I was going to be a bridesmaid and needed a strapless bra for my dress fitting. One of the universal truths about strapless bras is the crucial nature of perfect sizing. If the bra is too big, you have a very elaborate belt with gel cushiony cutlets stuck to your belly button. If it’s small, you are a squished can of store bought biscuits under extreme pressure, oozing out the top awkwardly. That being said, I really did not like the idea of the enormous investment of a specialty bra purchase.

I wasn’t always a specialty store customer. I didn’t realize bras came above DD until the fifth month of my pregnancy. Until then I wore Grinch bras (3 sizes too small!). Most bra retailers assume that being top heavy is always correlated to a large rib cage. My diminutive frame is outside of the norm by at least four inches, which is only an acceptable margin of error when parallel parking. As a result, they hurt, they rode, they dug. I viewed them as medieval torture implements comprised of thinly veiled barbed wire. Since I found the magical candy coated kingdom of appropriate sizing, they are substantially  less awful contraptions. The most significant pain is directed towards my pocketbook and for that reason I miss the big chain stores, with their shiny displays of affordable merchandise.

Every so often I’m in a mainstream lingerie store with my mom or my sister and some eager twenty-something tries to sell me a bra. I smile politely and advise that I am definitely outside of their size range but thank her for the generous offer. Occasionally, out of optimism or a lack of connection to reality, she will ask if I have tried their product lately – sizing might have fluctuated since I last attempted a purchase.

It was from that same sense of optimism or lack of connection with reality that I attempted to buy a bra at the mall today.  This experience is best illustrated using the five stages of grief as a road map.

The first stage of grief is denial:

I held up the delicate piece of fabric with its graceful wires for inspection. This could totally work! I put it on verrrrrry carefully. The nice lady with a name tag taps on the door to inquire how things are going. “Great!” I gasp. I look down and observe the volcanic eruption threatening to explode from the lacy cups.

“Maybe I should ask her if the sizing is correct. My vision is poor. I probably read it wrong. Or it was mislabeled”

“If I inhale a little bit and shimmy to the right it just might fit”

[bctt tweet=”Any resemblance to actual Pillsbury products is purely coincidental.”].

The second stage of grief is anger:

I could no longer pretend this web of daintiness would be structurally sound enough for the task at hand. I looked down at the offending article of clothing in rage, removing it brusquely and silently cursing the long line of curvy women from whom I descend. I hold them and their ample bosoms accountable for my current first world predicament.

“Why don’t they sell bigger bras here?”

“Why would that dumb lady with a name tag think this would ever fit? Her tape measure sucks!”

” Why do they hate girls with big boobs and little rib cages? We are people too!” (Perhaps I shall organize a rally of some kind. A bra burning. Ha!).

The third stage of grief is bargaining:

I wistfully gaze at the price tag, so much more reasonable than my specialty shop. It is so affordable I could totally justify a frappucino afterwards in celebration. If only….

“If only I had been born from a long line of marathon runners. Would an adoption at 30 counter genetics, miraculously by osmosis?”

“If only I had talked to my doctor about a breast reduction. I wonder what the wait list is like…”

“I would totally trade places with one of those girls that wishes she was bustier if given the opportunity”

I sank into the fourth stage of grief which is depression:

I sadly and gently hang the magical bra of adorableness and affordability back on the door hook and wipe a tear from my eye. I am seriously feeling sorry for myself and it’s embarassing.

“I am going to be the only woman alive bankrupted by lingerie purchases.”

“That thing had memory foam in it. I can’t afford that in mattress format! I’m going to die never knowing how awesome memory foam is”

“Most specialty store bras are ugly. This one had sparkles. I deserve to sparkle. Why can’t I sparkle like the other girls? I am not content with inner sparkle, I want to wear my sparkle on the outside!”

Sniffle Sob.

This brings us to the final phase: Acceptance.

I reluctantly resigned myself to the reality that this sparkly bra of memory foam and I were not to be. I handed it back to the lady with the name tag. I got back in my car and drove to the specialty store. I invested in a supportive if not slightly hideous foundation garment with the same enthusiasm as the time I procured a grown-up vacuum. It was sturdy, matronly and depressing.

I winced a little as the transaction went through, but I was secure in the knowledge that all would be safely contained on my sister’s wedding day. This consoled me enough to move past the grief associated with my bra shopping tale of woe and finally heal.



  1. If you have larger breasts you’re probably not a DD. For petite women with larger breasts (me too) it’s hard to find correctly fitting bras in stores because the smallest band size is 32 and the largest cup size is often DD.

    I used to wear 32/34D because it was the smallest band/largest cup combo I could easily find. When properly measured I’m really a 30FF, which is only slightly larger than average size visually.

    Here’s a great calculator to try and a visual reference of what properly measured sizes look like in case you get sticker shock 🙂

    • alliespins

      Thanks! It turns out I’m a 30omG, attempts at double d were misguided optimism for sure 🙂 thanks for the handy chart!

  2. Been there, bought that. Girl, I feel your pain. 36F before I got pregnant. Only time will tell how big they will get. *Sniffle*

    • alliespins

      32omG. The struggle is real!

  3. I am only allowed to laugh at this because I had reduction surgery at age 18 and now they’re baaaaaack! Good lord, nobody knows what this is like until you try to do what you just did or until you go shopping as a size 36LMNOP cup and realize there are no fettuccine straps on prom dresses, only spaghetti. 🙁 Anyhow, you might enjoy my blog post entitled, “My Quests For Smaller Breasts, but you might not. I however, certainly LOVED (and related!!) to this!

  4. I feel for you. I am a DD who could never find a strapless bra that would stay up until I bought one of the more foundational type…you know the ones that go down to the waist and has a full back? I get pissed at bra companies who seem to think their flimsy strapless bras will work for a big bust. They don’t. That said, I’m pregnant which means I’m about to go back to a 38 I. Trying to find a nursing bra that size is nearly impossible, but they have a ton that are DD. (And I can only imagine how tough it is for you to find bras at a 30G).

  5. I’m an A and that’s being generous. This makes me feel better but just slightly..Lol

  6. There are quite a few gorgeous bra’s out there in bigger bust sizes. I know. They gobble up my bankaccount.. Google Prima Donna

  7. I feel your pain. When my BFF got married a few years ago, we ended up with strapless dresses. Oh the horror for a DD gal. Fortunately it was a well made dress and I was able to pull it off with a bandeau style bra. I swear the the wedding gods were on my side that day.
    Some days I wonder, if Kim Kardashian can wear strapless outfits why can’t I? Seriously, how does she pull it off? Duct tape?

    • She actually does use a type of tape for those low cut dresses that somehow her boobs dont fall out of. Fairly certain you can Google it. Funny to watch 🙂

  8. OMG I am not a girly girl at all, I’m an entomologist (I study bugs) but I suffer from too busty-itis. I got measured at a bra store for my first real bra about 10 years ago. I can empathize with slight build, big boobs because not one but two ladies conferred on my bra size and then said what are we going to do? WTF? Your a bra store. But I was a 28 E, um I’m there topless with these ladies trying to figure out what to do for me. I purchase 4 bras none in my size. But beyond the bra issue, finding shirts that fit me are near impossible. I have cried in fitting rooms because nothing fits. I have struggled with bras from department stores or other speciality stores. Costs are ridiculous, a good bra is anywhere from $65-90, and then you need more than one. So why did I tell you I’m an entomologist, because if regular bras are hard to find, sports bras are nearly impossible. And that’s what I wear when I’m out working. I am currently looking into a reduction because of these issues as well as back & shoulder pain associated with being busty.

  9. Kris Wiemann

    Oh, my dear. Been there, done that! I, too, come from a long line of full figured ladies with slender rib cages. My grandmother had 3 pounds removed from each side when she her reduction done. Thank goodness I didn’t have that much to remove, but I had a reduction about 7 years ago, best thing ever!! I spent the whole summer Wearing sundresses and enjoying the novelty of not having to tuck my pajamas in between and under my bosoms to keep them from getting sweaty. Not to mention getting to buy little bras with tiny straps and sides. I have gotten a bit bigger with weight gain, but nothing like what I was, and hopefully it will go away with weight loss. Plus, I’m 54 and have perky bosoms! I don’t know if you are considering reduction, but insurance usually pays for it, and there is a reduction surgery now that young women can get that will preserve duct work in case they want to nurse a baby. I didn’t have to worry about that, so my surgery was less involved. Good luck to you ?

  10. I feel the pain too. But sometimes it is very difficult to find the right sizes. One of my friend have a problem with her size. It’s hard for her to find the right size for her.