I’ve been thinking for a while now about doing a post on chest shape issues. I know I’ve promised a few people to discuss that subject in a bit more depth. I mentioned in my first post that having a non-standard rib structure puts me in a sort of unique position in terms of bra fit, which is what caused me to create Brastic Measures – to talk about things that really aren’t discussed, because when I started on my bra journey, the information I most needed to figure out what was going wrong with bra fit was not the common stuff everyone talks about – it was what I lovingly call “the weird stuff”, and I can’t be the only one who struggles with these considerations.
And, as I thought about tackling that post, the task became more and more daunting. It threatened to overwhelm me with how epically long a post about bone structure concerns would need to be, and I started thinking ‘how can I cut this down? This is a blog, for crying out loud, not a novel! Nobody is going to read this epically long mess of info! It will explode their brain!’ But cut it down too much, and it’s just as vague and inaccessible as the articles I’d read that left my head spinning.
As I broke apart the different pieces in my head, it became apparent that it would have to be more than one post, and I would have to write them in the proper order. I’m still not sure if this is going to end up broken into 2 or 3 parts, but let’s start with something we’re all familiar with: boobs.
For today, I am not going to talk very much at all about rib shape or bone structure, except to say that uneven horizontal weight distribution like center heaviness, or side heaviness, can be (but is not always) directly related to bone structure. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry, I’m going to get back to it in a future post.
I know I’ve promised various people I would do a write up on certain bone structure issues, and I will, because it’s important, but first thing’s first. I am going to stick pretty strictly to breast shape in this post, and will revisit the issue of bone structure later. It’s important first to understand how weight distribution can alter the fit of your bra, so, center heaviness it is!
Center Heaviness (or Center Fullness) is nothing new. It’s been mentioned and discussed, but I think often in a way that doesn’t quite connect. A lot of ladies read articles on the subject and still don’t know it applies to them. I know that because I was one of those ladies. We talk about center heavy breasts, but in a sort of generalized ‘this is one possible shape’ kind of way. I don’t remember ever reading anything really in depth about it that was also accessible and easy to understand. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just that if it does, I’ve never found it. We talk so much about full on bottom breasts, or full on top breasts, but what we don’t talk about much is horizontal weight distribution – breasts that are heavier in the center, or on the sides. We don’t really discuss it as being important, not in so many words.
So, today, in so many words:
When it comes to determining breast shape, center heaviness is a dominant trait.
Now, stop. Give yourself a moment to really let that sink in, and if you still don’t get it, don’t worry; I’m about to explain.
There are different aspects to breast shape. As I see it, these are:
1. Technical: this is quantifiable information that can be proven by scientific observation.
2. Functional: this is what you actually need out of a bra when you put your various shape issues together.
And, those two things might not be the same.
Here’s an example:
Imagine a woman who has most of her fullness on the bottom of her breasts. She would technically be categorized as full on bottom. However, her breasts are also vertically tall, with tissue going way up to her collarbone. The typical recommendations for Full on Botttom (FoB) breasts would be a lot of bras with a closed upper cup, but since she has tall breast tissue, those bras cut in, so she would be technically FoB, but might actually be functionally FoT(Full on Top), and need a more open upper cup in spite of her lower fullness. This is why bra fit is an art, not a science.
So, is Center Heaviness Technical or Functional? The short answer is “both”, and that’s the very thing that makes it a dominant trait. A dominant shape trait will make all other shape concerns less important by comparison. It’s something you must have in a bra, rather than something you can get by without, but would prefer to have. A dominant trait can make or break the fit of a bra, where as other shape traits might not, provided the bra meets the requirements of dominant traits.
For example, I have very narrow breasts. It’s not immediately obvious because I also have a lot of loose skin under my arms, but my actual breast root is barely 5 inches across. (For reference: current size averages around a 32GG, a size in which finding wires that narrow is virtually impossible.) And yet, some of my best fitting bras are over 6 inches wide. That should be a problem, but it’s not, because those bras meet the qualifications for more dominant fit traits that are more important for me to get a good fit than my narrow root is. Since my narrowness is not a dominant trait in comparison to other shape issues I have, many of my bras are bras you would recommend against for ladies with with a narrow breast root, but they work for me because they suit shape issues that have higher priority. Would I like very narrow wires? Absolutely. Do I need them? Not necessarily.
Signs of Center Heaviness
I know what you’re thinking: ‘Okay, we get it. This weight distribution thing is a big deal. So how do I know if it applies to me?’ I’m getting there!
Let’s make a list of questions. You might not answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions, and a yes answer does not automatically imply center heaviness, as there are a whole host of other problems that can cause each of these issues. But, if you answer ‘yes’ to a significant number of them, it might be a good indicator.
1. Do your bras always push your breasts apart and out towards your armpits?
2. Do your breasts tend to drift back toward the middle of your chest as the day wears on? Do you find that your bra fits really well in the morning, but you’ve got to readjust to avoid the dreaded quadboob during the day regardless of what size cup you wear, even in bra cups that are blatantly too large?
3. Even being absolutely, 100%, beyond the shadow any doubt, in the right size, do bra wires tend to pop in the middle of the bra, between your breasts?
4. Do you get quadboob, but only near the center gore of the bra?
5. Do your breasts appear to be close set, but when you do the finger test (1-2 fingers between the breasts is average), you find that they actually aren’t particularly close set at all. Even so, the center portion of the bra always feels much too wide? (Not to imply that you can’t be close set AND center heavy, but rather that the two things are not directly related, and one being true does not necessarily mean that the other is.)
6. Does it seem like there’s never enough depth in the middle of the bra to contain your breast tissue?
7. Do side support panels on bras seem to have no purpose, covering a portion of your torso where you have little to no breast tissue?
8. Do you have a problem with your breasts pushing your bra down even when you’re sure the problem is not a lack of depth in the bottom of the cup? Is it very hard to get a bra to stay put underneath your breasts? Do you have a consistent issue with bras sitting a little too low and/or straps feeling a little too tight, even though you don’t have a particularly long torso? (Of course, center heaviness can also happen in ladies who do have long torsos, obviously.)
I think that’s enough questions to give you an idea of just how many fit problems can potentially be caused by center heavy breasts, but why does center heaviness cause these specific issues? The short answer is because the cups are not the right shape for your breasts, and often are in the wrong position. Just like a woman with a full on bottom shape may have problems with moulded cup bras because she needs more depth at the bottom of the cup than this type of bra typically provides, a woman with center heavy breasts has trouble with bras that don’t have enough depth in the middle portion of the bra.
This can cause the center gore’s wire to pop because the bulk of your breast tissue’s weight is putting pressure directly on the top of that wire. (see below diagram)
Center heavy breasts have a weight distribution that tilts in toward the center gore, putting an uncommon amount of pressure on the wire here, which is why, even in the right size, if this part of the bra is too shallow, you may end up with a popped wire between your breasts. Bravissimo’s Alana, for example, is infamous for this.
This weight distribution is the reason your breasts are being pushed apart – because you don’t have enough cup in the center of your chest where you have the most breast tissue. It might be the reason your bra is not staying in place in your inframmamary fold, but sliding downward (your breasts are pushing the bra down to try to make extra room for the center tissue), and the bra being pushed down is what causes straps which would otherwise be the right length to feel too short. And, it’s the reason you quadboob in the center of the bra in any bra size. Your breasts just naturally lean toward each other, because the weight of your breast tissue has been placed predominantly at that part of your chest.
I know what you’re thinking now, okay, sounds like a really sucky problem. Yep, it’s a pain. So, which bras have good depth in the middle? Well, I’m sorry to say, it’s a short list. Kris Line is easily the top contender for center depth. Kris Line bras are deepest in the center and on the bottom of the cup, with typically narrow wires and gores (the semi-soft are narrower than the unlined, which veer a bit more towards average in width), so if you need depth at the bottom of the cup and are also center heavy – this is a brand that should absolutely be on you ‘to try’ list. If you are lucky enough to be in the size range, you can also get Valea bras on ebay, which are almost exactly like Kris Line, but cheaper. I believe they go up to about a EU I cup, so I’m really just barely sized out, but I did have the opportunity to try the Valea Brilliant when I was a cup smaller, which I actually preferred over Kris Line’s Brilliant.
What else? Well, some of Fantasie’s unlined balconettes and full cups have proven very decent for center heavy breasts – but I’ve only tried a small number of Fantasie bras, so couldn’t say whether or not this is true across the board, or if I’ve just gotten lucky. I remember not getting on at all with Lois, but I seem to do decently well in the styles that have the lace upper cup like Nicola and Sharon. Panache Jasmine (and it’s sister cuts) might be suitable for some, but I can’t say that with certainty as I found the gore so hellishly oppressive (for reasons to do with other fit issues I have) that I can’t remember how the depth was in the center. The upper cup being stretch lace does give it potential to be forgiving, though. The Samanta A122 cut was very passable in the center. I haven’t attempted the other Samanta models yet to know if that is a virtue of the cut or the brand.
The Polish brands in general are more forgiving on this, but not an end all solution. I do still alter the gores on my Comexims to compensate a bit, even though I mostly have fallen in love with the brand. I have only tried Kris Line, Comexim, Ewa Michalak, Samanta, Gorsenia, and Valea (Bulgarian, actually, but so like Kris Line that I’m including it here), so if there is a dream bra that can top Kris Line for center depth, I haven’t found it yet.
And, I’m sorry to say, that’s about it. But, fear not! All hope is not lost! There’s a quick and easy alteration that can take those bras that almost fit perfectly except for the center being a bit too shallow and massively improve the fit for you. You don’t need a sewing machine. You don’t need to cut anything. It’s completely reversible, and all you need is ten minutes and the barest of bare minimum sewing skills.
Altering your Bra to Compensate for Center Depth – How it changes the shape of the bra, and why it works
So, I’m going to dash any preconceptions that this is a miracle fix from the start, alright? This alteration will open up the top of your bra a bit more, so is going to make the cups seem slightly bigger. It will shorten the band of your bra, so you may need an extender, or to sister size up a band depending on how deep an alteration is necessary. It will not make every single bra in your collection wearable – though it will be an improvement. For example: this alteration makes Freya and Bravissimo more or less work for me, but I still can’t wear Curvy Kate. It will make the wings of the bra sit marginally lower under your arms, and the gore come up just as marginally higher between your breasts.
The problem with center heavy breasts is that we need depth in the middle of the bra, not evenly spaced from wire to wire. The average center heavy woman just doesn’t have a heck of a lot of boob going on near the arms. That doesn’t mean you might not have excess skin, or a fat pad, or anything else going on there that might make you prefer a taller wing, but odds are high that if you’re center heavy, that’s not breast tissue, and so doesn’t strictly need the same level of consideration in bra fit (there are always exceptions, so don’t take this as gospel). In other words, fit issues related to skin, fat, a prominent tail of spence, etc – are mostly aesthetic in the majority of cases, and while we might make certain choices because we don’t like how that looks, it’s not actually related directly to whether or not our bra fits and is giving us proper support.
I happen to have a lot of loose skin under my arms – the side effect of having lost a lot of weight – and while aesthetically I’d like that to be contained by my bra, practically it’s unlikely to stay there no matter how much I try to scoop it in since it’s just skin, which is much more mobile than breast tissue is. It moves when my arms move, so while I can stuff it into my bra, it’s just not going to stay there. You may, or may not, be in a similar situation, but sufficed to say, it’s important to know the difference between what is and is not breast tissue, and decide how much you want to drive yourself crazy over the latter.
If you are like me and that’s all skin and not tissue under the arms, there’s a degree to which it’s an advantage: since it’s not breast tissue it doesn’t need the same level of consideration, and while it is entirely possible to have horizontally wide breasts that happen to have more tissue in the center, it is also less common, so I’m working on the assumption that if you’re still reading this, and still think it applies to you, odds are high that the actual width of your breast is average to narrow, with wires more likely to be too wide for your breasts than not. If that is not the case, this alteration may do you more harm than good, as it is going to pull the wires from under your arms a little further forward on your torso.
Okay, so, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what is the alteration? Simple: narrow the center gore.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Wait, stop. That’s for close-set breasts!’ Yes, it is also used (differently) for close- set breasts, and here’s the difference:
For close-set breasts you are concerned about the top of the gore being too wide, so bring the top of the wires closer together. For center heavy breasts, it is the position of the cups that needs to be adjusted, and therefore it is the bottom of the gore that needs to be narrower. Because the bottom of that triangular fabric sits so wide, it puts the majority of the cup past the point where your breasts naturally want to sit, so narrowing the gore – all the way to the bottom, by adding a seam between the cups – brings the cups closer to where your center heavy bust wants to naturally sit, and effectively gives you a bit more depth where you need it.
I’m going to use Parfait’s Charlotte for before and after pictures. The Parfait Charlotte is not the best bra to show this alteration. In fact, it’s actually the worst, since it has the satin strip between the cups which I had to decide on the best way to work around. However, Charlotte is also an infamous bra for being shallow, especially in the middle, with a very wide gore, which makes it kind of a great bra to illustrate just how much this small alteration can alter fit.
As you can see – there’s a bit of quadboob. The bra is just not wearable like this and would have to be sold on or returned.
After the Alteration:
You can see here the quadboob is gone and the fit, while not perfect, is very reasonable, since the cups are drawn closer together, providing more cup where the majority of my breast tissue happens to be. Actually, after these pictures were taken, I did find I needed to narrow the gore slightly more.
Knowing about Charlotte’s sizing – how small and shallow it runs, I bought this bra in a 34H instead of my typical 32GG – and that ended up being exactly the right choice for me. The band size up compensates for the somewhat extreme narrowing of the gore.
Here’s a different bra without a black satin strip between the cups to work around, so you can get a look at the actual alteration I’m performing, that will make it a little more obvious what I’ve done than you can see with Charlotte.
You can see I’m effectively just pinching a seam down between the cups. Some bras, like this Comexim, don’t need to be narrowed very much, while others, like the Parfait above, need to be narrowed significantly.
It doesn’t give you an endless amount of depth, but by moving the cups of the bra closer to where your breasts are, the entire structure becomes more stable and natural for a center heavy shape. For close set breasts, narrowing the gore is about making the gore narrower. (Kind of sounds a little ‘no duh’, I know.) But, for center heavy breasts, narrowing the gore is about moving the cups of the bra into a more neutral position so that your breasts can sit close together – which is what they naturally want to do.
I’m going to forego a detailed description of how to do this alteration, as it has been covered dozens of times by dozens of other bloggers, so I think it would be a bit repetitive, and that the above picture seems sort of self-explanatory. But, I do this alteration so much that if you ladies want me to write up a detailed tutorial on it, I can.
As we know, not all bras are the same shape, and so the gore alteration will not be the same on every bra. Some bras (like the Comexim pictured above), I only need to narrow very little – a half an inch or so. Other bras (like Cleo Neve) I essentially remove the entire gore. Those are my needs based on my center heaviness and depth, and yours may be quite different. A gore alteration like this is completely removable, though, so you can essentially undo it and redo it as many times as you need to to get it right. Personally, I start with the minimum of what I think I might need. I’ve found it’s better time management to make a gore I’ve altered a deeper alteration, than it is to start too deep, have to remove the stitches, and start again. Both work, but starting small saves a step when you’re not sure how narrow you need to go on a particular bra, since you don’t have to then remove the stitches if you guess wrong.
Since narrowing the gore shortens the band, depending on how much the gore needs to be narrowed, sister sizing up may be the only option. I have narrowed gores to the point I couldn’t wear them in the past, because the gore was so wide, and the alteration so deep, that even with an extender the band became too short even though the cups then fit. When purchasing bras with the intention of narrowing them – pay attention to this. If the gore is very wide, odds are high that you might be better sister sizing up to give yourself the wiggle room you need for the alteration. And, for other bras, the band will only be made minimally firmer and it won’t matter, so there is definitely some trial and error involved here. Taller gores usually require less alteration, if only because the gore holds your boobs apart and prevents them from falling toward the center as much, but every bra is different.
Summing it All Up
So! On the understanding that center heaviness is dominant and needs to be considered before other shape issues, and that not many bras are made for this shape, there’s a degree to which we have to accept either a) having a very limited number of choices, b) not being able to get a proper fit in any bra, or c) pulling out a needle and thread to make it work when it doesn’t. I personally find C to be the most practical solution, since bras with good center depth are few and far between.
I haven’t discussed side-heaviness here, which is the opposite issue, because it’s not a shape problem I have. Most ladies with side heavy breasts do require side support, but beyond that it’s simply not a subject I’m an expert on. I would, however, welcome a guest post from someone who is.
So, I hope this was lucid and made the issues associated with this shape easy to understand. I’ve been sitting on this post for a long while, trying to make it as clear and easy to understand as possible. I was also trying to make it shorter, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it without leaving some points a bit vague.
My next big post will build on this one, as I start to discuss some bone structure issues that also affect bra fit. Hopefully, my brain won’t explode before I can finish it!