Ali Cudby, the bra expert behind Fab Foundations™ is quickly becoming my breast friend. And she can become yours too, ladies!
Her new book, Busted! The FabFoundations Guide To Bras That Fit, Flatter and Feel Fantastic (copies of which I’m giving away here!), is the compilation of all her knowledge in one place — 146 pages of information, plus exclusive online access, empowering you to finally find bras that actually fit you.
My review is simply this: Get a copy for yourself, your friends, your sisters, mothers, daughters — and don’t forget your female in-laws either!
I’m so excited about this book and what it can do for you, that I wrestled the bra coach for another interview…
Ali, in Chapter One, Fit’s Not Rocket Science: It’s Harder!, you confirm that the entire philosophy of bra sizing is confusing. You say the start of all this confusion was the marketing geniuses, the Mad Men on Madison Avenue. Can you tell us a bit of that story?
The band/cup sizing system came about in post WWII America, when the feminine ideal was a 36-26-36 woman. So, naturally, a woman with those curves should wear a 36-band bra, right? Problem was, that “36” actually corresponded to her over-the-bust measurement, not her underbust measurement. So what’s a good Mad Man to do? Well, they pretty much jury-rigged a system that magically made a woman with the ideal figure “a 36” by having women add 4 inches to her underbust measurement.
In other words, women have been struggling with this nonsensical measuring system for decades for the sake of a marketing gimmick!
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad! But time has passed… Why aren’t there more uniform and/or accurate sizes in bras now?
That gimmick became so entrenched — and there are no standards for sizing in the industry — but there was no day when manufacturers got together and said, enough is enough. So some brands still manufacture to those old standards, and some have abandoned them. And when it comes to cup sizes, there’s even more confusion!
The truth is that you don’t have a bra size! There are too many manufacturing variables that can change from brand to brand (and even bra to bra).
Many of us count on the people most accessible to us in our bra searches, the retail staff and clerks, to help us sort all this out. But many stores have virtually stopped training their employees, the “box stores” leaving us with literally with boxed information — information on the back of boxes and hangtags. I know that many women who remember the days of the department store bra fitting expert giggle with relief that those days are over; my mom, in fact, nearly threatened us with that option! But I disagree. I think the loss of the educated bra fit experts has been the worst change in bras and bra selling. Do you agree or disagree?
In my opinion, the worst change is the rise of stores with what I call “faux fittings.” They take a few measurements and proclaim your bra size — but with little-to-no training or expertise. These stores do tremendous harm to women by putting them in bras that don’t fit, shoehorning customers into the stock they carry or (truly the worst of all) making rude remarks that lead women to feel like the problem lies with their bodies. I’ve heard horror stories about the awful things women have been told by shop clerks at large chain stores and small boutiques alike. If I ruled the world, that would be a hanging crime. *wink*
That said, I fundamentally agree with you. A great fitter is the best gift a woman can have in the dressing room. Fitters who truly know their business not only understand how bras work on many body types, but they also know their inventory backwards and forwards and can identify the styles and shapes that will work best on their customer’s unique bodies.
The old stereotypes of being traumatized by blue haired ladies with cold hands and glasses on chains, toting around the obligatory measuring tape still persists — and that’s too bad, because those ladies often knew their stuff!
I agree completely about the legends of the bra fitters of yesteryear. I’ve often wished there was a woman, old with cold hands or not, in or near the fitting rooms. It would have saved me a lot of time personally to find my bra size — and it would save me time today because once I’m in there helping one of my daughters or a friend, oh, the questions I’m bombarded with!
In any case, my recollection or image of back-in-the-day, inaccurate as it may be, is that women had better fitting bras back then. Do you think that’s true?
Based on my research, I think the fitters of yesteryear were better, but I never had that benefit so I can’t say for sure. At the same time, there’s so much great product on the market today, and even materials have come a long way. Our grandmothers may have gotten better fittings, but I’m pretty excited to live in today’s lingerie world, with its amazing range of merchandise!
Do you think there is there anything we can do as consumers to reinstate the professional bra fitter in stores?
I see the pendulum swinging back in that direction. Major cities boast a lot more fit-based boutiques these days, and even higher-end department stores are investing more in fit training. I hope the fit trend will continue.
Do you recommend using the buddy system for bra fitting and even bra shopping? I know it’s an insecurity-based situation, but honestly, for many women, this is all so new and confusing, wouldn’t it be great to bring a breast friend or two along and work through it together? They could use the printable charts, etc. that come with the book and make a party out of it!
Whether it’s bosom buddies, bra parties, or taking yourself out for a day (or an hour) of you-time… Figure out what style of shopping you like best and make it fun! You are referring to one of the best features of Busted! — there is a secret webpage for people who buy the book, filled with handy information from the book, as well as exclusive coupons and other great information.
The insider access part is truly amazing, so I couldn’t forget it!
Having the charts and graphs from Busted! can really help in the dressing room, and I’ve heard amazing stories from women who read the book and felt extremely empowered the next time they went shopping. I love that!
In terms of the industry, what’s the one thing you think bra designers, brands, makers, etc. could do that would most change women’s lives?
I’m all for reclaiming bra shopping and bringing it out of the closet, so to speak! The product out there these days — for women of every breast size and shape — is amazing! Brands cater to petite women, plus women and full busted women…and everything in between. This industry has come a long way in the last decade and while that’s common knowledge for folks in the lingerie world, there are still a LOT of women who are shocked to learn that bras go all the way to N-cup. They still think DD is the epitome of bodacious, or they think a larger bust means a bigger band. There’s still a lot of educating to be done.
Speaking of education… There’s a lot of bra terminology in your book — in fact, you point out that a high-quality bra can have 38 to 55 individual pieces! Most of us only know “bands” and “cups”. Do you think this lack of knowledge is a primary problem in terms of women finding bras that fit — that we don’t understand all the parts?
Women are never really taught about bra fit — it’s not covered in school or health classes, so it makes sense that there’s confusion. I also have a glossary in the book, to help demystify the terminology that defines fit.
Any advice for we lingerie bloggers? *wink*
Sometimes the lingerie blogs focus on the new and pretty — the fashion side of lingerie — and that makes a lot of sense. But there’s a health message to be covered, as well. That’s not as much fun to write about, but I feel like there’s a responsibility to cover it. From stretch marks and sagging, and the aches that come from improper fit, to shoulder divots and humps in our backs — all of these are real issues for women, every day. I would love to see that getting occasional attention in the blogs — not all the time, just enough to get the message across.
I do try to cover the, well, less happy parts of bras and lingerie in general, but few people like to talk about that… It’s like discussing domestic violence; we know it exists, but we try to pretend otherwise and go on with our days. But really, something as fundamental as the improper fit of foundation garments is something that we carry with us through our day. We can’t really ignore it because we get the aches, the pains, find ourselves with low self-esteem… Whenever one person writes in with an “icky” question, I do my best to publish those at the blog because I know there are far more women that I have not heard from that have the same or similar problem. Maybe you and I should collaborate on a regular basis, somehow?
I would love to collaborate! Helping women is important to me, and one thing that’s nice about this particular “ick” is that there are tools for addressing the problems, and they are totally within our control.
I’m going to hold you to that promise of collaboration, Ali!
Aside from getting their hands on your book and properly fitting the bras on their breasts, what’s the one thing you think women can do to improve their relationships with their bras?
Finding a bra that fits properly can honestly be life-changing. I hear this from women of all shapes and sizes, all the time. They feel better, they look better, and most of all, they can’t believe they suffered so long in bras that didn’t fit!
So invest in yourself and buy quality bras that make you feel FAB, and then take good care of them to get the best value from your investment! Not only will that improve your relationships with your bras, it just may improve some other relationships, as well, according to emails I’ve received from very happy significant others.
Thanks so much for your time, Ali — and thanks even more for your book!