Sports Bras

I wasn’t going to post today – my day was not really that exciting. I drove to the gym and ran on the treadmill because it was raining. I was going to try out rowing and tell you about it but I was confused by the rowing machine so that failed. I made some black bean burgers, but I’ll talk about those on Friday.

But then I read this post about bra fitting as a feminist issue. I’ve never read this blog before, but I saw a link to this on Reddit, and what the author had to say really inspired me. After learning about how to buy a properly fitting bra after losing weight (I used to just buy 38C because that was Victoria’s Secret’s largest band and my boobs were “normal” sized), I’ve thought a lot about similar issues, but was never able to articulate them as well as the author has.

What inspired me to post about this is a point that is made in the article about sports bras – without a proper sports bra, women are basically confined to a sedentary life. I’ve heard numerous women complain, online and in person, that they hate working out because their breasts are so large, and that even if they wear a sports bra over a regular bra/wear two sports bras/duct tape their boobs (ok maybe I’m exaggerating with this one) exercise is still uncomfortable. Despite this discomfort, many of these women persevere – in my experience they are usually trying to vent about how they wish exercise would be more comfortable, rather than trying to make excuses. What I wish I could tell ALL of them is that it might be possible for them to reduce, if not completely eliminate their discomfort (I can do this online, but I hate confrontation and talking to a woman about bra size in person can turn into a nightmare  – my own mother doesn’t believe me). I’m going to guess they have at LEAST 2 problems that empowering women to understand bra sizing and available options would address:

  1. They don’t know their bra size. Many of these women will say things like “I’m a DD, there is no way I can work out and be comfortable.” But without band size, DD means nothing – it is likely that they are wearing too small of a cup size (i.e. they think they are a 36DD when they are really a 32G) and so the bras that they have are not giving them enough support in the first place.
  2. They don’t know about “good” sports bras. I define “good” sports bras pretty loosely – basically they acknowledge that cup sizes exist. None of this basically a cropped tank top crap that says to buy a “large” if you are a “D,” even if you are super scrawny and have no boobs like me (I’m a 32D, but on a small frame that is a small cup size, and the shape of my breasts means I look quite flat chested).

If you don’t know your size (or even if you think you do), I would recommend this guide (I’ve linked this before, I think) on how to measure yourself, especially if you are too shy/poor/living in the middle of nowhere to get a proper fitting.  Remember it is a starting point – because I’m pretty muscular/bony in my ribs and have oddly shaped breasts, I have to size up a band to keep from feeling uncomfortable and wear only certain styles of cups (I don’t fill others out). Similarly, someone who carries more weight around their ribs might be able to size down a band because there is more “padding” and “squish” there (I don’t really like those terms, but don’t know what else to say). But it’s a heck of a lot better than you will get in most stores, where they lie to you because they don’t carry your size (unless you happen to be a “normal” size like me that they carry).

If you don’t know about “good” sports bra options, here are a few options I can think of off the top of my head – note that these links also contain non cup-sized bras, so you should focus on the cup-sized ones”

  • Shock Absorber. I’ve never tried these, but I’ve heard good things. I don’t know where to buy them other than the internet.
  • Moving Comfort. Same deal – never tried, but I’ve heard good things. These are sold in lots of places (both my local running stores and places like Dick’s have them) and are also available through many online retailers with free returns (i.e. Piperlime). I will probably buy one of these sometime since they are locally available.
  • Under Armour. I own one very similar to this (I bought an outlet one that I don’t think they make anymore). It is very supportive but the straps are a bit tight and sort of cut into my armpits. I would still recommend, as not everyone will have the same body shape as me and the armpit thing might not bother them. You can also buy these in regular sporting goods stores, online, or in places like Under Armour Outlet.
  • Lululemon. I don’t own any of these, or anything from Lululemon (no Lululemon near me and I don’t want to buy online), but from what I understand they make very high quality activewear, and even some of their non cup-sized bras are extremely supportive if they happen to fit you (like the Run Pace Bra).
  • JC Penney. They recently started carrying cup-sized bras in their Glamorise brand. I bought this one in my sister size of 34C (often works for me because sports bras are sooooo tight compared to regular bras) but it was GIGANTIC, so do not size up! The bra seemed like it was of perfectly good quality, though, especially for like half the price of these other bras.
  • Target. I will note that I am somewhat biased about buying things at Target because I work there, so I get a discount. Still, I usually do not buy most activewear there, because it’s not really that cheap. I did buy this sports bra there, though, and I like it. Not as tight as my Under Armour one, but probably because I sister sized to 34C (this worked well in this brand). It still has adequate support for me, but recall that I don’t have a very large chest – I don’t know if it would be as supportive for a larger band/cup size. The padding has a weird shape compared to my chest, but I live with it, and it’s probably me, not the bra, and it’s removable anyway.
  • Note: not all of these have a large range of cup sizes, but websites like http://www.brastop.com that specialize in D+ bras might be a good starting point.
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Learning to Need Less Clothing

Here is my obligatory picture of me standing in one leg of my old size 18 jeans.

I promise I have since cleaned up that makeup brush mess!

 

If you go look at my progress pictures, these are the same jeans I am wearing in my official before picture. In those pictures, those jeans were too tight. In an effort to avoid “real” plus sizes (JC Penney carries up to size 18 and sometimes 1X in certain regular brands), I had been squeezing myself into size 18 bottoms and generously cut XL tops. I lost about 40 pounds before they were too big, so it is pretty clear I should have been wearing at least a size or two bigger!

Now I wear somewhere between a 0 and a 6 (usually a 4 on the bottom with small or xsmall tops – I’m just slightly pear shaped). Along the way, I had to get rid of and replenish my entire wardrobe multiple times. And this has taught me a lot about clothing.

I mean, it wasn’t so bad at first – as I said, my old clothes mostly fit until I had lost about 40 pounds, when I had to start buying size 16s. And even then, there were certain clothes (mostly stretchy ones) that I got away with wearing until I was down about 60 pounds. If I really needed something, I would run to Goodwill and buy it. This worked pretty well (as I will elaborate on late) – I once realized I had no slacks and a business casual meeting the next day, and my Goodwill run produced two pairs of Express editor pants for under $10 (these are super nice, btw, and my mother has inherited them rather than being redonated).

I don’t think I bought any real clothes until around black Friday, when my mom took me out and bought me something like 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of slacks, two sweaters and 4 or 5 tees and blouses. I had never realized until that point that it was possible to basically make due on so little clothing. Seriously – I remember once in high school bragging that I had something like 40 hoodies (I have 2 now!!). But I had to make due on it – even with my sale and thrift store shopping (Goodwill is the only decent one at school, but back home there are some other places), I have spent way more money than I ever planned on clothing during this journey, and I was rapidly abandoning what new clothes I did buy. I remember I had lost about 20 more pounds (bringing me down to 80 pounds total) after my mom bought me those new clothes and asking her if she would like them because they were a little loose. She hadn’t really realized how quickly I was losing weight (this was probably in February or March, so only a couple months later) and said something like “but I just bought you all of those! Don’t you like them?” It is just really difficult to fathom how quickly I needed new clothing.

Now that I’ve been stable for awhile and gone through redonating tons of clothes (and unfortunately donating some things new with tags), I’ve been trying to actually replenish my wardrobe, rather than simply buying the barebones and adding in random items as needed. The whole process has been rather illuminating. The main thing that I have learned is quality over quantity.

Remember, I have had to replace EVERYTHING. Well, except socks. I still have some of my socks (the dryer at the others). During my loss, I prioritized jeans and tees for daily wear that at least would not fall off (so often up to 2 sizes too big), things I needed for professional settings, and bras. I have replaced my bras about 500 times, I swear (side note: you are probably wearing the wrong bra size and I suggest checking out this awesome calculator). I noticed, though, that as I bought my $20 maidenform bras, that by the time I needed a new one, they were worn out – after only about 3 months! I had not really noticed in the past because I had a larger stock to pull from, so when I had to throw one out and replace it, I didn’t realize it was so new. Now, to be fair, I usually buy DKNY or Calvin Klein ones at TJ Maxx to save money, this means that  if I bought a $100 bra and it lasted one year, I would be spending the same exact amount of money. Whoa! Now, I know that not everyone can afford that upfront cost (I, too, have been sort of poorish),but if you are on the borderline, remember this lesson. Also, hunt sales (I find $60ish bras at TJ Maxx for about $15-$20).

And remember: you don’t need 1,000 $100 bras (or even 1,000 $20 bras). Most suggestions I have seen have been a minimum of three. I own 5 (three t-shirt and two push-up/plunge), and probably need a 6th (multiway or strapless). Then I will be set! I used to own so many that they didn’t even fit in a dresser drawer! I’ve also greatly reduced the amount of other things I own. I only own four pairs of jeans (skinny blue, skinny black, straight leg blue, boot cut blue), 2 pairs of slacks (light grey and dark grey), and 2 hoodies (one zip up, one pullover). I could probably use some more of some of these things (I had a pair of black slacks, but they are too big now and need replaced), and there are other items I probably went overboard on (I have so many skirts I have 2 hanging from each skirt hanger, but to be fair they were ALL thrifted or purchased on sale for less than $15).

Now, getting back to the benefits of thrifting. I almost NEVER buy anything at full price. My husband and I aren’t poor, but remember – and I can’t stress this enough – I’ve had to replace all of my clothing. Things you forget about – underwear, plain tees, camis, pajamas, coats, and shoes. Who would have guessed I’d lose a shoe size?! I shop for everything except undergarmets and shoes secondhand (I am not against secondhand shoes, they just usually don’t have any in a 7 or 7.5 since everyone else buys them first). Now, I shop for them in regular stores, too, but I wait until they are basically a million percent off. But the best bang for my buck always comes from thrift stores. For example, my best “real” store deal (actually online) was these pumps for about $55 (they are super comfy btw). My best thrift store finds:

  • 100% wool and 100% silk skirts from places like Ann Taylor and Talbots for less than $5 (I got some fully lined wool pants this way, too!)
  • $100+ leather purses for under $15
  • Bajillions of Banana Republic sweaters for like $1
  • Professional looking, fully lined blazers for less than $20

I could have never found deals like that in a real store.

My one final tip on cheap clothing (for those who are now as tiny as me): buy unisex stuff (i.e. hoodies) from the kids section. A women’s medium is about the same as a kid’s extra large, and a women’s small is about the same as a kid’s large. I buy stuff this way and save about 50% off the price all the time.

Random aside: despite my adoration of skirts, I am quite annoyed that all 4 pairs of my jeans are currently drying and I will probably have to wear a skirt today in the 35 degree snowy weather. Here’s to hoping it’s not that snowy and River and I can actually get out for a run later!