The Tall Women’s Guide to Well-Fitting Bras

Forty Winks bras

Call it a mid-life “refitting”, but I recently started on a journey towards establishing a healthier foundation that has taken me inward. To be fair, I’m only at the beginning of the road, but I’m a cautiously optimistic believer that it will lead me to ‘the power within.’ Remedies for some truly tired patterns. More moments of zen…that is, more moments of being truly present, and comfortable in it.

So let’s talk comfort—actually, lack thereof—when it comes to something else inward-facing. Yes, dear readers: undergarments (bras, specifically.) After a long phase of trying to talk myself out of investing in the very items that could lead to some comfort, I found myself in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forty Winks this past weekend inquiring about the first bra fitting of my adult life. I was really nervous about this. Mostly nervous about the potential of having gotten something so seemingly basic wrong for oh…two plus decades

Yet, with an upward estimate that 85% of us are wearing the wrong bra size, the truth is that it’s not so easy to get fit right on our own. Especially because most of us are our own worst/harshest body critics, and habitual underinvestors when it comes to self care.

Upon my first step into this women-owned gem of a shop, I discovered not only a beautiful space full of beautiful garments from French and Italian lines like Simone Perele, Chantelle, and Cosabella but also a safe, calming space for learning. This is a benefit that unmistakably comes from female ownership and influence. For my fitting, I was under the tutelage of an empathetic teacher in Forty Winks’ Store Manager Ari. She soothed my nerves and patiently took me through what I should look for given my bust size and height.

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The cozy view from inside the Forty Winks shop at 56 JFK Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Though I was indeed off the mark when it came to the bra size I had been wearing, that turned out to be a relief (one that I could viscerally feel). More humbling, I realized that I had neither been selecting nor wearing bras correctly. No matter, as Ari shared her insider tips for fitting tall bodies so that I learned a lot. And now, I get to share these tips with you!

***Please note that these should not be substitution for getting individually sized, but are nonetheless takeaways appropriated by yours truly from the knowledgeable ladies at Forty Winks.***

So without further ado…

 

The Tall Women’s Guide to Well-Fitting Bras with Forty Winks

 

When trying on, make sure your bra is tight (but not circulation-cutting) on the last set of hooks. Bras stretch with time and wear, so account for the fact that you will want to move inward as the garment settles in and molds to your body. The right size for you is tight, secure, but not painful on the very last set of hooks—the same fit you’re looking for in a new pair of jeans, so they get better (and become perfectly fitted) with time.

Loosen bra straps all the way before trying on any style. Most bras in a shop are stocked and stored with perfectly taut straps. It’s important to loosen straps all the way to the band—it can be too easy when you’re tall to wear bras too high (not with bands hitting at the midpoint of the back, where they are intended to rest). The consequence is shoulder strain, a band that rides up instead of falls flat and level, and not selecting the right size to begin with.

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A Simone Perele style for women with broader shoulders, stocked at Forty Winks

Choose the strap style for the shoulders you have. Strap width and set really really matter for comfort. For the many tall ladies with broad shoulders (raising my hand!), it’s important to look for wider straps sewn into or close to the side of the cup for the greatest comfort and stability. For tall ladies with narrow or sloped shoulders, slimmer straps that bisect the middle of the cup will ensure that there are no more slipping or hopping straps (and a lot more relief because of it.) The easy-to-remember summary: match strap width and set to your relative shoulder width and set.

For holding power, look for the three-part stretch construction. For the utmost stability, there’s a world beyond “full coverage” or “minimizer”—just look for the three-part stretch construction. The vertical swaths of fabric on the sides of the bra should run the most taut for maximum hold; the large horizontal swath that terminates around the band should have slightly more give than the side panels but still be fairly heavy duty; and the fabric along the uppermost part of the bra should have the most give for gentle shaping. Recommended brands stocked at Forty Winks that offer this construction include Chantelle, Panache, and Simone Perele (I ended up getting a Chantelle style and a Panache style myself).

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A regular construction vs. a three-part construction by Panache, available at Forty Winks

For unequivocal ease, go wire-free. There are underwire-free options for every bust size, and they are not just for weekend wear. Cosabella offers a range of underwire-free lace silhouettes in “Regular” and “Curvy” sizes (the latter with thicker bands, wider/edge-placed staps, and more coverage for larger busts). As someone who never thought wire-free was even in the cards, it was a revelation that there were options for me. And the Curvy options from Cosabella were so comfortable, in fact, that I had to get two and bask in the newfound freedom.

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A full range of options, wired and wire-free, available at Forty Winks

The long and short of it is this: we all deserve to be comfortable in ourselves, and everything we wear. Getting even a little more comfortable can start with simply deciding to go inward and be a bit vulnerable, and result in establishing an infinitely better foundation. If you’re thinking about a bra fitting (and I sincerely hope you will, especially if you’ve never been sized or fitted before) and happen to be in the greater New England area, I couldn’t recommend Forty Winks more highly. But whatever your journey, just remember to take time to care for yourself (and be sure to bask in all your unique beauty and presence along the way!)

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