For some, underwear is simply a step before putting on real clothes. But for global fit specialist Freddy Zappe, lingerie can be life-changing. “Fitting a bra goes a lot deeper than just finding the right size,” she says.
Over a bathtub full of brassieres, I picked Zappe’s brain on brands, bras and body confidence. Zappe encouraged me to forget about the arbitrary number on the band or letter on the cup and focus on how a bra made me feel, both physically and emotionally.
I’d never thought about it that way. For the entirety of bra-wearing career thus far, I didn’t think I needed to get a professional fitting, but Zappe proved me wrong. And honestly, as she promised, my life was kinda changed with just a little bit of properly fitted lace.
Here, Zappe’s tips on how to find, fit and care for your perfect bra, and what well-fitting undergarments really mean for the woman beneath them.
How to find the right fit
“The easiest way to check your own bra size is with three points of fit. The centrepiece between the cups has to be absolutely flush against the chest wall. Take the side of your hand, put it between your breasts and check to see whether that centrepiece between the cups is right up against the chest wall. Underwire should surround literally every scrap of breast tissue and should sit behind the breast tissue on your rib cage, on the bone. You can take your two thumbs, reach back and press on the back end of your underwire to see where it is. Lastly, the band should be snug enough to stay down, parallel to the floor. If you feel it’s riding up, that means the band is loose. The most common problems are a too-loose band and too-small cups. Don’t be afraid to go up in the cup.”
What a bra should feel like when it fits properly
“You should feel good in it and you should feel, in the most elementary way that your boobs are supported. It should feel like two hands holding them up. And if those hands are attached to a very handsome young man, there’s nothing wrong with that [laughter]. You do want to feel that support, and it doesn’t matter what your size is. When you buy a bra, you want it to be on the loosest hook [the hook at the end of the band]. This is the snuggest the bra will ever be, when it’s new and when you first put it on. The minute you start to wear it and wash it, the band is going to stretch, so as it stretches, you can bring it into the middle hook and so on.”
What happens when your bra doesn’t fit properly
“You get neck pain and your back seizes up. The two big ligaments [above each breast] called Cooper’s Ligaments lengthen, so it’s like a weight at the end of a rubber band. You want to lessen the strain on the ligaments as much as you can. You don’t want them to stretch because that’s when you end up with long breasts. I get to work with women who have never had anything that even remotely fits them. It is life-changing for these ladies. Particularly if you’re of a certain size, if you don’t have the right equipment it stops you from doing a whole bunch of stuff. In terms of working out, it can be very painful. If you are larger, it becomes a very, very difficult fight.”
How to increase the longevity of a garment
“Rule number one: never ever put it in the dryer. Ever. You have to find time to just hang it overnight to dry. If you can somehow find your way to hand washing, they last a long time. If you put them into the machine and they’re underwire bras, they get beaten up, the underwire gets wonky and it never lies flat again. They can get kind of wavy and then it becomes uncomfortable. If you’re going to [wash them in the machine], at least put them in a wash bag.”
Why you should forget about sizes and focus on fit
“There are no limitations on this. If you are curvier, don’t be afraid to show cleavage. It’s absolutely beautiful. There’s this whole fallacy that if you’re a curvier girl, you’ve got to be covered up. It’s the opposite. What’s going to be the most comfortable for you is a bra that actually fits you. Do not get hung up on the letter and the number because it’s completely meaningless and every brand is going to describe your size in a different way.”
How lingerie can affect body confidence
“It gets back to feeling good about your physical body which has everything to do with your emotional body. If you love your body, a lot of that is feeling beautiful, and that has nothing to do with with your size. It’s something that happens inwardly and it has to do with confidence. Beautiful lingerie can certainly help you feel that way. Every industry out there is built on making someone feel better about themselves, and this is exactly the same thing.
At the end of the day, what are we all searching for? Love and acceptance, and all of this is about that.”