A Visit to La Bratique

Bras are a contentious topic. Finding ones that fit, understanding sizing and measurement, lack of resources, and many other factors mean that whenever we talk bras around here, hackles raise. I’m sure this time will be no exception, but hopefully, even if you aren’t able to take advantage of this particular resource, you’ll find my experience there interesting. And/or have the chance to gawk at me wearing a bra and a skirt. (Speaking of which, the remainder of this post is decidedly NOT safe for work. You’ve been warned!)

La Bratique is a specialty boutique in Edina, MN, that caters to a specific set of bra sizes: 30D to 40K. The shop used to carry smaller and larger cup and band sizes, but found that the bulk of their business came from women with band sizes under 40 and cup sizes of D or larger. For whatever reason, that was the niche they occupied, and the owner – the fantastically knowledgeable Tracy Anderson – decided to focus on gaining deep, detailed knowledge of the brands and styles that worked best for women within that size range. She’s been in business for four and a half years, and researches, tests, and investigates the best quality bras to fit her customers. She’s an absolute joy to work with.

La Bratique is an appointment only shop since the staff will work with one customer at a time only. The shop is cozy and intimate, but absolutely loaded to the brim with gorgeous bras.

Owner Tracy (left) with her associate, the equally knowledgeable Jackie Wallin.

I went in believing myself to be a 34B, though the style I wore to my appointment was a 34C. It looked like this:

Tracy said that I could certainly take a 36B in some styles, but that for the most part I was a true 34C. Now, people, that may be meaningless to you but let me tell you something: I have small boobs. They do not have any real roundness, heft, or drape to them at all. They are compact and perky and I went through most of my life believing I was an A cup. To be fitted in a half dozen 34C bras and have them feel completely perfect was dumbfounding. Even after being fitted just last year.

Since La Bratique once stocked a larger size range, they had a handful of bras that would fit me. To prove how important a proper size AND style can be, Tracy gave me a size 34B push-up bra with a narrow back band. It looked like this:

You can’t see it all that well in these photos, but after moving some of the breast tissue from the sides of my upper chest into the cups …

… it fit a bit better. But still absolutely un-wearable. This is what an ill-fitting bra looks like on me:

I also tried on a variety of other styles, from fancy but beautifully constructed sheers to legendary styles like the Oprah-endorsed Le Mystère Tisha (the black one below). Lots of the Chantelle de Paris models fit me beautifully, including the nude one directly below.

It was absolutely amazing to see how different my breasts and figure looked in these bras. Tracy pointed out that different bras will do different things to your anatomy, so while shape may be a priority for everyday wear, lift may be key to make a formal gown look its best. She said that certain styles could add more visible side-curves to the bust area for a more hourglass-y look, while others would bring the breasts more front and center. It’s all about physics, incredibly complex, and utterly impossible to summarize.

Again, this specialty shop keeps the focus on a fairly narrow size range so that they can be experts on fit and comfort, and guarantee fit to their customers. They can’t fit everyone, but those they can will be absolutely amazed by their depth of knowledge. Tracy does point out, however, that many women may be uncertain what a D cup or bigger really look likes and recommends that anyone wearing a C cup and above consider a fitting at La Bratique. Most C cups tend to be D cups or above in the correct band and cup size, she says, and the U.S. average cup size is D/DD.

La Bratique is offering 15% off to any new customers who mention hearing about the shop through Already Pretty. So if you’re somewhere in the 30D to 40K range and you live in the area, set up an appointment and hustle on down to La Bratique. They will take good care of you. And your girls. Discount valid through August 31.

  • http://wheelsamsara.blogspot.com LK

    I’ve noticed a lot of brands getting rid of their below C sizes. Playtex no longer carries smaller sizes for one. Which is annoying because my size is so unique that the only place I can now buy bras is Victorias Secret which is way expensive.

    Do you have a brand you can recommend that sells a 36A? I know ladies with larger girls need more help from their bra but us tiny girls need some love too lol

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      I’ve heard VERY good things about Itty Bitty Bra, and they carry 36A: http://www.ittybittybra.com/index

    • Aimee C

      I’m small chested and a huge fan of Gap Body. I have stopped shopping anywhere else; the selection and sizing has just worked for me for about 7 years now.

    • Jenna

      You can find almost any size bra on this site, and they fit really well, I highly recommend it: http://www.herroom.com/

      This one too: http://www.figleaves.com/us/

      • http://wheelsamsara.blogspot.com LK

        Thanks everyone! Huge help! I like Victorias Secret but they dont have a lot of options in 36A anymore and they are really expensive for bras that tend to only last a year.

    • Julie

      I have had good luck finding 36A at J.C. Penney.

  • Colleen

    Bravo for this post, Sal! Especially the close up of the poorly fitting bra (I winced for you in that one but it really belongs in a fit textbook or something). Informative, tastefully done, non judgemental, need I go on. Poorly fitting bras just look painful – oddly bisected backs, quad boob, etc. – whereas a good one really creates an unobstructive line under clothing, not to mention is physically comfortable.

  • http://Midwesternmodernmomma.blogspot.com Jen

    Brava on today’s post! I am fortunate to have a department store here in Toledo (shout-out to the ladies in the bra department at Dillard’s!) that does a fantastic job with fittings and assistance. They have helped me with everything from a bra I can wear with everything from tshirts to blouses, the best strapless convertible for larger busted women, and more. I love how you showed your readers what bad fit looks like. It is so important for us to buy what fits properly and not what we imagine does. Your photos are very helpful!

    • Someone

      Jen, about the best strapless convertible for larger busts…do tell!! (PS, I’ve been to the Toledo Dillard’s and it is quite nice.) As a 34F (otherwise known as 34DDD), that’s news I can use…

  • Jessica

    Totally unrelated to the post, but I didn’t know you had that tattoo across your shoulders. How beautiful!!

  • AnnR

    It seems to me when you did a post with your measurements I thought you were a 34C.

  • Nihongo Dame Desu

    Is there any kind of trade organization for bra fitters/stores? I’m a very hard to find size (32GG) and within that size I’m an unusual shape (or so I’ve been told), and I’ve never been able to to find a bra shop with true experts. For those of us not in MN, is there are way to locate these stores? Nordstrom has always done okay by me, but I don’t think they are experts in the details of the fit of each and every bra like you mention here. My bras fit (I think!), but they don’t always do what I want them to do.

    • http://www.hourglassy.com Darlene

      Where are you located, Nihongo Dame Desu? One solution is to look at the website for certain brands that go to that size (such as Eveden subsidiaries Freya and Fantasie; Panache; and Curvy Kate) and find a local retailer. It’s best to call ahead to check that they actually carry your size in stock because they often believe that your size is uncommon, which it isn’t (wonderful that La Bratique recognizes this!).

      Another option is the online retailer from Canada, Butterflycollection.ca. They are committed to the D+ market and conduct fittings by Skype. My friends and fellow bloggers who have tried them have raved about them.

      • Nihongo Dame Desu

        I actually live in Japan (where I don’t think there is s store in the country that sells a 32GG!), but I’m hoping to get stateside for a visit soon, and I’ll be in Vegas and maybe Orange County, CA.

        I’ve done some online bra shopping but I’m still not sure about fit, and I’d really like to chat with an expert about what I want a bra to do for my shape, so I can get bras that not only fit, but that work for various clothing styles or preferences. I have a favorite bra but it really puts things up and out there so it doesn’t work for everything I want to wear.

        I appreciate your suggestions and am going to do a little research so I can hopefully line something up next time I’m on that side of the ocean.

    • http://line4line.blogspot.com K-Line

      I really recommend you start buying online. Figleaves, Bravissimo, Bra Stop, Large Cup Lingerie – all will stock many styles in your size. FYI, the UK manufacturers really do the best job for small back / large bust shapes. You can always return what doesn’t fit and, by trial and error, you’ll figure out how to order most efficiently. You will save money by doing this. Bricks and mortar stores charge much more than the online vendors who often have excellent sales.

  • widdershins

    Wow, Sally. Based on what you’ve written before about not being into revealing clothes and of course your struggles with body acceptance through the years, this post was a very brave thing for you to do. As well as informative and tastefully done. Kudos to you and thank you.

  • l

    I agree you do not look like a C cup. I could swear to God over 25+ years of wearing bras that they have gradually been vanity sized like everything else. In vintage wear I am larger in clothing size and smaller in bra cup sizes than things being sold today.
    I do still however think the point is very valid and important in support of professional fittings and wearing the right bra size, whatever they want to call it. My own challenge currently is having a larger rib size than cup size, in common proportions!

    • Mona

      I would not blame vanity sizing, but the fact having a ‘C’ cup is a dynamic thing, since the cup size changes with band size. So a 34C is essentially the same volume as 36B, 38A or 32D, 30DD, 28E. That also means that a 28C is very different from a 40C. Bands have been getting larger, since the materials have become much more stretchy. As you said, the right bra size despite the name is important, but it is hard to overcome that D is huge, and A is tiny. I thought I was a 34C most of my life, but need a 28E. Kudos to Sally for sharing the pictures to work against the myth of ‘C’ necessarily being large.

      • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

        Well said, Mona! This reinforces what I learned at La Bratique – cup size and band size are connected and dependent.

      • http://line4line.blogspot.com K-Line

        Right on, Mona, Iv’e been writing about this forever, it seems, but it’s still a hard concept for many people to get with.

        • Mona

          Thanks for the nice replies, but I should credit both of you.

          Sally: I think I started thinking about bra sizing based on one of Thin & Curvy’s comments on alreadypretty, so my comment went full circle

          K-Line: do you think your bravengelizing was in vain :-) ?

        • l

          No, I get it, but thanks for the pile on and insult.
          I have new bras in D cup that fit exactly like old bras in B cup; this is one basis of my stated opinion that bra sizing has been influenced by a type of vanity sizing just as we know clothing sizes have over the past decades. If people were not apparently sold into this mentality of big boobs are better, it would not have I guess seemed either offensive or stupid for me to agree with Sally that I thought she looks more like a traditional B cup than C cup.

          • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

            Yikes. I don’t think anyone felt you were being offensive or stupid in your comments, I! As always, passions run high when this topic comes up, and bra sizing is a contentious and variable realm of expertise. Your example of new Ds that fit like old Bs definitely clarifies. I’m no expert in this realm myself, but I know that I used to wear a 38A and find that the 34C works better for me … and in light of what I learned at La Bratique, I went with that explanation.

            In any case, vanity sizing is certainly rampant across the board and makes tracking down just about anything that fits properly a challenge and a half.

          • Mona

            I am sorry you were offended and that my comment came across preachy, which was not my intent. I would like to offer my apologies for any anguish I caused you. I have not much experience with vintage bra sizing, and I apparently did not read your post proper. Mostly I encountered the issue that B is not always the same B when trying to sew and was carried away. Personally, I found bra cups to have become smaller because they are unnecessarily padded?

  • Anonymous

    you look very pretty in black it could be your bikini , happy weekend, nice post too France

  • Lindsay

    I’ve been meaning to get a proper professional fitting since I turned 30. A year and a half later, it is still on my to do list. Have you tried Allure on Grand in St. Paul or heard any reviews on it?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Gosh, I hadn’t even heard of Allure! I have a friend who loves Flirt on Snelling over by O’Gara’s, though.

      • Tara

        I LOVE Flirt! They have beautiful bras and the service is great!

  • http://www.hourglassy.com Darlene

    Thank you for this review, Sal. Tracy Anderson is one of the first lingerie store owners to reach out to me with an inquiry about my shirts–to me, this is a true indication of a fitter who really cares about her customers’ needs.

  • http://samlovesmakeup.wordpress.com Samantha Manzella (@sammanzella)

    Thank you for this post! I’m a teenager, but my god, I can’t even begin to tell you the struggles I’ve faced with finding a well-fitting bra. I’ve tried a bunch of standard retailers, yet there were always problems with the bras I tried. I would have spill-age on the sides of the bras, or my back would be oddly squeezed in all the wrong places, or the bras would be just plain uncomfortable, etc. Finally, I had a fitting done at a local Lord & Taylor’s. I learned, to my surprise, that I’d been wearing the wrong size for years–a 38C or D instead of a 36DD! I’m beginning to write a novel with this comment, but I’ll keep it short: no matter how big or small your breasts, a well-fitting bra is really life-changing. It totally transforms the way you think of your body…and the way your clothes fit. :)

  • http://www.stylinstacy.com Stacy

    Great post, Sally! Very brave of you to bare skin here, as well. I will have to give them a try, too. It seems like my bra size changes every time I try to buy new bras.

  • Kit

    New tattoos?! I like them.

  • http://line4line.blogspot.com K-Line

    Kudos, Sally! This post is awesome. Informative, brave and full of good info. 34C is actually a very compact size, in the scheme of things. The media has told us that it’s voluptuous, but it doesn’t surprise me that you’re in that size. You can see, in the photos, that your rib cage is proportionately broad and your breasts are not close set / breast volume skews to the outer cup. This often gives the impression of smaller breasts, cup volume notwithstanding. It’s an issue of proportion. By contrast, my ribcage is proportionately narrow and my (large) breasts sit closer together. Creates a very different shape – one that’s lots harder to clothe! What lovely bras you show in this post. Hope you kept that gorgeous pink one – and that you got the matching undies!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      I sure did, K. ;)

  • Lisa W.

    Great photos and topic! I just dropped some $ on a single VS bra, but felt that my previous experience there, years ago, was with a much more knowledgeable fitter. (I subsequently took myself to Target to see if I could replicate the fit in a less-expensive model & feel mostly successful— we’ll see how they compare with washing and wearing over time?!) If you can find a fitter who knows her stuff, it’s the way to go, particularly if you can go back to the same expert as I know my body shape has changed over the years, during and after 2 kids! Sally, I’d love to see a side-by-side of the ill-fitting example next to the winning fit! Excellent post!

  • Laurie

    Great post! Another fabulous bra/lingerie specialty shop in the Twin Cities is AllureFits, with shops in St. Paul, Maple Grove and Edina.I highly recommend them, and they have a even wider variety of sizes. Check out their website at http://www.allurefits.com :)

    • Margaux

      I’ve been to Allure and they were professional and nice, but I feel like La Bratique does a much more personalized fitting. The owner is at many of the appts. That’s caring!

  • http://thechiclibrarian.blogspot.com Roberta

    How I wish I wasn’t 8 hours from Edina! What a great post, Sally! Let me encourage readers to find the make and style they love and then buy it on eBay. I snap the style number on my phone in the dressing room. :-) In this way I can find NWT bras for a third of retail. When you’re a 38DDD everything is tres expensive, and this allows me to have a drawer full of pretty things – very cheering!
    We are so lucky in this modern age. I shudder to remember my bra shopping experiences 25 years ago.

  • Hetley

    What a timely post! I have been struggling to find the right bra size for months now, after measuring and realising that I was NOT, in fact, a 36C…I need a 30 or 28 band and a larger cup size. However, living in a semi-rural area, it’s hard to find a good place to get fitted that isn’t 3+ hours of driving away. I’ve tried my luck with online shopping, and have found a couple bras that are close to the right size but not quite the ‘perfect’ fit. Hooray for good return policies. If I ever make it to the Twin Cities I will definitely make an appointment!

  • Aziraphale

    Your bust doesn’t look particularly small to me. 34C seems about right! It’s what I used to wear, but had trouble with the band loosening up too much after a couple of months of wear. I’m actually a 32D, although when I first buy that size, the band feels uncomfortably tight, even on the loosest hook. But then after a couple of days it’s perfect. Anyway my point is that I consider my boobs to be on the full side. Quite often, I have the problem of shirts fitting across the waist and hips, but being too tight in the bust.

    This is a useful post. Thank you! I’ve heard that most women wear a smaller cup size and bigger band size than they should. I keep meaning to go to one of our local specialty boutiques — I’ll probably find out that really I’m a 30DD! — but I have yet to get around to it.

  • Heather

    Great post Sal!

    It is amazing how even two bras that fit can dramatically change the fit of a garment- I have my front-pointing bras and my “spread-out” bras depending on what the shirt fit needs!

    ps- I’m also a huge fan of Chantelle bras- they’re pretty enough to let the straps show!

  • http://playingcloset.blogspot.com/ Claire

    Agree that this is a tasteful and educational post… and that the tattoo below your crown is *fabulous* (been reading for years but don’t ever remember seeing it before). Not to highjack the main subject matter, but I always wanted a tattoo since I was a girl and that beautiful art sparks my interest again! So pretty and happy :)

    I have had some painful conditions including pinched discs and nerves over the years, and it has caused such an issue with bra wearing, and following from there, clothing fit. I’ve had to wear loosely-fitting, lopsided bras, sports bras, or no bra at all, and also find the right tops for these various states, if you know what I mean (certain shirts and patterns will not show nips even if you are bra free). While I am very accepting of my body shape in its natural state, in the past year or so I’ve noticed I can wear my bras a little tighter and more fitted again, and it’s almost like rediscovering my shape under clothes! I’ve always thought getting a bra fitting would be fun and helpful, just haven’t wanted to spend the money since the pain can be so unpredictable. Keeping info like this in mind is helpful from a diy perspective in my case.

  • http://EclecticAdventurer.wordpress.com Dianne

    I am frustrated with the ‘fitters’ in department stores, who insist that I am a 34D, since that is the closest they can come to my correct size (32DDD). They don’t want to admit that they can’t help you. The independent shops are so much more knowledgeable about how different bras fit. For years I wore a 36B, based on the “measure under your bust, add 5 inches, round up to the next larger number. Measure your bust. The difference between this measurement and the previous calculation determines cup size.” No wonder they never fit well! I just wish the ones that do fit me did not cost so much. I have 2 that fit well, one was over $80 and the other was over $90.

    • Nihongo Dame Desu

      Though I expressed some frustration above about Nordstrom’s lack of Expertise and options when it comes to wanting a specific shape, they have a great selection of sizes and I found them knowledge about how a bra was supposed to fit properly. They had no problem at all bring out options in a 32GG, so I’m certain they could do a 32DDD for you, if you have one nearby.

  • http://www.meganmaedaily.com/ Megan Mae

    Oh how I wish such a shop were local to me. I’ve shelled out some major bucks for bras, because I am a 32C/D (yep, two different boob sizes) so finding the right fit to work with both girls, the right price point, and finding something pretty is goshdarned hard. Plus most places, other than VS, doesn’t go below a 34 band.

    Thanks so much for being brave and posting these photos. Talking about underthings can be difficult. I’ve been trying to get away from the stuck-on boob look, because I prefer my natural shape more often. I really like that pretty pink/nude shade you’ve got on and have gone e-window shopping now.

  • http://dustwindbun.blogspot.com dustwindbun

    For anyone else in the southwest suburbs, I can recommend Underneath It All in Eden Prairie. I’m pretty good with bra fittings, and was close, but the lady took one look at me and not only pronounced me a (correct) 34G, but knew exactly what brands I needed to try to fit my particular breast shape within that size. (Might have to go back there – I’m losing weight, but I swear my chest is still getting bigger somehow…)
    Anyway, they’re pretty great there. Website is underneathitall.com.

    Also, I don’t know if they go down past B at that band size, but my mom is a 46B (and yes I checked, this is right) and she loves some of the Bali bras. We get them from Hanes outlets or online to get her size.

    Also also, I found a great resource once (at work so can’t look for it now) that had a different way of measuring for cup size that can be more accurate for small band/big cup ladies – it was designed by a plastic surgeon for judging implant sizes, but works on fleshboobs too, and involved measuring one breast at a time, from ribcage to nipple to ribcage, while supporting it with your hand. Great for when you don’t have a well-fitting bra to make the measurements in in the first place! If anyone is interested, I’ll dig it out after I get home.

    Can you tell I think bra fitting is important?

  • Angela

    I cannot stress how important this is, especially if you are a D or bigger. I wore the wrong size for years. I walked with a hunch because I was ashamed of my girls, all sloppy and popping out of my bras, visible to everyone. Then one day I got ticked off and went to an exclusive bra store (in Ontario) and was fitted properly. I look 10 lbs smaller, I am no longer embarrassed of my chest at work, with friends. Yes, I have a large bustline but is is properly anchored and upright…for the record dept stores were squeezing me into a 40 D as that is the largest they carried. I am a 38F. They cost a ton, more than all my shoes but it was worth it to gain back my dignity. That seems melodramatic but for anyone with a large bust, avoiding stares at it and rude jokes as a teen, it was awesome thing for me. I hand wash, hang to dry and this fall they will be a year old, look brand new…sorry to yammer on about it but I feel strongly about good fit

  • http://gettingfine09.blogspot.com laniza

    Thanks for the brave bra post! I always try to get fitted at least once every 2 years (or more if there’s weight gain or loss, pregnancy, nursing, etc.) and scour ebay for the best deals :).

  • http://nosignposts.blogspot.com The Waves

    I’ve gone from thinking I was 34A to 32B. I, just like many others, mistakenly thought that cup size (the letters, that is) correspond to what we think of as size, but like you pointed out, it’s so much more than that. I hope this isn’t too creepy, but I love the fit of the black bra on you! :)

  • Gabi

    how do you find a place that does professional bra fittings without having all there bras cost $100+. all i can seem to find in my area are super expensive or victoria secret which isnt what im looking for

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Most department stores do them for free. You can take what you learn there and hit up Marshalls or TJ Maxx for similar brands, if need be.

      • Gabi

        thanks soo much. and i cat believe i mixed up there and their. i hate that

    • Nihongo Dame Desu

      When I’ve been fitted, I bought a couple pricey bras because I was happy with the service I got, then I took the info (brand, style name/number, size) and went to ebay. You can buy lots of new, with tags bras there, and with a little patience, you can find them at half price, or less.

  • http://www.bralessinbrasil.com/ June

    I’m so glad you had a great experience and wow to the difference in the pictures! I get out to MN on occasion so I might have to stop by La Bratique if I get a chance. :D

    As someone whose smallest part of their midsection is their undubust, I’ve found well-fitting, uplifting bras are absolutely vital to get my waist back! I just can’t rave about them enough. I also love that you showed how to put a bra on correctly. Making sure to scoop in all your breast tissue is so important to prevent underarm fat (and make sure the underwires aren’t sitting on your breast tissue, very important for nursing moms to prevent clogged ducts!).

  • Kristen Kemp

    Oh I’m so glad you visited La Bratique! I was going to suggest her to you last year when you were fitted and never got around to it. My first experience with a specialty bra store got me out of a 42 DD and into a 38 G. This was in Atlanta and so when I moved back home to MN, I searched for a store that carried my brand and found Tracy. She’s the only place I buy bras even tho its a 2 hour drive. Glad for the publicity she’s getting from your site and I highly recommend her as well.

  • Jenny

    Wow! Great post. I’m so glad you were willing to show pictures. I think I’ve worn the “I’ll fitting unwearable” look many times in my life. Right now I think I’m wearing about the right size, 36B, but looking at your after pictures, I think I could do a lot better with shape. Something to strive for! And side note, I hate to wear bras and I hate to not wear bras, if anyone can commiserate.

    • Marsha Calhoun

      I commiserate. I also find that when I find a bra that fits, the same size in another bra is completely awful. Every one has to be tried individually. Then, regardless of strict obedience to washing instructions, they wear out and become weirdly loose regardless of cost. I did finally find an elastic thingie that I attach to keep the straps from slipping off my shoulders, which I truly adore, and today I am experimenting with a too loose but still comfortable bra with cups that fit – I am going to fold it and stitch the fold down on either side, either just next to the hooks/eyes, or under the arms.

      I salute Sally for this thoughtful post and her careful research!

  • http://www.oneearonefang.com mel

    What a great post. I hate bra shopping. Sometimes it feels like no matter how much I like the fit something will bother me over time. The shopping is awful and so slow. Also hate that the fitters frequently want to cram me into a minimizer or a full figure bra – they usually have feature that are super uncomfortable. Current worst thing is straps hitting a pressure point on my left shoulder blade that makes it feel like I am pinching a nerve.

  • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

    I so admire you for this post. Demystifying women’s bodies and the way clothes fit on those bodies, one post at a time. Go Sal!

  • Kenzie

    I adore your back tattoos. Unrelated to the post (except for the bravery in being exposed on the internet) but I constantly love how you are proof that tattoos can be a part of the image of a classy, beautiful woman :)

  • Elizabeth

    I didn’t even know bra fitting WAS a controversial, emotional topic!

    I get much more hot and bothered about shoe fitting. But maybe that’s because I have bunions and wide feet :-) while my boobs are pretty run-of-the-mill…