Bra engineering technology has come a long way. It seems like we're constantly hearing about new innovations- like strapless bras made in larger cup sizes - or sports bras that also happen to be multiway bras. Is it perfect? Well, no, you can just read Bras I Hate & Love's post on some of the bigger holes in the large cup market to understand that we have a ways to go still. That being said, I'm happy to be living in 2013 where I can actually buy a wide assortment of bras in my size- even though my current size is somewhere between a 30J-30KK!
However, there is one sad bra that appears to be lagging sadly behind. The soft cup bra has been ignored, put on a shelf for "grannies" and left to stew in its own juices. There are only a very small handful of brands that actual make soft cup bras in larger cup sizes and there is only one brand (yes, just one!) that carries them below a 30 band (it's Royce Lingerie in case you're wondering).
The problem is, is that soft cup bras serve a purpose and are a needed part of the lingerie market. Yes, as a large breasted woman, I'm not going to choose to wear them as an everyday bra but I would like to own a handful of them in my wardrobe for certain occasions.
But the current state of the market is sad, very, very sad. Soft cup bras come in very limited size ranges and those at the top end of the cup sizes are completely ignored. To add to the problem they abound with fit issues and I expect that there's only a small subset of women that the current soft cup bras work well on.
Before we get into the issues inherent with soft cup bras, let's talk about why we as women should be demanding higher quality soft cup bras!
Soft Cup Bras Usage
- Sleep. I think this has got to be the biggest one. Many large breasted women want extra support when they sleep. Not only to prevent sagging but also so they don't have to carry their breasts around the house if they have to get up at night or so they can lounge around in their PJs first thing in the morning with more comfort. Additionally, there are some of us that flop around a lot at night (and pregnancy has just made that worse!), which is not remotely comfortable when your breasts are flopping around with you and you have to readjust all the pillows/blankets etc.
To add to this if you're living in a hot environment night time sweating can be a big issue and you may really prefer to have your breasts lifted off of your stomach and away from each other to prevent additional sweating.
For ladies who sleep on their backs they might like the extra support to ensure that their breasts don't go slipping down their sides while they sleep.
Check out Curvy Wordy's post on Quest for a Sleep Bra, to see how frustrating it can be to find a good soft cup bra for a small back/large cup size!
- Maternity/nursing. Soft cup bras have a bit of extra leeway when it comes to sizes, which can be a big help to ladies who find themselves with a rapidly changing bra size. To add to that many pregnant women experience nipple pain, which can be irritated by bras made out of stiffer materials (moulded cup bras, I'm looking right at you!).
The first few weeks post-partum when a woman's milk is coming can be one of those times where she experiences the most rapid changes and her breasts can be especially sensitive. It's very difficult to keep up with the correct bra size during that period (especially if you're someone who needs to order abroad for all your bras) so soft cup bras are often recommended. To add to this mastitis/clogged ducts can occur if you're in an underwire bra that is not a good fit, so during those first few weeks it's vital to either keep up rigorously with your correct size or wait it out with a soft cup bra until your size has stabilized.
- Post-surgery. Women have surgery on their back/breasts, shoulders etc all the time. Whatever the reason may be, normally a soft cup bra is recommended.
- PMS/Lazy days. Some days you just might not want to bother with an underwire for whatever reason. Additionally, some ladies experience a lot of breast pain/tenderness during PMS, which could be an added motivation when it comes to finding a more softer, flexible bra.
- Skin allergies/sensitives/illness/disability. Other women truly have issues wearing bras with underwires. Some might have a specific allergy or illness that prevents them from wearing one or even a disability that doesn't allow for bras with underwires. I'm certainly no medical doctor, but if you fit into this category it's important to find out exactly what limitations that you have and understand if it's only a certain type of underwire bra that causes problems or if you can wear them in limited amounts etc.
Soft Cup Offenders
- Lift and separation. This is HANDS DOWN the biggest issue. Now, it'll depend on your breast shape when it comes to the extent of this problem but soft cup bras run into the issue of being too flexible, which lets your breasts sag and at the same time smooshes them together. It ends up being more of a hammock for your breasts than giving them any shape whatsoever. The weight in the center drags down the middle of the bra and you can even get gaping underneath the straps at the same time (really just like a hammock!).
This causes a plethora of issues. As I mentioned above heat is a big one. If your breasts are smashed together and at the same time laying on your stomach that's a lot of skin to skin contact, which produces heat and sweat. Pregnant ladies and ladies with rounded stomachs might especially have issues with this. As well as ladies with close-set breasts.
Adding to the heat problem, is that you might sweat a lot with your boobs smashed together and no lift. Personally, I find I stink after wearing a soft cup bra because I sweat so much more in them!
The other problem is appearance underneath clothes. Not only is it a shape issue but it's also an issue with the bust line and how a shirt/dress will fit properly. Darlene recently discussed this on her posts about wearing a too-big band. Basically, the idea is this, if your breasts sit lower than manufacturers expect than you won't have enough ease built into the piece to fit your breasts and you probably have to size up quite a bit when a more supportive bra would allow you to wear a smaller size.
- Shape. For me Ewa Michalak bras and Fantasie bras give me the best rounded shape. That's my preference but there are certainly ladies out there who have different preferences and that's ok too. However, soft cup bras tend to give you NO shape whatsoever. Often times the weight of the boobs weigh down the bra so much that you end up with a downward facing shape instead of a more uplifted one.
As a comparison here's me in various soft cup bras across three different sizes and in three different brands:
I think it's clear from the pictures that the underwire makes a huge difference in terms of shape and uplift!
- Center Gore doesn't lay flat. I'm honestly not 100% sure if this is even possible to achieve but I do have some ideas on how one would go about making a soft cup bra that is able to pull this off. Possible in smaller cup sizes on ladies with widely spaces, shallower breasts this would be achievable but I have yet to see that for sure.
- Size Range. Bra manufacturers make a lot of assumptions when it comes to soft cup bras and most of the time it appears that they think only ladies in the mid-size range need them. I was surprised to hear that there are very few A cup matenrity/nursing bras on the market and as far as I know there are absolutely no true J+ cup soft cup bras out there (Royce Lingerie does go up to a K cup, however, I found that their bras fit around 2 cup sizes too small so they're much more like J cups). This is pretty shocking considering that if anything pregnancy/nursing is the time that women have the largest cup sizes! To add to that older women often have larger breasts than younger women and many of them prefer soft cup bras. So why is there such a hole in the market?
The lack of the bras on the smaller end also makes me annoyed because smaller breasted ladies get pregnant and nurse just as often and they certainly need high-quality bras too! My hope is that manufacturers stopping dropping the ball on this and go back to the drawing board to help make more soft cup bras in these sizes.
- Underbust Digs In. This one is a big trickier to describe and I only experience after a day of wearing a soft cup bra. But essentially due to the weight of my breasts the underbust below my breasts digs in and is painful by the end of the day. This happens no matter how tight or how loose the back is on the bra! I have a feeling that this one is intertwined fairly closely with the lack of uplift in soft cup bras.
Possible Solutions?Unfortunately, I'm no seamstress and don't have the expertise of most bra manufacturers, but I'd love to sit down with some of them and discuss the issues inherent with soft cup bras to better understand why they aren't being more thoroughly discussed.
So far my best experience has been with Freya. I truly liked my Freya Active soft cup bra and it was probably my favorite sports bra that I've ever tried back when I still fit into their size range (for pictures of me in it see here). In that bra, though, it tends to favor the Madonna pointy cup bra look. However, it gives lift, support and separation which are there biggest musts on my list for soft cup bras, so it could be that further tweaking of that style in large cup sizes is a possibility.
That being said, I've thought of a few options and I'd love to hear more from you, my readers. I know there are a few seamstresses that hang out there, so do you have any further suggestions? I'd also love to hear from ladies who are on the smaller end of the cup size range too. I'm sure that there are other issues that they run into there so please share and also any solutions that occur to you too!
- Flexible Wires. Cake Lingerie offers bras with flexible underwires. I haven't tried them being that they don't come in my size but it's interesting reading some of the research that Cake Lingerie has done on them. Unfortunately, they don't link to any studies but I'm planning on emailing them to see if I can get more information.
|Cake Lingerie Dark Toffee Bra with flexible underwires|
- Cup Frames- This one I'm slightly skeptical on considering that I know for sure my soft cup bra in 40K show above had cup bras on it. However, since I can't go back in time and refit myself, I don't know how correct the bra size was. It would be an interesting experiment to compare the same bra in a pure soft cup form and it with cup frames as in what normally comes with a nursing bra to see if it improves the shape any.
- Varying materials- I do think this is one avenue that needs to be explored further. Could putting two different materials together to form a soft cup bra help aid the shape and uplift? For instance, using a stiffer, less flexible material to create the band and then a soft, more flexible material in the cups?
- Changing Seams another thought is too look at how the seams are aligned. It's no secret that seam placement affects the cup shape (see Bras I Hate & Love's post again for more details), so that begs the question, could a different seam formation affect the cup shape in soft cup bras too?
- Two straps. This may sound crazy but what about two straps per cup, such that there is one on the outward portion of the cup and one towards the center/even inner part of the cup.
- Other? I'm all ears when it comes to other suggestions!
What's Currently Out There?Here are some of the bigger brands when it comes to soft cup bras. I give more details in this post, but just wanted to list them here for those who are curious.
- Freya Active/Freya Maternity & Nursing bras.
- Royce Lingerie
- Cake Lingerie
- Emma Jane