32F. These are not ‘big’ sizes. They are not the sizes of Page 3 girls, they are regular sizes.

A.G.B – How often should we check our bra size?

K.W- Ideally, every time you go bra shopping you should ask the specialist to double check your size. However, if you are confident in the size you’ve been properly fitted into, and can remember in your mind’s eye what a good fit feels and looks like then you may just need a fitting when your body changes. It is very important to be fitted for maternity bras, nursing bras and eventually, regular bras after things have returned to ‘normal’. Your body changes a lot during pregnancy and in the period after so it’s really important that you take care of you breasts. Similarly, after any form of breast surgery it is so important that you get fitted. There are different types of bras for all of the above circumstances, but you need advice on which is best for your shape.

A.G.B – Can you recommend some good places, brands…?

K.W- Well, ‘good places’ depend on good people; who know what they are talking about and teach you about what exactly you are looking for in a bra. If a bra fitter approaches you with a tape measure, RUN! This is not an accurate way of fitting bras. Any fitter worth their salt will fit you by eye. I can fit you with your coat on. Brands I think are great include Aubade, Elle MacPherson, Mimi Holliday, Fleur of England and Fauve. All are excellently made with beautiful fabrics and good support. There are two Polish brands that are the talk of the blogosphere at the moment. Ewa Michalak and Kris Line offer bras that start from a 28 back and cup sizes A to N. They are also beautiful.

A.G.B- Can we recycle such items like a bra?

K.W – We can yes! They can be donated to specialist charities such as Smalls for All who send lightly used bras and new knickers to Africa where women do not have them. It’s an important charity because not only is this a health and hygiene issue, it’s also a social one. Women (in Africa) who own underwear are seen as having someone to care for them, a husband, brother or father and this makes them less vulnerable.

A.G.B – Do you have any suggestions for how to look after our bras, how to wash them to make them last longer?

K.W – I know it’s annoying, but bras need to be handwashed! I mentioned this to my flatmate the other day and she said “Well, I put them on the handwash setting in the washing machine?” This doesn’t count! Bottom line is that the elastic loses a little bit of tension every time you wash it in warm water. And while the handwash setting on the washing machine is good for delicates, it’s much too long a time for your bras to be in water. I accidently put a Mimi Holliday bra in once and watched hopelessly as it twirled around and around in the soapy water. I could’ve cried. As such, handwash them in cold water as this shocks the elastic back and increases the life of your bra.

Kayt can be found on Twitter @theknickerninja and on blogspot,