Over the three and half years we have been open, I have personally met or helped through email women who need cup sizes higher than a standard UK K cup or who need better options than what are offered on the market. In some cases, the cup sizes these women need require them sizing up in the band to get enough coverage and then using alterations later. The solution is far from perfect, and it’s a technique our guest blogger understands but hopes to change. Jillian is a friend of mine who suffers because of the lack of options on the market and is taking steps toward designing and making her own bras. We have discussed this issue before, particularly because she’s been a huge help in offering advice when I encounter women frustrated to the point of surgery because of their bust size, and when she offered to write a guest series for me on the blog, I couldn’t wait to read it. We’re not sure how many installments there will be, but for today, I wanted Jillian to be able to introduce herself to you and talk about what motivates her current quest for a bra that fits!
Hello I’m Jillian from Maryland and I’m a fledgling lingerie designer. Age: 31. Height: 5’3”. Weight: No way Jose lol. Measurements: to be discussed in my next installment.
So why did I decide to start sewing bras?
Trust me when I say I didn’t just take on this venture lightly. A long chain of events spurred me into this choice. It’s taken about four years to get to this point. And for the most part, it has been a wild, eye opening ride. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Let’s start at the beginning.
Genetics gifted me with a short stature and a small ribcage. Puberty gifted me with breasts that sprouted early (age 7) and perpetually swelled until the very end (age 26). The growing years were the hardest. Everyone around me got to wear pretty colors, strapless, backless, whatever. My most common color choices were black, white, beige and on a special day, the barest light pink. Plain rigid fabrics were the main choices. Occasionally there was a partial lace to something. Can you feel the resounding joy at the bland array of “super old lady” inflicted upon me? Yup, neither can I. The standard balconette was all I had to choose from. I didn’t need padding so push-ups were out. At the time I could even fit a strapless, it was inappropriate to wear it. What kind of 9 year old wears a strapless…?
The brand most thrown at me by non family members while growing up was Victoria’s Secret- the most well known and highest grossing lingerie brand in the world. I really dislike that store; I’ve been kicked out of there while waiting for friends to finish shopping but that’s another story. I’ve NEVER worn VS which isn’t that surprising since I grew out of that store when I was about ten. The brands at Macy’s, Marshall’s and Nordstrom filled my meager stash. Eventually more brands became open to me (thank you internet!). But the standard colors and plainer fabrics remained more often than not. As time went on, the cost per bra skyrocketed along with my ire at the limited choices. My wallet could not keep up with my ever expanding bustline. The amount of bras in my stash dwindled. Then the event I prayed not to happen happened: I outgrew Ready-To-Wear (RTW).
At 27, I was painfully compressed in a Panache Super Bra Tango II in a UK 38K. I had octo-boob. The amount of chafing and welting was ridiculous. The band rode up. The straps cut into my shoulders. Underwires snapped. The underwires weren’t even sitting against my chest wall and were jabbing the areas of my arms closest to my sides. There were holes in the cups from stress points and popped seams. Areas of the back tore. I was at my wits’ end.
For me, surgery was out of the question. I got these boobies for a reason- maybe I was supposed to make a stand to change things. I started to scour the internet for solutions to my problem. I wrote to some of the brands I had worn previously to ask if they would try going up in the cup. The responses were not helpful and very disappointing. So I opted to discover more obscure lingerie companies. Finding the proper size in something that wasn’t absolutely horrid proved to be nearly fruitless. One type I tried made my breasts look like I was competing with 90’s cone bra Madonna… Ugh *shivering in remembered horror*… I found some custom bra makers around the country but who has $1000+ to spend upfront on the mock up/development process?!?! Then through some blogs (Fuller Figure Fuller Bust and Curvy Wordy), I discovered several brands I had never heard of, including Ewa Michalak.
Ewa Michalak (EM) is a Polish lingerie company that specializes in the hard to find, hard to fit, uber pretty and…. *wait for it* … … MATCHING UNDERWEAR!!!!! The ladies of certain sizes will understand the annoyance of not having matching sets in one’s lingerie drawer. A matching set just makes you feel complete, you know? I exchanged correspondence with their Customer Service and made my order. It arrived fairly quickly to my surprise. I ripped open the box. Each bra was beautifully sewn, colorful and looked exactly like what I had seen on the site and on the bloggers. I wiggled each one on in turn. Alas, my bust tsunami-ed over, under and around their largest 38 band cup size. I looked and felt more squished than I did in the Panache bra. I cussed myself blue in the face. Then I went into the bathroom and cried. I foresaw no other options. I put back on my painfully ill-fitting old bra and wrapped everything up to send back.
Then the epiphany hit. If EM could make custom lingerie, why couldn’t I? My mother taught me to sew at a very young age. I understood the general dynamics and physics of what a bra needed to accomplish. Who knows my body better than I do? I would make my own bras and be the sexy diva I see in my mind’s eye. I could do this!
In the next installment, we’ll delve into the research side of my journey. Stay tuned!!!