Don’t let shopping fall flat when sizing up options for her first bra fitting. We spoke with Wendy Herman, founder of BRABAR at Menlo Park Mall, whose mission is to help young girls feel comfortable and confident in their own skin by arming them with the right bra so they can be their best selves inside and out.
“Lack of information, inappropriate product options and messaging are the biggest challenges teens and parents face,” says Herman, who struggled to find the perfect bra for her teenage daughter. “How to find your bra size is something our girls should know. However, women today don’t know how to measure themselves. In fact, eight out of 10 women wear the wrong bra size. Our goal is to make the complicated simple by emphasizing the importance of band size.”
Because a tween’s rib cage is smaller than a woman’s, it can be difficult to find the right size at her first bra fitting, especially for those smaller than 32 inches in the band or with a cup size larger than a C says Herman, who’s worked in the intimate apparel industry for more than 25 years. There’s a tendency to pick a larger band size in order to get more room in the cup, making fittings even trickier. This has a reverse effect, as the band becomes too loose, the straps hang from the shoulders and the wires are forced into the wrong location on the torso and poke the underarms. “We want girls to buy the smallest, snuggest and most comfortable band size first, then determine the cup size,” she adds.
CUP SIZING EXPLAINED
Measure the rib cage first, then the fullest part of the bust. The difference between the two sizes is the cup size. A one-inch difference equates to an A cup, a two-inch difference equates to a B, three-inch to a C and so forth. “Most people don’t know that,” says Herman. “A four-inch variance is a D cup. A teen with a 28-inch rib cage and 33-inch bust would be a 28DD because that’s a five-inch variance. This girl might be wearing a 32C or a 34B because that’s all that’s available. Most companies start sizing at a 32-inch band and then sister size girls into the wrong bra sizes.”
Sister sizing is when several bras of different sizes—30D, 32C, 34B, 36A—all have the same cup volume. In theory, it might make sense. If she wears a 34B, she might also try a 36A or a 32C. In other words, the band increases by one size and the cup reduces by one, or vice versa. But Herman’s philosophy is to encourage customers to shop by band size first, then select the appropriate-sized cup based on the bust difference. Her philosophy is proving its worth.
“Our assortment of bras at BRABAR fit AA through DDD cups,” she says. “Getting girls into bras they love wearing and taking the guesswork out for mom, then watching them both leave empowered with information has been one of the most gratifying rewards that’s come out of BRABAR.”
Empowerment is another key value for the company, and Herman advises parents who take their girls for their first bra fitting to follow some simple guidelines. “Let your tween drive the process and take your cues from her,” she says. “It’s a difficult and uncomfortable time for girls and as moms, we need to be sensitive to that. Let your daughter try on a few styles and let her pick. If she finds a bra she likes and feels comfortable in, start there, no pressure. You can always come back [another time] to buy more. Leave on a high note.”
NOT JUST A BRA
When teens are sold poor-fitting bras, not only are they stuck wearing bras that don’t fit, but they remain discouraged, Herman says, and that can have ramifications on their self-esteem. “There’s a strong connection between intimate apparel and how girls feel about themselves,” says Herman, who’s seen teens wear structured bras underneath trendy, unsupportive bralettes throughout her years in the business. “Coming of age is difficult, and we want to help make it a positive experience. We believe that comfort is the foundation of confidence, so getting into and wearing a bra that’s just the right size is truly important.”
Menlo Park Mall
Lower level Nordstrom wing
55 Parsonage Rd., Edison
Mon.-Sat. 10 am-9:30 pm; Sun. 11 am-7 pm