In order to decide if your wires are just right or too wide/narrow, it is important to know where your breast tissue ends. Best thing is to lift your breast and push it a little to the side. Mark the line with an eyeliner or a similar pencil. Then, just like in a breast examination, feel for breast tissue beyond this line to make sure there are no glandular tissue outside the visible breast area. The wire should enclose all breast tissue!
Not necessarily of course! Plus 4 certainly cannot be considered a proper sizing method these days! But I'm still sceptical about the idea of using your underbust measurement as direct indication of your band size. This of course is only supposed to give you an approximate idea where to begin; but then enthusiasm sometimes tends to be a bit dogmatic and numbers in general seem to wield a kind of magical power... So if I'm reading something like "If you can close the band on the tightest hook right away its too wide" or "You measure 28 inches so you *have* to wear a 28 band" I grow a little wary.
Of course you should not have to wear a new bra on the tightest hook but simply that you could do it does not say anything, really. You should not go for the smallest band you're still able to close but for the band size you need to achieve proper support. I understand that sometimes it makes sense to chose 'conservatively', meaning when between band sizes going for the smaller one in order to get the most out of your bra. (I've also had styles that stretched so much over a couple of months that I could not wear them anymore.) But then you also have to take into account that bands will wear out faster if you constantely overstretch them.
At Busenfreundinnen.net we ask for two underbust measurements, the usual one which is to be made with empty lungs and the tape measure pulled tightly but without cutting into the skin, and then another one with the tape measure pulled as tightly as possible. One of the ideas behind this approach is to determine how 'squeezable' a person is.
So, put in a nutshell: Don't put too much trust in numbers and go for as much comfort as possible when deciding on a bra!
For an explanation what 'The War on Plus 4" is all about, check out Bra fitting : why are companies still ‘adding 4′? by Busts 4 Justice and similar postings in the english boobosphere.
Dieser Beitrag richtet sich vor allem an die englischsprachige Blogosphere, da es zum Thema eigentlich schon massenhaft Material bei den Busenfreundinnen gibt, beispielsweise unter Umkehrte Buchstabenphobie oder Das zu breite Bügel-Phänomen. Bei Bedarf reiche ich gerne eine Übersetzung nach. :)
I will say that at least in the larger cup sizes your band size can be pretty clear with it's correlation to pain in your back. If I go up one size to a 30 band I get a back ache after wearing a 30 band bra for some hours whereas a 28 band doesn't do that. I also have soft breasts and I've found that they seem to need a tighter band more than when I was younger and had firmer breasts (because they just tended to stay put more).
I definitely agree that women have to try on bras and see what's the best fit, but I also want to point out that some women need to actually go down in band size from their underbust measurement (bra nightmares has found this often) and I know for myself I've experienced this too. In my case I think it's part having a very squishable back and also part that my natural waist is larger than my underbust so it's hard to get a good measurement at the exact point that my bra band sits. I measure 28" for my underbust pulled very, very tightly (about 29-30" loosely) yet in all my 28bands I can easily fit my entire hand underneath it without much effort.
I think the moral of the story is try on as many bras close enough in your size as possible. Unfortunately, that's not always the easiest thing in the world do to the limited size range almost everywhere you go with the exception of the UK and Poland. :( A commentor on my blog once suggested that it would be nice if companies would let you buy bra starter packages that included many bras in various sizes that you could try on at once and send back the ones that didn't fit. They do this with cloth diapers and instead of charging the entire price at once they put a hold on your credit card and take it off after you return the ones you don't like. I thought it was a great idea and it seems like they could even send some of those as slightly used bra too. :)
First of all: Thank you for this superlong answer, June! :)
You are right of course. It's difficult to find bras with fitting wires if you've got a very narrow breast base. I've often thought about trying to get professional wires in order to exchange the ones in the bra, since there are quite a few woman who have this problem.
BUT, and this was the point I was trying to make, many large breasted women think of wires that are too wide as a kind of neccessary evil *while* they are simply wearing the wrong sizes. I've seen this lots and lots and lots of times and I myself believed it too. The idea of the inescapability of wires too wide used to be everywhere so every newbie learned that is was a problem of production instead of (at least in many cases) the fitting. It was a very difficult step to put this dogma into question.
the band size:
Whereas I have to admit that back pain is a good index of the wrong size, the solution does not lies solely in the band.
When I got fitted for the first time, I got advice from women who could not really relate to my breast size (for which I do not blame them; it was just the theory of the time and they did everything in their power to help me). This convinced me that even in a bra fitting surrounding my boobs are considered huge. I immediately went for bigger and bigger cups but there was still spillage or the center gore was not reaching my breast bone.
And then there was this overall feeling in the air that you should get a band that's so snug you can hardly close it. So I ordered some bras in 32JJ, 32K and 30K. 30K seemed to be okay. Certainly the straps seemed too long and the wires were a little wide but this was considered normal so I wore the size for about 9 month. Then two Busenfreundinnen came along who questioned the fit in a lot of women (Agnieszka from Only Her started the doubt and YSJ established the idea - against a lot of resistance). As a consequence I tried on three different sizes, 30K, 30JJ and 30J. I realised 30J was large enough for me cupwise. I wore it for a few days during which I suffered from poking wires and even little wounds where their ends dug into my flesh. I never had this problem before because the larger cup sizes appeared also to be wider in the band. >> And this is a very important thing to understand: how tight a band feels is connected to how large the cups are and not an absolute fact in itself.
I tried other 30J and 32HH bras which fit catastrophically - partly because the whole structure got stretched too much. Something you can - among other aspects - see in the way the wires nearly reach around to your back instead of enclosing the breast tissue properly. Earlier I would have guessed that the style just would not fit me but at this point I had already understood that fit also depends a lot on the right size. In the end even ordered 34H and understood that a bra can be supporting even without a very tight band as long as it is properly constructed for my breast size and form. You can see this for example by removing the straps and checking how much support you still have. There are some styles about that nearly are like strapless bras wheras others just seem to collapse the moment they loose the strap support.
The latter ones tend to cause back pain when I wear them a few days in a row. And I'm sad to say, that Ewa Michalak bras turned out to be torture instruments after a few days because their straps were too short for me- which were, on the other hand, responsible for the great, round shape the bras gave me.
Please, don't think that I want to question tight bands as such - I just want to point out that they can become a fetish and thereby cause a lot of unneccessary trouble.
My measurements are 32.7 inches (=83cm) measured in the usual way (empty lungs, tight tape measure) but I can squeeze myself to an incredible 29.5 inches (75cm) when I measure supertight. Most of the time, Panache bras such as Ariza or Sienna fit in a 34 band. I got some styles in a 32 band because my Cleo Lizzie stretched so much I can hardly wear them these days but I realised lately that better built bras don't wear out as fast. (Damn these two hook-construction of Cleo bras!)
Depending on the bra, my breasts are somewhere between 34H/HH and 32HH/J, so they're pretty heavy... and also rather soft and closely together. So I can understand your troubles with plunge styles...
I can absolutely relate to your idea of a starter kit!
It's extremely difficult to find your size and fitting styles via online shopping!
We try to give advice at Busenfreundinnen.net concerning styles to order first because they are known to be true to size and not very complicated. We also strongly suggest to get as many sizes and styles as possible in order to develop a feeling for the fit of a bra. But this unfortunately also means that you have to advance a lot of money.
A very useful item for finding your size which I recommend a lot would be a bra extender. While it's not the best of ideas to wear all of your bras with an extender (it also distorts the fit), it can give you an impression of a wider band size and if it would still be comfortable or already too loose.
BTW: If you don't own one, you could recylce an old bra. :)
... Okay, this is another posting... maybe I should copy & paste our comments in a regular blog post...