Sports bra - for all?
What follows is actually several articles about sports bras by Lisa Sorrentino (aka Dyna DuMore), from X-chrom.com. She feels sports bra should be better called "active bra", and can be used by women overall when they want good support with their daily activities - and not just those involved in sports or exercising.
Table of contents:
Definition of the term "sports bra" ... you might have not thought of them this way!
Find the right sports bra (part I).... How to better the odds of finding the right style for you
Find the right sports bra (part II) ... Recommended design types and features for general body structures and chosen activities
GO FOR FIT! ...How to avoid problems that may occur with a poor-fitting sports bra
Fit Tips... How to get the most of out of your sports bra investment
Definition of "Sports Bra"
SPORTS BRA: noun; a garment made specifically by design and fabric type to support a bustline for activity of any kind
Notice how the definition does not include words like "pull over" or "compression". That's because sports bras have come a long way since two jock straps were sewn together to form the first sports bra.
As a bra fit X-pert, I review catalogs and samples of sports bras all the time. There are literally hundreds of options. As examples, sports bras can ...
1)pull over the head
2)adjust in the back
3)adjust in the straps
4)have an underwire
5)have seamless cups for everyday activities
Sports bras aren't just for sport. Talk to the Mom of three under the age of 10 about her day. She may not be "competing" in a sport, but she could probably use the support and comfort of a good sports bra given her active days.
If sports bras can offer all of the features I look for in an everyday bra, then why wear a sports bra?
What makes a sports bra different than a regular bra is the fabric content and design. A sports bra is designed to handle women in motion where a regular bra is designed with more a fashion focus. The fabric content of a sports bra also emphasizes its functionality. The majority of sports bras are made to manage moisture and breathe more than a regular bra.
This is not to say a sports bra is not a fashionable garment. These days there are lovely prints and colors to choose from for average sizes. But, even larger cups like C, D and DD are getting some color options now.
Maybe the term "sports bra" should be renamed to "active bra". You might find a sports bra or active bra more comfortable and functional for your busy everyday lifestyle, your workouts or both.
Find the right sports bra (part I)
What's the big deal about the sports bra? Well, I'm not sure we really need a bra with a built-in holster as has been recently released, but there's something to be said for calling attention to this garment.
Finding the right sports bra is just as important as wearing the right running shoes. Let's face it — you need the right style to feel comfortable and stay motivated.
If you don't take this decision seriously, chances are you'll end up wasting a lot of money with the trial and error approach (and a lot of time for that matter). How many sports bras have you bought over the years that get used once, maybe twice, only to get lost in the back of the drawer? It's time to seriously think about this decision and, consequently, save some time and money.
One thing you have to do is know yourself - the right sports bra for you is primarily based on your body structure and, secondarily, on your personal preferences.
This is a very personal garment. We all aren't 34B's. We all don't love underwires. Some of us insist on no-bounce support while some of us can care less about it.
Here's the point — the wider the selection you're shopping from, the better your chances of finding what's right for you.
Once you've found that source with a wide variety, make sure that someone connected to the source really knows something about the sports bra. Then, it's a matter of setting your priorities.
Just like any relationship, this sports bra is not going to be perfect. So, decide, what's most important to you — Added structure for no-bounce support? All day wear ability? Separation with support? Easy on/off capability? Of course, these are just a few possibilities. Pick one or two must have's and go from there.
The rest of this decision should be based on your body structure and the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activity (see part two).
Find the right sports bra (part II)
Are you large-breasted but narrow-chested? Trouble finding a good fitting sports bra because of your long torso? We all come in different shapes and sizes. Believe me, this really matters when it comes to choosing the right sports bra. I can't give you a personal recommendation here (although I can on my Web site). But, let me tell you what I've found to work best in general.
First, it's important to understand the two general types of sports bras. There are the original pullover or compression styles and the separating encapsulation styles. I bet most of you have at least one pullover type somewhere in your drawer. You know, this is the one that looks like two jock straps sewn together (that's because the first sports bra was just that!). This style may or may not be best for you depending on your body structure, chosen activities and priorities.
Assuming your number one priority is no-bounce support, pullover type sports bras tend to work best for women with A and B cup sizes. This is because the style uses compression or flattening of the chest to provide no-bounce support. Compressive support doesn't work too well if the breasts are larger than a B cup size. On the other hand, if you are a C cup or larger, and engage in activities that don't involve a lot of vertical movement, then a compression style might do just fine in the area of no-bounce support. You would just have to deal with the uni-boob look and you may have a rough time getting the garment on and off.
With an encapsulation style, C cup and up sized women have a better chance of getting no-bounce support in activities with medium-high levels of vertical movement because the breasts are managed separately. An added benefit to the encapsulation style is you don't have to give up contour. Typically, an encapsulation style has adjustable back clasps and shoulder straps for easier on/off capability as well.
So, let's give this a try. What would you recommend for this woman? She's D-cup sized with a narrow rib cage and a long torso. She likes to run (an activity with lots of vertical movement) but hates to bounce.
That's right — a style that supports and shapes her bust line and offers an adjustable band and adjustable shoulder straps (an encapsulation style, not a pullover style) would be better. Additionally, I'd tell her to look for an encapsulation style in a non-stretch fabric for a higher rating of no-bounce support or "Restricted Vertical Movement" ( I call this the bra's RVM© rating).
Now, you can help yourself make the right choice. Consider your body structure, the amount of vertical movement in your chosen activities and your priorities. Lots of times, there won't be one solution that addresses everything you've taken into consideration. In this instance, wear a different sports bra for the activities that vary in amounts of vertical movement.
GO FOR FIT!
If you don't go for fit (instead of fashion) when buying a sports bra, some physical problems may occur. Chafing, sore breasts, sagging and a sore shoulder/neck area are just some of the physical problems that have been tied to poor fitting sports bras. I'm not sure if I believe poor fitting sports bras cause sagging, but it's been argued. Anyway, here are some reasons why these problems may occur and what to do about them.
- Wrong Size
Learn and accept your size. Taking your measurements is a start. The majority of the problems with poor fitting bras are about wearing the wrong size. Accept yourself — If you've always wanted to be a C cup, but you measure out a B (or vice versa), get the B size. Don't buy the size you wish you were.
Take note, sports bra manufacturer's didn't exactly huddle and say, "OK, let's standardize a sizing chart for these things!" This means you may not buy the same size in one style as you might in another.
- Wrong Style
The right style depends on your chosen activities, body structure and personal preferences. Think about the amount of vertical movement you will be experiencing in your chosen activities. For example, running is thought of as an activity associated with a lot of vertical movement. Now, consider your body structure — what cup size are you, how does that relate to your rib cage measurement, how long (or short) is your torso. Finally, what's most important to you? While running, do you namely want no-bounce support? Wicking capability? Pick one or two must have's and go from there. The solution sometimes is a different style for different activities.
- Dead Bra
Yes, there is a life to this garment. The fabric eventually loses its functionality — this means the fit then changes. If you hand wash and line dry your sports bra instead of machine handle, it will last about twice as long. On average, a machine-handled sports bra will last about six months.
- Sensitive Skin
Some of you chafe no matter what the style or the fabric you're wearing. You've tried everything without relief. Folks who can identify with this dilemma probably have sensitive skin that tends to react to sweat and friction. In these instances, I recommend using Vaseline, or, better yet, a fabric-friendly product like Bodyglide between you and your sports bra.
Sports Bra Fit Tips
Know When To Fold 'em, Know When To Hold 'em
And know when to walk away from your sports bra. There is a life to every one of these garments. You'll know it's at the end of its rope when it loses its ability to restrict vertical movement. Or, it just might not seem to fit right or be as comfortable anymore. Any signs of pilling or fabric breakdown are your cue to replace it.
Well, based on the fact that there is an end to the life of any sports bra, it won't really last forever. But, there are a couple of things you can do to make it last longer. First, stick to a fabric care that really does cares about the fabric — one is Forever New Fabric Care. It's biodegradable and gentle with the fibers.
Second, please don't put your sports bra in the dryer. All that hot air breaks down those technical fibers that make you love the bra so much. And, if you can, it would really appreciate a hand washing as well.
Improve its RVM© score
Those of you who have what's called an encapsulation style sports bra (not a pullover style) can improve its ability to "restrict vertical movement" (I call this the bra's RVM© score). You can do this right off the bat. A sports bra should fit snugly, so if your style allows adjustments, wear the band as tight as possible without constricting breathing to get the most support. The band is the piece that goes around your ribcage. Tightening the shoulder straps helps too, but it's the band that can really make a difference.
© 2006 X-chrom.com. All rights reserved. Reprinted here at 007b.com with permission from author Lisa Sorrentino (aka Dyna DuMore), Fit X-pert at X-chrom.com.