Friday Night Story

About Your Breasts,

a speech and open letter of concern and admiration by the son of inventor Dr. Otto Titzling, Handell

Ladies, gentleman, I hope you do not assume my concern is anything but sincere and virtuous. We have among us a national, perhaps an international, dilemma of proportions too immense to be measured in cups and circumferences.

The modern bra has existed at least since the end of the 19th century, and still it is a device that holds a good degree of mystery and awe. I’m not looking today to discuss its possible social impact, or even its myriad and colorful forms, but a specific area of its function.

A recent fitting clinic at the Royal Free Hospital in London found no women to be wearing a properly sized bra. This is consistent with results of various surveys, placing the number of women wearing ill-fitting bras to range from 70 to 100 percent.

This can result in discomfort from having the weight of the breasts born by the shoulders, rather than the chest as natural physiology would have it, and can contribute to back pain. This is due in part to research that suggests women with larger breasts underestimate the size of their backs by as much as 4 inches, and overestimate cup size by as much as 3 sizes.

The average breast weighs from between a quarter and half a kilogram (that’s about a pound each, for any Americans in the audience). In a properly fitted bra, a full 80% of the weight should be supported by the backstrap. The backstrap, or underband, should remain horizontal around the body, without riding up the back, and should be firm but comfortable. The underwires at the front of the bra should lie flat against the sternum, and never against the breast itself. The breasts should be enclosed by the cup, and there should be a smooth line of fabric where the top of the cup ends, without the breasts bulging over the top or sides of the cup.

The difficulty in obtaining a proper fit has contributed to the bra-removing revolution, but again, I’m not here to talk about the social aspects, simply noting the phenomenon. Particularly when this is done in conjunction with sporting activities, it can be devastating. The body’s natural support comes from a pair of physical structures, the skin covering the breast, called fittingly enough the dermal brassiere, as well as Cooper’s ligaments. A Portsmouth University study found women’s breasts moved an average of 9 cm while jogging, which could strain these natural support natural support structures and lead to ptsosis, known perhaps more colloquially as sagging breasts. Their study found a normal bra could reduce bounce by as much as 40%, while a sports bra reduced bounce by as much as 80%.

Ill-fitting bras have also contributed to an increasing number of breast reduction surgeries. Here in the UK, there are over 10,000 breast reduction surgeries carried out annually, at a cost each of thousands of pounds. More pointedly, each of these constitutes a major surgery, with the inherent health risks that entails. It may also contribute to the number of mastopexies, the corrective surgery to reduce ptosis.

Experts tend to agree for the necessity of professional bra-fittings. This arises largely from the fact that a proper fit depends not simply on the easily charted dimensions of body or breast circumference, but also on the more amorphous breast volume. There is also a lack of standardization in the industry as a whole, sometimes even across brands from the same company, and certainly across borders.

I have, for several years, now, been a professional and expert in the little-understood and oft-mocked career of bra-fitting. For too long bra choice has been governed by the quadfecta of fashion, stigma, vanity and ignorance; I believe sincerely that comfort and function should be paramount in selection.

This is not an appeal for your business, or a prurient appeal to see your dainties, but please, for your long-term health, comfort, and the continued increase in savings for our National Health Service, please, be sure your bra fits. Thank you for your time and attention, and I wish you and your breasts all the best.

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