In Underwear on February 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm

More and more women I know are wearing sports bras as their everyday choice and I find I am increasingly tempted to leave mine on under normal clothes after a morning yoga class.


Just yesterday I bought a new one which I justified as necessary to keep things nice during my newly discovered hobby of Zumba dance exercise, which involves quite a bit of jumping up and down and a great deal of shimmying.

As Shakira says, the hips don’t lie – and neither do the boozies. And as there are floor length mirrors in the hall where I do Zumba, I really don’t want to see that happening.

Actually, I fully intend to wear my new sports bra in real life. In fact, I’m wearing it now.

My new Shock Absorber Level 4

I find this an interesting development as it’s only recently that really pretty bras with matching knick knicks have become available in joke cup sizes, like the one I have to wear.

I can remember going for a bra fitting just a few years ago in the – vastly overrated in my opinion – London lingerie shop Rigby & Peller. The surly sales girl presented me with a flesh-coloured object which resembled a surgical appliance and made me look like Matron from Carry On Doctor, as my only option. I shed tears in the changing cubicle and fled in my too small bra.

I own this lovely Freya set, but this isn't me wearing it.

Fast forward to now and in Selfridges’ marvellous lingerie department the glamorous big cup brands Freya, Fantasie and Panache are invading ever increasing square footage. Which is, of course, related to that that statistic so loved of the tabloid press – the nation’s ever increasing average bra size.

The ‘official’ average bra size in the UK and Australia and is now a 34D/12D (same thing), although British company Bravissimo, which specialises in bras DD and up, says it’s really much more like an E.

So why, when I’m finally able to buy lovely matching sets, am I embracing with such enthusiasm the sports bra genre, which so embodies the German word ‘bustenhalter’? Because they’re so much more comfortable than regular bras.

I know I’m not the only woman who gets bruised ribs from underwires. Not to mention the horrible camel humps on each shoulder, from years of elastic straps cutting into the living flesh.

Sports bras have such wide straps they’re more like singlets, and without several kilos of mass dragging down on one centimetre-wide strip of fabric, the load can be spread.

And although it is a bit monobosom, I like the neat shape they give me under T shirts. Most bras which are marketed for this use – ie, not lacy, or with a great seam across the nipple – are padded.

Why anyone above a B cup would want padding I am at a loss to understand, yet these moulded monstrosities so-called ‘t shirt bras’ are available up G cups. What’s that about?

The other problem (on top of underwires, scratchy lace and show through) with the new genre of gorgeous lacy bras in big cup sizes is that they do make your boobs into pointy nose cones, or balconies big enough for the Royal family to wave from, depending which style you get. I’m only up to parading around in that state on very specific occasions. See earlier posting with pictures of Christina Hendricks in Madmen mode for clarification.

Nose cones.


For all these reasons, the sports bra just seems like more of an option for everyday wear. So my suggestion to the bra manufacturers is to find a way to combine the ergonomic design of these most comfortable bosom wranglers with some more attractive styling details.

  1. Yes! You are so right. I was thinking about this topic only yesterday as I strapped myself in for a run- I currently (has have misplaced sports bra through years of exercise neglect) wear a normal super cover-up, hold them in bra with a sort of sports bra over the top.

    This get-up, while you certainly wouldn’t want someone else to witness it, is so comfortable and makes me feel like I can do anything. No straps slipping off my shoulders at inopportune moments or hoicking underwiring out of my armpits. If only it could be an everyday occurrence with a version to go with any outfit!

  2. As an A cup who worships at the altar of the padded t-shirt bra, I don’t exactly share your pain- thank God. Interestingly though, I do agree with you about the sports bra. I run four times a week & am always reluctant to take it off afterwards… for some reason, I find mine far more comfortable and even supportive (don’t laugh) than my regular bras, and am much more likely to forget I’m wearing one after a while. Now, if only you could get a padded sports bra, I’d be set.

    • Exactly! There should be padded sports bras. Karin above has posted v usefully on need for padding for bigger sizes, but I still won’t be going there… x

      • Lulu Mon do a padded sports bra in a range of very pretty colors, (as do Lorna Jane in AUS, but i am no longer convinced of the athletic abilities of their sports bras.)
        Lulumon also do cute running skirts, so no nasty riding up around the crotch as with regular shorts.

  3. I had my first bra fitting last year after THIRTY YEARS of wearing the wrong sizes. I’d come from a family of small-busted women, so always assumed a smaller cup size and bigger back size than I really needed. It was WONDERFUL to discover I was a 10DD and to revamp my underwear drawer accordingly.

    As for why “t-shirt bras” are made in larger cup sizes – there is a good reason! I like ’em because they stop my nipples being visible on a chilly day or in an air-conditioned office …

  4. I couldn’t agree more – ‘normal’ bras are an invention of the devil – a bit like high heels (sorry!) – why can’t somebody make one which is both glamorous and comfortable!

  5. Yes, yes, yes! Maggie you have just articulated the very complaints I voice, especially about all those padded t shirt bras, every single time I go bra shopping! Having to wear a 12G I suffer from all the problems that go with that. Have been unable to buy several nice white shirts this year due to lack of suitable t shirt bra option. Who designs these bras? ( although they are getting better) do they ever ask their customers?

  6. I don’t share your pain, being more on the bosom- enhancing bra search, however I remember a documentary that aired in the 90’s (maybe) about the inventors of the cordless kettle (two male industrial designers, can’t remember their names) who were contracted by an English bra company to reinvent the bra – no underwire, good support and the ability to use the same support item across multiple sizes (economy of scale and all that). It was actually fascinating viewing – the bra has basically not changed since the 1920’s when it was first invented. They looked at cutting edge materials used in sports shoes and created a flexible moulded thing that was to be used instead of an underwire – it could be sewn into the cup. Everyone declared it comfortable and genius -the seamstresses, fit models, head of bra design etc. The bra company didn’t end up using it, and continued on with the underwire. It was a kind of footnote at the end with no explanation why.I always wonder why…

  7. LOL, danke schoen for adding to my German vocabulary, Maggie! You make it so memorable, “bustenhalter” is my new word.

  8. I wish more women would wear a sports bra! I don’t know how they can bear having their boobs bobbing around like the Manly ferry on a rough day. Makes me want to tenderly cuddle mine in sympathy. As for the Zumba – watch out, I started about 8 months ago and before I knew it, I was doing a ballet class as well and the idea of Hip Hop is becoming quite appealing!

  9. Why oh why don’t the dopey bra manufacturers understand we want smooth AND comfortable AND supportive AND no padding if we are bigger than a B cup – right I’m off to check out some sports bras

    • Exactly. So much lace and fancy pants stuff, when the real money is in the every day bra…

    • Probably for the same reason many didn’t seem to know until very recently that the wearers of maternity bras are likely to be in the young(ish) part of the market – or at least not at the nanna end!

      • I’m not in that market anymore, but I have noticed a better range in the UK than there used to be. Have you looked online? x

      • HOTMilk have nice ones. Google it and you’ll find it available online (here in Aus) but if you can I would go and get measured by a professional, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. My local bra shop had them. I’ve been relying on them second time around (had Elle Macpherson ones first time around, hated them, sorry Elle) and am now feeding with them and they are great. Very comfortable and pretty. Sadly, the silhouette they provide is of the mono-boob kind, I prefer the lifted and separated look but, without underwire, bosom shelf it is.

  10. I’m a C cup but I always have to have bras with thick padding to tone down my (a-hem) rather prominent nipples.

  11. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maggie Alderson and Shell Tobin, Mrs Woog. Mrs Woog said: RT @MaggieA: New post for Style Notes blog. SPorts bras […]

  12. As the owner of a pair of 32E nocks I share your pain. I have cried several times in changing rooms being told your are too large.
    One of the worse offenders is the Elle Mcpherson bras, tiny slips of nothing with straps made from spiders webs designed for 34A boobs and sized up. No Mrs bra seller I don’t want back boobs

    • So agree about that range… I like the French brand Chantelle best but they don’t seem go above an F. I was introduced to those by the lovely ladies in the shop in the Strand Arcade, the best bra fitters ever.

  13. Ugh, I detest bra shopping. I’m nineteen, a poor, poor student, and am F-cupped. If I go into a shop I can AFFORD, I’m stuck with granny bras that show over the top of my neckline (not indecently low, but because I have “the ladies”, I do try to make the most of them!). But to find a bra that fits and DOESN’T peek out / age me forty years, I have to not eat for two weeks. Dilemma!

    And on the topic of lingerie and the effect on shaping, Gertie wrote this very interesting piece about expecting a certain body shape for certain fashions, but without the expectation of weareing foundation garments. Do take a look, it’s very interesting.

  14. This blog made me take off my gorgeous black lace bra and get into my sports bra and I feel so much more human now. I’m a (say it fast) 16 EE. Normal bra straps dig into me and it’s agonising, but I love the way the balcony bra makes everything sit.

    Why can’t we have gorgeous sports bras? It wasn’t long ago that maternity bras came in beige or calamine lotion pink…and now they’re so much better. It’s time to revolutionise the sports bra.

    Viva la revolution!

    • Yay! I’m so glad I freed you from the tyranny of underwires. The push up and stick em out bras have their place, but for casual daywear I have gone over to sports full time.

  15. I so agree! Have had my (teeny tiny everywhere but) daughter cursing our genetics through many years of ballet- now THATS the next frontier- excercise bras that you can wear to dance in (i’m including wild middle aged wedding boozie flying dancing with ballerinas here, both equally vaild I think!)

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