Supporting the breasts of a well-endowed woman is a serious job, and not meant for the alluring but flimsy pieces of lace we see in the store windows. There are three main reasons large-breasted1 women look for support in their bras and other undergarments:
- Comfort - large breasts are usually heavy breasts, and it simply isn't comfortable for most women to have them bouncing free all day. A good bra or corset supports the breasts from below, minimizing the stress on the shoulders and back.
- Prevention of Sagging - gravity does its job, and large breasts tend to sag more noticeably than smaller breasts. A good bra minimises sagging - there's a reason your mothers told you to wear a good sports bra when you went horseback riding!
- Appearance - sagging breasts are not generally seen as attractive in western society. Women's clothes are designed for breasts that are carried only slightly below the armpits, and sagging breasts can make a woman appear heavier. A good bra helps match a woman's natural shape to the fit of her clothing.
Bras, Sports Bras, Unibras, and More Bras
In general, bras for large-breasted women tend to be far less attractive and sensual than those sold to our smaller-chested sisters. Some women have commented that bras for large-breasted women often look as if they were designed by the men that create tanks for the military, and this is not too far off the mark. And while the bras for smaller cup sizes may have only two or three rows of hooks in the back, larger cup sizes are often accompanied by as many as six, seven, or even eight rows of hooks to fasten! Other complaints about bras for large-breasted women often focus around the shape they create - most either push the breasts together into a single 'unibreast', or push the breasts out to the side at an odd and unnatural angle. The former is sometimes referred to as a 'unibra', and is the most common style for sports bras, while the latter can be reminiscent of the bras Madonna wore on stage in the early 1980s.
Many women report problems finding bras in large sizes that are not 'minimisers', bras designed to flatten the breasts as much as possible in order to reduce the appearance of size. While minimising bras can be the best option under certain types of clothing, such as business suits, they are in general far less attractive and comfortable than other bra styles. For the higher cup sizes (H and up), it can sometimes be easier to find nursing bras than regular bras - while the access flaps in nursing bras can be quite convenient for breastfeeding, they can feel a little out-of-place otherwise. The fact that bras in larger cup sizes are often more expensive only adds insult to these injuries.
Whether or not a bra has an underwire is not nearly as important as the overall fit. A good thick band (4-5 cm) can provide much more support than the typical thin band (1-2 cm) that usually accompanies an underwire bra.
Accurately Fitting a Bra
Women with large breasts will often put considerable time and effort into finding a bra that fits - or at least comes reasonably close. There are two measurements involved in determining bra size - band size, which measures around the ribs just below the breasts, and cup size, which is derived from the difference between the band size measurement and the total chest circumference.
Band sizes most often come in even numbers (with 28-44 being a common range), while cup sizes are alphabetical - A, B, C, D, etc. There can be considerable differences in how cup sizes are marked between manufacturers, but a general rule of thumb is that an A cup represents a one inch difference between band and chest measurement, a B cup two inches, and so on. Also, for some companies, a DD cup is simply how they describe an E cup, and for others, a DD is actually midway between a D and an E cup. As many large retailers only carry cup sizes up through a certain level (often to DD or DDD), women with larger breasts often find ways to 'make do' with smaller cup sizes. In general, a woman can go up a band size for every cup size she has to go down due to limited availability - so a woman who measures to a 38G might be able to fit into a 40DDD/F or a 42DD/E.
Making Do with the Wrong Size
In reality, however, such switches come with their own price. Even if it's possible to put the bra on, problems with the fit will often become apparent with extended use over the course of a day. For example, wearing a band size larger than indicated from measurements can lead to 'leakage' of the breasts underneath the band. Especially with an underwire bra, this can be incredibly uncomfortable. Another sign that the band size is too large is if it starts creeping up the back over the course of the day - the band should be at the same height in the front and the back, and should be able to stay there across the day.
On top of this, a too loose band means that the shoulder straps are serving as the primary support of the weight of the breasts; in a properly fitted bra, the band supports a good deal of the weight, easing the stress on the shoulders2. Likewise, wearing a cup size smaller than indicated can result in 'spillage' of the breasts over the cups - while not generally physically painful, this does create a rather unattractive sight, even when the woman is fully clothed. Significant 'spillage' of this sort can even make it look as if a woman has three or four breasts, instead of two!
In this vein, a threat not to be taken lightly is that of having one breast fall out of the bra completely. Risk factors for 'breast escape' include:
- Too small a cup size,
- A bra with a demi (half) cup rather than a full coverage cup, and
- Activities that involve lots of bouncing.
If this should happen to you, try not to sink too deeply into the ground - it's an experience that has been shared by many large-breasted women. While it can be more convenient (and tasteful) to retire to the ladies' restroom to resettle your loose breast, experience has shown that this isn't always a viable option - sometimes, you do just have to grab it and stuff it back in.
Tactics for Better Bra Fit
Luckily, there are ways to deal with these problems. Most lingerie stores, along with some larger department stores, have women on staff who are specially trained in fitting bras. While this may sound hideously embarassing, it really doesn't need to be - the staff are generally unfailingly professional. You can be measured while fully clothed, although measuring while undressed can give the fitter a far better idea of which bras will be best for your particular size and shape. As the vast majority of women (large-breasted or not) wear an improperly fitted bra, professional assistance can be invaluable.
Shopping online is another avenue for the large-breasted woman. While there are a greater array of sizes available online, it's important to remember that a 38J from one company will not necessarily be anything like a 38J from another. Individual manufacturers will often post fitting guidelines on their website, but sometimes the easiest way is simply to order more than one size, and then return those that don't fit.
Additionally, some such shops have alterations services, that can alter existing bras to more closely fit the unique shape of an individual woman. Such services are usually priced quite reasonably, and can be well worth the money and time involved. Bra accessories are also available to help customize the fit of the bra - strap extenders and shorteners, shoulder pads, etc.
Other women find that custom-made bras are the best way to go - surprisingly, this is not always too much more expensive than store-bought bras. There are companies that focus on everything from custom-made bras for wedding and evening gowns to unrestrictive bras made from organic cotton.
In the end, wearing a properly fitted bra can have a wide array of advantages, including:
- better posture,
- less shoulder and back pain,
- better fitting clothes,
- more energy, and
- feeling more free to be active.
Wearing and Caring for Your Bra
The way in which you put on a bra can have a definite impact on how well it fits and supports you throughout the day. Professional bra fitters will often recommend that a woman first fasten the band around the rib cage under the breasts, and then 'lift' and place each breast individually into the corresponding cup before adjusting the shoulder straps. Sometimes further readjustment will be needed to enhance symmetry. Next, if need be, pull the band in back down until it is at the same height as in the front.
How you launder your bra will have a significant impact on how long it lasts - and as bras for the large-breasted generally don't come cheap, this is important. Retaining the elasticity of the band is key, so handwashing and drying the bra flat (rather than hanging or in a drier) is suggested.
Beyond the Bra
In desperation, some large-breasted women have gone to extreme lengths to find alternatives. Going entirely bra-free may be a noticeable political statement, but can become uncomfortable rather quickly. Likewise, binding the breasts with athletic tape or fashioning a bra out of coconuts on a string may be useful (or fun!) for a very specific purpose, but probably won't be effective or worthwhile on a regular basis. Women into bondage have found creative ways of supporting (but not covering) breasts entirely with rope - while a breath of fresh air, this method may not be usable in daily life for most large-breasted women. Further, the support offered might not be adequate for those with sagging or extremely large breasts.
One option for breast containment and support is the corset, which has been reported to be especially alluring in large-breasted women. An additional advantage of the corset is that it supports the breasts entirely from below, completely removing the weight from the shoulders and back. As corsets also emphasize the natural hourglass shape that many large-breasted women have, they can be especially effective with evening wear. The biggest disadvantage to corsets is that they often need to be custom-made to fit well, and tend to be 5-10 times as expensive as the average bra. While slightly less expensive ready made corsets are available in some stores, it is usually far more difficult to find a ready made corset that fits properly than a bra - there is, after all, more of the body that needs fitting. Another issue to take into consideration with corsets is that they also take some practice - a woman will need to find the best way of putting on and doing it up for her needs, and will also simply need to get used to wearing it.
And of course...
When all else fails you can always hold them up with your hands. The usefulness of this method should not be discounted - especially after a long day at work or shopping, or while exiting the shower, or when taking the stairs, supporting one in each hand can provide quite a sense of relief.