There’s an interesting phenomenon that we see in the fitting room just about every day, and it doesn’t get the awareness it deserves in the wider world: everyone’s sensory systems are calibrated differently. Some individuals are much more sensitive than others to certain textures, pressure, or both. Materials that are comfortable to one person may seem intolerably itchy to another, and a bra band that feels comfortably snug to the first client might feel oppressively tight to the second. Anecdotally, I’ll also say that many of us seem to become more sensitive as we age, for whatever combination of reasons.
When it comes to choosing a bra, comfort is one of- if not THE- most important considerations. The fact that comfort is so subjective and individualized does complicate an already complex puzzle, but it’s one of the reasons why a bra fitting MUST be a collaborative exercise. Your fitter can advise on the technical elements of the bra fit and make recommendations, but only you can feel through your own body.
If certain sensations bother you, first take comfort in the fact that tactile sensitivities are extremely common. With respect to bras, the most frequent problematic elements are: lace or mesh materials that lay directly against the skin, “scratchy” lace on the lower band, uncovered seams on the inside of bras, rough edges that constrict or chafe the armpit/ fold of the arm, side boning that rests in an uncomfortable position, and all sorts of issues with underwires that put pressure on specific trouble spots. These bra components can cause sensitive individuals distress even when there’s nothing wrong with the *technical* fit of the bra; however, if something is a problem to the wearer, it’s a PROBLEM. As fitters, we understand and respect this, and we’ll work with you to find options without the offending qualities.
In some cases, it’s the pressure of a snug bra band that’s the culprit. To build a base of support for your breast tissue that anchors well against your body, a firm band fit is preferable (especially on a new bra that hasn’t broken in yet.) That said, we’re well aware that sometimes this isn’t practical or tolerable for certain wearers. When this situation arises, we’ll always try to advise honestly on the best balance of comfort versus function, and hopefully we can find the overlap.
As a final thought, I am pretty appalled by how many undergarments have more apparent care and attention paid to their outward aesthetics than to their sensory qualities, especially on the inside where they make contact with the body. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bras and panties with finished seams on the outside, and then the inside is all rough and ragged. I’ve also received free sample products from brands wanting to interest us in stocking their products, but the bras had underwires and boning that were padded for smoothness on the outside while being full of pointy bits and hard ridges on the inside! It’s mind-boggling. Any time I get the chance to provide feedback to lingerie companies, I make a point of letting them know: “If you forget about the inside, you’re going to make bad underwear.”