October has become the month of breasts. Specifically, the month of breast cancer awareness and all things pink to support that cause.
In our house, October is the month of birthdays — mine and my daughter’s — she’ll turn 13 this month. The talk of breasts this month is not about the cancer that can happen there, but about the developing ones that seem to be happening rapidly around our house, and when, perhaps, is it time to ditch the sports bra for a real bra. (Insert eye roll, muttering under breath and door slam from soon-to-be teenager.)
We talked with Kali Andrews, whose grandparents started Austin lingerie store Petticoat Fair and who serves as the store’s head buyer. Andrews remembers her mother coming home with a first bra for her to wear and hating it. The young girls that come into her store often share that sentiment.
“A lot of girls come in absolutely terrified, but some are really excited and interested in bras,” she says.
They often come in with their mothers or grandmothers or aunts, but she does get some singled dads and their daughters. She lets the girls pick out the bra, but only shows them things she thinks are age-appropriate. When in doubt — if there’s lace, for example — she’ll check with the adult before letting the girl try it on.
Often, the need for the first bra comes when they start seeing tissue develop. Sometimes, it happens before when girls’ friends start wearing them. Socially, no one wants to be left out.
At first, bras really are for modesty more than support. “You want them to feel comfortable in school,” she says.
Often it’s a sports bra or a bralette without a lot of structure and then they grow into bras with padding and underwire. What type of bra she fits girls into depends on how developed they are and what type of clothing they will wear it under.
Most of the bras she shows are $40 to $50, though some bralettes for just starting to develop girls are $30. She tries to shy away from the more expensive $90 to $100 bras she carries because she knows girls are changing rapidly throughout puberty.
Andrews recommends girls buy at least six bras to start and even has a buy-six-bras,-get-the-seventh-free program that is ideal for teens and pregnant and nursing women.
Andrews’ goal is to make girls more comfortable with wearing bras and find something they actually will wear.
She also teaches them what to look for in a bra and how to know if it fits. “You can always tell when they’re wearing something bad,” she says.
Fit is not as simple as you might have heard. You can’t just measure underneath and across your breasts because every bra manufacturer is slightly different, she says, even though they use the same numbers and letters combinations. Andrews, who’s grown up in this business, knows she wears five different bra sizes. The difference is often in the shape of the cup.
“People ask, ‘What’s my size?’ Well, you’re a lot of sizes,” she says.
She teaches girls signs that they have outgrown what they have and need to come back to get refitted. The danger with wearing an ill-fitting bra is damaging the delicate breast tissue and the lymph nodes, she says.
Andrews also teaches girls how to put it on the bra on correctly and how to adjust it to fit them.
Often, they leave there excited to start wearing their bras, Andrews says, even if they didn’t want to wear one before.
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