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Bra Wars: Protruding, Clothes-Damaging Underwires

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
I have a bit of a fashion problem… and who better to ask than you! You are magical! Yes! I scanned through the archives, but I can’t seem to find anyone with this particular issue. Honestly, I’ve never met another human being with the same problem. Here’s the thing.
My bras are destroying my clothes.
I do wear a rather hefty size – 38DDDD, usually, depending on the brand. Admittedly, I have gained a bit of weight over the last couple of years, and the problem was somewhat more limited when the bras were a bit smaller (slightly. When I say “smaller”, I’m still talking 36DDD here.) Basically, there are few to no non-underwire options available in the size I require. There is also **very** little, uhh, space in between Boob A and Boob B. Consequently, the wires tend to protrude in the center. Knit tops and sweaters tend to yank against them. In the car, my seatbelt chafes against the wire and makes a mark on whatever I happen to be wearing. Last but not least, the wires, they poke rather uncomfortably into my boyfriend’s chest. There are now little ugly worn-out spots right in the middle of several shirts where the ends of the wires have been scraping.
Now, before you say “go get a fitting!” let me say – more than one fitting-lady at more than one Nordstrom has told me that this may be an unsolvable problem, but I find that hard to believe. Obviously it’s less of an issue with lower-profile bra styles, but a true triangle-cup or demi-cut is not usually available in the size I need. And I’m becoming slightly obsessed with it… I’ve tried everything in my power to defeat the abrasion from the seatbelt, but nothing seems to work, and I’m tired of ignoring the fact that YES YOU CAN SEE MY BRA WIRES POKING RATHER INDISCREETLY OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF MY CHEST AT ALL TIMES OMG. I tend to fixate on it, examine the center of my shirt in every possible light & mirror I encounter, etc. I think WAYYYYY too much about the best combinations of shirts & bras I have available to minimize the sticky-outy-ness (which rarely succeeds.) It’s difficult to camouflage, as you can imagine.
Any ideas?
Thanks. You’re the best.
S

Well, THIS one sure did send on a wild Google goose chase and then to a long silent session contemplating the physics of my own underwire bras, trying to envision your problem and possible solutions for it. My personal issue with underwires is their tendency to poke and wear through through the fabric (towards my skin, usually) after awhile, and while Google was able to provide me some ideas for solving this annoyance (sew on a layer of soft fleece fabric over the ends of the underwire), I couldn’t really find anything about underwire bras protruding in the OTHER direction and damaging clothes.
Obviously, this is a fit problem — you are a shape and size that the bra manufacturers just don’t create patterns for. It sounds to me like the underwires are…too long? Or the cup size is too small, so there isn’t enough fabric for the underwires to fully rest under the boob? Your band size is wrong and not keeping the wire in the proper position? I know you’ve had multiple fittings, but…ack! Something is off here.
Have you ever been told by a Nordstrom Lady that one of your measurements needed to be rounded up? (Since bras come in even sizes, odd-numbered measurements tend to get rounded up.) Maybe they rounded up when down would have been better, or they rounded ALL your measurements up and the result is just all wrong. I don’t know. I R FRUSTRATED. (I imagine you are too, probably especially so reading this paragraph, since you explicitly asked that I NOT cop out and tell you to go get a fitting.)
A bra that uses a single, continuous wire across the front may be an improvement, if you can find that, as would buying a near-lifetime supply of any non-underwire bra you manage to come across in your size.
Barring the perfect discovery of the perfect, non-pokey bra, let’s put on our MacGuyver caps for a bit here and think.
For delicate knit tops, could you layer a lycra cami or sports bra underneath (i.e. something that you wouldn’t care about if the wires damaged)? Hopefully the wires aren’t so pointy and sharp that they’d wear through TWO layers of fabric. You could probably just wear any type of lingerie camisole or tank underneath and cut down on the actual damage to your clothes, but something tight and sort-of binding might also help with the visible-wire problem. Sewing a patch of the aforementioned fleece on the front of your bras could prevent further rubbing and wear-and-tear too. And what about something like this for your seat belt?
Another option would be to actually get in there and modify your bras somehow. Remove the underwire completely, figure out how to cut the pokey ends (I’m sure someone at Home Depot would LOVE to help out with this one — you’d need wire cutters, a metal file and then some kind of super-hard enamel or plastic-y paint for the ends), or replace it with a better length/shape of wire or wire alternative (corset boning, maybe? I’m a non-sewer, but perhaps a trip to a sewing store or even the hardware store might spark some inspiration for you).
This site has all kinds of information about sewing your own bras and where you can get all the essential supplies — including replacement underwires. The less-rigidly shaped “demi underwires” might be better suited for you and your…uh…lack of space between the girls. Measure yourself with a bra on and guesstimate on where you’d ideally like the underwire to end and then order that length. Swap out the existing wire and then very thoroughly sew up the empty portion of the underwire channel so the shorter wire stays put.
Thoroughly custom-sewn bras ARE an option, though they certainly wouldn’t be cheap. Check your local phone book or do some local-type Googling to see if you can find an old-school seamstress who makes custom lingerie pieces.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Kelly J
Guest

There’s a lingerie store in Houston called Top Drawer Lingerie that does amazing fittings and will alter bras as needed for non-traditional sizes. Maybe a place like that would be able to help?

Stacitee
Guest

I had a problem similar to this. I never did find a solution that worked for me and ended up with a breast reduction which I’m very happy with. Wish I could suggest a magic solution, but I never found one.

kenandbelly
Guest

Okay, this could be total assvice and I apologize for that. But, I’m thinking outloud. How about nursing bras? They come in large sizes and there are LOTS of non-underwire options (underwires can cause mastitis for nursing moms). Some styles have removable underwires and many styles look halfway decent. No one (but you) would know what kind they are.

susie
Guest

I’ve had a similar problem with my underwire bras in the past and it’s always a fit problem. Either the bras didn’t fit right when I got them (cup size too small usually) or I gained weight and bras that used to fit no longer fit. I really need an underwire but I hate hate hate it when the wires stick out in front. I wouldn’t bother with Nordstrom anymore, you need to get to a specialty bra shop and let those experts help you out. Not only with the fitting but also with actually stocking the right size. It… Read more »

Suzyn
Guest

Maybe a fitting at a specialty lingerie store instead of a department store? When I was looking for a very specific bra for my wedding, the very large bra dept at Bloomies (in NYC) was hopeless!

Laura
Guest
Laura

So I’m not the only one who obssesses over this!!!

KC
Guest

Have you ever tried shopping online? I know, it seems weird to buy bras online, but I have had similar problems finding bras that fit. (I’m a 38J, which is equvalent to 38DDDDDDD!) I found this store http://www.breakoutbras.com to be incredibly helpful. They have a huge selection of underwire AND softcup bras, and I found that they were way cheaper than going to my local specialty store. The bras are pretty (which I had given up on ever having for myself) and they have good sizing information and comments on how the bras fit. Their return policy is also good,… Read more »

Marcy
Guest
Marcy

Jumping on the breast-reduction bandwagon. It took me a while to reconcile it (ooo…I’ll have scars!) until my plastic surgeon showed me a polaroid of my breasts that he took before I had decided on the surgery (ooo…not so cute, even though they were scar-free I don’t think I realized how droopy and ugly they were). I can assure you that surgeons do their best to leave you proportional and the end result, once the bruising fades, is actually very cute. And here I am 17 years later with a still-perky pair of 34D boobs!

Alexa
Guest
Alexa

I know you said you’ve already be fitted, but I’d go to a specialty bra shop and have them fit you. The bras aren’t cheap but they do wonders. I had been fitted in a Macy’s and Victoria Secrets and they were both off by A LOT. They had fitted me at a 36 D. And after going to fancy place (Zoe & Company, they have shops in Westerly, RI and Concord, NH) Turns out I’m a 32 E or DDD, so I’m a size down from you, but it seems like if it is fitted correctly there shouldn’t be… Read more »

Kati
Guest
Kati

I have to agree with Amy that you should try another fitting–if not at Nordstrom, then maybe at a lingerie store? (I go to Nordstrom for mine, though it may be possible that I’ve just gotten lucky.) I have had the same wire problem with some bras (I’m a 36G or 36GG), though I’ve also managed to find some where the wires do lie flat against my body. (Fantasie style 4500, your mileage may vary, but for me this has been the best.) Good luck!

AmyM
Guest

Maybe you’ve already tried this, but could you try cutting out the underwires and going without them? (I ask this because it’s what I’ve done when the underwires in my bras have snapped and are stabbing me either in the rib cage or under my arms, but I’m being too cheap to buy new bras.)
If you decide you absolutely need the underwire, maybe you could cut out the larger ones and replace them with the demi underwires. You’d have to do a little sewing afterward, but no one would see it but you.

Lisa M
Guest
Lisa M

I love the nursing bra suggestion! Great creativity.
I suggest you try Lane Bryant/Cacique bras. They have extra stitching to keep those underwires in place. They’re designed for larger chests, not modified upward. They do have some demi-styles, too. They’re not as cheap as some department stores, but they’re no more expensive than Victoria’s Secret.
I’m realizing I should buy some more, because they really are VERY comfortable (I’m a 36D, but with nursing I go between 36C and 36DD at different times of day).

Isabel
Guest

I wear a lingerie cami under my bra everyday. Yes, it looks a little odd to have my bra over a top. But dude, I have no issues with my underwire bugging my oh, so delicate skin.
You totally might want to give that one a shot.
Good luck!

LGraves65
Guest
LGraves65

Honey, your band is too big. I second/third/fourth the fitting recommendation. However, most department stores suck at it because they follow that “measure around your chest under your bra and add 5” rule. It is bogus. Don’t do it. I haven’t checked lately, but I followed the measuring guidelines at http://www.plussizebras.org and found out I was a 34J. Yeeeah. I ordered some bras in that size (from the UK — Bravissimo) and voila! Wires that sit ON MY BREASTBONE. Cups as big as your head but that COVER MY BOOB. It was a revelation. (Then I got a breast reduction… Read more »

LGraves65
Guest
LGraves65

Okay. Dee at plussizebras.org (not .com as I had said before) must have taken her site down. I’m sorry.

Hope
Guest

I went to a little hole in the wall store in NYC to get fitted a few months ago. The woman basically poked my boobs with her hands, said “wait here” and then came back with the perfect bra. It was pretty impressive, really. It was also a bit like visiting Olivander’s Wands from the Harry Potter books… except for my boobs. I’ve been measured at Victoria’s Secret, The Gap, etc and they always get it so horribly wrong. Like, off by several band sizes and a cup size wrong. You should really try a specialty lingerie store. The difference… Read more »

Christy Henry
Guest

I had this problem for a while, too, and it was a size problem. Try a smaller band and bigger cups! I gained weight with my pregnancies so I just automatically went to bigger bands, but it turns out I didn’t need them. I was trying to wear 38 or 40 DDD and ended up liking 36G! It solved the problem of my center wires scraping my kids when they hugged me.

hydrogeek
Guest

Robin at bitchypoo.com has been going through some major issues trying to solve her bra problem and finally did it by ordering several bras online and just trying them until one fit. Sounds like a specialty store might be the way to go, though, if you don’t want to have to make guesses on the size and ship all the returns back! Good luck.

Cassie
Guest
Cassie

I have to support the fitting suggestions. Nordstrom is usually the only reliable department store but, if they knew they didn’t have anything in your size, they might have tried to find the “equivalent” – because cup size is relative to band size, if you go up a band, you can go down a cup, so 34C is the same as 36B. This works in theory, but not really. But, they might have wanted to avoid telling you that they didn’t carry your size. Trousseau in Chicago is fantastic at this. I’d been wearing 36B and found out I was… Read more »

jami
Guest

Nordstrom tends to be better than the others, but they’re still not great. I tried on a good 25 bras there last time and gave up. I agree with those who say the specialty bra shop is the place to go. My local one even carries bras that are surprisingly reasonable ($35-45) and they just fit SO much better. It’s run by little Russian ladies who basically put each bra on you and then make you “get yourself into it” – so it can be a little mortifying – but the result is worth it! (And by the way, I… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Lane Bryant Microfiber balconette! BEST BRA EVER! I am a 38DDD and this bra I believe would solve all her problems. It’s slightly lower cut in between the boobs but still provides maximun coverage and support. The microfiber material is also stronger than cotton or other materials used in bras and lasts FOREVER! I just bought 4 and I wear them every day!
http://www.lanebryant.com/pagebuilder/lane_bryant_product_page?item=7175185&pagesize=3

Chive
Guest
Chive

Bravissimo.com has this to say on the matter: Wires standing away at the front of the bra in between your boobs: If the wires at the front of the bra in between your boobs stand forward and you can get 2 or 3 fingers underneath, then the cup is too small as your boobs push the wires out. We would advise going up a cup size. As they are a specialist company selling bras in size D-K I reckon they probably know what they are talking about. In London there are several branches of Rigby & Peller which also has… Read more »

Molly
Guest
Molly

This used to happen to me, even when I got fitted at two different “specialty” bra shops in DC. Then I saw an Oprah that featured the Intimacy Boutique fitting bras for everyone in the audience and knew I had to go. Luckily we had to go to a wedding in Atlanta and I made my husband stop there on the way to the hotel! I thought I was a 44DDD. Underwires ALWAYS poked out in the middle of my shirts and I never, ever felt comfortable. Guess what…I was actually a 40J. They sold me some bras that were… Read more »

Annie
Guest

S, do not go to a department store to get a bra fitting. Do not. Go to. A department store. I once had a woman at Nordstroms tell me I was too fat to fit any of their bras there. A woman at Victoria’s Secret told me to wear a 40B. My bra size is a 34G/34H, depending on the time of the month. In “American” sizes, that’s roughly a 34DDDD/34DDDDD. Ugh. So do not go to a department store for bras, ever. Shop only at stores dedicated to lovely underthings. Usually there is some zillion year old woman there… Read more »

suziwon
Guest
suziwon

A little more from bravissimo.com Their plunge bras – seen here: http://www.bravissimo.com/products/lingerie/plunge-bras go up to a UK H cup size. Their balconette bras – seen here: http://www.bravissimo.com/products/lingerie/balconette-bras go up to a UK K cup size. On a personal note, I’m at the larger end of the UK cup range, and have very little space between my boobs as well. For years I suffered from issues similar to yours, with the same reason being given to me…insufficient space between the boobs would make it impossible to get rid of the wires standing away from my chest. Since discovering Bravissimo 9 or… Read more »

suziwon
Guest
suziwon

Oh, and Dee didn’t take down her site. She’s now at http://www.plussizebras.info
Take a look. She’s quite helpful in establishing a starting point for a bra size, as well as helping to navigate the cup sizes of different manufacturers.

April
Guest
April

I have been reading a lot of bra-fitting sites lately and recall that if your underwires are poking out in the front, or not resting between your boobs, it means your cups are too small.
Knickers Blog is great, and has a lot of tips. Also, surprisingly, Bitch PhD does too.

Wallydraigle
Guest

I don’t have a large size, just a odd size: 32E. Victoria’s Secret and other places told me for years that I was a 34B. I have no idea where they got that number. I just knew my bras didn’t fit, I was constantly uncomfortable, and my straps were constantly slipped off my shoulders. I will nth the suggestion to go to a specialty shop. Nordstrom’s is a step up from VS, but they still sell bras in the more typical mid-range sizes–sizes which, I’m convinced, most women don’t actually fit into. We’re all forced to buy bras within this… Read more »

Bryna
Guest
Bryna

I’m just going to reiterate the DO. Not. Get. Fitted. At. Department Stores. thing. S, you are not, definitely not, a 38DDDD if there is no space between your boobs. The only time there’s no space between your boobs is when you’re wearing a crazy super-low plungy thing (like the Inferno…gotta love the Inferno). Otherwise, if your bra fits properly there is space between your boobs, and the middle of your bra should sit flat against your chest. At one point, I was in the same boat. I shoved myself into 38DDD and 38DD because, my god, where do you… Read more »

Meghan
Guest

I don’t really have a great tip or suggestion, but reading all of the comments reminded me of when we went to buy my sister’s wedding dress. My other sister and I had maid of honor dresses that were very similar to the wedding dress, and we all ended up with the same corset. The girl fitting me was SURE that I was a 38B, and nothing I could say would change her mind. Not even the 38DD bra that I was wearing and fit me perfectly. She REFUSED to sell me the proper corset, in my size, because she… Read more »

Jamie AZ
Guest
Jamie AZ

I, too, have had my share of the wires sticking out in front issues. I have finally found a bra brand (Chantelle) where I don’t have this issue. Getting the right size (34G) also helped (I was wearing a 36DDD-DDDD before). I have been ordering from http://www.bareessentials.com rather than trying to find anything locally, which has been impossible. Good luck!

qwyneth
Guest
qwyneth

Oh good! I’m glad everyone else said what I was going to say: that your bras don’t fit, regardless of what you’ve been told. If the band doesn’t lay flat against your breastbone in between your breasts, your cups are too small (and probably the band is too big). I’ve never trusted the department store ladies, frankly. They always first tell me my cup size is much, much smaller than it really is, and then when they see the bra literally sitting on top of my breasts their eyes bug out and they proceed to just give me a bunch… Read more »

Marianne
Guest

Yup, you’re wearing the wrong size. Like the other commenters, I recommend a specialty bra shop, preferably one staffed by little old ladies. I found one here in Vancouver (Diane’s on Granville) which is NOT cheap, but the woman helping me took one look at me, brought me out some bras in my proper size, and suddenly my boobs were perky! and separate! and comfortable! And I wasn’t being stabbed by underwire! It was breast miracle. Now I am a 38G – the G is for ginormous.

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Several people here have mentioned bravissimo which I just discovered and LOVE. In general, the UK brands seem to do better for us voluptous types. Freya has lots of bras that are cute, sexy and fun — yippee! Fayreform, Fantasie and Felina are also good brands (They also seem to like the letter F). Biggerbras.com and herroom.com have OK selections, and are in the US so ship quicker, but bravissimo has the really pretty stuff! There’s also a site Azzuma.com that has a good selection, although the shipping seems to be slow becuase they act as a middleman and get… Read more »

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Okay, I know that people don’t mean to be anything but helpful with the comments. However, let’s not suggest major surgery to someone who is just asking about getting her bras to fit! I realize that people who have had the breast reduction tend to love it, but…I don’t know. It just seems a bit drastic. If she had written in with a complaint about her skirts being too long because she was short, would we offer the advice of leg lengthening surgery (all the rage in China!)? Just saying! Fix the clothes. Love your boobs!

lizneust
Guest
lizneust

I don’t have this problem, but a friend of mine does. If you are in the Boston area, Lady Grace is the place to go. It’s also good for those of us who are wide but FLAT. Don’t laugh, but it is HARD to find a 38 A. Another size that Victoria’s Secret and the rest don’t stock….

Jess
Guest
Jess

Two websites for people looking for LOTS of options in extended sizes:
http://www.figleaves.com/us/home.asp
(the best bra site ever, because the reviews are super helpful for listing the specific issues/perks of each brand/style – like zappos but for bras)
and http://www.barenecessities.com/

Katie
Guest
Katie

I too have suffered with bad bras. Then I went to Intimacy! First there was the obligatory bit with the measuring tape. And she said a number, but it was considerably different than the number I had been working from. And then she said a letter or two, and that was not what I had expected either. And she brought me something in that size and when I put it on I was amazed. It felt good. It felt like a loving friend, holding a hand out for you to put yours in. It looked like someone had put icing… Read more »

Rachel
Guest
Rachel

Intimacy. The best store ever. I live in DC but made an entire weekend trip to NYC to visit the place. Having a shirtless bra fitting totally scared me, but it was absolutely professional and not embarassing at all!! I thought I was a 36D, and almost starting crying when the lady told me I was a 34F. The crying was NOT out of joy! However,when my stylist brought me a selection of 15 beautiful bras I immediately became okay with it. I always thought once you hit a D cup pretty bras were unavailable, and boy was I wrong.… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

I have ordered from Bravissimo and they are great, but you can get many of the same bras from http://www.figleaves.com for less. I highly recommend Fantasie bras- I find that they are more supportive than Freya and have a fuller cup while still avoiding the problems with the wires as long as you are wearing the correct size. And I agree with the other comments that said that many women wear too big of a band size and too small of a cup size.

Dell
Guest
Dell

I also have a bra problem. I don’t have any space between my breasts and can not find a comfortable bra.