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What's It Like to Be a Professional Bra Fitter?

All day long, topless women either fight you or hug you.

By Sarah Gabbart September 25, 2013

Real talk: You’re wearing the wrong bra size. Yes, yes. You’re heard that before and know they can’t be talking about you. “You’re a grown lady,” says your brain. “You can’t possibly be wearing the wrong bra size. No way!” Then you meet Mary Kathryn Langhamer. Mary Kathryn has been fitting bras for 20 years at Top Drawer Lingerie and she can tell by your slumped shoulders that your over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder is not working the way it should. One trip to a dressing room with her and you’re in a brand new 34DD. Funny, you were a 36B just five minutes ago.

As we’ve discussed before before, you need some real deal undergarments. Lingerie stores like Top Drawer specialize in exactly that. While you won’t find Target-cheap prices here, you will find bras, panties, and lingerie that will last much longer than America’s love affair with whatever twerking is. Do your boobs a favor and seek professional help.

How long ago was Top Drawer Lingerie established? And what is the store all about?
Top Drawer opened over 30 years ago. It was purchased by Dow Hickman about 20 years ago, which is when I started. I needed a job and found this—it turned out to be the perfect fit. Bra fitting is our number one offering. The beautiful lingerie is just dessert—bras are our meat and potatoes.

So what is bra fitting? How does that process work?
A lady will come in and say she needs a bra. Each fitter has a different approach, but mine is to have them come to the dressing room, disrobe, and I touch them in only one place—their back—to get a read on what band size they need. They face the mirror the whole time and we stand behind them. We do not use measuring tapes—how do you measure moving parts? I can see from the width of their breasts what cup size they are. Once we agree on the size I get her to try on bras. The fit varies from brand to brand, so it’s important to try everything on.

What are some must-haves for women?
The wardrobe that you need for bras for most women is a sports bra, four to five everyday bras—two to three nudes, maybe a couple of black ones—a strapless, T-shirt bras, and maybe a classic cut (fabric) bra. If you rotate them enough each week, you can get up to one-and-a-half years out of them—but that varies based on cup size. The larger the breasts, the more support needed and the faster the bras wear out. 

Is it awkward to look at strangers’ breasts all day long?
We have very few that get awkward because we try to make it comfortable for folks, but it does get awkward when they fight you on their size. They say “How can that be? I’ve never worn that size!” Because you’re fitting them in a 34G and they came in wearing a 38D. It can be that big of a contrast and they’re like “What the hell is a G?!?!” The other is when a women gets augmented and they think they’re a C cup, and you’re fitting them in an F. Surgeons know CCs and proportions—not cup sizes. I have a hard time when the doctor tells them what “cup size” they are because a lot of times it’s wrong and the patient gets upset [when they’re fitted] because they didn’t want them “that big.” We don’t want them to think their doctor did it wrong!

How is cup size determined?
It depends on what band size you are. A 38D is the same as a 36DD is the same as a 34F is the same as a 32G.  A lot of people will go up in the band size instead of cup size—that’s where the bras really start mis-fitting. The biggest problem is that women go too big on the band size. They don’t think they’re a much larger cup size because they’ve never looked for one—they see the 15-20 most popular sizes carried at department stores and think that’s all that’s offered and they must be one of those sizes. Specialty lingerie stores sell all the sizes.

As has been reported before, many women are wearing the wrong size. Have you had any memorable moments when you gave a client that news?
We definitely have those great moments when a customer says “Oh my God! I didn’t know I had boobs!” and hugs the salesperson. That can be a bit awkward because they don’t always have their top on yet. One lady even tried to tip one of the fitters! My favorite was helping a really full [busted] woman who was wearing a size so wrong it was rubbing the pigment off her skin. She was probably the biggest bra we sell—a 50N—and when she was fitted properly, she grabbed me and hugged me. She was so happy. We get a lot of great puns too—so many tell us it was an “uplifting experience.”

Any upcoming events?
We’re celebrating our 30-year anniversary this month and offering a free gift—like a pair of Hanky Panky panties or a Yummie Tummy camisole—with purchase. Purchases over $300 get 10 percent back on a gift card good on the next visit.

Top Drawer Lingerie 
101 Uptown Park Blvd #14

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