Minimizing Big Breasts: Bras Vs. Breast Reduction Surgury

 As we promised, bra expert Ali Cudby and I are here to collaborate on the less fun issues of lingerie and bras — health, fit and other “ick” problems regarding bras. Today we begin the series by tackling the problems with big breasts — specifically the aches and pains of big breasts, including when your breasts make you feel like you’re “all boobs walking into a room”.

I don’t know a woman with a large bust who hasn’t considered minimizing bra or pondered the idea of breast reduction. Myself included. I eventually found properly fitting bras and accepted that The Girls were the size they were, but Ali’s a bra fitting expert who’s had her hand in more bra fitting and design than I, so I’m eager to hear her thoughts!

(Guys, we know how you feel about it; but refrain from cruel and even cavalier comments which will make you look like a cad. The lady’s breasts are the lady’s and she’ll make the choices for herself, thankyouverymuch.)

As a woman with an ample bust, I personally know why I thought of breast reduction… Shoulder and neck pain… The fact that there are times/places/occasions when you don’t want The Girls to be the center of attention. In fact, despite “boobs” being such an American focus, few fashions are really designed to be worn by women with larger breasts. Heck, even plus sized garments are often too low cut — their anticipation of size being a notion of “bulk” and not breasts, so when there’s more breasts and less of you, the neckline sags far too low… Simply shopping plus size for fashions doesn’t always solve the problem.

Tell us, Ali, from your personal experience and professional knowledge, why a woman considers having her breasts appear smaller.

I went through many years feeling like my entire identity was wrapped up in my boobs. Men stared at them, I dressed around them, and I was never without the pain of carrying their weight in my shoulders. And that was even after breast reduction (and subsequent weight gain)! I have worn bras that had me spilling out over, under and out the sides of the cups. I have forced my girls into bras that clearly didn’t fit, just so I could shop with my friends. I have broken down and cried in the dressing room. So I have been in the trenches.

Of course, the real irony is that when you wear a properly fitted bra, you appear smaller.

That’s because when your bra fits correctly, it gathers all of your tissue into the cup and holds your breasts in place. Once you’re in a bra that does all that, the narrowest part of your rib cage is exposed — and that’s one of the keys to looking both thinner AND less well-endowed. It’s a double whammy of goodness. I’ve seen women be excited about wearing a D-cup after having worn a B-cup all their lives, and then come back and complain that they look too small. Conversely, sometimes women put on bras in sizes they never knew existed, freak out over “the letter” and then become elated as they see themselves “looking tiny” in their new, larger cupped bras.

It’s all about what the bra does for your body — women have to stop focusing on the number and letters, it’s so unimportant.


My experience with minimizing bras was terrible; I looked and felt like a sausage stuffed into a tube. But then I don’t like today’s shapers either, for the same ‘stuffed in a shapeless tube’ reasons. What are minimizers supposed to do? How should they feel? Can they flatter not just flatten? Are any brands or bras better at minimizing, in terms of quality, than others?

The way minimizers work (and there’s a whole section on this in my book, Busted!) is that they change the profile of your breast. I can geek out on your and start explaining it like a high school teacher — because it is just a matter of mass and math — but I’ll spare you.

The bottom line is that if you squash the profile of your breast down and closer to your chest, your boob still needs someplace to go. And so the breast tissue spreads out. You end up with a profile that is shallower, but with a wider circumference — which hides the narrowest part of your ribcage and ends up making your body look bigger. Some brands do a better job than others, and clearly some brands make bras of better quality than others. But when it comes to minimizers, ultimately, the effect is the same because you can’t change the laws of science.

I’m glad to hear it’s not just “me”! But basically, what you’re saying is that “up to two inches lost in your profile” means you lose lift and a lot of your curvy silhouette– the hourglass is just, well, smashed or packed like a sausage in a tube! Rather like breast binding, really. Or a degree of breast binding.

Assuming you have a bra that fits, ultimately the style you choose has a lot to do with personal preference. Sounds like you’re really not a minimizer girl!

No, I’m not a minimizer fan! This is partly why I’m coming to you — so my bias isn’t the only thing at the blog lol


But seriously, if you Google bra minimizers, with or without including the word “health”, there’s lots of talk about risks. The issues raised are back pain and more concerning breast tissue compression leading to pain, lymph issues, even polyps and cancer — but I have yet to find any reputable study. Are there any health dangers or concerns from using minimizing bras? Or are these just the usual risks from ill-fitting bras and not really issues with minimizers?

I think the issues you’re seeing are more bra fit related and not specific to minimizers. I was very careful to say that the first order of business is to find one that fits. Plus a lot of that bra/cancer connection has been debunked by science.

I don’t want to shock you or anything, but sometimes the stuff on the Web isn’t true!

LOL I know it’s not all true — I just don’t want to ignore the issue of health. I don’t want to feed inaccuracies or rumors, but I don’t our want not mentioning it to appear to be our ignorance either. Misinformation is part of the “ick” I want to address. So ladies, before you become alarmed, please-please-please verify such information at reputable sites, like Ali’s Fab Foundations.

Now let’s talk about the other option…

I realize the decision to have a breast reduction is extremely personal, but since you’ve mentioned it in your book, I’m hoping you won’t mind sharing more about the decision… What factors helped you make the decision? What was most important to you at the time — and are you satisfied with it, the choice you made?

To be honest, I was very young when I had the breast reduction and my body hadn’t even finished maturing. That’s part of the reason I regained so much breast mass after the fact. It was probably not responsible to have the reduction at that age, for a lot of reasons.

Ultimately, I had the surgery because I felt uncomfortable in my skin, and a large part of that feeling was related to my inability to find bras that fit. I think if I’d had a selection of pretty, feminine bras that fit — like those available today — I wouldn’t have made the same decision. A lot has changed in the past 5-10 years in lingerie and it’s unfortunate I missed that particular boat. Then again, life works in mysterious ways, and without the pain and anguish, I might never have discovered my current career — so if my experience can help other women going through similar challenges, it was worth it!

That’s a great attitude, Ali! Thanks so much for sharing!

Here are my final thoughts: 

The bottom line, ladies, is that it’s important for each individual to distinguish just exactly what “too large” is for herself. Physical pains are clues, obviously. And properly fitting bras can address many of those. Breast tissue squirting out the sides of bras, spilling over the top, popping out of necklines are all problems with ill-fitting bras too. No matter what your bust size. So address proper bra fit first.

But when you have properly fitting bras and you still have pains and discomfort, including the feeling that you whole life is based on your boobs, I think it’s important to look at just how that is happening, why you feel that way…

If you feel that you are “all boobs walking into a room,” you might want to address what goes over your bra — your general way of dress. (Here are some of my tips.) And if that still doesn’t help, then you might want to see just what other emotional baggage you’re packing in that bra and treat those issues, grow into your breasts emotionally, before you damn them to hell or the physician’s knife.

However, if none of those things seem to fix the problem, the choice is yours. Just investigate wisely and do what’s right for you!

Additional image credits: Wilcox cartoon via The Age, and coverage of Ali Cudby and her book, Busted!, in The Best Of Intima magazine.

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