Many girls shudder at the thought of going bra shopping with their mother. But Kate van der Merwe believes it’s an important bonding and learning opportunity for her and her teen daughter, Isabelle. “We’ve all got boobs, they’re not going anywhere,” chuckles van der Merwe. “The more comfortable we can make our daughters with their own bodies, the better.”
The fitting room can be a dangerous place for young women. Trying on bra after bra, and ending up with nothing that fits quite right can stifle a girl’s self-confidence at a critical time in her life. They may leave the store wondering, What’s wrong with me? or see advertisements and ask themselves, Why don’t I look like that?
Isabelle typically goes bra shopping with her friends, and many are embarrassed to ask for help. “Lots of girls my age try to hide out in the change room and everyone is very hush-hush about it,” she says.
For this reason, van der Merwe is having Isabelle professionally fitted at BraTopia, a full-service lingerie store in Calgary where women and their daughters are welcomed with open arms. “We love our daughters, and we want to help them,” says Colette Hamon, owner of BraTopia and mother of five. “The more times you try something on that doesn’t fit, you end up feeling bad about yourself. We want our daughters to have a positive experience,” she says.
When your daughter first starts developing, a sports bra or ‘training’ bra may be exactly what she needs for coverage. But as she continues to fill out, she will need a bra both for comfort and support. There’s no ‘right’ age to move into a cup-size bra since girls are developing earlier these days. But, typically, Hamon sees girls between the ages of 13 and 15.
The biggest mistake most girls (and women) make is going too big in the band and too small in the cup size.
“When you’re ill fit, it’s the straps that are doing all the work and the bottom is often doing nothing and you’re slipping out the bottom, so the bra is just floating,” says Hamon.
If the band is moving around, it can cause skin irritation, while the straps may be digging into or slipping off your shoulders. If your teen is active in sports, this can be downright painful, so how do you correct this problem?
“We typically move them up the alphabet and down in the band size; that’s the biggest fix we’re doing. What we need is that band hugging their body,” says Hamon.
Isabelle came into the store wearing a 36C and left the store in a new bra: a size 30F. She likes the color and style and says her new bra makes her clothes fit a little looser. In addition, she’ll be getting a sports bra that gives her more support on the volleyball court so she can give 100 per cent effort.
Hamon loves when mothers and daughters come in together because she can educate both of them, and moms can help normalize the process, so things aren’t awkward or weird.
But, she cautions, it’s important to step back and let the bra fitters do their work. “Some moms can be really overpowering and contribute to body-shaming. They will say things like, ‘She’s too curvy, her breasts need to be hidden, she needs to look smaller,’” says Hamon.
Even when it comes to a color of the bra, some moms can have hang-ups, suggesting that red or black are ‘too sexy’ and that every girl needs to have a beige bra. Our daughters take their cues from us, so it’s important to model an open and easy-going attitude.
Hamon says young girls want pretty, bright colors and, in her opinion, why not? There’s nothing wrong with a pink or purple bra as long as it fits and makes her feel good about herself.
A bra fitting is also a great service for dads raising daughters. Men may be intimidated by lingerie stores and aren’t allowed in change rooms, so a bra fitting service can fill a void that may be left if mom isn’t available.
The next time you take your daughter bra shopping, remember these pointers:
Be open and relaxed.
Try not to judge your daughter’s size and color choices.
Mothers should try on bras, too, and model self-acceptance and positive body image.
Talk about proper care for lingerie (hand wash or in a lingerie bag).
Teach your daughter to use the last hook on the bra (over time the band will stretch, and then she can use the tighter hooks).
Most importantly, keep it light and fun! Consider making a special day of it by grabbing lunch or a special treat afterward.
Michelle is a freelance writer based in Calgary, and a mom of three. She writes for numerous publications, and explores the challenges of parenting tweens and teens on her personal blog, michelleschurman.com.
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