Gratuitious Cleavage (The Bra Episode)

Following Lane Bryant’s Twitter dramaz, one of the more common expressions of dismay we’ve both personally felt and heard was, yeah, sure, I hate Lane Bryant, but where the hell else am I going to find affordable and comfy bras? Both bra-shopping and bra-wearing are fraught — FRAUGHT! — with horrors and frustrations. Today we’re talking boobs, and bras, and underthings.


My take on the LB dramaz, on

Marianne’s two posts on the subject, pre-apology and post-apology.

Apparently I neglected to take any notes during this recording, and I can’t remember if there were any other links I promised here. Let me know if so.

The music heard in this episode is by Dazie Mae.

29 Responses to “Gratuitious Cleavage (The Bra Episode)”

  1. Snuffycup Says:

    I feel your bra pain Lesley! I’m in an even weirder spot, I wear a 50A. Yes that is a real size, one that (for me) requires support and underwires- not that anyone would know it from the state of bra availability. Actually when I was thinner, I was a 38C and after gaining a whole lot of weight, I now wear a 50A because that’s just how fucked up bra sizing is, yay for women! So in straight sizes, I have “average” sized boobs, in plus sizes, I have “little” boobs, wtf?

  2. Alex H. Says:

    I remember my first few bras came from Meijer or some such place like that… they weren’t the Playtex bra-in-a-box, but they were similarly coneboob-like, and full of polyester, which I hated a lot. They looked awful under t-shirts, and they probably contributed to the period in my life where I mostly wore sweatshirts and boys’ clothing.

    It wasn’t until one of my older sister’s bras somehow ended up in my laundry, and I started wearing it, that I figured out there were better bras out there for me. OMG, underwires, man! After that, I made peace with my bust and we’ve been BFFs ever since.

  3. living400lbs Says:

    I am also an underwire lover. My fave is the Lilyette 908, which I can FIND again thanks to the wonder of Amazon.

    I also found that standalone Cacique stores have a few F and G cups…but only a few.

  4. JonelB Says:

    My response as a younger person to the lack of bras that fit me?
    Sports Bras. Like Whoa. I wore the same few sports bras forever.
    I finally got my first real bra when I got out of high school. Why? Because before, it didn’t matter what bra I wore, I looked hideous–my high school uniform was a short-sleeve collared polo and khakis. None of my school colors looked good on me, so I was sort of this…unsexual thing that no one liked, because I had no choice as far as what I was gonna wear, and what I had to wear was utterly unflattering for me.
    Alongside the layne bryant thing? That’s it as far as stores that have clothes that fit me. That. Is. It. Old Navy has the whole XXL extended sizes or whatever but it’s always a little too snug on me. LB sells the only undies that fit me and aren’t hideous(cotton, hipsters, bikini, I’m not picky, people, I just want comfort and cute). Walmart -sometimes- has non-hideous stuff, but besides that? Online, and this place that’s kind of magical for me–Dirt Cheap. Honestly shopping there is kind of a crapshoot, though.
    My system is this: Layne Bryant for bottoms, pants, jeans, skirts, and undies, maybe some shirts that are unique or on sale. For everything else I take my chance with what Dirt Cheap has, check often, and snatch anything that’s good or unique. I’ve gotten so many good things from there that were $7 or $5–sad part? I’ll probably never see these things again. Oh well, I’ll trade feeding the corporate beast out anyways.
    My Target doesn’t carry plus size, or if they do, I’ve never seen it in store. And I’ve been in plenty of times.
    so yeah, LB, only game in town, for me at least.
    On top of that? I’m a nerd, like you, so I’d LIKE to see some more nerd t-shirts or cute nerdy things–as it is, I’m starting to hunt down some lego jewelry and such…but it’s not easy to find nerdy apparel in my size. At least nerdy apparel that isn’t going to cost me $35.
    Also, poor college student. So being able to dress stylelishly as a fat chick? yeah, totally part of how much money you actually make. When I was younger I didn’t even -bother- most of the time, because my parents weren’t going to spend $40 on a Torrid or hot topic shirt. At least now I’ve learned how to scrape through certain places for good pieces that won’t embroken me.
    Also: WAIT FOR THE LB SALES! They’re worth it. and budget how much you can spend, really, it’s better to have to trim down what you’re getting and save a bundle than get whatever.
    of course, if it’s an emergency, it doesn’t matter, but I’ve managed to spend the least amount at LB for the past two visits.
    I do hate the freaking prices of most good stylish plus-size clothes.

  5. Sarah Says:

    For anyone in the Chicagoland area who is the least bit squeamish about being professionally fitted for a bra or any other under-the-clothes support garment, please let me wholeheartedly recommend Sally Ann Corset Shop on the far south side of Chicago.

    They serve women and transvestites of all ages, shapes, sizes.

    It is staffed by very stern, no-nonsense, heavily accented Polish ladies. They haven’t the time or patience to worry about or reflect on anyone’s body image issues one way or another. They wander the store with measuring tape around the neck, and glasses perched at the edge of the nose.

    It is the most utilitarian fitting you will ever get in your life. They could not give two shits about your weight, your sex, your gender identification, etc…In fact, I suspect they love a challenge more than anything.

    They are on a mission, and that is to get you the perfectly fitting product. There is barely anything on display on the sales floor–most of the stock is kept in back, because the idea is that they know what’s best and will bring you selection of whatever that is, then you get to choose from that.

    You go into a fitting room. You are measured. The ladies return with a bunch of boxes of stuff, and you try it all on. They poke, they prod, they stretch, they examine from all angles. If it works, they tell you it works. If it doesn’t work, they keep trying.

    I discovered this place as a bridesmaid. We had to wear these tissue thin satin dresses that seemed to get stuck to every square inch of your body in a freaky way whenever you so much as breathed deeply.

    I went in with my fellow bridesmaids and was so blown away by the get-down-to-the-brass-tack-ness of the whole experience that my Catholic body guilt (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mother in less than a skirted swimsuit) was immediately forgotten.

    We put the dresses on, the static sticking problem was obvious. The ladies ordered us to take the dresses off and got to work. My fitter emerged with some bras and these enormous girdle-ish, underwear (but worn over actual underwear) type contraptions and ordered us into them. I apparently didn’t have mine pulled up properly at the point of inspection and my fitter actually grasped onto the waistband and hoisted me off the ground, grunting, “Zee band must reach to directly under zee breasts to verk properly vith zee dress!” so that they were pulled up to the point they were supposed to be.

    I am not affiliated with these people in any way. I am a totally unpaid evangelist. The moment anyone from the midwest mentions needing a bra, I am compelled to share the love. The store is not hip or cool or cute. It is in a kinda’ crappy neighborhood, in a nondescript strip mall. It is the greatest place ever.

  6. Cary Says:

    LB does carry an H cup online, but only in certain styles.

  7. Quill Says:

    The band is supposed to take the weight, not the shoulder straps? *blink* That would violate the laws of physics on me. The band’s just there to keep things from sliding downward.

    Love the podcast! I listen to it before any of my other podcasts, out of sheer anticipation.

  8. Heather Says:

    I feel like this episode kind of bogged down in details and mechanics. I wish you’d gone more deeply into some of the ideas Marianne mentioned about the difficulties of Taking Our Breasts to Work. Dressing breasts for success in the workplace is an issue for most women, but I think there are particular issues for fat women — how to garb the boobs so we look “professional” but not vulgar OR Hooters-sexy OR matronly OR insufficiently feminine (the “strap ’em down” de-sexualizing approach).

    I would also love to hear more about boobs and fat in butch gender presentation – I know neither of you is butch, but I just got back from LGBT family summer camp and I’m thinking about butches in sports bras and bathing suits!

    Basically I just want you to keep talking about fatness and gender for many episodes.

  9. Marianne Says:

    Quill – the band is the foundation support. That’s where most of the structural support of the bra comes from. If that’s too loose, the bra just doesn’t work. That’s one reason we’re encouraged to handwash bras – the heat of washing and drying break down the elastic in the band and make it less supportive. If the straps are doing most of the work, you may be wearing the wrong size.

    Heather – one of the interesting things we’re finding as we do this podcast is that these topics are just way too huge (pun fully intended) to cover thoroughly in an hour. Our approach is really to talk about stuff over and over again from different angles because there’s just So Much To Say, you know? We’ve done one episode so far on gender and fatness but we’ve got more in the works.

  10. Heather Says:

    The topics are indeed huge! And broad! and weighty too. I guess that’s why I sometimes get impatient for you (pl) to cut from the anecdotes to the analysis. You (Marianne) often invoke a Bordo-esque framework about fat bodies, especially women’s, being stigmatized as excessive and out of control, and I always want to hear more about how that is playing out in a given situation (at work, in public, etc). And also the tension between that “excess” model and the “scarcity” model which stigmatizes fat bodies as LACKING (self-control, discipline, femininity, elegance, etc). The paradox of hyper-visibility and invisibility.

  11. Nuchtchas Says:

    First @JonelB Most of the custom printing places online have up to 4-6XL as shirt sizes so you can make any geek shirt you want (Sadly Most are limited in the ladies cut) I have myself bought a Man’s Tee and cut it up on the sides and resew the sides for a more tailored look to make it a ladies shirt and then create my own print. (My favorite was the Pi sign and then MP after it) the downside to that is one, you have to be crafty and two the dryer kills the print after say… 25-50 washes 🙂 (If a light print on a dark shirt)

  12. Nuchtchas Says:

    Now on to BRAs!

    This is a great issue, I see so many women wearing the wrong Bra size. I will have to take the tip to lossen my bra straps as I know my band is the right size.

    How do you know your band is the right size? It goes across your back, it does not raise towards your neck.

    I was reading a page in (believe it or not) the Sears catalog and it had all sorts of tips and tricks for a more comfortable fit. One of the things that they said more often then any other tip was to increase your cup size. So many women wear too small a cup size.

    Your breasts should rest between your shoulders and your elbow, right in the middle. Many women are either too high, or too low.

    I have always been heavy, but small chested. For most of my life I wore a 38B thinking I could do to wear a 38A.5 if they made it. A few years ago I had a large weight gain, since then I have had back pain and often felt strained wearing anything but a sports Bra for longer then 8 hours (work, regular bra, then sports bra, day off, sports bra all day) It wasn’t till I went to the Maiden Form Outlet (As in my area of NY anytime I looked at LB for bras they only had D and up and only C in thin icky Bras, see I need some sort of padding or thickness as I am paranoid about nipple showage) and the woman there suggested I go up in cup size, and that my band size could stay the same. I was sure I needed a 40 at least if not a 42. Turned out I needed to go up to a C (and I swear my boobs didn’t look any bigger) and go to a 40, the 38 cut off my air supply. I ened up finding two models that felt great, one Maiden Form Brand and one Lilyette. Thick straps, hot colors (Black, blue, bright purple) and all, and the panties there were hot looking too and fit great.

    When I was young (a late teen as my breasts didn’t come till I was 15 and came over night) I never had the box bra problem, my mother was a firm believer in buying pretty underthings. We women see this one garment more then anyone else would, and at that age we were the only ones to see them, so we might as well please ourselves. I love having matching sets, when I have old underthings or they don’t fit right I feel ugly. When I have soft, nice fitting items on I feel amazing. (Oddly, one of my sisters can’t stand my style of under things and can only wear granny panties, she loves her hanes.)

    Also, my niece has issues, she is 16, a DD, and hates underwire, try finding a bra that large without it. She was forced to wear nursing bras, Maiden Form Outlet again to the rescue

    As for getting fitted, the only time it was ever accurate was going into an old lingerie run by a tiny old italian woman (must be something about the accented women) who didn’t measure me but asked me to put my hands up, felt around under my arms and cupped me and then turned around and wrote down my measurements. For the dress I needed she didn’t have a foundation garment that was smooth on top so she sent me to David’s bridal with the size, in and out of there in 5 minutes and $90 less I had a great foundation garment.

  13. Eve Says:

    I realized while I was listening to this that although the band on my bra is not uncomfortably tight, it’s holding up the underwires which are taking the real weight of the boobs. I worried for a while that I was wearing the wrong size band, and I used to be a 36 (currently in 38), but when I tried a 36 it was so uncomfortable that there was no way I could wear that all day. I know it’s not supposed to be super-comfy, but I don’t think it’s supposed to hurt. I have gigundo tits apparently, because they are too large for Lane Bryant bras, even online, even though you wouldn’t think it to look at me. I buy my bras online. I look forward to the day when someone invents antigravity brassieres and we can just put little electrodes on our boobs or something rather than strapping on the whole holster.

  14. Quill Says:

    Marianne–Eh, I’ve tried both smaller and larger, no go. Any smaller and I get pressure sores; bigger, and it just pulls harder on my shoulders. If there’s a bra out there that works for my particular shape, I haven’t found it (and probably can’t afford it). But I’m tidy and not in pain, so what I’ve got will do.

  15. Blah Says:

    Perhaps it’s unfair to complain, but I thought this podcast would give suggestions of where to buy bras other than LB. As in, “yeah, sure, I hate Lane Bryant, but where the hell else am I going to find affordable and comfy bras?” Well, you can buy them at x, y, and z.

    I know that you guys are limited by your actual experience, but I was still a little disappointed.

  16. Ritata Says:

    Eve – you said, “I look forward to the day when someone invents anti-gravity brassieres and we can just put little electrodes on our boobs or something rather than strapping on the whole holster.” Ah, me too. That would just be heaven!

  17. Marianne Says:

    Blah – more than just being limited by our actual experience, we are limited by what actually exists. At the end of the day, Lane Bryant is IT for a huge number of fatties when it comes to bras that work. There’s a good reason why they are the only bras I’ve worn since the late 90s – and it isn’t out of any particular LB loyalty. It’s because the other options suck. X, y, and z… don’t really exist.

    Some people in comments (and there are also scads of posts on this subject on the livejournal fatshionista community) have recommended local places – I think that for a lot of people, LB alternatives are going to be smaller, more personally run stores like the place Sarah discussed in the comments above. I’d love to see more recommendations like that.

    In the meantime, the alternatives I’ve tried… I can’t honestly recommend them.

  18. car Says:

    Bali goes up to a 48 band size, DDD cup size. Since I’m in the same boat as Leslie with the smallness of boobage, this works for me. Sears carries them sometimes up to 44, online at Bali of course the whole range. Not too expensive as far as bras go, but they only last about 4 months each (with machine wash, line dry). That’s about all I’ve got in the way of suggestions.

  19. Wendy Says:

    I am feeling so lucky after listening to the podcast and reading the comments. For years I have been wearing a Playtex bra that I get from Target for around $15 or less on sale. I’m about 5′ 4″ and 300 lbs and wear a 44C bra. It’s an underwire bra with a stretchy cotton knit. They nearly always stock them in white and beige, but occasionally branch out into other colors. Right now I have a bright pink, a coral, a deep blue, and a teal (in addition to white & beige of course). I haven’t ever seen a black one. I wash them in with my other clothes inside the net bags for washing delicates and air dry them. I also read somewhere that you should not wear the same bra two days in a row. The elastic needs time to go back into shape. It’s always a bummer when I twist the wrong way and the underwire breaks (I suspect it’s actually plastic, not wire). Even worse is when it pokes out at the end of the “wire” through the fabric and into my armpit. OUCH!

    On a slightly related topic, I have a friend who wears lacy bras under smooth shirts, and it really shows! How do you tell someone about this tactfully? Or just forget about it?

  20. TLM Says:

    Been listening to the podcast (American in Norway) There is NO place here to find a bra for me. I have the opposite problem. Nothing with a cup size big enough. Back size I can find on the net (not here either) they go up quite far, but cup (I wear a… a hmmm… 44M cup) There was ONE manufacturer in the whole of the internet sphere last year who made a 44M, Elila. 5 colors They actually have a front loader too. It’s getting better now, maybe there are two or 3. But I spent $300 last year trying internet bras and the only one that really fit properly was the Elila. (Goddess claims to make one but they have a disclaimer that the bras run small and one should order a size up, but they don’t have a size up). but ok I digress. I was actually writing to complain about not just Lane Bryant, but other places too who make plus size clothing. for example, I saw a link on The Rotund to Lucie Lu. I was excited, but when I got there, it’s the same as most other plus size clothning stores in that the tops and dresses have this waist band/boob holder that my girls will never ever get into. Those “waistlines” cut right across the middle of my chest and not only make me look pregnant, but also make me look like I have a second set of breasts. In any plus size place, at least HALF of the dresses and tops have this feature.. SOOOOO annoying!
    Rant over 🙂

  21. Sarahbyrdd Says:

    Back in my dating days I was gifted with a budget for frillies from a gentleman caller and went to the Town Shop to get the goods. I loved those bras and wore them to death, long after the gentleman ceased to call. Like Sarah’s experience above, the Town Shop in NYC is a mecca of bra fitting. Those ladies know their boobs and they know their stock and what will work for the shape you’re looking for. One caveat, they stock LOVELY things that are a) more expensive than your average LB bra, and b) seem to be sized differently than what is widely available, so you can’t take the size they put you in and go to Macy’s and pick something else up on the fly.

  22. Merry Says:

    LOVE your podcast!! You have saved my day and uplifted my “weighty” self-esteem many times, ladies!

    Anyway, I too have searched all of creation for a bra that fits and have only recently found a solution that works for me. I’ve tried 38 D’s, 40 B’s, 42 C’s and all other sorts of size combos. I wore underwires for a long time but finally got tired of the poking and pinching feeling I get from them. Wouldn’t wear anything but super-padded molded cups (even though they feel uncomfortably hot to me) because I hate nipple show-through. My other problem, and the most irritating, has been bra straps that constantly slip off my shoulders. No matter what cup/band size or adjustment I tried, I could never get the darn things to stay put, and racer-back sports bras give me a headache. I was about to give up on comfort altogether when I recently discovered Bali bras with a u-back design for straps that stay put — and it actually works for me. I finally found my personal “Holy Grail” bra with their all-cotton, no-wire version of this bra. Not especially glamorous, but I’m finally cool, comfortable and not tugging at band and straps all day! The sad part of this is I think their size range is quite limited…. they may go up to a 42″ band size and D cup….but they do carry the hard-to-find 40 B!

    I’ve also been able to kiss hot supermolded cups goodbye with the discovery of Nippies (that’s the name, I kid you not) on amazon. Nippies are silicon nipple covers that painlessly stick to your skin and provide fantastic coverage. I can even go braless if I want, and not a peek from the nips! I’m not affiliated w/ the manufacturer in any way (and other companies make similar products) but what a find! I wish I had discovered these options long ago when I felt so stuck wearing bras that I hated. Anyway, maybe this can help someone else.

  23. Tina Says:

    The “tit whisperer” made me laugh out loud, uncontrollably, on the 87 bus for about a minute and a half. That’s a long time. It was a really awesome podcast. And I say this as a person who has never really understood the concept of podcasts, but I eagerly await each of yours. So thank you.

  24. paperkingdoms Says:

    In the sharing-local-bra-shops theme, there’s a place in Wilmington, DE that finally got me into bras that were the right size… part of the problem is that I wear a 42B (which I’d suspected, but never been able to test, because *you* try to find one). And they were able to come up with a couple of brands that have them (expensively, admittedly), and had a smaller selection in stock to try (and catalogs from which they would happily order if I wanted to try other things). My (much) smaller-banded but larger-breasted sister also had tremendous success there, and she was also having tremendous trouble finding bras. I totally understand that the money is prohibitive for a lot of people, but if it’s something you can swing, I’ve found pricy bras to be worth it.

    Anyway: Bare Essentials on 202 in Wilmingon, DE. Worthwhile.

  25. Katryn Says:

    Has anyone tried Just My Size ( They have bras in bands 38 to 50, with cups from A to G in every band size. They also seem to be quite reasonably priced.

    I have no idea what the quality is like, though, so was hoping someone could advise…

  26. Taylor Says:

    Is Fatcast over? There hasn’t been a new episode in sooooo long!

  27. Sommiel Says:

    Nobody cuts for really buxom large women either! If it has a well delineated bodice, it’s not going to fit my DDD/F cups.

    While LB is an offender with this, Torrid is the absolute worst.

  28. Fantine Says:

    I’m another weird-sized gal (46B). I can’t go any smaller in the band size without serious pain. Most of the plus sized bras I can find, if they even offer my size combo, have cups that are waaaaay too big, even when they’re labeled B. I had three totally awesome v-neck underwire bra camisoles that I got several years ago from JMS (brand name Valmont), and they are wearing out–and they don’t make them anymore! I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

    And if you’ve looked at the lace-trimmed Valmont underwire camis that they sell now, just be warned: not only are the cups huge, but they are in totally the wrong place. My boobs do not actually need to go in my armpits, and I really do not need the cup to be pointed AND off-center so my boobs look wall-eyed, thank you very much. I’ve had that problem with other bras from JMS as well. I don’t know what kind of fit model they’re using, if any, but she must have a very unusual body shape.

  29. arcane_scholar Says:

    Holy shit! I was just commenting on Marianne’s dreamwidth asking her about not wearing a bra to work. I’d love to hear more on that subject. I see the fatcast touched on the subject. How did you respond to the lecture Marianne? Did you just not wear that dress anymore? In those situations, I would have been so upset I probably would have gotten myself fired. Sometimes I just check out and give up ya know? So frustrating!

    For local recommendations, I went to this placed called “Just Like A Woman.” I got measured there, because it had been /forever/ and they were very nice and knowledgeable. I am a G cup and they had stuff in stock. They will also order stuff for you there as well.

    I feel you on the boy shorts Lesley! I hate them, they total ride up on me and they fit me weird. I just like plain old “granny panties”. Love it or hate it, I don’t give a damn. lol

    @JonelB I totally relate on the clothing limitations and not being able to get nerdy clothes! I envy those shirts, and even the print-your-own sites charge like $30-$40 per. I just can’t part with that kind of cash.

    As for getting measured Lesley, you really need to go to a speciality store. I went to Nordstrom once, and I was bigger than the sizes they had, but the sales lady still kept trying to jam me into their sizes so I would buy stuff. I also felt very uncomfortable. The lady put us in one of the smaller dressing room, so you can imagine how that was. The big deathfattie and this thin white lady in one of those tiny rooms. She looked so uncomfortable too and like she didn’t even know what to do. When I went to the Just Like A Woman store, it was soooo different. They had actual like fancy dressing rooms that were /rooms/ with one of those fainting couches and a vanity table and stuff. She was a younger thin woman, however she was very professional and I felt like my fatness didn’t even phase her. She brought several different sizes for me, in several different styles, talked to me about the pros and cons of each and even insisted that if I wasn’t sure, then I shouldn’t buy it. She said if doesn’t feel like it’s a good match, she’d be happy to find more and we have all day. It was just a really great experience. Because, as you know, each bra is cut differently. So the “right” size in one bra is going to be completely different than the “right” size in another and one really has to just try it. I’m sure you’re familiar with that process! lol

    Of course, that place is all about specialty cases. They specialize in mastectomy bras, and sizes up to 56K and all that. I found it by using LiveJournal and going to the community for my local and just being like “I’m have HUGE boobs, anyone know where I can go?”

    This is kind of an awkward question for me…how does one “try out” underpants? I mean, do you just buy one size and take them home and if they don’t work you buy another one? Can you try them on over your underpants in the dressing room? I always got the Hanes 5-pack growing up. However, I’m sized out of that option now. I’ve bought a multipack from Woman Within; but they’re /terrible/ quality and literally start falling apart after one wash. So I’m trying to buy the single ones at places like Avenue/Lane Bryant. Since they’re like $10 a pair though, I worry about wasting that money. It is just one of those things we have to deal with? (How embarrassing is it that I have to ask strangers on the internet because I don’t have anyone else? lol)

    Another question, are y’all okay with being addressed as Lesley and Marianne? Or would you prefer something more like Miss Kinzel and Miss Kirby? Or Miss Lesley and Miss Marianne? Or whatever combo.

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